I Like Pretending to Be Noble as I Kill Everything!
We're talking early nineties here. I had a Sega Game Gear portable system that I earned through less than ethically virtuous means. I dug it. I had a Sonic game (Sonic Chaos), a brick busting funnsy game (Woody Pop), a crappy racing game (GP Rider ) and some RPG lite by the title Dragon Crystal. Back in the Mesolithic period of gaming, it was a test of ingenuity and perseverance to just acquire games. There was no emulators or network download sites...only the cash=product equation. For myself, games were a rarity that I either had to pinch & save for or I would make some underhanded deal to possess a desired cartridge. This would limit the variety of games I was able to enjoy in my youthful exuberance of all things Game-On. While I enjoyed Sonic...for being Sonic and the other games were arcade type quickie's; my real focus gravitated towards Dragon Crystal.
This hunk 'o' plastic was about the size of a cell phone and had the whimsical generic crapo-art that many a Sega game flaunts. I was obsessed with this simple-yet-addictive hunter/gatherer mini-RPG game. It was repetitive and the rpg was simplified but it fully realizes the notion of its portability factor while retaining the addictive exploration elements of role playing. You begin as the harmless enough Mini-Knight, existing within a contained exploration screen. As you touch the edge of the play area, the trees or rocks or whatever the boarder is composed of, lights up to inform you it has been pillaged already. As you move through the fog of war and open up the play field, action RPG tasks ensue. Like its fave, Zelda, exploration combines with cutting trees and releasing baddies to bring on the essentially turn based combat. Collecting all kinds of foodstuff, armour, pots, weaponry and items becomes a learning experience every time a play occurs. You see, the game resets its effect of associated with items...for example: one play through may have the red flask as HP boost, but the next play through lists it as unknown until the player uses it and reveals its value. It can be anything...a boost or a poison, it always changes. I like this little curve and it keeps the discovery element challenging regardless of the learned playing techniques of the player.But what is this...? a wee little blob floats behind you...As you fight various insects and furry freaks, your floating blob(an egg actually) begins to hatch.What is revealed is the apparent money-shot of the game...a dragon.The titular Dragon is with you from the beginning and you must assist him...or is it her...it...it grows with you as levels increase.This little bastard hovers around and eventually...for those that level up enough...becomes a useful helper in the defence and offense of the players quest.
Another challenging twist is the effect of enemies, items and traps that change substantial attributes or movements of the character. From levelling down your egg to making your movements reverse, this game throws as much as possible into the mix. Levelling up is the only way to navigate this world with any hope of completing it. You start as an apprentice and can reach the lofty position of Paradin or Worlord. Dragon Crystal is really of the exploration type ilk where time invested equates to power. Everything leads to the discovery of some magical Goblet and the path towards this goal is loaded with mini-discoveries. Combat is paper-rock-scissor stuff, but satisfying enough as it happens quick and dirty. Enemies are abundant and varied in their simplicity. The menu screen to apply finds to the character is straight forward and crisp. If I recall....there may be an enemy list that is acquired as well....hmmmm....maybe. Anyways, what we end up with is surprisingly solid for being such a chintzy piece of plastic with cheesball art and a low user base, but it succeeds where others have failed: Keep it simple but with enough randomness to keep the exploration elements intact through multiple playthroughs. This little gem kept me sane through early zitness and random awkwardness...and my Dragon kicked all kinds of a$$!