While Alien Soldier shows a good deal of restraint from what we consider to be Treasure’s modus operandi, Light Crusader takes that one step further. Light Crusader is probably the oddest of their lineup, not just in the Genesis era, but for pretty much their entire catalog. Not because it’s zany and weird and insane, however. That’s typical Treasure, and we expect it. No, Light Crusader is different because it’s so restrained and different from their other output that it doesn’t even feel like a Treasure game.
For a short period of time, isometric games became somewhat popular, to try to approximate some semblance of depth on machines that are in no way equipped to do 3D properly. Landstalker was a good example of the type of game that Light Crusader would be, an isometric action-adventure that’s a bit like Zelda. But whereas Landstalker had a bit of light-hearted whimsy to it, Light Crusader almost feels like a European-developed game.
Needless to say, if you’re expecting Treasure’s brand of wackiness, you’re going to be disappointed. And from initial plays of the game, it’s not a particularly impressive effort. Hit detection feels a little wonky, and the controls feel a bit floaty. However, it does control a bit more easily than Landstalker, so it already has that in its favor.
Something weird happens, though, as you go through the game. It actually starts to get somewhat interesting. The plot is nothing to write home about, making games like A Link to the Past look positively verbose, but figuring out the various puzzles in the ever-descending dungeon is a lot of fun, as is playing around with the magic system. Magic in Light Crusader sees the return of the weapon-combining fun of Gunstar Heroes, except this time, you can combine up to four elements for spells. Switching things up to figure out what works better in a given situation can be a lot of fun.
Graphically, the game’s understated visual tone really mutes Treasure’s design strengths, but it’s not devoid of some slick hardware tricks, including a bit of vector/polygonal rendering. It almost makes you wonder what they could have done if they’d let go of their inhibitions on the project. Not that some of their excesses didn’t show up eventually, with an odd area that sees our knightly hero square off against cowboys, World War II soldiers (including a tank!), robotic enemies (in a low-gravity environment!), and ninjas. Yes. Ninjas.
All in all, it’s remembered as one of Treasure’s weaker works. And that would probably be a safe assessment, but it’s by no means bad. Given its brevity (5-10 hours, leaning towards the former), even if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t have lost too much valuable time, so give a shot, if just to see Treasure still grasping a bit at identity.
Article by Lee Hathcock
GameSpite Journal 12: Light Crusader