Man, do I love role-playing games. RPGs tend to be the marquee games for pretty much any system, fetching quality prices five, ten, even twenty years down the line in most cases on the secondary market because of their storylines, gameplay, and often their scarcity. Coming in all shapes and sizes, the role-playing community itself is a very passionate, if a somewhat regimented bunch that tends to divide itself staunchly along party lines, so to speak.
We have heard about it all before, including the link above. There are, however, a ton of RPGs out there that tend to cross over into multiple genres. The most typical example is the mix between action-adventure and role-playing, leading to some game series that have been classified as both over the years, such as The Legend of Zelda series. There are other examples of course, some of them much lesser known than Zelda. Today's game is such an example, Crusader of Centy for the Sega Genesis and Master Drive.
Crusader of Centy, or Soleli in Europe, was developed by Nextech, later known as Nex Entertainment. Now known today for their collaborations with Capcom and Atlus, Nextech has done work on titles such as the Resident Evil: Code Veronica X, the arcade versions of Time Crisis 3 and 4, and, with Grasshopper Manufacture, co-developed the Shining Soul games for the Game Boy Advance. Founded in 1992 as GNU Entertainment, the company joined other developers into Nextech. After the merger was complete, Crusader of Centy was released, becoming the first game from the company and their first collaboration with both Sega and Atlus, who published the game for the United States.
Upon first glance, Crusader of Centy looks like a generic Zelda clone, something that reviewers have noted when the game was released in 1994. In some ways it actually is, taking its cues from Nintendo’s A Link to the Past in terms of style and presentation visually. Gamplay-wise Crusader of Centy emphasized exploration and puzzle-solving over combat and using a combination of weapons and magic to eliminate obstacles in your path. Many of these are emblematic of the mechanical design found in most action-adventure titles, of which the Zelda series has been a forerunner in since the early 1990s. However, despite these similarities to The Legend of Zelda, there are several aspects of Crusader of Centy that make the title stand out beyond the Zelda style, into the realm of an action-RPG.
The first major aspect, of course, is its storyline. One of the deeper story-driven games of the era, Crusader of Centy's plot revolves around a teenager named Corona who needs to inherit his fathers legacy by defending his village from monsters that threaten the human race. What happens, however, is you lose the ability to speak to humans early on, making your job difficult at best. Tying it back to the Zelda comparisons, it requires you to explore and solve puzzles by using weapons and tools found in the world to advance. Since Corona can’t speak to humans for the first half of the game, he instead talks to animals and plants, some of which will join him on his quest or provide a handy mascot cameo.
The animal companions each act as an ally for you in-game, using special abilities to enhance or aid you in combat or solve puzzles. The companions act as the primary “equipment slots” in Crusader of Centy, allowing you to “equip” two animals at one time for different powers. The penguin, for example, gives you ice magic for your attacks, while the dinosaur (it's an animal, right?) grants you the ability to walk over water and other hazards in the game. The mechanic is a unique way to show not only progression in the game itself through the growing abilities Corona can employ, but also reminiscent of the recruitment of companions found in many party-based RPGs.
The mechanics of Crusader of Centy once again harken back to the action-RPG genre. There are plentiful amounts of equipment and collectibles to obtain, NPCs to talk to, and areas to explore, enemies to fight, and dungeons to delve. The character Corona also has a number of base skills that can be acquired to bypass obstacles, such as jumping and strength, which must be learned instead of leveled up. This falls into the standards of the genre; many action-RPGs followed a linear progression regarding quests for ease on consoles, locking progression behind your abilities or equipment that you have access to.
The animal companions concept was novel at the time, but what really turned things on its head was how the monsters were dealt with in-game. Much like Ultima VI, the game allows the player to question why you are fighting these monsters in the first place, leaving who is considered good and evil more or less ambiguous for the majority of the game. What’s more, it is one of the few games that represents their monsters as not being fully “evil” in the typical sense of what we are accustomed to.
The moral complexity found under the candy-coated presentation give Crusader of Centy a leg-up against many role-playing games that relied upon the tired yet true clichés of epic fantasy. True, the game still follows those tropes as well at times—he humble origins of the hero, the son of a famous adventurer, the chosen one against great evil. The extra thought into the philosophy of good and evil, however, is a very nice touch, challenging the notions of morality well before modern role-playing games even touched these ideals.
To say more would spoil the surprise, but that aspect alone makes Crusader of Centy worth a play through, offering a deep story experience with a complex moral. It is a unique twist on a role-playing game, especially at a time when such shades of grey were unusual. This is also perhaps why Crusader of Centy fetches a heavy price tag for game collectors, along with the limited print run by Atlus and the relative obscurity the game has.
That money is often well worth the amount of hours received from the title though. For role-playing fans who appreciate good stories, Crusader of Centy is a jewel in any Genesis collection—a game worth the price if you are willing to pay for it. Offering a top-down role-playing adventure with a unique take on the genre, Crusader of Centy is certainly a game worth remembering, let alone a game worth playing.
Thank you for reading Games You Never Heard Of this week! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or send me a message via twitter @LinksOcarina. See you next time.