Remember 2002? Spider-Man was making big bucks at the theater, Nickelback was belting out its latest made-for-lonely-secretaries ballad and Rygar, a franchise that’d been MIA since 1990, suddenly had a new lease on life. Reviews were good for the retro remake, praising its combo-happy, gladiator-meets-Lord of the Rings action and ancient Greece backdrop. Play magazine even said it was “absolutely stunning in every way.”
Now, a mind-boggling seven years later, the same game is being re-released to the starving Wii community as table scraps from the PS2 days. What passed as “stunning” in 2002 is now dated and archaic; what was once a respectable Devil May Cry clone is now a relic that has to live up to today’s standards. Guess what – it doesn’t. Literally every aspect of gameplay is burdened with outdated ideas that make it a lesson in what not to do anymore. Let’s see…
Above: What, no mine cart level?
The two biggest perks the original game had were its Greco-Roman setting and Rygar’s shield-on-a-string diskarmor. While his elastic, upgradable weapon is indeed unique (imagine a giant yo-yo with spikes laced all around), the repetitive combos are nothing compared to blood-soaked splatterfest (and three-year-old) God of War, which also happens to take place in a highly fantasized Greek setting. So, to stay relevant and overcome the long shadow cast by Kratos, Rygar needed a drastic update – and the only thing updated was Rygar himself.
On the left, the original Rygar, who looks perfectly suited for a leather-clad romp through Zeus’s backyard. The travesty on the right is the “new” Rygar, changed for no reason other than to make him look… well whatever that look is supposed to achieve. If the goal was to blend Goku and Sephiroth into a mishmash of every anime cliché on the planet, mission accomplished.
But, given the sad state of action gaming on Wii, you could defiantly suggest this ages-old port is still worth checking out. We would argue against it, as the Wii Remote will never be the proper controller for this type of game. Mixing button mashing with random waggling never works, and it’s no surprise we hated combat within minutes, longing for a standard PS2 pad instead. And, in a genuinely hilarious/appalling oversight, the Remote’s rumble feature is off the charts, to the point where it actually becomes distracting and annoying to play.
Above: The most gratuitous rumble in any game, ever
Another curious oversight is the amount of destructible architecture littered around Argus, the area you’re supposed to be protecting. We felt more than a little silly flinging the diskarmor in every possible direction and in the process reducing our fair city to ruins.
Above: Before Rygar
Above: After Rygar. How many differences can you spot?
Each of those priceless statues and ageless buildings contains points used to power-up the diskarmor, so you’re actually encouraged to demolish as much as possible. That’s going to be one awkward victory parade...
Other minor changes include a handful of quicker enemies that ostensibly make combat more hectic, but ultimately devolve into the same block-block-counterattack scraps we’ve suffered through for years. Even with their added assault the main game takes about seven hours to complete.Then there’s the tacked-on, all-waggle Gladiator mode that has you swing-fisting your way through waves of increasingly difficult mythological monstrosities.
Chaining together combos with bigger and brighter numbers isn’t enough incentive to overlook the horribly limited motion controls, stiff animations and bare-bones presentation. This was all they added to the Wii release in terms of new gameplay, and it’s actually less inviting than the busted main game.
No More Heroes? Like we said, pickins are slim on Wii, and for the time being all other action games have to surpass the ultra-violent beam saber deaths oozing out of No More Heroes. It’s flashy, irreverent and only occasionally trips over its own feet in an attempt to be different. Rygar’s yesteryear offering doesn’t come close.
Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire? A noble attempt at filling a gaping hole in Wii’s lineup, the yawn-worthy Wrath of Fire ends up as yet another ultra-generic beat ‘em up – now with muddy motion controls. The PS2 Rygar easily trounces this fill-in-the-numbers masher, though we’d say the Wii version comes up short of even this forgettable release.
God of War II? No contest. The three-year-old God of War II outshines Rygar in every way, and we only compare them because this is what Rygar has to contend with now. There was no Kratos in 2002 – now there is, and anyone interested in ravaging mythological monsters should do so here, or wait for the surely superior God of War III.
The original reviews for the PS2 Rygar weren’t necessarily wrong – at the time, it really was a gorgeous game, and its luscious orchestral soundtrack lent an air of classical history to a genre that usually stuck with forgettable background loops. Hell we’d say the PS2 version, even rated by today’s standards, is still in the 6/10 range. But the awkward controls, insane vibration and baffling Rygar makeover make this impossible to recommend at $40. Incidentally, look what we found:
Why buy the new one when the older, better version is still available at a reduced price? We know you have a PS2.
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