Developed by Nintendo Software Technology / Published by Nintendo
Crystalis on Game Boy Color is an odd release- one that begs many questions. Why did NST (Nintendo’s North American development branch) remake an obscure NES game released in 1990 on the Game Boy Color in 2000? Why didn’t original developer SNK bring the game to their own RPG-starved handheld (which was still active at the time), the Neo Geo Pocket Color? Why was this version never released in Japan? But the biggest question to me is: why did NST make the changes they did?
Crystalis is an action-RPG, not unlike the early Seiken Densetsu games. The Game Boy Color version opens with a new cutscene, which changes some character names and front-loads the game with a bit more story than the original. I still prefer the stylish NES opening, but this new one is functional, although somewhat bland.
Another bland aspect of the GBC release is the music. For whatever reason, NST changed the entire soundtrack in the Game Boy Color version. The new tunes are not necessarily bad, but they just sort of sound like generic chiptune melodies that could have been in any GBC game of the time. If you’ve never played the NES original, this may not bug you, but I was pretty bummed to walk out into the field at the start of the game and not hear this awesome track:
Aside from these changes, Crystalis on GBC has a lot going for it. It runs fairly smoothly and doesn’t have the excessive flicker of the NES original. There are little touches to modernize the game, such as being able to see potential stat increases when in the armor shop, and it (thankfully) retains its save anywhere feature. One of the stranger additions are the digitized voice samples when you acquire a new sword. They are a notch below Altered Beast’s infamous “rise from your grave” sample quality-wise, but I still find them endearing.
The Game Boy Color’s screen size is a bit of an issue, as enemies sometimes seem to just pop out of nowhere. However, I got used to this early on and changed my play style to a more cautious one accordingly.
Despite the issues with the GBC version, I still found myself playing it pretty much nonstop yesterday, despite having plenty of other games demanding my time. Crystalis on the Game Boy Color has some detrimental artistic changes, but retains most of what makes it a great game. Whether or not this version is on the level of the NES original is debatable (I’d probably say “not quite”), but I still find its mere existence fascinating.
Screenshots courtesy of MobyGames
For more on the changes between the NES and GBC versions, check out Hardcore Gaming 101’s excellent write-up.