Firebrand reigns supreme in ghoulish, ghostly, fiendish romp
Capcom is known for its globally renowned roster of video game characters. From Mega Man to Nemesis, these characters have cemented their legacy. Firebrand, the red demon of death that is on that renowned roster, made his bones and shows up to show out in Capcom’s Demon’s Crest (no, not the devil’s toothpaste).
In Demon’s Crest, you take the role of the fire-breathing, head-butting hero Firebrand through six stages as he tries to recover magical crests, which are artifacts with control of the elements and time. According to Demon’s Crest legend, when these items fell into the demon world, a civil war erupted with Firebrand as the victor claiming the crests of Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Time. Firebrand fought another demon named Somulo, who held the crest of Heaven, and secured a victory over the rival demon. However, another demon named Phalanx attacked Firebrand while he had low health, taking possession of all the crests. This allowed Phalanx to summon another crest that controls infinity. While Firebrand recovered, he was imprisoned in an arena guarded by the revived Somulo. After defeating Somulo, Firebrand begins his quest for vengeance and recovery of his well-earned spoils of war.
Gameplay is a combination of platforming and Japanese RPGs mixed with elements from Castlevania and Metroid. Firebrand has the usual platforming moves such as running, and jumping, but can climb walls, temporarily float, and launch projectile attacks with the help of the Fire crest. Firebrand can pick up various powerups from fallen enemies to increase health and attacks in addition to collecting coins to purchase for various items found in shops throughout the demon realm. I also love that Firebrand has some allies: Phorapa, a demon who sell potions with various abilities; Malwous, a demon that tells Firebrand the secrets of talismans found from the human realm; and, Morack, who sells magic spells to boost Firebrand’s arsenal.
The controls are simple, yet require some nuance to remember all of Firebrand’s abilities. The fact that Capcom decided to take a fresh approach on the platforming instead of making another Ghosts n’ Ghosts was a wise choice to make here. The music fits the theme of each stage and maintains the theme of the stage well. And much like the music, the graphics also won me over for the colors and artistry, especially when played on a modern television.
While I love most parts of Demon’s Crest, there are some not-so-good nitpicks to make. Certain stages where perfect timing is needed to land on floating platforms across killer obstacles are annoying. The precision isn’t there and it’s frustrating to attempt it multiple times. Another strike comes when you play the bonus game. You must time your head-butting attack against demon skulls in a Whack-a-Mole-style game with a time limit. Considering that if you lose, you also lose money, this is a problem with the in-game economy. It makes you not want to play the mini-game at all. I also had issues with the Mode 7 view in Demon’s Crest. Although awesome most of the time you use it in navigating the demon realm, it weirdly affects your vision if you fly around for a prolonged time.
Demon’s Crest comes from Capcom’s attempt to do something new and exciting. Ushering in a new era of platforming and hop ‘n bop action was Capcom’s agenda and it paid off. In the case of Demon’s Crest, they understood the assignment and passed.