What is interesting about Demon’s Crest – a 1994 Super Nintendo release from Capcom – is that it is a spin-off from the Ghosts ‘N Goblins series.
Eagle-eyed gamers will recognise the red-skinned, demonic lead character – called Firebrand – as an enemy from the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins arcade game. In fact: Demon’s Crest is actually the third game featuring Firebrand, after Gargoyle’s Quest (Game Boy), and Gargoyle’s Quest II (NES).
One major difference to previous games is that Firebrand can now fly continuously, rather than having limited time in the air. And, unless he’s hit by an enemy or one of their projectiles, he’ll continue to flap his wings and stay in the air until you press the jump button again, in which case he’ll drop down until you either hit the ground (or a wall – he can still climb on walls) or press jump again (in which case he’ll hover again). This creates an interesting gameplay mechanic where you can hover at different heights, lower than your initial jump. It’s hard to explain, but easy to understand when you’re playing the game. It’s also not that easy to master either, which makes some parts of the game very tricky, or very easy, depending on your ability with the flying and jumping.
Another major difference between Demon’s Crest and the previous two games is that there are no overhead exploration sections (the sections in the previous games where you talked to other demons). In Demon’s Crest they’ve been replaced by a ‘mode 7’ flying section, where Firebrand flies around and lands on different landscape features to access all the different stages. What is interesting about this is that you can access many of the different stages in the game by flying around and landing on different buildings. And if you die attempting a stage a menu pops-ups allowing you to retry, or try a different stage, which is an excellent feature because it means that you’re not stuck on a difficult stage in a linear game. You can at least attempt different stages at your leisure. There are also a few hidden alternative paths through the game, if you know where to go.
A third major difference in this game is that you can change into different types of gargoyle as the game progresses – by beating bosses and collecting the crests that they drop. Each different gargoyle has different abilities and using them at the right time can either make a particular level easier, or even open up hidden paths through the game. The ‘ground’ gargoyle, for example, can dash and use a shoulder barge to smash large objects or even knock them out of the way to reveal a hidden door. The ‘air’ gargoyle can move upwards when flying, which is very useful in certain situations, and so on. Each different gargoyle also has a different spit fire type too. Switching between gargoyle types to open up new paths through the game, or beat certain bosses, becomes vital as you get further into the game. You can even re-visit levels that you’ve beaten previously to find hidden areas using your new gargoyle forms.
Whether you’ve played the first two games or not makes no difference – Demon’s Crest stands on its own as a Super Nintendo original. And it also stands on its own in terms of difficulty as well, because parts of the game are extremely tough to beat.
But the challenge is worth investigating, because this side-scrolling platform game features some wonderful graphics and neat gameplay mechanics. Just be warned: Demon’s Crest will have you tearing your hair out at times, unless you’re well-practised (or you resort to Action Replay codes and quicksaves).