I’d never played Rygar before, so I fired up emulationstation to see whether I had access to it. It turns out that I did:
Rygar (titled “Warrior of Argus: Extreme Great Charge” in Japan) was a NES game developed and published by Tecmo in 1987. It was based on the Arcade hit of 1986 with the same name, which was also ported to Sharp X68000, C64, and ZX Spectrum in 1986, Master System (in 1988), Lynx (in 1990), Virtual Console (in 2009), and PlayStation 4 (as part of Arcade Archives, in 2014).
I decided against using my computer to play Rygar, and used something a little more interesting: my GPD XD
It’s a brilliant little Android-powered device, and I’d recommend it to folks who want to play retro games on the go.
I've recently been playing the Dreamcast title Phantasy Star Online on it. Yes it has the power to emulate a Dreamcast, I think it'll do PS2 as well.
I just thought that I’d mention what I played this on, before I got to my thoughts on Rygar. The GPD XD a pretty neat piece of hardware actually, and identifies to Google as a Nexus 5.
at least mine did, once I'd installed an operating system which allows it to run at it's full 1.8Ghz clock speed.
I also ended up playing it on original NES hardware with an Advantage Stick
because I'm a sucker for punishment, apparently.
which is what these are called:
You Like NES Games, Huh?
Here’s the deal with Rygar: it’s a tough game to beat.
the bosses, not so much. Unless you're playing the PAL version - more on that in a moment
Maybe it’s because I was emulating a NES (which isn’t that hard to do), or maybe it was because I was out of practise with classic games, but this game is tough. It’s fun, for sure. But it’s tough.
It’s a strange bird because, on the one hand it’s a home conversion of a platforming Arcade game, but on the other it’s an Action RPG with an open world.
Let me explain
Rygar started out life in 1986 as an Arcade game. It was a side scrolling platform game, and was pretty standard: move from left to right across stages, beating beasties along the way, and defeat some bosses. Eventually you take on Ligar, and when you beat him the world is saved and the game is over.
in the Japanese original Ligar and Rygar were intercahngable names of the big baddie (think Dr. Right and Dr. Light from Mega Man), and the player being called "The Legendary Hero"
And that is how it was ported to the Sharp X68000, C64, ZX Spectrum, and Master System. But something changed when it was ported to the NES.
You see, the year before it was ported to the NES a young fellow called Miyamoto Shigeru released this fancy title:
The Legend of Zelda had a really fancy overworld for the player to explore. The player would explore the overworld looking for dungeons to plunder in search of the captured Princess Zelda, and they could plunder those dungeons
in any order that they wanted.
To be fair, The Legend of Zelda took the “stages in any order (within limits)” idea from this NES title which was released in the same year:
Not to be outdone, the folks at Tecmo decided that overworld with dungeon stages and open world games where the future.
they weren't wrong
So they took the original Rygar game, bolted an overworld onto it, added some RPG elements (there’s a basic levelling system based on the number of beasties that you vanquish) and released it into the world.
… without a save system
we'll come back to that
How Did You Fare?
I’m not going to lie to you, playing this game has changed me. But I’m not sure how.
maybe just that I know more swear words than I did before I played it
This game is tough, and the controls are a little janky. Then again, most controls on early NES games where a little janky, so that’s a nothing statement.
I really like the mixture of side scrolling platforming and the top down overworld stuff. It provided a keen mixture of MetroidVania with Legend of Zelda style exploration.
Having not played the original arcade game (which, from all accounts, is just the platforming stages), I can’t really tell that the overworld sections have been shoehorned in. They seem to just, kind of, make sense.
Just like LoZ, though, you can find yourself wandering the vast, sandy desert wastes
in search of the next thing to do. I would definitely recommend taking a look for a map for this game as, just like in LoZ, there’s an awful lot of it and hardly any direction.
The LoZ comparisons don’t stop there, because the final stage feels just like a dungeon out of the first Zelda adventure. It’s made of rooms with doors on the North, East, South and West walls, and all of the enemies are shadows.
The key difference between Rygar and LoZ being that you can leap over the enemies - which is a saving grace when you have very little health left and the boss coming up.
The 50 Foot Monster in the Room
Let’s talk about the lack of a save system.
The story goes that the game was so complex that Tecmo couldn’t physically put a battery save system (like most of the larger adventure or RPG games of the time) onto the cartridge because there wasn’t space available on the cart, and that the algorithms required to provide a password system were too complex.
All of this means that you’re forced to sit through the entire adventure in one sitting.
As a result, many players were forced to pause the game and leave their NES on overnight (to resume the next day), sometimes going on for days or even weeks, before finally obtaining the necessary items and power to finish the game. If the unit was accidentally turned off, unplugged, or if it malfunctioned, all game data would be lost and the player would be forced to start over from the beginning.
I mean, I played Super Mario Bros., Powerblade, and TMNT to death during my first summer of games. But I never thought about losing my progress.
which is one of the reasons why I'm so good at the first few stages of Super Mario Bros.
Needless to say, I didn’t finish the game on original hardware. I was only able to beat the game when playing on my GPD, because I was able to pause and close the device
the device is designed to look and feel like the Nintendo DS, but with only one screen
which would put the device into sleep mode.
Can you imagine being nearly all the way through a game, leaving your NES on overnight in the hopes that you can finish it off in the morning, only to find out that there was a powercut or that the game crashed?
But the physical version of the game I played was the PAL version, so I had all manner of trouble beating Rygar. In fact, I got about 50% through the game before giving up when playing on actual hardware.
and to think, the NES Advantage Stick used to be ridiculously huge in my hands (as a kid)
I really liked Rygar. Sure it was annoying at times, right up at the same level as Dark Souls in places - especially when I would get trapped on a stage because of the collision detection not being right
at least, that was my excuse
But I feel like it was well worth it to have gone through the difficulty and saved the world.
Squidgey: What! Again?!
I really liked the action RPG elements - wiping out beasties and getting stronger because of it was ace.
except the game breaking bug in the PAL version
I really like the non-linear path that you can take. Except for key items in the game, you can play the stages in any order that you want. It’s one of the things that I really love about games like Shadow Man.
which was a much later game, obviously
And the music was great, if a little repetitive.
Most video game music is repetitive, picking a certain motif and working from that to build a melody.
look at me, making it seem like I know what I'm talking about
That’s usually not a problem, as most games either have short stages or draw you into the story and atmosphere so that the music is there to enhance the experience - much in the same way that music in Movies or TV works.
The problem with Rygar is that there seems to only be about 6 pieces of music throughout the game. Imagine playing a game like Sonic the Hedgehog, but repeating the music after every 4 stages.
Other than that, the tracks themselves where pretty baller. Except for a piece called “Stage Theme 2”, which doesn’t seem to fit with the action happening on screen: I’m blasting beasties away, tearing them to shreds with the Diskarmour, and there’s a jaunty, happy tune playing in the background.
it's almost like our hero is having a psychotic break
Even though the stages seemed difficult, the boss fights seemed easy. Especially the final fight against Rygar
unless you're playing the PAL version
which seemed really simple. Just bop him on the head a couple times and he explodes to his death.
I’ll leave you with this:
Thanks go out to @THEjoezack for suggesting this title, it was a lot of fun to play (even though it was really tough in places) and definitely worth another couple dozen playthroughs. It’ll be in my retro game rotation from now on, for sure.
Have you played Rygar before?
I know at least one of our readers has
Have you played it recently? Did it hold up to the nostalgia you might have for it?
How would y’all feel about suggesting some games to us? We’re always on the lookout to play older games which we might not have played before.
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Leave a comment in the section on this page and let us know what you liked, what you didn’t like and which games you’d like to hear us waffle on about next time.