Demon’s Crest is an open world action-adventure title for the SNES with light roleplaying elements. Having recently been released as a Virtual Console title on the Wii U eShop, I thought this would be an opportune time to talk about one of my favorite games and hopefully convince some others to give this under-appreciated gem a shot.
Demon’s Crest is the third game in the Gargoyle’s Quest series, which is a spin-off of Capcom’s classic Ghouls n’ Ghosts. It stars Firebrand, a member of the Red Arremer tribe, a powerful demon who has waged a long war to collect 6 artifacts—the eponymous Demon Crests. These relics were not won without cost, though, and an opportunistic demon named Phalanx takes advantage of the battle weary Firebrand and steals the Crests away. The game begins with Firebrand only possessing a single piece of the now-broken Fire Crest, aptly enough.
So, you’ve got your motivation and you’re ready to kick some demon ass in pursuit of what’s rightfully yours… but what does the game play like? Most of the gameplay is done in side-scrolling segments where you have access to a variety of skills, items, and spells in order to progress through each level. Where the game really becomes ingenious is when you complete the first area and are introduced to the world map.
The world map takes full advantage of the SNES’ limited 3D capabilities by presenting an aerial view of the world that you fly around in, swooping into levels as you see fit. Each one may be replayed multiple times, and in most cases it’s necessary to do so because new skills will allow you to open new paths in each level.
The levels themselves can be played in any order, though there are certainly some that are more easily tackled with a few upgrades under your belt. Throughout play, you’ll gain additional pieces to your Fire Crest, which give you a wide variety of projectiles to use in different situations, such as the Tornado Shard which allows you to create mobile platforms. In addition to these shards, you also get additional Crests proper, which give you a variety of new demon forms each with its own set of abilities and situational uses.
Additionally, there are a handful of segments in the game that play similarly to a classic side-scrolling shoot-em-up such as R-Type or Gradius. These sections have the potential to be incredibly frustrating, but I find it charming that Capcom managed to cram so much variety into a single title. These side-scrolling mini-levels are more or less the weakest part of the game, but they stand as an endearing and worthy addition. Flying is, after all, something the Red Arremers are known for.
The game itself is simply huge—there is a ton of content to explore and all of it is wrapped up in a package that truly shows the best of that classic Capcom platforming magic. It’s challenging, yet fair, barring the incredibly tough superboss you’re confronted with if you achieve 100% completion. This final challenge will push you to your limits; defeating it gives you a feeling of accomplishment you just don’t find in many modern titles.
As far as presentation is concerned, Demon’s Crest is simply gorgeous. It has a visually appealing graphical style that represents the dark world the game portrays in a very pleasing way. The enemy design fits thematically and you’ll even see some creepier versions of classic Ghouls n’ Ghost enemies as you progress.
The sound design is lacking when compared to other Capcom classics (Megaman immediately comes to mind), but it’s certainly more than adequate. The music does well to set the tone, and the sound effects are better than what a lot of similar titles on the SNES have to offer. There’s likely nothing that will be stuck in your head weeks after you’ve finished playing, but the music certainly isn’t repetitive or grating.
If you haven’t experienced Demon’s Crest yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. If you’ve played it in the past, then the recent release means that there’s no better time to jump in and relive the magic. For $7.99, this title offers what many modern games with a $60 pricetag can’t offer—fun, engaging gameplay with a satisfying difficulty level and excellent atmosphere.
I strongly urge you to pick up a copy, be it on the Wii U eShop, your SNES, or any other method you could potentially get your hands on it. It is an often overlooked title that was ahead of its time, with many mechanics you won’t find in other games of its era. I can guarantee if you’ve enjoyed titles like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Metroid, or Cave Story, you won’t be disappointed.
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