Virtually Overlooked: Rygar

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JC Fletcher
February 22nd, 2008
In this article: action, metroidvania, nes, rygar, top5
Virtually Overlooked: Rygar
Rygar is absolutely one of the best side-scrolling action games on the NES. It's also popular enough to have spawned one and a half sequels on the PS2 and Wii. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that I love the game, since my enjoyment of "Metroidvanias" is well-documented. I expect that everyone in the Virtually Overlooked crowd is at least familiar with the wonderful NES game, if not also the arcade game. So I won't waste any time outlining the basics of the game.

Instead, I'd like to present a list of five of my favorite things (that I could think of) about Rygar.

5. Olbis
These guys are really annoying, flying up from the bottom of the screen to some random location, than circling around to your level and flying straight at you. If you're climbing a rope or something, you pretty much are stuck getting hit. But I can't hate these things. I don't exactly know what kind of frightening gargoyle Tecmo's artists tried to create, but the end result is just so jovial and winsome that you just want to give them high-fives instead of killing them. They look more impressed with their own rad pecs than interested in attacking you.

RPGs on the NES have a history of nonsensical stats. Even once you've figured out what CON and INT are, there's no telling what they'll actually mean in the game. But Rygar's stats are absolutely my favorite, and it's not even an RPG. There are only two stats that build up in this game: TONE and LAST. What do they do? TONE increases Rygar's strength, and LAST increases his life. They kind of make sense, but only in that bizarre idiosyncratic Engrish way that, somehow, we've all managed to get used to over the last 20 years or so. MIND is your store of power to be used for magic like ATTACK & ASSAIL. Wait, doesn't "assail" mean "attack?"

3. Bargan
Rygar has a bunch of weird enemies. There are giant slug things, rolling red worms, the aforementioned ptero-dudes, and all manner of walking and flying critters. There's an upright snail boss. One boss is something between a turtle and a raspberry, with two fireball-shooting bear heads. There's a miniature dinosaur on tank treads. The final boss, Ligar, is the torso of a green lion-man with dragons for arms.

Bargan the robot, then, is intensely out of place for just being a robot. When it shows up, ROBOT OUT OF NOWHERE is more unexpected than the appearance of, say, a red, bat-winged, worm-tailed bird with a unicorn's horn. It's just so ... normal that it's jarring. Also it gives you a lot of TONE and LAST when you kill it.

2. The Air Squat
Rygar sort of jumps up onto a platform after reaching the top of a rope. If you crouch during this jump, he will float in the air, crouched, until you let go of the button. You can turn and attack, but you can't stand up or jump again. This is, at best, useless, since all you're doing is standing still. But it is also really damn funny. Sometimes I get so distracted by Air Squatting that my game takes longer than it needs to. This is especially true when you get the "Grappling Weapon," which opens up more possibilities for climbing, and therefore Air Squatting, locations.

1. Epolcon
These things scared the crap out of me when I was 7, and they scare the crap out of me now. The first time you encounter one of these things, the scariest enemy you will have encountered up until then is a tree with a face. What is this thing? Some kind of armored, bearded, egg-dropping dragon monster. Why is it segmented? And why is its midsection half a leg? Really, what is this and why does it exist? Who thought of this guy? Tecmo's unintentional (or twistedly brilliant) design for this one random enemy has left more of an impression on me than any Bowser or Ganon fight.

[Enemy names found at RPGClassics' Rygar shrine]
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