By Andy Kidwell / November 17th, 2016
|Release Date||July 16, 1993|
|Platform||NEC PC-9800 series|
It comes as no surprise that I love import gaming. One of my favorite platforms to play games on is the NEC PC-9800 series computers. If you don’t know about the PC-9800 then you’re really missing out! The best way I can explain these computers is that they are like the extended Japanese cousin of the American IBM computers you might have had growing up in the 90s. The PC-9800 had slightly different hardware than a traditional IBM, and even its own localized version of MS-DOS. The games on these computers were amazing and the 9800 has seen increased popularity over the years due to many of the Touhou shmups being originally released on the NEC PC-9800. Do you like visual novels? Well, many well-known VNs got their start on the PC-9800 and modern VNs pull inspiration from them.
But this ain’t no dang article of “PC Computing Monthly.” So let’s dive into a well-known game, albeit still a hidden gem, for the PC-9800 series of computers. Introducing Rusty, the little Castlevania that could!
Rusty was released on July 16, 1993 in Japan by C-Lab. The game is an action platformer not unlike early Castlevania titles. You’ve got a whip, vampires, and monsters littered across levels to smack into dust. Most PC-9800 games have beautiful graphics and it’s no exception here. The cutscenes are also wonderfully detailed and fun to watch. When in the main game the action and characters are beautifully crafted and original, although the game will run at a slower pace, which a lot of old DOS games tend to do.
Let’s talk about the story. Upon booting up the game you’re presented with a long intro cutscene taking place in a castle high upon a mountain. Inside there is a den of vampires and monsters ominously lingering as they pull a blond-haired girl out into the open to sacrifice to their sealed leader so that evil and darkness can reign once more. Cue an ominous scream and end scene.
Next, we see our heroine, Rusty, running along while tracking the destruction monsters have caused. There are many deaths, and young women have been kidnapped. Rusty shows up at a village that has been destroyed during an attack and they are having mass funerals so they can bury their dead. Rusty chats with the village chief trying to gain information on the attack and get clues about the monster’s ambitions. Two children run up to Rusty and start pleading with her. Their sister had been kidnapped and they believe that she has to still be alive. So, doing what any good heroine would do, Rusty vows to investigate and save their sister with her whip in hand.
The gameplay is almost identical to classic Castlevania games. I feel it resembles Super Castlevania IV and Rondo of Blood most. Rusty will use her whip for most attacks and she can whip in all directions. You can also make use of hooks to swing with your whip across large gaps and spiked traps. Rusty can also use a special attack — with the right number of power ups collected — to damage all enemies on screen. The slow Simon Belmont gait is here too, but this is fine since enemies like to pop out of the background and ambush you. Unlike Simon, however, Rusty does have an option to sprint which is very helpful to take on long jumps.
Instead of whipping candles, you’ll be whipping statues. Statues contain health, power ups, and keys. Keys are the most important because each key matches a door which will lead you into the next part of the stage. Keys are easy to come by and are usually in statues that are along your main path. Some statues are hidden and give you a key to a branching path. Stage One has a good example of these branching paths. You can choose to take the normal door which leads you into a demon-infested village, or if you find the hidden statue you can take an upper path and jump across rooftops to avoid the chaos below.
The bosses are very cool. They are made of heavy metal CD cover art’s greatest dreams. I mean, one of the bosses is a topless demon riding a mecha dragon. Need I say more? Each boss is just as different and fun to fight. The difficulty is quite extreme. However, after a few attempts you’ll be able to come up with your own strategy to defeat them. After a successful bout you’ll get the standard Castlevania orb that falls, and you’ll rescue one of the women that went missing from the village. As a reward, they offer you some plot and a scantily clad picture of themselves before the next stage begins, and that ain’t bad!
The game’s difficulty overall is murderous. There is no warm up; you are expected to perform like an expert from the start. Normally I would be discouraged about something like this, but the game is just fun. You’ll be frustrated, but it will never take you to the point where you need to quit in anger. It’s awesome that the game offers you that challenge, and you’ll be entranced by just bettering your gaming skills to complete the game. Plus, you’ll feel amazing on other playthroughs when you are able to make it past a stage without dying!
Overall the game is just a good time. This is really understandable because it’s just Castlevania. Rusty as a whole does nothing to really reinvent the wheel. One thing I really wanted to do when I first started this review was to try to give Rusty her own identity, but I really can’t. The game has great presentation and old-fashioned retro action platforming. There are some issues with the game, like the difficulty could be a turn-off to some, the sometimes jerky animations, and some stages tend to be too long but overall this is a really great experience! If you want to play this game don’t worry about the language barrier either because the game is perfectly playable without knowing any Japanese.
So with all that I’m very comfortable giving Rusty four solid stars. This game would fit comfortably on any obscure game collector’s shelf. Rusty is just one of those games I find myself going back to every now and then when I want to play something but can’t come to a conclusion of what to play. I think you would agree, too, if you’re an old school Castlevania fan!
Review copy purchased by the author.
action platformerC-labImport gameNECPC-9800Rustythrowback thursday