Version tested: Wii
Hi, readers! What a week it's been here at Eurogamer Towers. Tom's been playing his mixtape of the latest chart hits from Craig David and Atomic Kitten, while Rob's been telling us about this stonking new sci-fi show called The Ex-Files (sp?). I think I might wait till it's out on VHS, shouldn't be more than a year or two. Meanwhile, Dan spilled some of that new Hooch drink over his puffa jacket while trying out his new "roller-blades", whatever they are. Isn't it a shame about Charles and Diana splitting up?
What's that you say? It's not the 1990s any more? You could have fooled me, but then that's because I've spent most of this week playing Rygar: The Battle of Argus. This Wii title is supposed to take you back to a time of kidnapped princesses, mythological beasts and mystical artefacts. In fact it just takes you back to a time when it was acceptable to use phrases like "Eurogamer Towers" and put fixed camera angles in videogames.
It's based on PS2 game Rygar: The Legendary Adventure. That's "based on" in the sense of "the same game with a different subtitle slapped on as if no one will notice". The Legendary Adventure was in fact released in 2003, not the nineties, but it looked dated even then. Our reviewer rather liked it, despite the silly plot, stupid dialogue, repetitive enemies, simplistic puzzles, dull boss levels and "infuriating camera".
He did say there were hidden depths to the gameplay, even if it was all a bit Devil May Cry. He also praised the destructible environments and pretty visuals. So has the game stood the test of time? (Skip to the bottom of page 2 for the short answer, if you can't guess.)
In Battle of Argus you once again play as Rygar, a big beefy warrior who gets his hair done at the same place as everyone in Final Fantasy. His hobbies include collecting orbs, swinging a big mace about and not doing what he's told, but more on that later. Rygar is on a mission to defeat the powerful Titans and rescue the Princess Harmonia. This is explained via cut-scenes reminiscent of the worst Saturday morning cartoons you sat through while waiting to see if someone would call Five Star ****s again. Sample dialogue: "It was the fang of rage that fights injustice. Fang of rage, fight with me!" **** off, Rygar.
The first few levels lead you in gently. Even during boss battles, combat involves nothing more complicated than running about a bit and hammering the A button. Doing this makes Rygar swing his mace about in a random but effective fashion. Enemies range from spiky caterpillars to mechanised suits of armour to not much else, apart from the odd exception such as floating potatoes with giant claws.
The bosses are inspired by characters from Greek and Roman mythology, so you get to fight the likes of Icarus - though we don't recall him having dual blades, blue skin, glowing orange eyes and an American accent in the original tale. Also, why didn't Rygar just bring a lighter?
Combat does get more challenging as the game progresses, and the options available to you become more complex as Rygar gets new weapons and skills. Turns out the swingy mace is actually something called a Diskarmor. It acts as a shield as well as a retractable projectile and there are more than 40 combos to learn. There are different types of Diskarmor to collect along with fire, ice and lightning power-ups. Spend enough time ploughing through levels, trying out the combos and experimenting with the equipment and you could pull off some fluid and impressive moves. By 2003's standards anyway.
The question is, could you be bothered? Maybe, six years ago, but not now. There are dozens of games available that offer this sort of combo-based combat and customisable weaponry. What's more, a great many of them feature varied enemies, a decent camera, cut-scenes that don't make you want to kill yourself and puzzles that are more complex than "move the statue to open the door".
It doesn't help that the visuals look so dated. In fact they don't just look dated, they shuffle off the Stannah stairlift, shamble creakily up to you and croak, "I was considered quite a beauty in my day, you know. Back then it didn't matter if everything looked like it was made of polygons and drawn in Paint; people just put up with it. Nowadays it's all realistic textures, fluid animations and more than two colours per environment. Mind you, back then, people thought Daniel Bedingfield was good."
In fact, if these screenshots are anything to go by, the visuals in Rygar for Wii are actually worse than those in the PS2 game. The environments are much blurrier and less detailed. Yes, they're still destructible, and it's fun to smash open pots and knock down pillars. But that sort of fun comes as standard in many of today's new-fangled action-adventure games, and the range of stuff you can destroy is often more expansive and consistent.
Being able to play with the Wii remote and nunchuk rather than a DualShock doesn't add much to the whole experience. In Conquest (i.e. story) mode, most of your time is spent pressing buttons and pushing an analog stick just like in the old days. Swinging the remote about is required for some special attacks, but for the most part you can ignore all that.
Battle of Argus does feature an additional mode, Gladiator, which puts a greater emphasis on waggling. There's no exploring or puzzle-solving, you just face off with waves of enemies in a single arena. Moves with names like Gration's Fang and Vulcan Hammer are performed by waving the Wii remote about, and the speed of your swing determines your "impact rank". The novelty wears off after two and a half goes.
There's a serious problem with the controls when you're playing in Conquest mode: Rygar overreacts to the slightest twitch of the analog stick. This is annoying enough when you're dodging enemies, but it's downright enraging when you're trying to perform a tricky jump or cross a narrow bridge. Rygar doesn't want to traverse that gap, oh no; he'd much rather drop into the gaping abyss, again and again and again. He even appears to have slathered the soles of his shoes in margarine to make this outcome all the more likely. Well done, Rygar.
It's not hard to see why the PS2 game appealed back in 2003. Put bluntly, there was less competition and standards were lower. Devil May Cry had only been around a couple of years and God of War was a twinkle in David Jaffe's eye. PS2 technology was still cutting-edge and being able to smash up things which weren't crates was still novel. But games have moved on since then.
Of course some games are worth playing years, even decades after they first appeared, despite the fact they look dated and they've been copied many times over. That's because they've got superb gameplay at their core, whether that means a clever premise or an addictive hook or just a unique style charm.
Rygar: The Battle of Argus has none of those things. It has a silly plot, stupid dialogue, repetitive enemies, simplistic puzzles, dull boss levels and a camera that's just as infuriating as it was six years ago. It looked dated even then, and now the effect is magnified. The original game's redeeming features - a combat system with depth and destructible environments - have since been done better, dozens of times over.
This game would be more fun if it was titled Rygar Goes to Argos and challenged you to memorise the item number of every thing in the catalogue. Even if you remember the PS2 game with fondness, don't buy this one; your rose-tinted glasses will smash and you'll be left picking the splinters from your eyeballs as tears of blood roll down your cheeks. Also it's not worth £29.99.
4 / 10