Today’s topic : Makaimura Gaiden or as it’s known in the west, Gargoyle’s Quest.
Gargoyle’s Quest was a spin-off series to Makaimura(Demon Village), Ghosts’n’Goblins in the west, with the gargoyle Firebrand being the main character of the series. The Gargoyle’s Quest series was developed by Capcom, Fujiwara Tokuro’s team consisting of himself as producer and director in some of the games and people who worked on the Ghosts’n’Goblins and Mega Man series, both being Fujiwara’s creations though the later turned to be Megaman’s second daddy’s proud child…you might know him. He is called Inafune Keiji. The series was produced and published by Capcom. The first game came out in 1990 for the Game Boy and was later re-released in 2011 for the Nintendo Virtual Console, the second game came out in 1992 for the NES and was later ported to the Game Boy Colour in 1993 and the final game came out in 1994 for the SNES.
The first game
The first game was a platformer, like Mega Man was, as Fujiwara Tokuro presumably wanted the spin-off of Ghosts’n’Goblins to be less hectic and hard but more challenging and justly difficult. Thus he went back to the Mega Man model but decided to tweak it enough to be different. Gargoyle’s Quest set some elements that would become staples in later games as well : first, the hero of the series, a Red Arremer(a demon from the Ghosts’n’Goblins series that looks like a Gargoyle) called Firebrand, has the abilities to cling unto walls with his claws, spits fireballs as his means of attack, is able to glide for a short period of time and he can gain powers as well as upgrade existing ones. This made him seem similar to Mega Man, but the upgrade angle and the fact that the games would go on to feature overworlds, towns, villages, stages that can be selected from the overworld, random encounters and shops would give the series an RPG element that made it unique these days. Apart from some ports of Ys on the NES and later the SNES, no one had that kind of…A-RPG Platformer mix…unless they had PC engines to play Dragon Slayer.
Then the second game came out
The second game was a major improvement over the first and the system jump made it evident. Now with colour, many more animations and a much wider field of vision, the stages became far more complex than before and they even started having some great ideas to avoid staleness, like having a room full of mirrors, almost devoid of enemies and only a boss at the end. As far as the story went, it was a prequel to the first game. While the first game was just Firebrand’s adventure and being named the Red Blaze after a prophecy about a red demon killing the ultimate final boss of the game, thus earning the right to the title. This time, Firebrand is a young and noble warrior-in-training when suddenly, the Ghoul Realm erupts from unrest and Firebrand goes to check it out…and that’s it.
The second game carried the staples of the first to a logical next level but at a price. This time around, it was more difficult, platforming required much more complex maneuvres, oftentimes making the players legitimately furious due to them being outright really, really hard to do…mostly due to the precision analysis the NES had…which led to a final but evident, hardware problem. The series’ titles were all benchmark titles for each console, with the exception of the Game Boy Colour port of the second…didn’t help due to the fact that it was a bit of a medium quality port, thus each of the games tried and in most cases did, push the hardware to it’s utmost limits for a price : cartridge memory and speed. The first did not suffer much from neither, but from the second and onward, problems became more evident. The second game had some difficulty spikes that one could say were a fault of the game being unpolished…but one can only do so much with such limited cartridge memory on their hands. The graphics and the level design took way too much more space than expected and sometimes…that leaves something out due to lack of space. That also led to some slwodowns when the battles where really hectic, like with the final boss having projectiles fly everywhere and platforms etc.
And finally…the Demon’s Crest
The third game was suppossed to be the pinacle of the series and the utmost flexing of the limits of the SNES / Super Famicom hardware. And it was! Demon’s Crest was a beautiful looking game, with a unverse and world filled to the brim with excellent visuals and it was not just the backgrounds, but the enemies and bosses as well. Firebrand, being the Red Blaze and an adept warrior now lost his ability to upgrade his wing power due to him having trained for that, leading to unlimited gliding power. But due to the game’s upgrade system and Gargoyle Form switching, Firebrand’s arsenal was something Samus Aran and the Mega Mans(It’s a title, it doesn’t have a normal plural form) would rival…at least during their SNES reign. Firebrand now could harness the magical power of Magic Scroll and buy spells to use, have vials for potions ready, gain powers throught the power of Crests that allow him to transform to other Gargoyles, with the final Gargoyle being the penultimate transformation of Firebrand, combining all the strenghts of the previous Gargoyles…kinda like the Ultimate Armours of Mega Man X. The game also had a cute, early attempt at a New Game+ and even a detailed stage design, featuring multiple ways to complete, with each way being revealed with a new power or even a new Gargoyle transformation.
The game had it’s share of problems again, due to the same reasons as the previous two : hardware limitations. This time the slowdown was more evident and even seemed to be more hurtful than helpful compared to last time, where it could be exploited in some manner. Also, the bosses and the difficulty could be… sequence-broken and the hidden items were way too hidden at times.
Despite that, all these games are only just an inch from being classics, equal in quality to the SNES classics. The games are really good and it’s baffling that Capcom didn’t attempt to remake this series when Ghosts’n’Goblins had a remake, Goku Makaimura / Ultimate Ghosts’n’Goblins and even had the creator, Fujiwara Tokuro returned for the game and the game even had another release in Japan as Goku Makaimura Kai in 2007. Not to mention that in Japan the re-releases of Ghosts’n’Goblins even had other knights of the Round Table as side characters, like how Strider had a “Hien mode”.
Firebrand may not have received the honours that his rival, King Arthur has received from Capcom but he has been featured in many games, either as cameos or even playable characters and has been a fan favourite. Also, with Capcom doing all those franchise revivals from time to time with Bionic Commando and now with Strider, they could…remake the first game and make it this…2.5D modern “retro” look and have a complete remake of Gargoyle’s Quest II, since the whole “hardware problems” don’t bother the players as much as Demon’s Crest. Finally, before moving with new games and new styles for the series, Demon’s Crest should receive…some kind of “Demon’s Crest : The Fixed Edition” kind of thing. It sshould be digital and just have slightly updated graphics to match the HD output of the more modern consoles[just think updated colours and smoother wide screen pixels / sprites] while Capcom would have little work to do on fixing the slowdowns, fixing the difficulty so it can’t be sequence-broken and it’s done. Easy money, right there. I’ll be waiting for that, seeing how things have gone lately.