This game is not what you think. Underneath the mediocre graphics and barely existent story, there’s a classic game just begging to be played. Quite literally in fact, as Raphael is a port of the ASCII published MSX game; Castle Excellent. And depending on your priorities, it might even be worth your money.
The first step towards enjoying Raphael is realizing that the graphics are superfluous. They represent what they mean to represent, and that’s about all you need. The backgrounds are nice enough, and the intro cinema has some interesting art, but otherwise the game is extremely low-level detail. The story is a basic ‘save the princess’ affair, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. The puzzles are what make this game. Our hero must make his way through the castle room by room, picking up keys and points along the way. It’s all quite basic, but when elevators, moving platforms, enemies and barrels are added to the mix, some rather clever situations are created.
You could call Raphael a ‘platforming puzzler’ if you’d like. Precision jumping is just as necessary as a weighty brain here. Killing enemies is entirely optional most of the time, but is difficult enough to be fun. One gripe here; you receive no points for killing the baddies. It’s the hardest thing you can do in the game, and no points! The game action is actually good enough to become addictive once you get used to the floaty control. Raphael jumps like Princess Peach when you hold the button down. Innovative room design and enemy configurations make for a decent play.
But there’s another problem. Do you want to pay $30 for a slightly updated MSX game? The answer is a solid “maybe”. The music is very nice, perhaps the best technical feature of the game. T3 deals rather well with the SDK problem by lowering one channel of music when certain sound effects occur. But this is not reason enough for you to purchase the game, I don’t think. No, you’ve got to love Castle Excellent. I recommend that you download the rom and play it on your MSX emulator for GP32. This should give you a very good idea of what you’re in for.
<Comparison shots from Castle Excellent and Raphael, borrowed from GPzigi.>
The game has a few other problems. If you save while in a water-filled room (water kills you), and then later load that data, you lose one life before being able to continue. Very odd. Another missing item: an in-game load feature. You’ll die and reset so many times that it may get a big frustrating. And it would be nice if they had included the ‘dagger’ feature of the NES version. But that probably didn’t come with the license. Assuming they purchased one at all.
The bottom line is that this should have been a $10 Mega GP title. It’s an enjoyable way to spend four-or-so hours, but really the price is a bit exorbitant considering. Raphael shows all the signs of an experiment by T3. They’re testing the waters with a low-risk, low-investment title. But I can’t help but think they’d have had more success with a Bobo game or Jjang perhaps. Buy it if you love the original.