Rygar: The Legendary Adventure shares the name of its predecessors, which appeared in arcades and on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but other than a few references and the main character's yo-yo-like weapon, the latest incarnation of Rygar shares very little in common with those two games. Similarly, Rygar: The Legendary Adventure's thoroughly mediocre storyline and relatively short length are almost antithetical to the epic Greek mythology that the game is loosely based on, but the allure of an action platformer that plays reasonably well and looks and sounds excellent will more than likely serve as a blindfold for observing any such shortcomings.
Despite its setting amid ancient Roman and Greek architecture as well as its colorful cast of mythical beasts, Rygar's story is anything but epic, and it essentially adheres to a series of generic plot templates that include kidnapping, amnesia, and a variety of other themes that have been used in dozens of other games. In this case, Princess Harmonia is kidnapped by the Titans, the ancient gods led by Cleopatra and a winged-demon character named Aristotle, who are attempting to release the evil spirit of Cronus. Naturally, Rygar--who has been training as a gladiator and conveniently doesn't remember anything before his time as a warrior--runs off to rescue Harmonia, and in the process, he learns of the history of Argos (the island where the game takes place) and himself. The story is told primarily through cutscenes, complete with melodramatic voice acting and horribly misspelled subtitles. Additional details about characters in the game unfold through documents and tablets that Rygar finds along his journey, but they have little bearing on the game. Obviously, there isn't a particularly high standard set for plots in action platformers, but Rygar's is especially shoddy, and you'll either cringe or laugh at its attempt at an engrossing narrative.
In either case, it's certainly worth wading through to get to Rygar: The Legendary Adventure's gameplay. Like in the Rygar games of old, your main weapon is the diskarmor, a spike-encrusted shield that Rygar can throw and retract like a yo-yo, but unlike in the previous games, this diskarmor is much more dynamic, allowing you to execute a variety of moves based on different button combinations. There are also three different versions of the diskarmor in the game, each of which has a unique set of moves and attributes, making them tailored for specific situations. The default diskarmor had average speed, range, and power, whereas the second diskarmor has the longest range and the most power but the slowest speed, and the third diskarmor has the fastest speed but also has a very short range and little strength in comparison to the others.
Each diskarmor can be upgraded in strength with experience points (which are gained when Rygar secures a purple orb) and modified to give Rygar bonuses when they're equipped in any available slots that particular diskarmor might have. Further, Rygar can summon a mythical creature that corresponds to the equipped diskarmor to dish out a heavy attack either against a boss or a group of enemies. As you might have guessed, this weapon plays a very important role in the game, and Tecmo has done a great job not only of giving each version a different feel, but also of making every diskarmor useful and fun to use. You'll likely spend a few minutes just playing around with some of the more entertaining moves, such as the ensnaring move that lets Rygar twirl an enemy over his head before hurling it back at his foes or the attack that creates a small whirlwind on top of the diskarmor, trapping anything that comes within a few feet of its circumference.
As such, it's somewhat unfortunate that there isn't a greater variety of enemies in the game. There are approximately four or five different types of enemies in the game--a few have minor variations and appear later in the game--and most of them can be easily defeated using basic diskarmor combinations. In fact, it's almost detrimental to try complicated combinations because they simply take too much time to execute, leaving Rygar open for a counterattack. The same almost holds true for the spectacular boss battles in the game--though the bosses are much larger than the average enemy, you'll tend to rely on the most basic attacks to defeat them, even during the final confrontation. However, it's worth reinforcing that the differences in each diskarmor are still relevant because of unique enemy movement and attack patterns.
Surprisingly, Rygar: The Legendary Adventure isn't an action platforming game that simply puts you on a set path. There's quite a bit of exploration required in the game whether it's to find an entrance to some area or to seek out hidden items. Throughout the game, there are plenty of hidden areas covered by stone from a decaying structure, which Rygar can smash through using the diskarmor, and even smaller objects such as pillars and pots can be cracked open to reveal some sort of item, whether it's a tablet or an item that gives Rygar additional health, magic (for summoning creatures), or attack and defensive capabilities. So it's not entirely ridiculous to spend a majority of your time looking around the environment, and at certain points in the game, you'll even get the chance to go back to previously explored levels to enter areas that were inaccessible because they required a certain diskarmor upgrade.
Though exploration is certainly a welcome element in the game, it's incredibly difficult because of the game's camera. Like the camera in Devil May Cry, Rygar's camera is set at a certain perspective and can't be changed manually, so you can't maneuver it around to get a closer look at a specific object. A majority of the time, the camera is pulled out quite far, and when it does come closer, it's usually during portions of the game that require you to notice some object or that involve precise jumping, making it difficult to gauge where to go or where exactly Rygar will land. In addition, there are a few instances where the camera will make a disorienting sharp cut to another angle, causing you to briefly rethink the direction Rygar was originally moving in. It's annoying at times, but the game seems to know which areas are prone to camera-related accidents--if Rygar falls off a platform in one of these areas, then the game will almost always place him back in the immediate area instead of at the last save point, which are quite plentiful to begin with.
It's too bad that the camera can't be moved manually, because it would certainly be worth getting a closer look at some of the absolutely beautiful environments in the game. There's the coliseum, where a gigantic setting sun shines over statues and through porticoes onto the walls, and the Poseidonia shrine, where a massive temple sits in a shallow lake with water cascading down its steps, with a faint rainbow serving as an entranceway. Inside is the moon room where colorful tide pools of water flow through an ancient shrine. Just about all the environments in Rygar are artistically if not technically impressive, but there are a few generic ones as well, such as the volcano level, though even that makes extensive use of the heat-distortion effect seen in plenty of other PlayStation 2 games. Rygar, bosses, summoned creatures, and other characters are also incredibly detailed and feature excellent texturing, but best of all, the game keeps at a steady 60 frames per second with absolutely no sign of slowing down.
The soundtrack for Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is excellent, thanks to the help of the Moscow Symphony, which helped record tracks for the game. There are quite a few diverse tracks--some match the mythical environments incredibly well, while others sound as though they were inspired by the movie Gladiator and are heavy on acoustic-guitar-like sounds. As excellent as the soundtrack is, it can't mask the obscenely bad voice acting in the game, which is made even worse by a poor script.
Rygar: The Legendary Adventure has plenty of drawbacks. The story is weak, the camera forsakes practicality for dramatics, and you'll mostly be fighting different insects throughout most of the game, but Rygar's most stringent issue is its length--the game is only about four and a half to five hours long, making it beatable in about two or three sittings. Of course, it will take you more time to unlock the additional artwork and movies as well as any other items that you may have missed over the course of the game. A hard mode is also unlocked when you beat the game for the first time, but none of these things make it worthwhile for you to take a trip through the entire game again, even if it takes less time. In any case, for those five hours, Rygar is still a fun game with beautiful visuals and an excellent soundtrack, and fans of the genre should take the time to experience it.