Demon's Crest
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • JP 10/21/1994
    • US 11/01/1994
    • UK 03/01/1995
Score: 85%

This review was published on 06/12/2017.

Demon's Crest, known in Japan as Demon's Blaze: Makaimura Monshouhen, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Capcom for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on October 21, 1994, North America on November 1, 1994, and Europe on March 1, 1995. Despite the title not clearly indicating it, this is the third game in the Gargoyle's Quest series, following Gargoyle's Quest II, which was originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992. The Gargoyle's Quest series began on the Game Boy in 1990, and it's a spinoff from the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Ghosts 'n Goblins itself began in the arcades in 1985 before getting ported to countless platforms. As for how they tie together, the protagonist of the Gargoyle's Quest games is the infamous red gargoyle enemy from the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. In other words, you get to play as the bad guy in this game. Anyway, Demon's Crest is far and away the best game in the Gargoyle's Quest series.

Image

Legend says the world was once divided into two halves: one realm ruled by humans and another realm ruled by demons. One day, six magical stones fell from the sky and into the demons' realm. Inscribed on the stones were the Crests of Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Time, and Heaven. Soon, the demons began to fight over these magical Crests and the realm became engulfed in a civil war. Eventually, the red demon defeated all the others and collected five Crests. The only one missing from his collection was the Crest of Heaven, which was in the hands of the Demon Dragon, whom the red demon challenged to a fight. After a long and desperate battle, the red demon killed the dragon and acquired the final Crest. However, this came at a high price, as the red demon was critically injured. Due to his injuries, the red demon succumbed to an ambush by a rival demon named Phalanx, who took all the Crests except the Fire one, which shattered into five shards. The red demon now sets out on a journey to regain the stolen Crests and get revenge on Phalanx.

Image

You assume the role of the red demon, whose name is Firebrand, known in the Japanese version as Red Arremer. To control him, you walk left or right by pressing those directions on the d-pad, jump by pressing the B button, and attack by pressing Y. Firebrand has access to all of his basic abilities from the other game, like flying and clinging to walls. Flight involves pressing the B button while in the air, then pressing left or right to fly in those directions. Clinging, on the other hand, is done via pushing up against walls and most other vertical surfaces. Unlike the last two games, Firebrand starts right out the gate with the ability to fly for an unlimited amount of time; there is no flight meter. He also has a new ability in the form of a head butt, which is executed by pressing the A button. This head butt is used to break certain objects in the background, such as statues and windows. It's also humorously used to open doors. The controls are as precise as ever, so you're always in control.

Image

Gone are the overhead exploratory bits from the last two games. Instead, they've been replaced with an over world map that's rendered with the SNES' fancy Mode-7 effect, giving it that illusory depth. You fly across this over world as Firebrand, seeing the action from behind his back. It's reminiscent of flying the airship in Final Fantasy VI, except it controls easier. You press left or right to turn in those directions, up to fly forwards, and down to hit the brakes. When you're over the desired area, you land in it by pressing the Y button. It's at this point that the game will transition back to the more traditional side-scrolling perspective. The only issue with this whole system is that it's sometimes hard to tell what spots on the map you can land in. This is remedied by pressing the start button, which gives you a bird's eye view of the whole map, whereupon all possible landing zones are marked. At the end of the day, this whole thing is nothing more than an interactive stage select screen, but it's still pretty neat.

Image

Like the last two games, Firebrand primarily attacks enemies via shooting magical projectiles from his mouth. As usual, he starts out with a relatively basic one that doesn't do much damage and has no special effects, but gets more throughout his perilous journey by obtaining the remaining broken pieces of the Crest of Fire. Most of these powerful projectiles return from previous titles, such as the one that breaks certain blocks, another that creates temporary platforms to stand on, and one that sticks goop onto spikes jutting from walls so that Firebrand can cling to them safely. In addition to their special effects, these projectiles do more damage, with the later ones generally being stronger. However, you'll often be forced to switch back to weaker projectiles from the menu in order to make use of their unique properties. Aside from being tied to Crests, the projectile mechanic is one aspect of Demon's Crest that has seen little modification from its predecessors.

Image

One of this game's coolest new features is Firebrand's ability to change forms. Every time a Crest is earned, a new form will be added to the menu screen, allowing Firebrand to transform into different kinds of gargoyles whenever he pleases. Besides looking different, each form has different attacks, abilities, and sometimes passive attributes. For example, the Ground Gargoyle form can do a tackle with the A button and fires a projectile that travels along the ground, but it's unable to fly. Meanwhile, the Aerial Gargoyle form can fly upwards and shoot disc projectiles that are able to sever vines, but it can't cling to walls. Then there's the Tidal Gargoyle, which is the one of the only forms that allows Firebrand to breathe underwater. Getting new forms is easily the most exciting part of the game, because each one has such a dramatic impact on what you can do.

Image

Other new features include urns, vellums, and talismans. These trinkets are found throughout the game, and they all serve different purposes. Urns function similarly to the empty bottles from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, in that you can store potions in them and then use them in a pinch. Most potions restore varying amounts of health, but some teleport you to the beginning of the current stage or back out to the over world. Vellums work much like urns, but instead of storing potions, they store magical spells. Spells do things like summon an imp to help you out or damage all enemies on the screen. Both spells and potions are equipped via the menu and used by pressing the X button. Talismans are like the accessories from most conventional RPGs, bestowing passive effects to Firebrand when equipped from the menu. Such effects include increasing attack power, defense, rate of fire, and the probability of money or health dropping. Potions and spells can be purchased at shops in the game's sole town, which becomes available after the first few introductory stages. All of this adds depth to the game, so it's good stuff.

Image

The game is a bit less linear than its predecessors. While individual stages tend to be linear, the order in which they're tackled in is slightly nonlinear. Sometimes, you'll also have to return to previous stages with a new ability in order to find health upgrades or access alternate paths, taking a little inspiration from Metroid. Unlike Metroid, however, the stages place a greater emphasis on safely navigating obstacles as opposed to exploration. This results in some pretty tight, and often harsh, stage design. Some stages also have interesting elements to them, like a frigid cold one with icy walls that Firebrand slides down on if he clings to them. The bosses are similarly tightly designed, featuring intricate attack patterns that must be carefully deciphered to ensure victory. As if all that weren't enough, this game also has multiple endings. Just when you think you've seen everything, this game shows that it has even more up its sleeve.

Image

With each subsequent game in the Gargoyle's Quest series, Capcom made huge improvements to the formula. Those improvements come to a head in Demon's Crest, which is basically a masterpiece. All of the undesirable components from the previous games were dropped in favor of a bunch of new features that heighten the game's complexity and depth tenfold. There are multiple forms, different abilities, magic, potions, talismans; you name it. The stages and bosses are also great, and all of this comes in a visually impressive package. It's deep, complex, yet approachable, Demon's Crest is a marvelous gem. Its sole issue is that it still uses passwords instead of a proper save system, but that's a small price to pay for a game this good.

Word Count: 1,532

Tweet