Gameplay, Story and Value:
Demon’s Crest is a platforming game from Capcom as part of the Gargoyle’s Quest series of games. In it, you play as Firebrand (Of Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts fame) as you explore stages, fight bosses, become more powerful and eventually save your world from even badder demons than yourself.
Controls are tight, though as your repertoire of abilities grow they can occasionally become a touch unwieldy. That’s not to say they’re bad, only that I found myself needing to spend a couple minutes practicing with each new crest before I was comfortable enough to take them into combat. I’m getting ahead of myself though… Demon’s Crest controls handle more than a little like one of Capcom’s other major franchises on the console, Mega Man X, and as a result playing through each stage is very enjoyable. B jumps, Y shoots, X uses your currently equipped item or spell and A activates your special ability which varies between each crest.
The titular “Crests” of Demon’s Crest are earned through beating bosses and occasionally through fulfilling special requirements. Each crest transforms Firebrand into a different demon form, each with its own unique characteristics and abilities. Your default Fire Demon form lets you hover in the air and headbutt objects in the background, while the Earth Demon allows you to dash forward and unleash powerful ground attacks, though it also clips your wings. You’ll eventually find crests that let you fly through the air and swim through the water, as well as two secret crests with even more powerful abilities.
Like Gargoyle’s Quest before it, Demon’s Crest splits up its platforming stages with world map exploration. Areas are relatively easy to find on the map, which is good since you’ll be revisiting each area at least a couple times. I think the game’s biggest achievement is that it managed to build itself around non-linear platforming and backtracking and I still managed to love it. My biggest complaint with games like Gargoyle’s Quest and Adventures of Link was that I felt like I couldn’t just play the game, but had to go through all these arbitrary non-platforming sections between each stage.
Instead, I always had a strong sense of where to go and what to do there, even though the game never felt like it was stopping me from playing it in whatever order I wanted. You would often clear a stage and get a new crest which would allow you to explore different areas in other stages, and sometimes you’d even play through the same stage twice in a row. What saves this from feeling monotonous is that each branching path through a level almost feels like it’s own unique level by itself. This is further exemplified by the fact that each path through a stage has it’s own boss!
The boss fights are a lot of fun, and beating particularly difficult ones is rewarding. That said, you’ll fight the same bosses more than once throughout the game which can take away from some of the variety. Additionally, provided you’ve done just a little bit of exploration, you’ll eventually come in possession of the Ultimate Gargoyle Crest which multiplies your damage and armor to the point of trivializing most encounters. One moment in particular where this was most apparent was with an underwater boss. Unless you’re using the Water Crest, Firebrand will take a constant stream of damage while underwater. I found myself having trouble with this boss using the Water Crest, which is the “proper” way of fighting him, so on my next attempt I just switch over to the Ultimate Gargoyle and was able to outrace the damage I was taking both from the water and the boss himself!
It’s still a pretty rad form though…
The story is pretty light and takes a backseat to the gameplay, which is fine. Basically your old arch nemesis has resurfaced and it’s up to you to stop him… again. What’s great is that the game sports four different endings depending on how complete your performance was when you engaged the end boss. The best possible ending involves a showdown with one of the craziest game bosses of the time, the Dark Demon!
Presentation, Music and Sound:
The game looks really good, much like Capcom’s other entries on the SNES. Despite being set in a dark and dreary demon world, colors in the game seem to pop out and everything just looks really good. Sprites are varied and well animated and the environments make great use of various parallax and lighting effects.
Levels are crafted in such a way that secrets are never so secret you can’t actually find them without a bit of hunting, and stage layouts always make it clear as to where you can go, provided you have the means to go there. Each stage looks like it’s part of one cohesive world, yet manages to stand out on its own. Areas range from traditional graveyards to fiery forests to ice fortresses to cathedrals.
While the game’s soundtrack is appropriately haunting and generally well done, the music would often just fade into the background for me. This is likely due to a slight lack of variety more than anything, as each track sets a generally similar tone. Again, that’s not to say it’s bad by any stretch, only that it didn’t really stick with me.
Sound effects are all appropriate and do their jobs just fine.
I went into this game honestly expecting the worst. Sure, I liked Gargoyle’s Quest okay, but when it comes to platformers I just prefer a more linear experience. However, everything just came together so nicely that I couldn’t help but have a great time from start to finish. Navigating the world map never felt like a hindrance and revisiting stages always managed to be exciting rather than tedious. Add on to all that the excellent platforming, crest collecting and the fact that I didn’t even get the best possible ending, and I have a game in my collection that I’m actually looking forward to playing again down the line!
Due to some video connection issues my PVR crapped out at the end of my playthrough deleting a good two hour run… I replayed through the first twenty minutes or so to grab screenshots but unfortunately my playthrough is lost. I did beat the game, getting the Normal ending, and would like to go back for the Dark Demon at some point!