The Krion Conquest is one of the most intriguingly unique games I've played, which is ironic because the only thing any reviewer ever says about it is that it is a Mega Man rip-off. Well, Krion Conquest was obviously based on the engine of Mega Man…but isn't that in and of itself pretty unique? A whole 8-Bit library could be filled with nothing but Super Mario Bros. and Contra rip-off platformers, but there are other games nobody ever borrowed from, so it's interesting to encounter one that uses similar mechanics. Remember Battle for Olympus, which was a gameplay copy of, of all things, the odd one out of the Zelda series, the side-scroller Zelda 2: the Adventure of Link? If you rip off something nobody ever rips off, that's an act of creativity in and of itself.
First things first: you play a female. In the eight-bit era. Wow.
I'm straining my brain and I can't think of any other game with a female playable character at the time, except maybe the bizarre "Athena." The main character, as seen in the gorgeous box art, is a foxy female witch.
The box art sold her as some curvaceous 1940's Betty Page type, which is odd because the actual game art shows her as some anime creature. This goes back to the days when Japanime seemed weird and unwelcome as opposed to being a selling point because it's "different" and "exotic," like French cinema.
Me, I've always been a red-blooded, meat-eating American, and if there's one thing I can't stand, it's the conventions of Japanese cartoons and video games, with androgynous heroes, talking rabbit sidekicks, and fifteen year old, flat-assed schoolgirls. So the way I see it, bring on Witch Betty Page!
The difference between Krion Conquest and Mega Man is like the difference between teaching someone to drive and getting hit by a car. The same ingredients are there in both cases (a car, wheels, a road, etc.) but they're all doing something totally different.
In Krion Conquest, unlike Mega Man, you begin play with all your weapons. What does that mean? If you only take away one thing from this review it is this: the game is not a traditional platformer like Mega Man or Super Mario where you run, dodge jump and shoot, but rather, you have to keep your thinking cap on because the game actively requires you to think about how to use your different powers.
That is why I find Krion Conquest so interesting: you don't just run and jump, but you have to actively use your brain and defeat enemies like a puzzle game. No critics of the game ever mention this, which is what prompted me to write this review: one of the most unique things about this gameplay go totally unmentioned. In this regard it's a predecessor of thinking games like Portal.
I wish more games like The Krion Conquest had been made: action games that aren't just spaceship-shoot-laser but also require some mental adroitness.
Take for instance this scene. There's an enemy in a pit up there you can't jump and reach, but he's quite capable of dropping bombs on you below. How do you get him? You have to perform a bit of billiard-ball trigonometry with a bouncing weapon, which works not unlike Captain America's rebounding shield.
There are other occasions where you have to cross distance on a broomstick, one of your many powers. A lot of critics of the game have slammed it because the control on the broomstick is so bad, you're better of setting the controller down and making it move by shouting bad language at your Nintendo. Well, yeah! The control on the broomstick is supposed to be hard, because that's part of the point of the broomstick, as a part of the puzzle-solving element of the game: you're supposed to know where to go in advance and place your broomstick in the perfect spot.
The point of this game is patience and using the right power at the right time. To that end, you approach most screens in a place of safety so you can look over the obstacles and come up with a strategy. Take for instance, this scenario here. This enemy shoots right at you. You should have the Shield Barrier charged immediately, so the instant you land you can have it charged, then shoot behind the barrier in total safety.
When it comes to control, Krion Conquest is something of an improvement over Mega Man in one crucial respect: you can shoot up. This isn't a little thing. Enemies that are impossible in the Mega Man games, like the diving helicopter-guys in the Cut Man stage, are easily dispatched here because you can shoot up.
In fairness, there are some powers that just don't come up at all. The Freeze ability requires you to charge the weapon up, and only freezes the enemy in place. There is literally no scenario in the game where this comes in handy. Likewise, the Fire power is a "kill everything on screen" ability, which has the terrible side effect of stealing a third of your life. In a grueling Mega Man style game where every level is an endurance test, this is never a smart idea.
I hear Krion Conquest had an even more unique and un-Mega Man-esque trait that was ultimately taken out of the American version of the game, a series of cutscenes in between levels. I would have loved to see this and I'm sorry it was removed! For one thing, while cutscenes are common today, this was absolutely unheard of in the 8-Bit era outside of the Ninja Gaiden games, where the cut scenes between levels turned the game into a big story. I understand the foreign versions of the game have cutscenes and I would very much like to see them restored to the game at some future date.
From what little we see, the game is set in the astounding futuristic year 1999. Whoa! Those were heady days, back in 1999, what with the the Euro, Woodstock '99, Spongebob Squarepants...though with the boy bands, Pokemon craze, and Star Wars: Episode I, weren't things on earth bad enough without robot invaders?
All in all, Krion Conquest and Mega Man are similar in the sense that all human beings are similar…what is important and what ultimately truly matters are the unique, distinctive differences.