Caution: Minor to medium spoilers. You've been warned.
Not many people remember the original Rygar, originally a Japanese arcade game called Argos no Senshi (Knight of Argus). The original game, made by Tecmo, saw ports to the Atari Lynx, the TurboGrafx 16, Sega Master System (in Japan only) and (most importantly) Nintendo's NES. To the casual observer, it was just an average "beat on anything that moves" side-scroller in a sea of a great many others in the genre (CastleVania, Contra and Mega Man tend to be the most remembered 2D action games of the period). Nevertheless, Rygar gained a great cult following over the years; its innovative free-roaming system, along with other ground-breaking gameplay mechanics (Rygar's Diskarmor, which we'll get to later, and the experience system, among others) earned it the respect it deserved among gamers.
Now, it's late 2002, and gamers seem to be clamoring for remakes, remakes, remakes. Contra, Shinobi, Ninja Gaiden, and many already established series attempting a "return to roots", as it were, are the soup du jour. Tecmo, not seeking to be elbowed out during this period of potential profit, revived Rygar for the Sony PlayStation 2, releasing Rygar: The Legendary Adventure in North America on November 27, 2002, and Argos no Senshi in Japan on December 5, 2002 to legions of waiting fans.
You are Rygar, the mightiest warrior of the ancient kingdom of Argus, a small island ruled by the powerful Roman Empire. Battle has just about completely consumed Rygar's memory (too many cracks on the head, I suppose), and he lives only to serve Argus's Princess Harmonia as a valorous gladiator. But one fateful day, the princess is kidnapped by hideous fiends known as Titans, and the Kingdom of Argus is overrun and brought to ruination by monstrous creatures. Rygar recieves a weapon called Diskarmor from a mysterious, unseen being to vanquish the supernatural evil that has defeated Argus.
So, pretty basic action game fare, non? Well, it's as the story progresses (which won't really as much as it could, unless you collect hidden scrolls and tablets of knowledge) that Rygar begins to become more interesting: primarily because the whole game is loaded to the brim with Greek mythology, which is something hardly seen in any games at all (Kid Icarus, which there is not a remake of, not withstanding), and lends a very interesting atmosphere to the adventure.
It doesn't just take a page from Capcom's Devil May Cry, it takes just about the whole damn book -- but the gameplay is still where Rygar truly shines.
The Diskarmor, which appears at first to be just a round shield, is not your typical weapon. In fact, it is more than even that, as it acts as a weapon, defense, and even a grappling hook. As Rygar swings his arm, the Diskarmor extends blades and is flung out from him on a chain, rather like a giant yo-yo, ripping into the enemy -- or just about anything else. There are three different types of Diskarmor which can be changed on the fly, each with different properties: the Hades Diskarmor is a long-range weapon that attacks in a straight line; the Heavenly Diskarmor leaves a wide swath of destruction; and the Sea Diskarmor is short-range but extremely quick to strike; and all three allow Rygar to summon mythical creatures to aid him in battle, and later can be powered up using magical stones. Utilizing the right type of Diskarmor is important, and could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Of course, you don't just smash enemies -- you can smash just about everything else you see. Pillars, statues, fountains, buttresses, rubble, walls; all these (and more!) can be destroyed with the Diskarmor, allowing Rygar to access and explore new areas where you may find treasure, or more likely a horde of monsters. "Ultimate destruction" is the name of the game, folks, and you'll have to destroy just about everything in sight to make Rygar more powerful.
The visuals of Rygar: The Legendary Adventure are, in a word, stunning. The Grecian architecture of Argus is serenely beautiful (even though you're probably going to destroy most of it), the mostly aquatic Poseidonia Shrine is gorgeous, and the aerial ruin of Arcadia, though nauseating to go through (acrophobics need not apply!), is one of the most impressive settings I've seen in any game. The monsters are appropriately disgusting and bizarre, and the human characters are as realistic as you can get with the current technology. Amazingly detailed down to the last stalk of ivy and crack in the wall, with incredibly realistic lighting effects to go alongside, Rygar's graphics are on par with Square's awesome Final Fantasy X.
Sound and Music
The soundtrack is another awesome triumph for Tecmo -- a rousing classical compilation performed by the Moscow International Symphony Orchestra provides the perfect musical atmosphere, from navigating the peaceful ruin of Geryon Hill to a climactic meleé against hellish beasts. The sound effects, from Rygar sloshing through ankle-deep water to the sound of Diskarmor crashing into rocks or giant caterpillars (and Rygar himself voicing his exertion while he does so), are captured perfectly. The voice acting isn't really that good, but it's not really that bad, either, which could be a blessing considering most VA quality these days. While not the absolute best, Rygar sets a fine example of what sound quality should be in a video game.
Truly this is one of the better action games I've sat down to play, 3D or not. The combat is fast and furious, the puzzles involve little more than knocking down a wall or swinging onto a ledge (a welcome change from the ordinary "figured it out in a minute but takes half an hour to complete" farce of most games), and the boss monsters are suitably tough. There're also varying difficulty levels, items to find, and even a secret dungeon for those who want to get the most out of their game -- which, sadly, only really takes about a good six hours to complete. It truly is a legendary adventure, and one well worth taking.
Rated T For Teen (blood and gore, violence). 1 Player. Developed & Published by Tecmo.