By Sotenga

Tecmo has really made a name for themselves over the time they've been in the gaming world, and that's actually been for a long while now. Their most critical acclaim nowadays lies in the Dead or Alive and Fatal Frame series, both being rather unique fighting and survival horror series respectively. However, they had much fame before then, back around the eighties and nineties. At that time, they were most beloved for the legendary Ninja Gaiden series and Tecmo Super Bowl, my personal favorite football game... and I hate the damn sports genre! Lesser known but still rather popular Tecmo classics include the innovative action-puzzler Solomon's Key, the jumping madness of Mighty Bomb Jack, and the story of a Greek/Roman warrior armed only with a large razor-sharp yo-yo, determined to defend his land from whatever gruesome creatures may assault it. And his name... was RYGAR!

I'm not sure exactly who or what Rygar is named after, but it is a pretty cool name regardless. The young warrior fights for the safety and prevalence of Argool, his admittedly beautiful land. It has been invaded by mysterious beasts and vile creatures made of pure hatred and darkness, so our hero clutches his patented Diskarmor in his hand and sets out for much action and adventure. The Diskarmor is certainly a unique weapon with an appropriate name, as it is a bladed disk that can also be used to defend attacks like a piece of armor, hence the name. He's able to throw his weapon out on a rope and swing it around like a mofo, effortlessly shredding any and all baddies in his way. He doesn't really have any other offensive tools in his inventory, but with the friggin' Diskarmor, what else would you need?

Rygar's legacy has spanned three completely different games, the first one being an okay platformer with lots o' levels, the next one regarded as one of the best NES games of its time by having combined action and adventure with RPG elements, and the most recent one as a breathtaking masterpiece that easily gives Devil May Cry a run for its money as one of the best modern action-adventure titles of our time. As far as I can tell, all three games tell the same basic story, but that's where all similarities halt. Let us examine the chronicles of the Diskarmor-wielder in all of its unbridled glory.

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar / Argus no Senshi (1986) - Arcade/Sega Master System/Atari Lynx/Xbox


American Flyer

Japanese Flyer

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar's first adventure was released in the arcades, thus heralding the debut of a new hero. The thought on everybody's minds was, "Step aside, Mario. That Diskarmor is more dangerous than any barrel or terrapin you'll ever face." Or at least, that's what gamers would be thinking if Rygar received more public exposure. The original arcade title is little-known, and I honestly thought that the first Rygar game was the NES title. Well, many years and one internet connection later, I learned of the arcade game's existence and decided to try it out via good ol' MAME. What I found was pretty interesting... at first. However, like many platformers of the time, its fun factor decreased as time went on. But for 1986, repetitiveness in level designs was acceptable. So what we have here is a good action title that serves the purpose of killing time when there's not much else better to do.

After a credit is inserted and the start button is pressed, there's a bit of text about how the world fell into darkness, evil forces, billions of years, blah blah blah, and so forth. You know, the typical irrelevant prelude to set up the reason why you're running about killing monsters. Not exactly Shakespearean caliber, but it means as much as anything you find within a fortune cookie nowadays, which is zilch. Anyway, onto the game itself. Rygar is thrust into a pretty good looking wilderness area where headless demons and evil caterpillars are out for his blood. Pressing the attack button thrusts the Diskarmor straight forth, and holding up on the joystick swings it above Rygar's head in a backwards arc. Jumping onto enemies doesn't harm Rygar, and it stuns enemies for a second. There's... not really much else to do. Just tear down enemies and fight your way to the end of the stage. Old-school arcade action madness!

The graphics are okay; nothing highly spectacular for the time, but they're certainly adequate. The colors are a bit drab, but they're used well, and are never unpleasant on the optic orbs. The backgrounds and foregrounds are pretty detailed, and there aren't many parallax layers, but the background does move independently as the rest of the screen scrolls, which is nice. There's this little map screen in the lower-right corner of the screen, which is pretty much worthless as the stages are entirely linear anyway. Characters are fairly detailed with a decent frame rate, and... well... I really don't have much else to say. The graphics are unremarkable, but at the same time, they're definitely not bad.

The sound is in the exact same boat as the graphics are. It's definitely not outstanding in any sense of the word. Matter of fact, it's actually pretty... mute. Well, the music is, anyway. The sound effects are fairly audible, even though there aren't a lot of them. Rygar makes shouts as he jumps and attacks, and let's out a nice "AAAAHHHHH" when he dies. As for the music... well, it's really only one tune. And as I said, it's not very loud or imposing. It's not that bad either, and I kinda like the other tune that plays after beating a level, but that's really all there is.

The gameplay itself is the standard action format, which I shall now explain as if I was singing Whip It by Devo for no adequately explored reason: Go right. Move ahead. The enemies. Kick their asses. Don't die. Or fall. Into the lava. That would suck. It's not too late. Unless... time runs out. Then a big red guy. He comes to kill you. So kill them first. Kill them. Kill them good!

Seriously, there isn't much to it. Just stay alive, killing enemies if necessary, and get to the end of the stage. There will be items to help our hero, but most of them are just worth points. But there are others that cause all enemies on-screen to explode, add more time to the clock, make you invincible, and of course, give you a bonus life. There are also four special items that can be held onto as long as Rygar doesn't die. They extend the Diskarmor range, allow it to kill several enemies in one shot, have Rygar kill enemies by jumping on them instead of merely stunning them, and make the Diskarmor easier to control in mid-air. During each intermission between stages, Rygar finds himself in a room with what I think is a statue of some sort of deity, which apparently denotes what to expect in the forthcoming level. For example, the Cho Aniki-esque muscleman in a speedo and holding a large shiny object clues into the appearance of explosion items. A large winged guy clues the existence of a bonus life in the upcoming stage, which isn't much of a surprise as small winged men are the icon for 1-ups! I'm not quite sure what all the other statues mean, but you can try and interpret them as you want.

It would be nice to have boots of spiked steel and a Diskarmor on Viagra all the time, but the game's challenge is not what could be considered to be forgiving. On the contrary... well, let me put it into this perspective. I'm usually very good at platform games. Here, I often lose all three of my lives around the second stage. On the Easy difficulty. In a game with twenty-seven levels. And they're all pretty damn short. So I essentially lose all my lives in less than five minutes.

There are two factors that jack up the difficulty to a high degree; the huge buttload of enemies that the game throws at you, and the fact that our seemingly strong hero can only take one fuggin' hit. Unless he jumps on an enemy or he's not under the influence of the invincible Cross item, he loses a life. Now, I would be able to tolerate the constant dyings and the goofy lookin' Grim Reaper that whisks Rygar away if there was a good motivation to get to the end... but there isn't much to play on for, really. This was 1986, a time where action games didn't place much emphasis on the bosses, and the only unique major enemy is this large lion guy who doesn't really do much but jump around. He's at the end of Round 27, and beating him nets you a crappy non-ending. As I said, this is typical stuff for the time, but it somehow grows monotonous after extended play, which adds up to frustration when coupled with the constant amount of quarters you'll have to plug into the machine... or the pressure your finger will receive after pressing the 5 button on your keyboard if you're playing in MAME.

But the part that pisses me off the most is another thing that was somewhat common for action games in the eighties... the trend of disallowing the ability to continue at a certain point in the game! In my opinion, that shit is just CHEAP! Shinobi, E-SWAT, Rastan, and Time Soldiers all did it; if you died on the last level, that's it. Game over. You can either start from the beginning or walk away from the machine in anger. Rygar stops you from continuing around... the twentieth stage, I believe? And you still have seven more to go... bring a Rabbit's Foot, pluck all the clovers Ireland has, or get the crap beaten out of you by a leper. Anything to increase your luck and survive the onslaught. Of course, if you get by on pure skill, then I tip my hat to ye.

Rygar's introduction into the gaming world is a bit repetitive, it becomes bland after a while, and all the constant death on the player's part is liable to bring his or her fist straight through the screen. It's certainly not extraordinary or groundbreaking, but everybody's gotta start somewhere. Ninja Gaiden and Bionic Commando both got their start in the arcades, and those games were just okay, but both series moved to the NES and they became legends. Rygar is in the very same boat here. However, the arcade title is good for what it is; a standard action game that is actually enjoyable in small doses. But if you want to beat it, I can't help you.

Oh, and Castlevania's Grim Reaper can own this game's GR any day of the week.

The Sega Master System of Rygar only came out in Japan, unfortunately. For some reason, it was named "Argus no Juujiken" (Cross-Sword of Argus) as opposed to the arcade game, "Argus no Senshi" (Warrior of Argus), perhaps implying that it's meant to be a sequel. While the gameplay and general level structure are pretty similar, it's pretty stripped down overall - most of the backgrounds are gone, and the scenery is much more repetitive than the arcade game. Some stages have underground tunnels similar to Pitfall that you can enter, but there's rarely any point. The urns at the end of each level are gone, although there are now boss monsters that you face every couple scenes. For a Sega Master System game, it's fairly decent, though hardly remarkable.

Rygar also got ported to the Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64, but like most computer ports, all were pretty bad. The most faithful was, oddly enough, the Atari Lynx version. While the proportions got incredibly screwed up in the trip to the handheld, most gameplay transferred over fine. Of the few problems - you can't attack upward, and there isn't a continue option, making this a valid option for the hardcore only. If you want an arcade perfect Rygar, check out the Tecmo Classic Arcade for the Xbox, which has it emulated in near-perfect form. The only qualm is the inability to configure the controls, because the default are kinda off. Unfortunately, Rygar is just about the only good game in this collection.

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (Arcade)

Rygar (SMS)

Rygar (SMS)

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade
Lynx
Sega Master System

Rygar (1987) - Nintendo Entertainment System


American Cover

Japanese Advertisement

Rygar (NES)

When the hero of Argool made his debut on the NES, it was an entirely different venue from the arcade game. At first, it did not seem too different from its predecessor, what with the opening section being a strict side-scrolling affair and those damn rolling caterpillar thingies still prevalent. However, Rygar takes a hit, and... oh, what's that in the upper-right corner of the screen? Why, it's a life meter! Rygar can take three hits before he folds, according to those little red dots up there. Well, it's nice that the game's a little easier, but is there anything else that sets it apart from the arcade title?

Gamers would soon realize that EVERYTHING is different from the arcade game.

The only exception is the basic storyline, which doesn't matter that much. Argool is in trouble, as Liger, the evil lion-headed scourge of the land, has stolen the Door of Peace. Rygar is to defeat the villain and open the Door for all of Argool's creatures to walk through and into a better tomorrow... or something like that. He has to traverse the land in order to reach Liger's fortress of solitude, which just so happens to be floating in the sky. D'OH! Keep in mind that the epoch of time here is long, long ago, possibly even B.C., so there were no such things as airplanes, helicopters, or even autogyros. Instead, Rygar has to find and consult the five Indora gods in order to find a way up to the foul sky where Liger's palace floats. It won't be an easy journey, but it can be done.

I tell you, there's something about that bright sun and the crimson sky in the beginning part that entrances me. I don't really know what it is... just looks nice, is all. It's a recurring theme in all Rygar games, and for a title from the mid 80s, it's gorgeous. The graphics are fairly good overall. It's nothing too spectacular, but 1987 was still fairly early in the NES's lifespan, so it was good design for the time. The sprites are animated well and display some interesting enemy designs, such as the evil trees and crazy egg-dropping dragons that fly overhead. Rygar himself must be a distant cousin of the Belmont family, what with his lack of a face and snow white complexion shared by Simon Belmont from Castlevania II, but at least he has decent animation. The stages look rather neat as well, with one of my favorites being the floating islands of Lapis. It scares the crap out of me to think that the pits you jump over don't lead to a dank pit, but a place on terra firma that's a million miles below you.

Personally, I think that the music of the game is excellent. Once again keeping in mind that 1987 was a time before NES games had entrancing orchestral chords and realistic percussion beats, this is good stuff. My personal favorite tune is the super-cool melodic composition of the underground cavern section. It's one of those things that makes me think, "How the crap could they do this despite the limits of technology?" However, if I do have to decry a fault with it, the music does grow repetitive over time. This point can be heard with my least favorite music, the mind-numbing tune of Dorago's Castle. It's just the same four notes over and over again. Seriously. It's not perfect, but I like it a lot. The sound effects aren't really so prominent, just the typical "bleeps" and "crunks" that you can expect in a game like this.

The core gameplay was what really evolved the name of Rygar towards its status of fame. This was a time where some gamers grew restless of the typical "Go right and kill stuff" formula that many action titles abided by. The people wanted some innovation and new elements to enrich the experience, and Tecmo did just that. Rygar is one of the first action-adventure titles that I can think of in the history of gaming. I'm sure there are quite a few that precede it, but there weren't a lot that combined solid asskicking with leveling up, inventory, a large interconnected nonlinear world, and all that jazz. Legend of Xanadu and Ys are the only ones that really come to mind...

Rygar's only weapon throughout the entire game is the Diskarmor. He doesn't gain any other methods of attack, as all the other items in the inventory are for reaching certain areas or bolstering his defense. But c'mon, it's a friggin' Diskarmor! What more do you need to go on? It seems fairly weak at first, taking at least two hits to obliterate even the wimpiest of enemies, but the more asses you kick, the stronger Rygar becomes. If you destroy more enemies, you'll soon find the D-armor tearing through bad guys with relatively little effort. Rygar's constitution increases too, as destroying more monsters add to the total number of life points in the upper-right screen. I do believe that the maximum is twelve.

There are also three spells that Rygar can implement to keep him alive. They can be utilized in conjunction with star points. Every now and then, an enemy will drop either one or two star points, and a maximum of seven can be held. With three star points, Rygar can "Power Up" and increase the speed, range, and damage of the Diskarmor. It stays with him until he dies, so it's highly recommended to activate the Power Up right away. Five points activates the "Attack & Assail," where the next ten presses of the B button will cause a flash that hits every enemy on-screen. This can be quite useful to attack any pesky flying or shooting enemies, and it does make boss battles a tad less painless. Finally, a maximum seven points can "Recover" all of Rygar's life points. This is only to be used in the direst of situations. Even if there isn't much magic, it's certainly enough to get by.

Not unlike Zelda II (or even Snake's Revenge), there are two different perspectives of action in the game. One is the standard side-scrolling 2D setup, and the other is a birds-eye overhead view where it is possibly to move north and south. Garloz, the "main hub" area of the game (which is pretty much interconnected with most of the other areas of Argool) is seen from above, but most of the land is in 2D, except for Dorago's Palace and Ligar's Castle. It cannot all be accessed at once, however. Rygar needs items from the Indora gods that can help him advance to higher plateaus. Such items include the Grappling Hook, where he can climb straight up to ledges, the Wind Pulley, which enables him to climb safely across ropes, and the Crossbow, with which he can make climbing ropes on his own. Rygar can also stay alive with mini-potions that are dropped randomly by enemies and restore one life point, and he can also receive Life Potions for his inventory that recover all life when activated. The Coat of Arms is required to get Life Potions, though. There is also armor that can reduce the damage Rygar takes. The last item that will be obtained is the Pegasus Flute. Use it in the right place, and the path to Liger will show itself!

There is a fair amount of irritating backtracking to do, but not so much that it evolves into pure tedium. However, when Rygar grows to be very strong, it may get a little boring to effortlessly dispose of the enemies while advancing to the next area. The overall challenge of the game is fairly easy. There aren't any cheaply frustrating moments or legions of enemies trying to rush you simultaneously. The control is dead-on tight, and save for a few tricky jumps every now and then, it's easy to maneuver the Ry-Guy around. The bosses, although strong, are relative breezes once you figure out their simple patterns. You'll know you're fighting a boss when there's no music, but a weird-ass roar constantly sounding off. The overall balance of the game is fair, if not leaning a little bit on the easy side. There is a downside I would like to note; it's a fairly long game, usually taking around an hour to beat, and it didn't have any type of battery backup, or even any passwords. So if you want to beat Rygar, but want to go to lunch and you're jumping around the floating islands of Lapiz, you'll just have to leave the NES on and come back later, hoping that the system won't overheat and catch fire during your absence.

Maybe Rygar does seem a little basic and bare-bones compared to later action-RPGs like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Brave Fencer Musashi, but for crap's sake, it was 1987! That's nearly two decades ago, and I doubt there was enough technological ingenuity to create a game so revolutionary and ahead of its time. Rygar did just that while staying within the limits of the NES, and the result totally blew the arcade game out of the water. The name of Tecmo would become a household favorite over time, and soon enough, gamers would trek all over Argool and marvel at the large world and all of its beastly inhabitants. It was titles like these that helped the NES totally whomp the Sega Master System and Atari 7800 in console sales. Another victory for Rygar!

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

Rygar (NES)

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