Sunday, 16 January 2022

Missed Classic: The Kristal - Slowly We Rot

Written by Sir Morpheus Kitami, Gru of Horror and Nimrod from the planet Terra, 17th Regulus in The Adventurers Guild of the United Hold of Planets

When I first started this entry, I felt like I had gotten off the wrong foot with The Kristal. Throwing a bunch of stuff the player doesn't understand all in the first 5 minutes is a surefire recipe to create a bad impression. I didn't get very far, I'm still within those first 5 minutes. The text-based dialog input could just be one mistake a very ambitious game made. But as I played more and more I realized that first impression was far nicer than it would end up being. Because it was so much worse.

Just.

So.

Much.

Worse.

But first, the intro. You can skip to 3:30 or so for that, but you'll miss out on some very, very legitimate credits. Either way, you should hear some of this stuff spoken by someone who speaks English.

Because I don't know what I'm doing or what's going on beyond Grabthar's hammer hitting my noggin. Space games advertise themselves as having vast universes to explore, and this game advertises itself as the largest. I doubt that's true, but I'm sure the developers are going to try. The wandering around approach didn't do so well last time, but I'm at a loss to continue. I accidentally gave the answer last time, the character list. I can ask people about random characters. However, if you say "who is he', or something like that, the person will ask you what he/she/it is.

Oh..."head-ake", I get it now

So, with the character list, I can ask people about other people. I don't know what else to do. Unfortunately, the fool, called Larn, spawns in the marketplace, so I'm forced to ask the second least helpful person I've met so far. Assuming talking lips counts as a person. Though talking to others later, it seems there's generic things everyone says.

  • The Akes, I guess the things I shot down last time, are Lotarr's shock troops. 
  • Feydle Beydle (yes) is the princess. It's a sure bet she's going to get kidnapped.
  • Kring is the king...are you kidding me?
  • Nedrod is gru to King Kring, head of the Federation and Space Jesus. I understand completely.


This is one of the two coherent things he says

Funnily enough I find another person pretty close by. To a weird thing that blends into the background and kind of looks like a child drew him. Which feels out of place in this well-drawn Amiga game. Turns out he tells me what happened. Nah, I'm screwing with you, he blathers incomprehensibily even if I ask him about something he says. Despite saying he's here to help, all he gives me is an item that looks that I can't seem to examine. Is this a joke? Is an alien talking about Earth monuments like he's drunk supposed to be funny? Is this a comedy game? My face is stone cold.

Ahahahaha, it's funny because the only thing to ever come out of South America is cocaine, and flow is cocaine, probably

There are just so many characters in this room. There's at least 7, and they always randomly appear. It's madness, it's absolute madness. Characters that I have to figure out if they're just flavor or if I actually have to talk to them in order to win the game. I don't know if this is coming off in what I'm writing, but I absolutely HATE this. They're all the same, or they're selling something I don't know anything about, or they're talking in tongues.

This must be art, because I don't understand it at all

Continuing past the neverending horde of fools, I see a door. Now, most doors in this game are unmovable. This is no exception, but it has an item here. Let's talk about them. The function keys are terrible. You don't really need me to tell you that, but nevertheless, it is a point I have to make. It is awkward, and those keys are always the last resort in normal gameplay. Anyway, F5 examines, and it took me until now to realize that's what it does. There's a ticket here that has something to do with a bank. An objective, good. Hey, maybe I should examine that map! It's a command from King Kring to go see Nedroid, gru of the two bones, to discuss things of great importance. I also wish to complain that every item in my inventory has no color. That may be because of palette restrictions, but I still hate it.

Back at the area guarded by the two Sirs, I don't know how to get past them. I try using the item, then I try things that could work to get past then. Eventually, after finding a walkthrough in a period magazine, I discover that I need to say "I have an invitation". Cool...uh...I thought I did that, but apparently I didn't. However, my invitation is not good enough for Sir Lord Baltimore (not actual name) and Sir Danek. Maybe I didn't show it to them? I hit F9 in my attempt to finally get past this problem. I have to change a disk...and then I'm fighting the guard. The manual does not mention this. Hopefully that's because its not necessary and not because they forgot.

Yes, the graphical glitch continues despite a disk change, and yes, I lost this fight

Firstly, let's talk about what I actually need to use in this game, joysticks. I have three I use with my computer. Not often at the moment, but I come prepared for most situations. I have a Dualshock-style controller, a bootleg N64 USB controller, and a flight stick joystick. I am not using the flightstick, since its a five axis, the usual joystick movement, turning the joystick left or right, which is different than moving it left or right, and a tiny stick at the top. I have no control over which stick my emulator chooses so I picked the N64 controller. Only, it doesn't work at first, so I test it, for far more than I wanted. Eventually I hit upon putting it in a different USB slot, which works.

It's hard to say the game is better from a gameplay perspective, but it's easier to use the diagonal moves now. Partially, this is due to the way it was designed. I say partially because it is possible that I suck at it. I am not much of a fighting game player, only having achieved skill at One Must Fall 2097, and no other title. I've beaten a few, but this is less due to skill and more due to being cheap.

All 8 directions each do a move, both without the fire button pressed and with it pressed. There is no movement as such, everything is a move. You can advance by pressing right, but this is a trap. You will practically never use this, which is hilarious, because the game seems to desperately want you to do it. How you really want to advance is by pressing right down, wherein Dancis will shake his sword in an effort to hurt his enemy while slowly stepping forward. Or pressing right up, where upon Dancis does a silly jump and moves his sword up and down in a silly manner. People paid money to do this.

There are normal attacks, pressing the button and right, right up, right down does a sword slash in that direction. Dancis can also kick, which I think is to the plums. Connecting causes one's foe to fall down for a moment, but I could never follow up on that. You can block, but it doesn't do me any good, he just gets a free follow-up attack. Meanwhile, if he blocks me, he stabs me.

Another issue is that whenever someone lands an attack, movement is taken away from everyone. The attacker dashes backwards while the hitee stumbles backwards. At the edges this doesn't really do much except annoy me. There does seem to be some way of attacking him while he's moving, but it rarely works out as often as I like. Blocking just doesn't work at all. It feels like any time I figure out how to fight my opponent, I then start getting skewered and lose.

Dancis is giving the bedroom look...or maybe he's going to skin someone alive?

Maybe the issue is with the Amiga version? Time for the DOS version. The reason why I was uninclined to play this version was purely due to not caring for this look. This, if I'm not mistaken, is VGA, but the 16-color hi-res VGA mode. It causes some issues for me in DOSbox, namely, the vertical size of the screen is larger than what my monitor is capable of outputting in windowed mode, and I'm afraid to try fullscreen. (it is unmentioned on the DOSbox website and forum) DOSbox-X works fine though. The game is slightly different than the Amiga version. Gloop, the alien isn't there, and the bank ticket isn't where it was either. I tried waiting around, reloading, but it seems like they just aren't here in this version. Which is potentially very bad...hang on, which freaking version does this walkthrough work for?

It's entirely possible someone paid money to see this

Now I can see how badly I suck on multiple levels.

Something I found interesting was that the guard wandering around, Sir Danek, said he had an invitation. I figure, hey, I'll fight him. It's better, but it's not good. I need to crank the cycles down to about 1k or it becomes very difficult. Which is annoying because it gets slow in regular gameplay. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Anyway, you can see combat in action here, its not good.

The fixed background is cool, but the real star of the show is Sir Real, caught in his walk cycle

I got to thinking about that walkthrough. What if the reason why it didn't work was because the rip I have is bad? So I find a different one. It's been a while since I heard the intro, and now is the first time after I've processed all those names. It doesn't really sound any better spoken. And while it does look fixed this way, the same issue arises with the guards. I tried another version, same thing. Admittedly, at that point, I was more hoping one of the crackers put in infinite health, because I am not okay with this turn of events.

Despite having more colors, I think this looks worse than the DOS version, probably the specific colors they chose

Let's try the Atari version again. By the way, the scroll for the ST version thanks George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. This version has the same intro speech, but it's played over the title screen rather than the galaxy. The intro credits are really long but do eventually end. This is different than the other two versions in interesting ways, it seems to have the DOS version's item placement, but not the character placement. The animation is smooth like the Amiga version, but it's very slow. It's here that I realize I've made a huge mistake, the two guards I've been trying to get past are not the guards I want, they're in another area entirely. I forgot about this.

I wonder if this is why Gloop is in a different location in the first version I played, after all, if there's one error, there's bound to be more.

Back in the Amiga version, where my sanity is slightly higher, I attempt to use my newfound knowledge. On the way I ask a NPC about time. He tells me a bunch of things I still don't understand. A nit is a distance of one person though, and it takes many nits to travel across the stars. And some other stuff. I have a funny feeling someone's playing a joke on me. But for what purpose and why, I haven't a clue.

He has two bones, he must be wise

Finally, something is going right. The guards let me through, I just go straight through, no confusing turns or anything. Huzzah! In English, the King's magician tells me I was born in the same year as the Princess and Ffin Shadok. You can only marry the Princess if you have the same birthyear as her. Shadok is the only one who is in a royal house and has enough money to do so. The prophecy is coming true, the stars are aligned, find THE KRISTAL OF KONOS™©®. No one knows what it is, but the magicians are aware that Malvalla (the greatest magician) hid it for the good of the Federation. You must be heroic. Dark forces also want THE KRISTAL OF KONOS™©®, namely Lotarr, Grimm and his Akes. Any questions? Well, I have many, but the ones I ask him tell me nothing. Who is Grimm? It seems like that might be code for the forces of evil.

This is a really cool-looking place

Instead he tells me to talk to King Kring. King Kring is quite intelligible. I have to get THE KRISTAL OF KONOS™©® and save the princess. Because Frake has the same birthyear as the Princess, he can marry her and whoever her previous fiancee was can go play The Kristal. Find THE KRISTAL OF KONOS™©® and save the universe from Lotarr, Grimm and his Akes and all will be wonderful. I have three deks to find her. I actually don't remember what deks are. Oh, wait, I HAVE A TIME LIMIT? The game tells you to just leave it running instead of a pause feature. I think this might just be legitimately the worst adventure game of all time. Many games may score below it, but I cannot imagine there's a game that plays worse than this.

Anyway, he gives me 25 Skringles and tells me to leave through the back door.

Flash Gordon is less cliche than this

"COSMIC ZAP!! Love at first sight." That's what she says. She asks me my name and then what I'm doing in the royal household. If I tell her what she asks me to leave. She doesn't want to talk about her fiancee and she doesn't know about Lotarr and Grimm, but she's well-versed in who the Akes are. That concludes my meeting with the royal family, at least until Feydle Beydle gets kidnapped.

Okay....where to now? Conveniently, nobody bothered to tell me where I should have begun this quest. That means I have spent considerable time doing nothing that has advanced my position in this game beyond acquiring 25 more Skringles. There are millions of galaxies and hundreds of millions of suns. Well, there's nothing else to do here, might as well go out into space. Where am I going? Well, I'm going to start at the top of my destination list. The game says its incredibly large, and yet, there are only 10 destinations. By the way, ship combat, with the joystick? Even worse. While both of the action mini-games are bad, there doesn't seem to be any consequences to failing them as of yet, beyond having to change disks as the scene changes.

My method is going through them top to bottom, with the top being the middle row, then going down, left, right, then middle again, until I've been to them all.

You know, I'm getting reminded of Inca a lot, I wonder if anyone at Coktel Vision played this

If nothing else, they did do a good job doing these worlds graphically

The top leads to Zapminola, Dancis Frake's homebase. Its a good ol' pirate town. All my friends are here, Strell Noto, whom I went to pirate school with, tells me that Mervin is looking for me. We're all old buddies. Actually I like Strell, he told me that Lotarr is the Warlord of Grimm and the Master of Confusion, explaining something for once. There are a lot of people here. Mervin wants to give me something that decodes enemy transmissions. Meanwhile there are two people who want my money, one beggar and one person who's offering something in return. I try giving them money, but I can't manage. There's a bar here, but it only has a bartender.

The bar Kring's Head...because...why not?

After I leave the bar, I am accosted by a random NPC, who wishes someone with a mantis brain to die. I guess it's a fight. Well, it's slightly easier, but if that's because it's an easier enemy or if I'm just adapting to the crap factor here, well, I don't know. I still die, which sends me back to the planet select screen. Well, I'm just not going to deal with that, so I'm going to reload and try to fight him again. And again. Again and again and again. Finally, I decide enough is enough and fire up Cheat Engine. Because if I don't I'm just going to write curse words for the next 10 entries this game is going to take. It's not any better, but I win this time. That's actually it for here, at least for now.

The second symbol takes me back to Meltoca. That transmission thing just shows the enemy babbling on and on about things relating to the story, of which I am deeply, deeply invested in. Space battles, I should add, happen every time. They're not fun, they don't add anything. They're just annoying.

There's animated water in this one. It's very nice.

The third symbol is...Magno...which is where Lotarr's stronghold is. Um, wasn't this supposed to be hard? Oh, I'm dead. Guess this is what the manual said I should be prepared for locations that can kill me. Oh, well.

Symbol 4, Meruvia, a very beautiful place with pirates on it that wish me dead. We'll come back to it.

Symbol 5, Larvia, a place too hot for Dancis to survive on. Obviously I need an item to to survive here, or maybe its just a trap.

Symbol 6, Kraan, another scenic location, this time with alien pirates who hate my guts.

Symbol 7, Darn. I feel like I need to point out that's not a joke on my part, even though none of these names are jokes. Another gorgeous locale filled with pirates who wish me dead.

Symbol 8, Glysta, where Lotarr tells me that he has the princess and THE KRISTAL OF KONOS™©®, and if I go to Magno he'll give me one of them. Ha, right. Further to the right are some pirates.

Symbol 9, Feltina, well, I wouldn't want to live here, but it looks cool. And I'm dead, burnt to a crisp. Even if I wasn't, a pirate was approaching.

Symbol 10, is nothing but space.

And those are the locations I can go to. As you can see I have two options, I can go somewhere where I'll get a game over or I can go somewhere where Dancis will get stabbed by pirates and sent back to the space symbol selection. I haven't as of yet abandoned a game, though Weird Island got close, but I may just do that for this. Its not just that it's bad, it's bad in the aspects that don't make up the adventure portion. I don't really want to spend 20 more hours trying to swordfight my way through Darn and Kraan.

But before I go, let me show you some of the action in this action-adventure game. The first minute consists of the space fight, the next 30 seconds consist of loading and the rest is dedicated to swordfighting. I lost this fight, obviously, but I may have figured out how to get these fights to proceed more in my favor next time.

Inventory: Bank note, Gru medallion, Tin Tinn Alubum parchment

This Session: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

12 comments:

  1. The graphic's style and having to visit different planets reminds me a lot of "Star Blade", an adventure game produced by Silmarils in 1990.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting, I had two other games from Silmarils marked as quasi-adventures, Maya and Colorado. Guess they have a trilogy of that kind of stuff. But looking at that hits another point in favor of this quasi-genre of adventure/space simulation hybrids.

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  2. That old man in the first picture looks suspiciously similar to Herman Toothroot

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  3. "Who in the name of God are you?"

    Getting frustrated with the conversation system, are you?

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    Replies
    1. Kind of, its not exactly easy to deal with, but there's surprisingly little to talk to the NPCs about.

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  4. Okay, I've sort of reached an impasse with this game. I've gone to all the planets I can and there's nothing that advances the plot forward any. I checked a walkthrough in an old magazine and found out there was supposed to be a key back on Zapminola that opens a room with heat-protecting pills. There is no such key in any of my saves. There's only a sword on one of the lava planets, and it might not be necessary to win the game. Also half-checking the walkthrough, it mentions that if I get enough psychic and strength points I can get into Magno and defeat the bad guy.
    I ask you all, which of these should I do:
    1)Restart the game, and follow the walkthrough to the letter.
    2)Ignore this and just continue swordfighting until I have enough of the psychic and strength points to win the game.
    3)Give up and go on to Obitus.

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    Replies
    1. I've seen the sword fighting, I'll vote for (1) so you can at least maybe see what they were trying to do without boring yourself to death.

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  5. The Kristal was one of my favourite games, I like the setting and the bizarre scifi story , its a game for play when was released 🤪🤪🤪

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