Imagine this: An NES game with an overworld filled with different places to visit and acquire items and treasure, but it’s not Zelda II. A progression system that makes you stronger the more enemies you defeat, but it’s not Final Fantasy II (JPN). A non-linear experience where you can choose where and what you want to pick up in any order, but it’s not Metroid. It’s actually a little gem called RYGAR. A game I loved, but just couldn’t bring myself to make it essential. I love this game for a lot of personal reasons and while I made it sound amazing just a few sentences ago, it’s certainly a game with flaws. All that said, I think it’s really cool that this game found it’s way onto the NES and in such a prominent position. Kid Icarus had just been released, but the reckoning 1-2 punch of Zelda and Metroid hadn’t hit yet. I wonder if Rygar didn’t have the competition how it would have fared in the history of video games. Fortunately, we don’t have to miss Zelda and Metroid to find out.
Ok, I admit that Rygar isn’t perfect. Enemies appear with little rhyme or reason, it requires some grinding ,and there isn’t too much variation in how you fight. That being said, despite it’s flaws I absolutely loved this game! It felt like a little adventure, which is something I’m always looking for in a game. You explore and learn about this world, visit unique areas, and collect useful items, all while powering up your character (Rygar). The world is pretty open and you learn where to go based on clues from the game and manual. It does a good job of directing you where to go while still making you feel like you have agency in the game. I think if it were a longer experience I might have grown bored of this grind, but at the length that it is the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. It’s a great bite sized adventure that I never got tired of. If you like retro adventure games I’d recommend taking a night to tear through this game.