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Video Game / Crystalis

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Crystalis (known as God Slayer: Sonata Of The Far-Away Sky in Japan) is an Action RPG created by SNK on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. It begins about a century after a nuclear war that destroyed most of humanity and sent all of its inhabitants back to the metaphorical Middle Ages. To prevent this from happening again, the survivors built a floating tower to allow people to govern from high above. However, the evil emperor Draygon, using magic and up-until-now-forbidden science, has assembled an army and plans to Take Over the World by accessing the tower.

The hero is a young boy who was frozen in a cryogenic sleep. With the aid of four sages, he learns that the world is about to be doomed again, and that he will need to find four elemental swords to fight Draygon's army and prevent him from making his goal of conquering the Tower a reality.


In November 2018, the NES version of the game was re-released as part of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on the Nintendo Switch, marking the first time the game was re-released since the 2000 Game Boy Color remake, after skipping the Virtual Console services. It came to the same platform's NES Online Service shortly afterwards.

Crystalis contains examples of:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: All over the place, with the most frequent (and appearing the earliest) being walls that can only be destroyed if the hero has the right sword and its associated orb to upgrade its Charged Attack.
  • Absurdly Low Level Cap: Your level caps at only 16, and you should easily reach it before the final couple dungeons without actively grinding unless you've been excessively avoiding combat throughout the game.
  • After the End: The game is set after nuclear war destroyed most of humanity.
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  • Awesome, but Impractical: Deo's Pendant passively regenerates your MP, which sounds like it would be extremely useful, but it only works when you stand still so it can't really be used in active battle, and it recovers MP very slowly at that. Plus you only get it at the end of the game, where you should be overflowing with money at that point and thus should just stock up on Magic Rings for MP restoration instead of wasting minutes of real word time doing nothing to recover your MP. Plus if you try taking advantage of it during the Sky Tower gauntlet at the end of the game by standing still somewhere away from enemies, you'll constantly get harassed by infinitely respawning Helicopter Droids, giving you little time to restore your MP, and going back inside the starting chamber to get away from the enemies will reset the entire gauntlet.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The "Nuper" status turns you into a slime that can't attack or use magic. The only cure is the rare, expensive Fruit of Repun.
  • Big Bad: Emperor Draygon.
  • Boss Rush: At Draygon Castle, you'll have to fight all four of the Draygonian generals. It's the longest dungeon in the game.
  • Cap: Your experience level is capped at 16.
  • The Cameo:
    • Athena and Kensou (fresh off their debuts in Psycho Soldier) appear as two of the four Sages. However, Athena is called "Asina" and Kensou is rendered as "Kensu", a clear case of Engrish.
    • The village elders of two towns are also named Ralph (Ralf) and Clark, the Ikari Warriors-originated soldiers who're now far better known from The King of Fighters.
  • Charged Attack:
    • Every sword comes with a base level 1 charge. Most can charge to a level 2 attack after you acquire an orb to go with said sword (except the Crystalis sword, which also automatically comes with this), and the four elemental swords can hit a level 3 charge when an appropriate bracelet is equipped.
    • The Crystalis sword's apparent three charge levels is the result of a glitch and the sword was always meant to have just one charge level. If you go into your inventory (or the status screen) and come back out, the "extra" levels of charge disappear. Furthermore, assuming you have a bracelet equipped, if you avoid going into your inventory between receiving Crystalis and the battle with the tower's computer systems DYNA, you'll find that the "extra" levels do nothing.
  • Conspicuously Light Patch: Some sections of walls can be destroyed with the level 2 attack from particular swords, and they're all conspicuously visually different from the rest of the wall.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: As standard for an NES game, most area designs will get repeated at least once with a different color palette, and the dungeons are especially guilty of this. But for an NES game it does manage to have a good variety of actually unique environments.
  • Damsel in Distress: Mesia. Somewhat subverted, as her main ability is summoning the Giant Flying Tower of Doomy Doom Doom.
  • Drone Jam: In Oak (GBC only), a guard outside the elder's house will block the door because you smell bad, until you proven yourself helpful by rescuing a child. In Portoa, the guard blocks you when returning to the queen, but is stopped by the paralysis skill.
  • Egopolis: The Draygonian Empire.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: Some enemies are completely immune to one or more of the swords (e.g. the insects in the forest near Oak can only be damaged by the Sword of Fire.)
  • Elite Four: The Finest Four of the Draygonian Empire? Nobody has any illusions as to whether the hero is going to have to face off against Kelbesque, Sabera, Mado, and Karmine.
  • Evil Overlord: Draygon. Considering he's Azteca's Enemy Within, it's more than justified.
  • Excuse Plot: The GBC version of the game has this. The NES original had a surprisingly deep plot for an NES game back in the day, full of several plot twists that are likely able to catch the player off guard. The "plot" for the GBC version, however, can be summed up as: "There's a wizard. He's evil. Go kill him." It even goes as far as to spoil the major plot twist of the NES version in the very first opening cut scene of the game!
  • Feudal Future: After most of humanity was killed in nuclear war, technology was shunned, leading to a comeback of swords and magic. It's easy to forget the game actually takes place in the year 2097 at the earliest, and is likely set after the year 2100 based on some small details in the backstory.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The Hero and Mesia.
  • Four Is Death: On both sides really. There are four benevolent wisemen, but there are also four evil generals who work for Emperor Draygon.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: In the NES version, you cannot damage enemies or bosses if you aren't sufficiently leveled up, but unless you're rushing through the game or excessively avoiding enemies, you should hit the required level thresholds to damage bosses through normal progression. The GBC version averts this, which also makes it much harder.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Emperor Draygon is definitely the Big Bad and has been for the entire game. When you kill him, you then get whisked off to the flying tower. The actual final boss is the tower's computer, DYNA, who also happens to be ridiculously easy compared to Draygon.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Some armor and shields have secondary effects beyond just raising your defense, where they'll block certain status effects, or in the case of the Psycho Armor, will slowly restore your HP when you don't move. But there's no inventory descriptions to tell you about those effects, nor do any NPCs tell you, so you'll have to realize those effects are happening on your own before you upgrade to a stronger piece of equipment, or read it up in a guide.
    • Additionally much of the wearable items have effects that aren't told to the player by any means ingame. The worst of this are the Rabbit Boots that you get from killing the first boss, which at first glance appear to do nothing and so the player will trudge along ignoring them until they inevitably hit a brick wall in Mt. Sabre where they can't seemingly progress. What the Rabbit Boots do is allow you to jump by inputting the A button, which can then be used to jump up some slopes in Mt. Sabre, but this button is primarily used for spells and so you'll only jump if you have no spell equipped, which since there's no reason to not have a spell equipped at all times, a player will be hard-pressed to figure this out on their own without looking up what the Rabbit Boots do or how to progress in Mt. Sabre.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: If you leave the name entry screen blank, the NES version names you "SNK" while the GBC version names you "Simea".
  • Heroic Mime: Mostly played straight, as the hero has all of four lines, three of which are used to tell mortally wounded characters (first an Almost Dead Guy on Mt. Sabre, then Stom and Akahana in Shyron) to hold on if they want to maximize their remaining time before having a Critical Existence Failure.
  • Hero of Another Story: Kensu, up until the point he teaches you Flight. Where the other wisemen dedicate themselves to helping the hero, Kensu takes on the Empire himself. If not for a lucky shot from Karmine, he might have freed the other wisemen himself after Shyron fell. He provides an explanation for this in the Japanese version, which unfortunately doesn't make it into the English version: he doesn't trust Azteca. This is why he didn't go to Shyron when summoned, and instead tried to sneak into the fortress of Goa. He tells you to go to Shyron in his stead and help out.
  • Human Popsicle: The start of the game has the hero wake up from cryogenic sleep inside of a hidden cave. Later in the game, Mesia wakes up from a similar situation.
  • Humans Are Ugly: The elder of Oak doesn't like the smell of humans. In the GBC remake, it's one of the residents blocks the elder's house claiming he doesn't like that smell. That resident doesn't like the smell even after he accepts that humans are actually nice.
  • Improbable Power Discrepancy: Averted. DYNA is a pushover, and its only defense is a set of gatling guns. You easily defeat it with Crystalis, which the game manual notes is the most powerful weapon ever created.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The eponymous Crystalis, which is by far the strongest sword in the game, has no enemies immune to it, and even without having the Warrior Ring equipped it'll unleash its charge attack without requiring any charge, which is a massive ball of energy that will cover up much of the screen. Shame you don't get it until right before you fight the final boss, a boss that is way too easy to justify needing such an overpowering sword, and there's no New Game+ nor backtracking from the final dungeon to have fun with this sword in the rest of the game.
  • King in the Mountain: Along with Mesia, your character is asleep until the time comes to either save the world or destroy it.
  • Lady Land: Amazones. They insist that men are forbidden in town, and will refuse to talk to you unless the hero is disguised.
  • La Résistance: The hero, Mesia, Zebu, Tornel, Athena, Kensou, and Stom. Azteca also counts, since Draygon doesn't subvert it due to being rather separate from his 'creator' and also being an Enemy Within.
  • Mana Meter: It's a numerical gauge that the hero must draw from to cast spells or shoot level 3 sword attacks.
  • Mana Potion: Fruit of Power restores part of your magic. Magic Rings restore all of it.
  • Magical Mystery Doors: The floating tower has them in the GBC port. While each floor and door does look different, the correct path is marked by broken pillars with exposed wires. The final floor is a set of three doors with no indication which one is correct.
  • Magic Versus Science: The skills in the game include an array of common psychic tropes but are referred to in-game as spells, seemingly an inability to decide which they are if either. This could mean that these abilities are thought of as both or it could be a Shout-Out to Psycho Soldier due to the cameos made by Athena and Kensou.
  • Master of Disguise: The hero after he learns the "Change" spell. He'll need to change himself into a girl in order to get into the aforementioned town of Amazones.
  • Mind Screw: "Wait, were Azteca and Draygon the same person or were their minds linked somehow? And how does that work if Azteca was really an android the whole time? And why was he an android anyway?! I'm so confused!"
  • No Ontological Inertia: The GBA port has General Kelbesque cast a spell on Zebu that disintegrates him into a million pieces. Defeating the general causes Zebu to be restored and appear in the next room.
  • One-Winged Angel: Draygon in the second battle against him, after you shoot the Bow of Truth at him.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Once you enter the Sky Tower you can't go back and dying there will respawn you at the Sky Tower's entry point, so if you save in there, any equipment and holdable items you didn't get will be permanently unobtainable on that file. Granted you're at the very end of the game with only like 5-10 minutes of gameplay left so it's not that big of a deal, but still annoying if you learned you missed something after the fact and wanted it for completionist sake.
  • Player Death Is Dramatic: If the Player Character dies, the entire game world fades to black, and they spin in place before collapsing on the ground dead.
  • Point of No Return: Entering the Tower is a one-way ticket to the endgame and once you save there you'll be stuck there permanently on your file, so make sure you're stocked up on Magic Rings and Opel Statues, and got the good equipment/items before entering it. The final boss will be a joke regardless of what you have, but you'll have to defeat a gauntlet of very nasty enemies before you can fight it, and you might get stuck in a near-unwinnable situation against them if you went in lacking the good equipment/items and without any means to recover your MP.
  • Psychic Link: The "Telepathy" spell allows you to speak directly with any of the four sages, regardless of where you are.
  • Puzzle Boss: Draygon's second form isn't a conventional boss you just hit until he dies, as he is completely immune to all your attacks. Rather to beat him, you must have the Thunder Bracelet and Power Ring equipped, you must be at max level, and you have to unleash the Thunder Sword's level 3 charge attack when his core is open, with him dying after doing so three times. No other attack will harm him, and not having the required level or Power Ring equipped will result in you doing no damage to him.
  • Regenerating Mana: If you equip Deo's Pendant and stand still.
  • The Remnant: Draygonian archers remain in the overworld area near Goa, even after the town has been liberated.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Stom (and possibly Akahana).
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The Fruit of Repun reverses the "Nuper" status (that turns you into a monster incapable of attacking or using magic.)
  • Shout-Out: The story opens in "the Windy Valley" and there is a forest which is populated by giant insects. "October 1, 1997, the end day" is a shout-out to Terminator.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Mt. Sabre.
  • Smart Bomb: The final charged level of the Sword of Thunder just has a lightning bolt hit all enemies on-screen.
  • Sound of No Damage: There's a "clink" sound when hitting an enemy that's too far above you in level or that's immune to the sword you're currently wielding. Once you reach a high enough level, weaker enemies will "clink" when hitting you!
  • Small Reference Pools: In the west the game is often compared and contrasted with The Legend of Zelda. In reality it has much more common with the Ys series. Ys was pretty much the gold standard for RPGs in Japan, but was much less popular in the west.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Of all the villains, the only woman working for Draygonia is Sabera. This stands out in particular because the heroic side has several women actively helping out.
  • Spam Attack: Equipping the Warrior's Ring would allow you to fire the level 1 attack of your currently equipped sword without charging.
  • Spread Shot: One of the two main advantages of the Sword of Thunder's charge attacks (the other being more sheer power as long as the enemy wasn't specifically immune to it). The first power fires three projectiles, while the version gained from the Ball of Thunder fires seven.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: One of the side effects of the "Telepathy" spell is that it allows you to communicate with animals.
  • Sword Beam: All swords have a charge attack to launch a projectile. They become varied at higher charge levels where some of them are actually area attacks rather than crescents or line attacks.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The eponymous Crystalis is acquired just before the final battle and necessary to overcome the final obstacles in the game. It's a fusion of the Swords of Wind, Fire, Water, and Thunder which you collect throughout the game.
  • Tomato Surprise: In the Tower it is revealed that the Hero was one of the scientists who built the thing in the first place. Your job after awakening was to judge whether the remnants of humanity were worth saving and if the answer was no, to use the Tower to wipe them out. Being the Hero, you destroy the Tower instead.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: Portoa's Queen and the Fortune Teller both appear, but not at the same time and keep referring you to the other alias. Eventually, the dialog will start looping, requiring the hero to double back and use the newly acquired paralysis skill.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Once you enter a boss fight, you won't be able to leave until you defeat the boss or die. However each boss requires you to be at a minimum level to be able to harm them at all, and a couple bosses require possessing additional items to beat them, while the game does not prevent you from entering boss fights if you're not up to par. So if you go into a boss fight lacking the requisite level or items, you'll be stuck unable to win and will have to die and get a game over or load up your last save.
  • Upgrade Artifact:
    • There are magical orbs and bracelets that can enhance the magic of your swords, and will be required to access other areas in the game.
    • The orbs may be another Shout-Out to Athena from Psycho Soldier.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can terrify a few people in the town of La Résistance by using the Change spell to appear as a soldier of The Empire.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Generals Kelbesque, Sabera and Mado of Draygon's "Finest Four". Unlike the other boss enemies they flee upon being defeated the first time except for Karmine, who's only fought in Goa Fortress where you get to take all four down for good.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Using Telepathy in the GBC version always gives the same message all the time. This was not the case in the NES version, where the advice changes as you progress through the game, and where one of the contacts could remotely restore your MP.