Light Crusader
  • Genre:
    • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Treasure
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • US 05/25/1995
    • JP 05/26/1995
    • UK 1995
Score: 80%

This review was published on 12/28/2013.

Light Crusader is a 2-D, isometric action adventure game developed by Treasure and originally released for the Sega Genesis in 1995. Treasure is a company that is well known for their excellent side-scrolling action games, so a game like this is a little out of the ordinary for them. It's apparent that Treasure decided to step out of its comfort zone to try something new here, and that might be a cause for concern. After all, Treasure doesn't have a lot of experience with this genre. It shouldn't be at all concerning, though, because the game is still good. Light Crusader is similar to other isometric games of the time, like Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole. It's also a bit like The Legend of Zelda, but not by a whole lot. And even though this game has the word "crusader" in its title, it is in no way related to Crusader of Centy, another Sega Genesis game. Light Crusader is its own thing. Fans of Treasure might have a hard time appreciating it, but Light Crusader proves that the beloved company can do more than just action games.

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Sir David is a gifted swordsman and the hero of this tale of tales. A town by the name of Green Row is having issues with people disappearing mysteriously, which puts them in quite a dilly of a pickle. What kind of name is Green Row, anyway? Don't ask me, because I don't know. King Frederick of Green Row summons David to deal with the disappearing people problem, because that's what gifted swordsmen are supposed to do. If you ask me, the King should have hired a private investigator instead, because swordsmen aren't exactly known for their intellect. On his glorious quest to glory, David will slay many demons and uncover the dark conspiracy that hides within the shadows of Green Row. There are a few developments to the story as you play the game, but for the most part, this is a generic plot. I don't think they were going for anything special here, though. The dialogue is average and there are a few attempts at humor, but the objective of this story is merely to establish your objective.

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Everything in Light Crusader revolves around the town of Green Row, making this the only town you explore in the game. Like many RPG towns, Green Row has shops, inns, and folk to talk to. Talking to the townsfolk in Light Crusader is rarely necessary to advance in the game, but it can be a fun way to get a feel for what's going on. Most of the townspeople are spooked by the random disappearances, though there are a few eccentric ones that don't seem to mind. Treasure put in a few strange mechanics that make town exploration slightly comical. For instance, you can push every single person in town around as if they were an object. This looks particularly funny on the fortune teller, because you move his table with him. Animals aren't exempt from this oddity, as you can push the cows around in the farm area, too. I think Treasure might have done this deliberately to be silly. Speaking of silly, there is one lady in town that asks David if he'd like her to play the piano. Before David can decline, she starts playing a horrible tune that seemingly lasts forever and then casually mentions that she isn't that good at it. Yeah, I'd say so. Green Row is a funny place.

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Deep beneath Green Row lies a vast labyrinth filled with demons of darkness. In Light Crusader, there is only one dungeon, and it's massive. The dungeon is located in Green Row's cemetery and is divided into major subsections, all requiring thorough exploration. Progression inside of the dungeon is done through keys that open the way to the other major areas. You usually have to get through a large section of the dungeon or beat a boss to get a key to another area, slowly making your way from one floor to another. The dungeon has recovery and save rooms scattered throughout it, which allows you to heal and save during long voyages. There are also teleport rooms that allow you to conveniently teleport to key points in the dungeon, enabling you to cut down on the backtracking. You also get a handy dandy map that fills in as you explore. The primary objective inside of the dungeon is to rescue the missing people from town. Doing so gets you closer and closer to solving the main mystery. In some ways, the dungeon has a Metroid vibe to it, since it has lots of shortcuts and interconnected pathways. The big problem with the dungeon in Light Crusader is that the scenery doesn't change a whole lot as you progress through it. Predictably, exploring the same dungeon throughout the entire game gets boring after a while. This is something that will undoubtedly put a lot of people off. I will say, however, that the dungeon manages to throw in some odd, yet fantastic set pieces towards the end. Let's just say that you'll be fighting against cowboys, ninjas, nazis, and robots. I don't know about you, but I think that's gosh darn cool.

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Besides fighting enemies, the main thing you'll be doing inside of the dungeon is solving puzzles. Light Crusader is very big on puzzles, much like The Legend of Zelda series. Most of the puzzles in Light Crusader revolve around moving objects, which you do by pushing up against them. That doesn't mean that all the puzzles are dull affairs of pushing blocks onto pressure plates, though. Yes, those kinds of puzzles do exist, but there is a surprising amount of variety with the pushing you do in the game. For example, there are puzzles that involve pushing bombs near doors and igniting them to blast the way forward, puzzles where you push a laser emitting device so that the laser hits a door to unlock it, and so on. Some of the puzzles feature interesting visual effects that play around with the Genesis' hardware in unique ways, like this puzzle where you push a fan-like platform around to rotate it in order to create a bridge to walk across. The puzzles in Light Crusader are a lot more difficult than what you'd see in a Zelda game, many of them proving to be challenging brain teasers. The only conundrum with Light Crusader's puzzles is that some of them can bit a bit dodgy, especially when it comes to the collision detection. Also, puzzles get super annoying later in the game. The puzzles are all intelligent in design, but you'll need the patience of a saint to deal with the ones at the end of the game.

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Navigation in Light Crusader is a big deal, since it has that awkward isometric perspective going for it. Isometric perspectives are something that look appealing visually, but tend to be problematic when it comes to controlling your character. That's no different here. You can jump in Light Crusader, which is pretty cool, but it does present some issues due to the perspective. Light Crusader is almost like a platform game at times, because there is a lot of jumping to do within the dungeon. Anytime you aren't combating foes or solving puzzles, you're usually jumping on precarious platforms. It never becomes too bad, but it's still something that can get on your nerves from time to time. Platforming and isometric perspectives just don't mix. The good thing is that jumping in Light Crusader is quite fun, even if it can get irritating on occasion. There are no bottomless pits or anything of the sort, thankfully, though there are plenty of spike pits. Well, maybe not plenty, but there are a few. In the end, Light Crusader's jumping puzzles never get as bad as what you'd experience in games like Landstalker, and they're not as prolific.

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Altercations with enemies occur in real time in Light Crusader; none of that turn based stuff here. David's primary weapon of attack is a sword, since he's, you know, a swordsman. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. Besides his standard sword swing, David can do a few other maneuvers, like a context sensitive sword dive attack. This diving move can be activated by jumping and attacking near enemies, though if you're too far from the enemy, it won't activate. Certain enemies will have fairly gruesome death animations, like goblins. Killing goblins will result in either their heads or torsos being sliced clean off, and in the case of fire magic, their bodies will burn to a crisp. The unique death animations are a nice attention to detail. You'll also encounter big boss monsters every once in a while that take quite a bit of punishment. Boss fights aren't too special, but they tend to happen at unexpected times. In general, whether you win or lose a given battle comes down to what equipment and recovery items you have. It's all pretty simple, and that's not at all bad.

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Despite being a gallant swordsman, David can also be an adept magic user, as well. Magic is one of the more interesting things about Light Crusader. All magic is divided into four distinct elements; fire, water, wind, and earth. Instead of there being a magic meter or MP gauge, magic is consumed like an expendable item. Enemies will sometimes drop elements, or you might find elements lying about, and using spells will consume elements. What's truly unique about the magic system in this game is that you can combine elements. Normally, each element can be equipped individually to use a generic spell, but equipping two or more elements at the same time will result in entirely different spells. By mixing and matching different elements together, David can inflict magical damage, heal, erect barriers, stun enemies, and a bunch of other things. You don't have to wait before you're able to pull off any of the more demanding combinations, either. So long as you have the necessary elements, you can cast any spell in the game right off the bat. It's a great system with no real flaws, and one of the standout features of Light Crusader.

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Even though Light Crusader is mostly action oriented, there are a few RPG elements to it. There is no level up mechanic in the game, though there are ways to increase David's strength, defense, and endurance. The first way is through finding equipment from enemies, purchasing them at shops, or finding them in treasure chests. Food items can also be bought at shops or found in dungeons to restore health. As far as health goes, you can sometimes find crystals to increase David's maximum life energy inside of treasure chests, which is pretty similar to Zelda. The announcer will occasionally notify the player via speech of different things, like if he's low on health, which is a nice touch. It is low quality, 16-bit speech though, so don't get your hopes up. Something that's really weird is that you can easily procure the ultimate armor right at the beginning of the game. There is an easy monster near the beginning of the game that has an unusually high probability of dropping the Gold Armor, which is the game's best armor. It took me less than ten minutes of grinding to pick it up. After that, the entire rest of the game was a cinch. I'm not sure why the developers would deliberately break the game's balance like this, but there you go. All in all, the minor RPG elements flesh out the game in a major way, even if things are a bit unbalanced.

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Light Crusader is a very unorthodox game for Treasure, but not an unorthodox game in general. It has intelligent puzzles that will make you flex your brain muscles, simple yet endearing combat, an awesome magic system, and a good sense of humor. On the bad side, Light Crusader's graphics aren't too good when compared to what was out at the time. Genesis games like Crusader of Centy and Beyond Oasis came out before Light Crusader, and they both look better by leaps and bounds. Another thing that is likely to turn off a lot of people is the fact that you remain in the same town and dungeon throughout the entire game, though the game makes up for it by making the dungeon and town good. Lastly, the game is kind of short. I beat it in around seven hours on my first time through, which makes it way shorter than your average Zelda game. Light Crusader is still pretty good despite these faults, though, so give it a try when you've got the time.

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