Demon's Crest Super Nintendo Developed by Capcom Released in 1994
Coming to an end of its trilogy, the third Gargoyle’s Quest was renamed to Demon’s Crest for the Super Nintendo. It is an oddity for me and I could not find any information on why this entry dropped the Gargoyle’s Quest-name. Since the last game improved heavily due to stronger hardware, how much further could this entry go on the Super Nintendo?
You once again take control of Firebrand, who has fought demons around the realm to acquire the 6 magical stones, each representing their respective elements (Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Time and Heaven). After his triumph over the Demon Dragon and acquiring the last stone, another gargoyle named Phalanx ambushes Firebrand and takes all the Crests except the Fire Crest, which becomes shattered. Being stripped of his powers, Firebrand goes on a journey to take back what is rightfully his and stop Phalanx. The story has a really cool intro and an interesting world to traverse through, but besides this intro and ending, there is not much focus on making an engaging story. A shame compared to previous entries, but it is a good setup nonetheless and it makes it clear that the story is only there to give you a reason to go on an adventure and nothing more.
Taking inspirations from Metroid/Mega Man X
You find yourself in control of Firebrand, with the abilities to hover, jump and shoot projectiles, with stages being about getting from start to finish. This time, you have infinite hover, which might at first sound overpowered, but the levels complement this design, with some levels having you shoot at candles that are high up to brighten the area, and other stages basically have no floors, making you hover through them while avoiding enemies and finding small platforms to take a breather on.
Another new take on the series is the size of stages. Similarly to Metroid or Mega Man X, the levels are larger and have more areas to explore for upgrades and secrets to make our hero stronger. Having the ability to also travel to different stages at will makes it easier to never feel stuck and able to explore if a stage seems to be too tough. The upgrades and items to find, range from health-upgrades, talismans for different parts of the body, different projectiles, scrolls for spells, urns for potions and of course: the magical stones.
While most of the upgrades are important, the magical stones are the most unique ones compared to previous titles. These magical stones will allow Firebrand to change into different gargoyles, such as earth-gargoyle who cannot hover, but is strong and can charge-attack, and the air-gargoyle who many bosses are immune to and has terrible walking-speed, but can fly. All are useful for traversing and finding secrets, and well balanced, making everyone fun to use. The projectiles can also support the search for secrets, such as some cutting vines or breaking stones.
There are also spells and potions to buy this time, but most spells are useless. They almost seemed like merely visual extras and never worked for me, or only worked for one enemy throughout the stages. The potions are helpful since even with unlimited continues, the game and especially the bosses can be challenging. The bosses differ from each other, where they can either be as agile as our hero or big and threatening, making our hero having to use his abilities to dodge and attack. These fights are great, but the bosses have more health than necessary at times, making them sometimes daunting. Luckily: due to finding more upgrades throughout the game, they can also be tackled later and almost become too easy by then. You will be surprised how little extra power is needed to turn them into a bug under your boot.
Instead of an RPG-overworld map like in previous entries, you fly over a map for exploration and to choose a stage. It might not break any grounds, but is simple and a neat way for both selecting a stage and discovering secrets. The world seems pretty huge and there is a lot to search for, but the main-story is short, taking about 3-4 hours to get through, give or take depending on your skills and finding upgrades. You will also get a password whenever you wish to end the game, so you don’t have to do it all in one go.
Demon’s Crest has taken it upon itself to build on its predecessor and it makes for a fantastic experience. The bosses can be a bit of a drag and spells are useless. However, these are merely gripes that don’t hurt the experience really. With fantastic level-design, good upgrades, both levels and play-style changing enough to give good variation without deviating from the core mechanics, it nails the most important and unique aspects from its predecessors and improves upon them.
Gameplay Score 9/10
Just like the moonlight
Having a much darker tone, with fantastic and detailed creatures, Demon’s Crest is a beautiful game. The game is colorful and the backgrounds are also a highlight, with small details and layouts complementing the foreground; each stage feels different and unique. The monsters are less cartoon-y, giving the game a much grimmer tone, with some enemies being quite gory. Even our boy Firebrand has seen a great boost with a more realistic design compared to Gargoyles Quest 2. Unfortunately, it comes with slowdown quite often. This doesn’t hurt the gameplay, but definitely is a hassle in what is otherwise a fantastic presentation.
The soundtrack is something out of a cathedral, with organs playing, choirs singing and all in dark tones, making every stage come to life. It is gothic, mysterious and simply beautiful, making it easy to see why the composer, Toshihiko Horiyama, is still with Capcom today and has produced music for multiple games, including the Mega Man X-games and some Phoenix Wright games.
Presentation Score 9/10
Become the strongest for the greater good
Like previous entries, this is also somewhat of a short game. With multiple endings depending on how many upgrades and equipment you acquired throughout the game, there is a welcoming reason to go back and try to find every hidden item. This will at least take you twice as much, if not three times the length of just simply finishing the game. Some objects can be well-hidden, with one being through an invisible wall, which is a bit unfair. After a really cool unlockable for getting everything besides the ending, there is also an attempt at new-game plus, which also features its own ending. The levels are a joy to search out and due to completing the game actually gives you something worthwhile, it definitely will be revisited multiple times.
Extra Score 9/10
Having come to a closure for this trilogy, it goes out with a bang. While not perfect, it comes so close to be that, with great level-design, fun exploration, good platforming and a style I adore. This is one of the SNES’ finest games and one that no one should miss.