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Virtually Overlooked: Conquest of the Crystal Palace


Sometimes we can't tell if our nostalgia makes us see bad NES games in a positive light, or if we really like some of the games we think we do. Case in point: Conquest of the Crystal Palace, published by the adorably-mascotted publisher Asmik. Either it's not very good and we haven't noticed, or it's really an obscure game, because we haven't really found much discussion about it. We happen to think it's in the higher tier of NES action-platformers.

Maybe the boxart scared people off.

Despite the hideos hideous box, Conquest of the Crystal Palace is less of a beefy monster-killing game and more of a classical Japan-themed action game. As the top-knotted warrior Farron, you go up a mountain and toward the Crystal Palace that once belonged to your family, but was taken by a blah blah blah save the world by walking left to right and jumping upward, and hitting stuff with your sword. The story doesn't matter, especially since we're sure most of it was made up by some translation staff anyway.

What does matter is the jumping and swording, against guys that run at you, evil plants, and -- mostly -- birds. Birds that take these horrible arcing paths first away from you, then toward your back. It sounds like Ninja Gaiden, and it is! Which is a good thing. Except for the part about the birds. THE BIRDS.

What separates Conquest from Gaiden, aside from the cutesy graphics, is the addition of Zap the dog. When you bring the dog in (by crouching and pressing A), Zap comes out to attack sort of like the dog in Shadow Dancer, but psychotically zealous about killin'. He runs across the screen killing everything in sight. The only reason you can't just let Zap play the game for you is that he has a life bar just like Farron's, which decrements pretty quickly as he flies around the screen randomly. And you can get an item that makes him circle you at high speed, acting as a shield.

At some point in every stage, you'll come across a girl standing around with a permanent "Hi!" voice bubble. This leads to a shop that sells health items, jumping and power upgrades, and the all-important dog whistle. Somehow, despite the fact that she's standing alone, the shop scenes take place indoors, in a well-appointed shop with a blackboard and even a fake news station (in the first shop sequence, the shop girl offers some exposition as a news report).

Crystal Palace, or Matendouji, as it was called in Japan, was developed by a little company called Quest, who would later be known for the Ogre Battle series, and Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story after that. This ... isn't really anything like those.

Virtually Overlooked is a weekly feature that spotlights games that aren't yet on the Virtual Console, but should be. JC Fletcher has a guardian cat who protects his lap from cold weather. Want more Virtually Overlooked? Check out the first year!

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