System(s): PS3, Vita, PSP (Originally on PSOne)
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher (Developer): MonkeyPaw Games (Toshiba EMI)
ESRB Rating: N/A
1998 saw the releases of Parasite Eve, Starcraft, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Baldur’s Gate, Half Life, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was a great year in gaming. It was also when Lucifer Ring was released for the PlayStation in Japan. I had no idea either, but it happened, I swear. More importantly, Lucifer Ring was just re-released for the PSVita as a part of Monkey Paw’s Retro Rush promotion, marking the first time the game been seen outside of Japan.
Fresh from 90’s Japan
Lucifer Ring is a fantasy themed beat-em-up in the same vein as Battletoads, Double Dragon, and Battletoads & Double Dragon. You play as some guy named Nash according to the remaining lives counter on the HUD. Nash wears red armor and carries a sword that would make Cloud jealous. Presumably Nash is out trying to save the world from certain destruction from the evil forces of something or other.
If this all sounds overly vague, it’s because I honestly have no freaking clue what is going on in Lucifer Ring. It’s a PSOne Import game, which means that, until now, it’s never been released outside of Japan. Which means no translation. It is playable, as the title screen and HUD are translated and it’s a basic beat’em up, but most people who pick it up will have no idea what’s happening. There is a lovely sounding introduction before each stage with ominous sounding Japanese voice-over and pleasantly scrolling Japanese text that for all I know is telling me the greatest story ever told, but I will never know.
Over in the land of visuals, Lucifer Ring isn’t the most terrible low-budget, bargain bin PS1 game ever made, at least on the Vita’s small but oh-so-beautiful OLED screen (I wouldn’t know how it looks on the Vita Slim’s LCD peasant screen). The monster and boss designs are fairly decent in their own blocky way, with a fair amount of variety. There are, however, basically no backgrounds to speak of, as the action takes place on small quasi-isometric 3D fields that appear to just float in space when the camera gets too far out, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics; which is probably why the camera is zoomed way too far in most of the game. The environments are bland, but never flat out ugly. Animations aren’t completely bad either, aside from the player character. Nash has probably the single worst walking animation I have ever seen. He walks like he just had an accident in his pants, while for some reason holding his sword straight up in the air, hands in front of his face. It’s like somebody forgot to tell him he’s doesn’t need to walk in parade formation while slaying demons in a forest.
Lucifer Ring I presume probably has music, but it is so generic that I don’t even remember it. I have vague memories of some poorly synthesized instruments making repetitive noises that I suppose count as a soundtrack. The sound effects are pretty much the same, except for a few that really stood out to me for being hilariously bad. Nash’s victory yell at the completion of a stage for some reason sounds like a short rip of the crowd cheering noises from an 16 bit sports game, and a recurring boss swinging his sword making “whooshing” noises that don’t at all line up with the animations.
An exercise in brevity
As with any game of its ilk, the most important part of Lucifer Ring isn’t the likely pointless and somewhat nonsensical plot beat-‘em-ups so often come equipped with, the graphics, or the sound, but rather the gameplay. You know, the actual beating of the ups. This is where Lucifer Ring really shines; and by “shines” I mean “is barely competent but still the best part of the game”. The controls are simple: there’s jump, attack, attack harder, and special. “Attack harder” I found to be pretty useless as it’s too slow to be much good. The massive swing arc of your sword combined with enemies having the biggest hit boxes in all of gaming means you can pretty much just mash the “square” button without ever aiming and hit just about everything on the screen.
Which is good, because I have seen oil tankers turn to face their enemies faster and more gracefully than our hero Nash. The special attack system is actually pretty nifty: it works similar to a Limit Break system, wherein a gauge fills as you take damage. You can hit “triangle” any time to use an easily exploitable special attack (it freezes enemies in place during the animation and does heavy damage), but when the gauge is filled, you get one shot with a powered up version that will kill everything on the screen, or drain half of a boss’s health bar. I actually rather like this system, but it is poorly balanced and felt way overpowered.
I wouldn’t call Lucifer Ring boring per se, as there is plenty of action, but I never found myself having much fun either. It quickly gets repetitive, and there isn’t much challenge in combat, but the few jumping sequences were overly frustrating due to strange, floaty controls and terribad camera angles. Aside from the utter lack of localization, Lucifer Ring’s most standout feature is its length, or lack thereof. The game consists merely of five short levels, the fourth level being amusingly mistranslated as “Forth Stage”.
I was able to beat the game in a single sitting on my first try in under an hour, which may be good or bad depending on your point of view. If you just spent money on the game and are somehow genuinely enjoying it, you will come away rather disappointed when you finish the thing before your frozen pizza is even done. If you’re slogging through it because your editor told you to, then it may be the highlight of the day. There is a New Game + mode, whose only discernible feature being the ability to choose a special weapon to start each stage with, as if the game wasn’t easy enough the first time around.
An unimportant import
Lucifer Ring isn’t the worst bargain bin PS1 game released 16 years ago, but it’s getting pretty close and I just can’t fathom why anybody would go through the effort of re-releasing it now – the game at its best is “not completely terrible”. Properly translate the thing, and release it as a free Android app for people who want to kill an hour, and you might have something. As it stands, I just can’t see any way to justify buying Lucifer Ring unless you have nothing better to do this afternoon and a few dollars of PSN credit you just don’t know what else to do with.
Site [MonkeyPaw Games]