Sunday, November 11, 2012

Demon's Crest Revisited

Demon's Crest is effectively Gargoyle's Quest 3. If it were called that, more people would know Gargoyle's Quest 2 exists. Two years ago I played this game and wrote about it. Now it's time to revisit this world, having finally played the first two games.

Some of the same people who worked on Mega Man (at the time) also worked on this game, and it shows. Same goes for GQ2. Not sure about the original. The gameplay has a similar feel to the early Mega Man games.

Like the first two GQ games, Firebrand starts out with minimal powers. Hover ability is unlimited from the start in this game, however, and it's extremely useful. The game starts with a fight against a massive boss. It isn't a fight that you're forced to win or lose by a script, like many intro-stage bosses. On the contrary, this is a real boss fight. You might win, you might lose.

Shortly after is the battle with the Hippogriff. There are a few of these guys in the game, and they're relatively inconsequential. In my original look at Demon's Crest (check it out to see how I've changed things up in two years) I made a big deal about how this guy steals a lot of the thunder from the real gargoyle bosses in the game, and I still feel that way.

Firebrand can still cling to walls with the best of them. He may be slow and ponderous, but the controls in this game are still great once you learn to roll with them.

Here's General Arma, one of the big bads of the game. He looks like a midget compared to the miniboss right before this.

After easily dispatching Arma, it's off to the overworld. This game dispenses with the Dragon Warrior style overworlds of the first two games and lets you simply fly to your destinations. This makes a lot more sense.

There's a mostly-deserted town early on. This town contains a number of shops, but most importantly it's full of money in pots.

Protip: The most important thing to get early on in this game is the Hand Talisman, hidden in this wall.

The Hand Talisman gives Firebrand the passive ability to fire more than one shot at a time. This is pretty crucial and makes most of the boss fights a lot more manageable.

Firebrand also has his awesome elemental transformations in this game, like the Earth Gargoyle form. There's a lot more gameplay depth to this game than the previous two; too bad it's just as short as those games.

A creepy underground cavern ends up being the lair of...

...the nefarious eye boss from Misery Mire in A Link to the Past. This is a fight that stumps a lot of people, but with the Hand Talisman it isn't too bad at all.

Speaking of this game's depth, look at that inventory screen. In another Zelda similarity, there are five bottles to find in this game that go in the "potion" slots and can be filled with bought potions. Same deal with five scrolls that can be inscribed with one-shot spells. The potions are useful, the spells are not.

Our hero arrives in The Burned Woods, of Everquest fame.

Now this is a frustrating boss, any way you slice it. The first form isn't too bad, and while it takes a little while, it's easy to win without taking a hit.

The second form is the real issue. This thing zips around the screen and took quite a few tries to defeat, even with the Hand Talisman.

Making its return from the previous two games, it's the platform-creating power straight out of Mega Man. It isn't as useful here, as this game has nowhere near as many vertical passages as the first two games. While this is 95% side-scroller, those games were basically 80% vertical.
While it isn't crucial, it's still a little bit useful in the next area.

At the end of this section, the path forward splits. You can go right, or jump down into a whirlwind. This isn't the last time the game splits, and replaying areas to see where the other path would take you is a lot of fun.

Hippogriff 2.0. This thing never really changes its attack pattern, and as a result gets easier every time it appears (despite having more health).

And wouldn't you know it, Arma 2.0 is next up. He's still easy, and he's still visually upstaged by the mini-boss before him.

Still, these Arma fights are awesome. They're supposed to feel like duels, and the game pulls that off masterfully.

Winning that gets you the Aerial form, which lets Firebrand fly upwards for the first time in the series (and renders the Tornado obsolete already). I give it a whirl by taking on some Klansmen in the first area.

Here's Belth, a boss that stopped many a player in their tracks. It's definitely one of the harder fights in the game, but it isn't too bad once you figure out an evasive pattern. Most people take this fight on early, but I waited until later on. At this point I have enough power ups to make the battle simple.

Another difficult boss that causes a lot of problems for players. The Flier doesn't have much health, and the key here is to stay on offense.

The late-game boss procession continues. This shambling monstrosity is one of the most irritating bosses in the game. You can only damage it when it opens its eye, and sometimes it goes for long periods of time without doing that.

To make things worse, it closes in on you. Eventually it becomes necessary to go Aerial and fly to the left just to lure this thing back that way. Extremely irritating fight, but victory nets you... of the crests. This one gives Firebrand the Tidal form, which makes him far more formidable when under water.

It's useful situationally, but overall it's probably the least useful form. Though I'd argue that the Earth Gargoyle form isn't that great either.

In the main underwater area of the game lurks a visually impressive mollusk boss. Visually impressive or not, this is one of the easier fights.

Another Flier ambushes Firebrand in the snowy mountain area. This time around the fight is over quickly.

Groping hands of DOOM reach for Firebrand inside Arma's Castle.

And here's Arma 3.0, the final confrontation. He's a little beefier-looking than the previous fights, and has a LOT more health.

After a ferocious battle, during which he whips out some new moves (and is, at last, a real threat), Arma gives his power to Firebrand.

Firebrand battles a white wolf next. This fight could be taken on before Arma, but I missed it. Legend says that it's one of the tougher fights in the game. I don't know, because with Firebrand now equipped with Arma's power the fight is over quickly. Winning gets Firebrand the Darkfire power; this was his strongest weapon in the earlier games, but in this game it's obsoleted by Arma's weapon. I already have that, so Darkfire is useless to me and never even gets used. Even if I had taken this path first and the upper path to Arma second, I would have only used Darkfire for five to ten minutes. Odd weapon placement by the designers. It certainly would have made Arma 3.0 an easier battle, though.

At this point preparations need to be made for the final area. I run around and grab the last of the bottles hidden in the game, then it's off to...

...the town, where grinding out huge amounts of money is easy with the Crown Talisman. I went from 200 GP (my total after playing through the rest of the game) to 700 GP (the total needed to fill up on the best potion) in about five minutes, if that.

The potion shop owner is a SKETCHY fellow

Ginseng (full heal) is the good one. The others, for the most part, aren't worth the trouble, with only Herb (five-point heal) being useful... and only in the early game.

With that, I explore a bit more and find a boss that I somehow missed out on during the regular playthrough. I might have missed this last time, too. Wonder how the fight would have been had I fought it when I was level-appropriate, because with Firebrand as powerful as he is now I completely steamroll over it.

Next up is Phalanx' Tower, the last area of the game. Midway through is Hippogriff 3.0, which is nearly a joke at this point.

The white wolf makes a reappearance here, as well. It also has revamped health, but it still falls without much trouble. On that note, this tower is very atmospheric.

At the top is Phalanx, the villain of the game. The best thing is, unlike Arma, Phalanx isn't visually upstaged by the Hippogriffs.

A pitched battle ensues, one that unfolds in multiple stages.

Stage 2, where the arena fills with water, is the toughest one. It seemed like Tidal Gargoyle was forced here, which causes Firebrand to take a huge offensive damage cut. I'd bet there's a better way to handle this fight. For the record, I used the Armor Talisman once I got it (Hand Talisman before that). Armor doubles your defense passively, while Arma's power has the same effect; combine the two and Firebrand takes 1/4 the damage he did earlier in the game. Unfortunately, having to use the Tidal Gargoyle form (or any elemental form) late-game brings him down both offensively and defensively.

After the second battle, Phalanx gets serious.

...and what follows is by far the most difficult battle (sort of) in the game. This fight is absolutely BRUTAL. It takes about thirty hits (with the strongest weapon) to bring this guy down, but landing hits to begin with is difficult.

The main difficulty has to do with the platforms in the room; this is similar to the final battle of Gargoyle's Quest 2, where a platform in the room was nearly more problematic than the boss itself.

On my third try, I pull off a victory. When I finally did win, I won by a landslide.

And that's the end. But wait! There's a post-game. I totally avoided this last time, but this time? I'll give it a shot.

Check out that full inventory, complete with the Ultimate Gargoyle power. This is basically Phalanx's power. It combines Arma's power with Aerial, Tidal, and Earth Gargoyle powers and obsoletes the rest in one fell swoop.

Pretty sure it also upgrades Firebrand's attacks, too. In essence, the Ultimate Gargoyle lets you Godmode the entire game, dispatching bosses in a few hits. Even the final fight with Phalanx probably isn't too bad with this form. So naturally, Capcom put in a post-game boss that is so nasty, even the Ultimate Gargoyle form would have a hard time with it.

And here's that boss, Dark Demon. With five full-heal potions, 4x defense (if not more), a full life meter, and the Ultimate Gargoyle power, you'd think nothing would be a match for Firebrand. Not the case. This thing has two forms that it switches between at random, can turn invulnerable for several seconds whenever it wants, and has an abundance of highly-damaging, near-unavoidable attacks.

Here's the second form. This fight is specifically for the powergamers who want to beat their heads on an impossible challenge. More games should have something like this.

In addition to Dark Demon's blistering offense, the room gradually runs out of walls and floors as they get replaced by spikes.

On my third or fourth go, I BARELY eked out a victory. Only had a few ticks of life left and had actually resigned myself to another loss when the boss suddenly crumbled.

Firebrand throws all of the crests off of a nearby cliff. This ending isn't very different from the normal ending, alas. The only reward for beating the Dark Demon? The sense of accomplishment.

And there's the real ending. Whew. That was rough stuff. I guess you could say this was the Dark Souls of the SNES era. It's too bad that so few people played this rare gem.

For more on this series, check out my previous posts:

Gargoyle's Quest

Gargoyle's Quest 2

My original Demon's Crest playthrough from 2010 


  1. Wow. I only know what I do about Firebrand from Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but seeing and learning about this game was a real treat. Makes me kind of want to play it.

    Speaking of Marvel vs. Capcom, I wonder if Capcom is planning some kind of revival? Firebrand and Arthur are in the game, so that's one way to spread awareness. Phoenix Wright is in the game, and shortly afterward Ace Attorney 5 got announced. It wouldn't be that hard for Capcom to take a page from Nintendo's book and tease upcoming projects via its fighting game, right?

    Well, it's wishful thinking, but I think it's (remotely) possible. In any case, great post.

  2. I remember when this was the cover story of Nintendo Power, and I thought "Oh no! Demons! Scary!" This was a great walkthrough, and they were ahead of their time putting a powergamers' final boss like that.

    It's great to see the old Capcom font again. And a non-Harry Potter Hippogriff.

    Throwing the crests into the ocean wasn't a very demonic thing to do.

    1. Not only a great game design, but also great monster designs. I agree that shopkeeper is something else.