Late in a system’s life, developers tend to put out some of the best games for that system, utilizing every trick they learned on their previous work. Such was clearly not the case when Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past early on in the life of the Super Nintendo. Widely regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, Sega had no clear answer to Nintendo’s 16-bit Zelda title for many years. Sega tried to one-up the Zelda formula, first through Landstalker and then later, through Beyond Oasis. Each game attempted their own spin on the Zelda format, but eventually, courtesy of Atlus, Sega finally had an answer to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Crusader of Centy, developed by Nex Entertainment, whom would eventually go on to work on Dino Crisis and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, is an unassuming Genesis title that does not attempt to evolve the Legend of Zelda format. Instead, Crusader of Centy copies it at every turn. Amazingly enough, this is not a bad thing, remember, this was a time when console exclusives were frequent and typically, a child only had one system in the house.
Crusader of Centy starts in typical JRPG fashion, with your hero turning 14, reporting to the king and starting his training in becoming a hero. Nothing seems to really stick out, until you progress and have your first boss encounter, against the Big Bad Wolf. How’s he attack you? By hitting himself in the head with a mallet and the stars, in true Looney Tune fashion, spiral out the impact to attack you. Yeah, all of a sudden, it becomes THAT sort of game. A few segments later, you get the ability to talk to animals! Except you lose the ability to speak with humans which is only a temporary condition, but by now, you’ve realized Crusader of Centy isn’t a straight Zelda homage.
Crusader of Centy is a light Zelda parody where everything is given a gloss of kid friendly, bright colored paint. Just as Nickelodeon cartoons of the era, Rocko’s Modern Life or Ren and Stimpy, would sneak adult references in past the stuff meant for kids, so too does Crusader of Centy amplify all the Legend of Zelda tropes to 11 and take them past the point of homage all the way around to parody. Of course, by ramping tropes up to 11, we get the standard “ice area, fire area, woods” etc., which are all made a little more interesting by the various animal companions joining your quest.
Yup, instead of fire wands and hook shots, you get Chilly the Penguin and Pieces the Caterpillar. Let me clarify, Chilly the ADORABLE Penguin and Pieces the NEARLY USELESS YOU UGLY PIECE OF CRAP Caterpillar, along with a few other, equally adorable animals. It just adds more to the experience when that item in your inventory is basically a Pokemon.
Sadly, Crusader of Centy was released in 1994, well after the heyday of the Genesis and just before the Playstation set the world on fire. Nowadays, almost no one remembers this well-crafted adventure, which is a shame. I’d much rather have had Crusader of Centy as part of the Ultimate Genesis Collection over Beyond Oasis, which is to me, incredibly overrated. That is a story for a different day. Perhaps even a Thursday.