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Conquest of the Crystal Palace (NES) – Gaming Historian

September 5, 2019


[piano music] A few years ago, I was game
hunting at a local Goodwill. I went over to the game section… and they had a bunch of sports
titles but really nothing else. So then I went over to the CDs and VHS tapes because sometimes employees will
accidentally put games in these areas. So, it’s always worth looking. Well, while browsing the VHS tapes,
I came across a game… that I had honestly never heard of before, which was surprising to me. It was called Conquest of the Crystal Palace. And for only four dollars complete in box, I decided to pick it up. The front cover features a large, angry,
purple demon wearing Japanese armor. A young warrior braces for the battle, while a dog wearing armor
charges at the demon. On the back, we have a
short write-up on the game, as well as a list of features. A few of these features we take
for granted these days, such as… a “continue feature.” It also mentions “gigantic main enemies,” which, for the time, was actually pretty cool. Remember World 4 in Super Mario Bros. 3? Yeah. Everybody loves it. So just from a first glance, this game doesn’t seem like anything special. But after playing it,
I discovered that not only is it good, but it was one of the first projects
for two prominent figures… in the video game industry. Let’s take a look! [NES music plays] Conquest of the Crystal Palace
was developed by Quest in 1990, and it was one of their first titles. It was also the game that
launched the careers of two men… who would go on to work
together for years to come: designer Yasumi Matsuno… and composer Masaharu Iwata. Matsuno and Iwata would
later work on such classics as the Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle series, Final Fantasy Tactics… and Final Fantasy XII. For Conquest of the Crystal Palace,
Matsuno was the planner, and it was his very first game. Iwata helped compose the soundtrack. The game was published by Asmik, a Japanese company whose time
in North America was short-lived. They only published six games here and were known more for their goofy,
pink dinosaur mascot than anything else. In Conquest of the Crystal
Palace, you play as Farron, a seemingly ordinary boy. One day his canine Zap appears
in armor and starts talking to him, revealing that Farron is in fact
a prince of the Crystal Palace that was overrun by the evil Lord Zaras. Farron and Zap must save the kingdom and rescue the Crystal Princess. Before the game begins,
Zap offers you one of three crystals to assist you on your journey. The Spirit Crystal grants you
the ability to shoot fireballs. The Life Crystal increases your overall health. And the Flight Crystal
allows you to jump farther. What you choose isn’t too important as you can get all of these
abilities later in the game. So just pick one. Once you do that, the adventure begins. The game is an action platformer and like most NES titles, A jumps and B attacks. However, if you attack while jumping, Farron drops like a rock. It’s a weird quirk that takes
some time getting used to. One of the most unique parts of the game is using your dog Zap. You can call him at any time to help you out, and he will automatically
attack the enemies on-screen. However, you do have to be careful, as he has a life bar just like you. You can also use a dog whistle
that makes Zap run around you, creating a protective barrier. There are plenty of enemies to kill, and they all drop an item
for you, usually money, which you’ll need plenty of. As you make your way through each level, you’ll come across the character Kim who sells you health,
upgrades and extra lives. She also teaches you
how to use new abilities and provides a fake newscast
on what is going on in the kingdom. If you try to buy too many
items that you can’t afford, Kim will throw you out of her store. If you buy a bunch of items at once, Kim is elated… and gives you a huge discount
your next time around. Kim’s shop is one of the
best parts about the game and really helps it be more
than just a typical platformer. Conquest of the Crystal Palace
is a challenging game, and you’ll have to use some
planning and strategy in certain areas and boss fights. Although I died many times my first go-around, I eventually adjusted to the small
nuances the game throws at you, such as getting knocked back when hit, or enemies flying at you from off-screen. And these birds. Oh, the birds… Why are birds the most
frustrating enemies in games? First Ninja Gaiden, now Conquest of the Crystal Palace! Anyway, here’s a good example: this skeleton is basically not letting me get by. Typical platforming logic will
suggest to jump over him and attack. But this skeleton is shifty and
always hits me whenever I try that. The solution: summon Zap. He’s able to launch head
first and kill the skeleton, allowing me to pass. Conquest of the Crystal Palace
only has five stages, but they’re all large, unique and
create different challenges for you. A good example is Stage Two which contains a bunch of pits. Instead of dying,
the pits sends you back in the level. This can be a blessing as it allows you to continuously
buy items from Kim’s shop and really upgrade Farron and Zap. If you fall down a certain pit, the game greets you with a secret boss. If you manage to defeat him, a woman appears and gives
you the Moon Mirror item. It can wipe out all enemies on-screen but can only be used once per level. The music is fantastic and extremely catchy. If you want to hear the
work of Masaharu Iwata before he helped compose
the brilliant soundtracks of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre… this is it. All the music you have heard
throughout this video is from the game. In Japan, Conquest of the Crystal
Palace is known as “Matendōji.” Overall, the games are fairly similar, with a few changes mostly
dealing with Nintendo’s censorship. In the Japanese version, Farron is known as “Tendo,” and he is a prince of the “Heavenly Palace.” However, religion in video games
was a big no-no for Nintendo, so this was changed to the “Crystal Palace.” Some enemies were changed too, such as these skull lizards
becoming slugs in the first stage. But the biggest change is Stage Three. Supposedly, this level is supposed to be Hell and was changed quite a bit,
including the disturbing background. In Japan, the enemies are
these blue, baby-like creatures. But in the United States, they became spiders. Besides that, though,
both versions are pretty similar. The game has a clear Asian influence with the art style and kanji symbols, and all of it remained in
the North American version. Overall, Conquest of the Crystal
Palace is a really fun game that… seems to have been overlooked
by the retro gaming community. It’s a short game, and it’s not
gonna blow you away or anything, but I definitely think it’s a worthy
addition to your NES library. It’s also cool to see the early works of Yasumi Matsuno and Masaharu Iwata. Also, good news! Conquest of the Crystal Palace is inexpensive, and you should be able to
find a copy for around $10. That’s all for this episode of Gaming Historian. Thanks for watching! [NES music continues]

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