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Demon's Crest (1994) review
Exceptional
by XV

When we think of a current great game (as in 2020) we can think easily in AAA games that at least need 40 hours to be beaten, on which the developers make the illusion that every second and every detail is important to the overall experience, however, often these things are just disguised padding (not that is always bad mind you), Demon's Crest surprised me with its short length (at least 6 hours with the majority of the items) and with its never dull rhythm, even when there's some kind of padding in the form of backtracking.

After you hit the start button you're thrown away into a boss fight, in which the mechanics are not explained but needed to be figured out just like a kid who is learning to ride a bike, this is not a hard battle by any means but it is also not taken for granted and give you a taste of how the game will develop onwards, this is a challenging game but never and unfair one (or at least till the end) and it is shown off from the very start brilliantly, both mechanically and narratively.

At times DC feels like a Metroidvania game, you collect power-ups in form of more hp, talismans (which give you different stats like more defense or attack), flasks for potions, scrolls for spells and crests that give you several abilities like flying, ground attacks, more jumping, etc. Although it feels like a Metroidvania it lacks a complex and rewarding stage and backtrack system, instead, you have a main hub and similarly enter to stages like Mario 64 (apologies for the lack of a better reference from the SNES era), then every stage has several routes that lead you to different boss fights depending on the items you have, this leads us to one of the weaker parts of the game: the backtracking, in a normal Metroidvania game you'll backtrack freely from a point to another but in Demon's Crest you need to enter a stage from the beginning and traverse it to get it to the part you want to, this might seem like a minor annoyance and in part it is, but the lack of maps and my bad memory transformed this experience in a repetitive and padded one where I was mapping the stages, again and again just to find the tiny little spot that I couldn't remember, is not that terrible but it stains the otherwise stellar rhythm of the game.

The story is told through several pieces of dialogue between bosses you encounter, they're raw and well-scripted that they speak volumes of every character and the world they're in or more specifically, you feel like you're in a shattered demon world. Speaking of boss fights, they're the meat of this game, every fight is tailor-made from the boss design to its mechanics and they're also quite challenging so expect to die a lot of times, since they depend a lot in attack patterns you'll be dying till you figure it out what their pattern is, at first this might feel unfair but when you figure it out and conquer them you'll also feel like a demon lord. My only issue with these fights is the flying controls, I couldn't get used to them even when I have beaten the last boss, they're awkward and unintuitive so in some of the aerial fights, I was always pressing the wrong button because they feel so unnatural.

You can unlock several endings depending on the items you collect through your adventure, you can even challenge the last boss right from the beginning, so this is a neat option. You can also fight a "true" boss or secret superboss when you collect everything and beat the game, although it is designed to be extremely hard and to use resources and equip and unequip talismans to avoid damage and do more damage, it's quite difficult and almost unfair but being an extra doesn't mind me that much and is also a welcomed challenge for those who want to prove themselves. The music is great also but didn't strike me as amazing as the music from the Ghosts n' Goblins series, but maybe is a matter of taste.

I can't recommend Demon's Crest enough, although it has some flaws in its gameplay and navigation it has aged extremely well and it offers a great challenge for both new and veteran players, is one of the those games that is easy to play but hard to master, so do yourself a favor and play it if you can.
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»
«Time-tested»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
«That ending!»
«Beaten more than once»
«OST on repeat»