Demon’s Crest (SNES) Review

Click here to visit the Demon’s Crest (SNES) description page for guides, screenshots, and passwords. 

Quick Review

~ Review by tankMage (January 2021)

Score: B

Pros

-Nice graphics and good use of layering

-The player can use crests found in the game to transform into a number of gargoyles with a variety of powers

-Open ended progression that allows players to explore the stages at their own pace

-Plenty of hidden powerups and items

-An appropriately gloomy soundtrack that was well executed

-Varied stage design

Cons

-Some of the spells are bugged, which makes them completely useless

-Deceptively easy gameplay for the majority of the game coupled with tough end game bosses make this title a poor choice for novice players

-Some of the powers, like “Claw”, are essentially useless

-The password system does not save gold, potions, and spells, which forces players to grind for money every time they continue from a password 

-Players lack the ability to cycle through powers, making it necessary to use the inventory screen to switch crests, select potions, and change spells

-Disappointing story despite a promising prologue and multiple endings

-The controls do not feel as smooth as those of other Capcom titles

Full Review

Who would have thought a journey through hell would be so much fun?

Despite having a lot of problems, Demon’s Crest is consistently good and would have likely garnered more attention if it hadn’t been released in the wake of juggernauts like Mortal Kombat II and Super Metroid. In fact, that may have very well been this game’s greatest problem: 1994 was such a banner year for the SNES, that most gamers were overwhelmed and had little time for a title that was merely good. In fact, the only vague memory I have of this game was renting it with a friend for the weekend, playing it for an hour or two, then moving onto other, even better games.

At any rate, it’s a shame that this game has been forgotten and that Capcom failed to put any real muscle behind it. Had Demon’s Crest been given the sort of polish that the Mega Man X games received, it would likely be considered among the quintessential SNES titles. In fact, Firebrand’s adventure has more than a few moments that are worthy of praise, from the opening scene that pits players against a zombie dragon to the dramatic conflagration of the forest stage. Demon’s Crest is also something of a cross between Mega Man and “Metroidvainia”, which makes it feel truly unique as well as experimental.

Story 

The story is perhaps Demon’s Crest’s weakest facet, though I’m rarely impressed with video game plots to begin with. Part of the problem is that it starts out with a lot of promise. Players learn about a war for a set of powerful artifacts known as “Crests” that resulted in the near complete destruction of the demon world. Firebrand, the game’s antihero, nearly won the war after defeating a demonic dragon, but was gravely wounded in the conflict. Phalanx, an opportunistic demon, attacks Firebrand in his weakened state and acquires all but the ultimate crest, the Crest of Infinity. Firebrand, being the sort of demon who doesn’t take matters sitting down, immediately sets out for revenge.

Overall, the setting and background are nicely fleshed out, plus the devs did a good job of showing how the war has impacted the world rather than telling. The demon world, which is probably a grim place under the best circumstances, is in absolute chaos. Most of the places you will visit are in ruins and the few NPCs you interact with express their feelings on the subject. Unfortunately, Firebrand is the “strong silent” type and doesn’t have any lines, which leaves a void that wasn’t filled by the NPCs, who have little to say. Capcom really missed an opportunity by not giving Firebrand any dialogue as one can imagine all the clever quips a demon could make.

Players can also unlock several different endings, but they all kind of suck to be honest. The devs tried to go for a philosophical, thoughtful type of ending (kind of like that of Mega Man X) but it came off as contrived, because the rest of the story is so matter of fact. The fact that it’s hard to unlock unless you are really good at exploring or use a walkthrough made it even more of a let down.

Don’t get catfished by the intro, the rest of the story is boring.

Graphics

While not quite up to the standards of Capcom’s top shelf titles, this game looks really good and has aged with dignity. The graphics are drab and dingy with just enough color thrown in to make enemy/player sprites pop out. Parallax scrolling backgrounds also helped give the action a heightened sense of drama as it makes it seem like the world is more dynamic than most other platformers of the time. There are also some nice layering effects, such as fog in the cemetery, and even primitive light sources. The devs must have been proud of the lighting effects, because they were incorporated into the gameplay in several stages. Of course, Link to the Past and Mega Man III used light mechanics years before Demon’s Crest, but it’s still noteworthy, because this wasn’t something you encountered often. The mode 7 world map didn’t age as gracefully as the rest of the visuals. However, it’s hard to imagine this game using a stage select screen or even a more traditional 2D map, so even the rather dated Mode 7 scrolling works well.

Music and Sound Effects 

Demon’s Crest features a lot of spooky organ music, which was probably the best (howbeit cheesy) choice considering the setting. Most of the tracks are really good, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the battle music. There’s also not a lot of variety to the BGM, which is a shame seeing as how it’s rather distinctive. Capcom also did a good job with the sound effects, though I’m fairly certain the majority of them were taken from other Capcom games. 

User Interface

The controls work, but they don’t feel as fluid as those of other Capcom titles. Firebrand’s ability to cling to walls is partially to blame for Demon’s Crest’s play control woes. Jumping into a wall or platform causes Firebrand to stick to it with his talons. Wall clinging may be a cool mechanic, but it has to be implemented carefully and that’s not the case in this game. Firebrand clings to just about any surface and it’s too easy to get caught on moving platforms, which can be a problem in dangerous situations.

It’s also too difficult to swap between crests and select items, because the game forces players to go into the inventory every time they want to change something. This is in light of the fact that Mega Man X allowed players to choose weapons with the L and R buttons. Why this wasn’t implemented into Demon’s Crest is a mystery, though it would have been very helpful, because players will have to change crests quite frequently in certain stages.

Gameplay

Demon’s Crest plays like a combination of Mega Man and Metroid. Firebrand’s primary mode of attack comes in the form of the fireballs he spits. He can also grab onto walls and hover, but the fact that he cannot change his altitude while hovering or climb limits his ability to access new areas. This is where the Metroidvania aspect of the game comes into play. Defeating certain bosses will unlock “Crests” that allow Firebrand to change forms. The Crest of Air let’s players adjust their height while flying, the Earth Crest can smash certain objects, and the Water Crest let’s Firebrand swim without taking damage from water, so getting new crests allows players to visit new areas.

Players are free to explore a good bit of the world from the beginning and they will find the crests as they investigate, which will open up even more areas in turn. Potion containers, extra life bars, and magic talismans are also scattered around the world. As a whole, adventuring around the demon world is satisfying, especially if you enjoy the feeling of unlocking new areas and secrets. Each stage has its own unique gimmicks as well, which helps maintain a sense of progress. 

Get ready to use the crest of air a lot.

The stages themselves are interesting thanks to a variety of enemies and obstacles. Players will have to face down ax throwing imps as well as a host of other creatures and the devs did a good job of making it so the various crests were more or less effective against certain monsters. Environmental obstacles were also included to keep things interesting, so players will have to deal with high winds that threaten to blow Firebrand into enemies, slippery ice, and spikes galore. Some stages have candles that can be lit to keep nocturnal enemies at bay, which was pretty original for a platformer of the time.

As I said before, Demon’s Crest takes a lot of ideas and experiments with them. While this resulted in a game that’s generally enjoyable, the devs seemed to have been so preoccupied with creating interesting powers and stages that they forgot to tweak the bosses so they would present a consistent challenge. 

Some of the bosses are extremely easy to defeat, while others are kind of tough and there is no real pattern to the difficulty curve. This is partially due to the player’s ability to explore rather freely, but some of the easiest bosses are gated behind obstacles that can only be cleared later in the game, which is what makes difficulty feel inconsistent. Worse yet, the last two bosses are among the hardest bosses I’ve fought over the years and (while I like a challenge) they felt out of place in a game that isn’t very difficult for the most part.

Finally, there’s a bugged spell in Demon’s Crest that does nothing when you activate it. In a cruel twist of fate, the bugged spell was supposed to shield Firebrand from damage, which may explain why the last two bosses were so tough since it’s likely that the devs thought players would use the spell to tank the bosses. Many of the abilities and potions are also redundant. Firebrand gets powers that let him create tornadoes he can stand on and stick to spiked walls, but the Air Crest makes them useless. Additionally, the potions that let players warp out of areas are also pointless, because there’s no penalty for dying and it’s easier to just get killed if you want to leave a stage rather than buy a potion that does the same thing.

Final Thoughts

Though rough around the edges, Demon’s Crest is a fun platformer as long as you are comfortable battling a pair of tough bosses at the end. If Capcom had maybe given the devs some more time to test for bugs and address some of the quality of life issues, this game would probably be remembered as one of the titans of the 16-Bit era. Luckily, what we have is worth a try and will probably please anyone looking for a “gem” in the SNES library as long as they understand what they are getting into. 

Recommendations

Demon’s Crest should be on every platformer fan’s must play list even though it has a lot of minor problems. It’s not the best 1994 has to offer, but it’s good.

This Demon’s Crest review is property of RetroMaggedon.com ©2021

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