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When Sega took on Zelda, they really went for the jugular

Mama Robotnik

Gaming Scholar
Member
Oct 27, 2017
405
This is the seventh piece in Mama Robotnik's Sega Obscura ResetEra Series:

Sega Obscura 1 - The Sega Saturn was the best console EVER for…
Sega Obscura 2 - Sonic 1 (8-bit) is a better game than Sonic 1 (16-bit)
Sega Obscura 3 - The first "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" released hates Sonic, and hates us all
Sega Obscura 4 - The Eleven SEGA "Zeldas"
Sega Obscura 5 -
The extraordinary Sega game that played the player
Sega Obscura 6 - The ambitious Sonic game from 2009 that you will never, ever get to play
Sega Obscura 7 - When Sega took on Zelda, they really went for the jugular

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There was one game mentioned in my earlier article ("The Eleven Sega Zeldas") that absolutely warranted further exploration. That game is Crusader of Centy (US) / Soleil (EU) / Ragnacenty (JP), which is fascinating for a multitude of reasons.



Context

“That was dangerous. That man is a Hero, so you have to be careful.”

Crusader of Centy – by Nextech and Sega – was released in 1994, during the height of the 16-bit console war. It scored well in reviews, but information is scant as to how well it was marketed or how well it actually sold.

Since its release, the game has never been mentioned by Sega again. No re-releases, no ports, no compilations, and no acknowledgement that the title ever existed.

For those who were fortunate enough to play the game, Sega’s aloofness to the title seems utterly incomprehensible. Crusader of Centy is nothing less that Sega’s magnum opus in the Action RPG genre.

“See those ruins? Well, I don't know much about them, but they used to belong to the humans. They probably had a war. They like fighting with each other, don't they?”

The company took on Zelda with this title. They went on the attack, seeking to not only rival Nintendo’s flagship adventure franchise, but to undermine Nintendo’s narrative tropes and question moral aspects of the Zelda franchise as a whole. They sought to critique the integrity of Zelda, with a critical challenge far more pointed, far harsher, than any “Sega Does What Nintendon’t” marketing slogan could ever be.

This will hopefully become clearer as the article progresses.


The Game



Sega weren’t out to ape Zelda, they were out to better it. It is up to the player, of course, to decide whether they succeeded.

Crusader of Centy is a stunning achievement. It is visually and audibly vibrant, the mechanics are sound, and every aspect is fluid in execution. While the Zelda influence is clear, Sega took this established blueprint and sought to focus on aspects less-developed in Nintendo’s own efforts.



The game is designed around agile mobility. Players leap across stormy seas and fiery chasms, and bound into gales and typhoons to be propelled across vast distances. Floors can be fragile, and the player quickly learns the necessity of bouncing and sprinting. There’s verticality to the game – and while this involves avoiding pits and drops – the mobility options and capabilities of the character are so well-developed, that chasms spanning entire screens and are easily navigable.

This mobility also applies to swordplay – the sword can be thrown, and possessed with magic to become a remote-control swirling blade with its own camera focus. The player can guide this weapon battle against terrified foes, to scout the pathway ahead, and to retrieve items and secrets in places the player cannot themselves get to.



The power-up system is inspired.

There are sixteen creatures in the world that offer to join your party. Each can be equipped to grant a range of powers including the abilities to: rebound your sword off walls, increase your running speed, charge your weapons with ice and fire, enemy paralysis, crossing physical barriers and more. These companions provide considerable options for combat, exploration and advancement.

Up to two companions can be enabled at any one time (with the rest dormant in the menu system), and the chosen two will react to each other and combine their abilities, creating powers that the game does not officially document. Some of these are phenomenal, the player rewarded substantially for experimenting with the companion system.

Only some of the animal companions are mandatory, others are found through optional sidequests, upon discovery of secrets, or through a hiring mechanism where the player can rent out their abilities for a challenging adventure.

This system is extremely well realised, and gives a depth of gameplay approaches akin to a Metroidvania.



Crusader of Centy also encourages environmental manipulation, in which the player should seek out opportunities to transform the landscape for their own advantage. From diverting a lava current through the heart of a forest, to creating a waterfall to slide down a mountain, these irreversible changes permanently alter the world.


The World

“You are the one that is going to change the world for better or for worse. Soon there will be a change in yourself.”

The world of Centy is vast. While the Zelda-conventions hold solid (Forest, lava mountain, frozen castle, swamps, palaces, deserts, etc), there are also new environmental ideas at play. Throughout the journey, the player will travel through the fleshy body of a gargantuan living mountain, leap through a surreal realm of beanstalks and clouds, and battle avatars of the five senses in a twilight, inter-dimensional nexus.



As the game progresses, these environments will undergo significant changes as the narrative warrants – first in terms of freak weather phenomenon (an enchanted snow engulfs the realms), and then in terms of time-travel.



Centy does not link together in the same way that Hyrule does – and employs an overworld map rather than having every locale connected like a jigsaw. While this may feel less immersive for some, in practice it works well.


The Story

This is where things get really, really interesting. This is where an excellent Zelda rival becomes something truly unique. Crusader of Centy relentlessly attacks the underlying assumptions of Zelda. From the prophesised hero, trust in divine guidance, the rescuing of princess, and the monstrousness of monsters, the game seeks to challenge the morality of the genre.



Here is the short, short version of the story:

1.You play a boy in a village on his birthday. As part of a coming of age ceremony, in the traditions of various legendary heroes, you are given a tunic and sword.

2. You are tasked to train, and defend your civilisation from the monsters.

3. You adventure through the world, discovering new locations, battling monsters, and reaching fantastical places.

4. You eventually time travel back to various moments in the past, to understand the secret history of your world.

5. In the end, you battle a magical adversary to save the world from the monsters. THE END.

A typical genre offering, seemingly. Let’s dig a little deeper, and try to understand how on earth Sega got this past the censors.


1.You play a boy in a village on his birthday. As part of a coming of age ceremony, in the traditions of various legendary heroes, you are given a tunic and sword.

“Young man, take your sword! Now is the time to fight.”

The game starts off in a Zelda-esque town, as the player reaches their birthday and is granted by-tradition a sword and tunic – all typical genre fare. We quickly learn that there are many heroes who have defended the town from monsters – they are immortalised in legend and idolised as statues.
“I got a bit too excited, but now I'm under control... Let's hunt the monster!”

Through time travel and other narrative tools, we learn that these “heroes” were mostly righteous, indoctrinated murderers, taught by wisemen and deluded kings to kill anything different on sight. They massacred thousands of innocent, sentient creatures – the game makes explicit that these brigands have killed families and children because they were not human enough.
The tradition in which the player is given a sword and tunic, is a tradition of blood.


2. You are tasked to train, and defend your civilisation from the monsters.

“Why do you eliminate us? Is this land for humans only?”

In the world of Centy, there is the human race, and there are a range of different creatures all labelled as “monsters”. All are put to the sword by the human populace.

Time-travel shows us that in the recent past, the monsters sent a peace delegation to the colourful, happy castle town. They were chased into a church by the hateful residents, who then called for their soldiers.
“Move away! I heard a report that there is a monster inside this church!”

The Royal Guard entered the church and executed the creatures, who had been knelt down before the altar, praying for redemption.

The backstory of the world is explored late-game – in a primordial era, a dimensional event merged two disparate worlds, the human realm and the plane of the “monsters”. The primitive humans attacked the monsters where they could find them, and the monsters learned to attack the humans on sight, out of self-preservation.

“Humans will attack anyone, just for being a monster. Be careful.”
This is explored during a chapter in which the player character is transformed into a “monster” – a gelatinous orb – and released into a forest.



The human “heroes” chase you relentlessly, seeking your death as they have been indoctrinated to do so. You take refuge with a family unit of monsters who are terrified, the mother of the family distraught that the humans will kill her children. It is left ambiguous as to whether any of this family survived.

“And what really is "light"? The opposite of darkness? Just like the stars in the sky, so full of mysteries...”

The player character himself is indoctrinated, and not exempt from this gruesome theatre. In the late-game, he kills a creature known as the Monster Mother. The pacifist entity – who has committed no crimes or slights - pleads for reason, and then for its own survival, as the Crusader of Centy strikes a sword through her heart.

There is a reason, the title refers to you as a “Crusader”, with all the baggage that brings.


3. You adventure through the world, discovering new locations, battling monsters, and reaching fantastical places.

“Come to know the depth of your sin.”

The mid-game involves you invading a Judeo-Christian themed heaven to get to God before the alpha monster does. You climb the literal Tower of Babel and beyond to reach a paradise afterlife. The alpha monster seeks an audience with God in order to beg for help against the human race. The player kills the monster before God, ensuring that its plea is never heard.



God is outraged. Your act of violence in His sight causes Him to condemn the entire human race, and He returns you to the planet, assured that His wrath is coming.

“Now is the time to end the long history. The laws of nature shall exist no more and the world of Centy shall come to an end.”

Weather systems are deranged as the apocalypse gets underway and the human race is destined for extinction. Well done, player. You’ve just ensured the end of the world by provoking God.


4. You eventually time travel back to various moments in the past, to understand the secret history of your world.

“I was captured to work as a slave.”

From the apocalyptic storm, a time-travelling tornado appears. This is not from God, but an unseen being apparently far more powerful. The player character uses this phenomenon to go back to various points in the past, to find a way to prevent the end of the world.



We learn from this that the human race deserves its fate. We see ramshackle huts and slums near to a partly-constructed temple, with an implication that slaves built all of the dungeons. We witness the persecution and execution of suspected monster-sympathisers. We see the horrific actions of an brutal, irredeemable species.

“People who are tried as monsters are being locked away. I have a feeling that they have already been executed.”

The player character travels back in time to his own village, and indirectly helps kill some peaceful monsters – this causes him to inspire the very tradition that led to his receivership of a sword and tunic at the start of the game.


5. In the end, you battle a magical adversary to save the world from the monsters. THE END.

“If we...die...where will we end up...?”



Finally accepting that the human race and monsters can never coexist, the player travels back to the beginnings of history, at the point where the human dimension and monster dimension merged. He finds the young Monster Mother, and terrifies the creature by showing her a part of her future corpse.

“One day, there was a change in the world. 'Let there be light!' With that voice as a signal, light began to fill this world. Countless monsters died who had no resistance to the light.”



The final battle is between the player, and the mysterious dimensional energies. By destabilising this conduit, the merger of realms is aborted, and the world of humans and world of monsters separate into parallel universes.

“Even if you defeat me you will not be able to mend people's hearts.”

In the end, you are returned to your village, having erased the entirety of history, including the wrath of God. Your efforts have created a world where the human race has been contained, for with no one to persecute and murder, they will live in relative stability. With no common enemy, it is ambiguous how long it will be until the human race turns on itself.

The monsters however, have finally been rescued from the evil, despicable human race.


Questions

“You've seen a sad dream. But because there is an end, you know there must be a new beginning. It is full of life here. Whenever one dies, another is born.”

How did this get released without controversy?

You invade heaven to shed blood before (a very Judeo-Christian) God, who then becomes the antagonist.

The human race is a vile, toxic mass, which uses the concepts of heroism and tradition to recontextualise indoctrinated bloodlust.

You are a murderer, who kills sentient, pacifist creatures some of whom plead for their lives.

Dungeons and temples – those dependable genre staples – are the products of suffering and slavery. Your fun was built in stone and blood.



With Crusader of Centy, Sega didn’t just seek to challenge the success of Zelda, they sought to deconstruct it. When you were last in Hyrule, did all the monsters deserve your sword? The celebrated temples and dungeons, were they worth the lives they cost? Are you really the hero? Is Link violent because he chooses to be, or because an old man in a cave has told him to be?


In Conclusion

“You must control your future. Though it may be difficult, you mustn't give up.”

Crusader of Centy is an incredible game. In terms of the overall package – from fast and fluid gameplay, brilliant audio and visuals, and deeply provocative story – the whole offering had more of a lasting impact on me than Nintendo’s own masterpiece, A Link to the Past. I can appreciate, however, that this might be a minority view.



This magnificent, bold title should have been the first in a spectacular franchise. That it received no sequels, no continuation, is confounding.

That the title has never been re-released, ported, bundled or returned to gamers in any form is beyond belief. This most intriguing Sega gem, deserves to be experienced by more.
 
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OmegaDL50

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,121
Philadelphia, PA
Crusader of Centy is excellent.

Another great Zelda inspired game by Ancient / Sega was Beyond Oasis and it's sequel Legend of Oasis.

I like the interaction of the different spirits to solve many of the games dungeons much in the fashion how each new tool you acquire in a Zelda game must also be used to solve puzzles in it's dungeons.

The combat and inventory management was a bit more RPG centric though, since the inclusion of consumable weapons.
 

low-G

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,463
Whoa uh I never even heard of this one before, but it looks incredible.

The Oasis series, Landstalker series... never heard of this!
 

Firima

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,744
I was a Nintendo kid growing up.

But I dislike A Link to the Past. Never liked it at all. Centy, though? This game impressed the hell out of me and I think of it as the better Zelda game, just like how Crystalis was the better NES Zelda. Great music, wonderful gameplay, a must-play if you claim to like the Genesis. No question about it.
 

grang

Member
Nov 13, 2017
3,201
Holy shit, that looks and sounds incredible. Is the only way to play this on a Genesis?
 
Oct 27, 2017
15,469
How come this game never comes up in the list of best gaming stories? It must've gone super under the radar. I'm disappointed it was never rereleased in any form
 

Laxoon

Member
Jan 24, 2018
1,009
When people talk about how great Link to the Past was I feel all that praise and adoration heaped upon it but for Centy.
That moment you get into the monster village blew my mind as a kid. I still think about it lol.
 

werezompire

Zeboyd Games
Verified
Oct 26, 2017
3,049
If they announce that this is making it into the Genesis Mini, I'm definitely buying one.
 

signal

Member
Oct 28, 2017
20,597
https://www.resetera.com/threads/what-are-the-chances-of-a-crusader-of-centy-soleil-remake.100192/

Fingers crossed baby. Probably my number 1 game when it comes to nostalgia ties. I wish people would discuss it more without being forced to mention Zelda though.


How come this game never comes up in the list of best gaming stories? It must've gone super under the radar. I'm disappointed it was never rereleased in any form
I've seen it mentioned recently more (maybe jokingly) because of people saying Undertale ripped this off lol.

1.You play a boy in a village on his birthday. As part of a coming of age ceremony, in the traditions of various legendary heroes, you are given a tunic and sword.
I don't recall being given a tunic :think:

Only some of the animal companions are mandatory, others are found through optional sidequests, upon discovery of secrets, or through a hiring mechanism where the player can rent out their abilities for a challenging adventure.
Which of the non-hires are optional?
 
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Oct 26, 2017
3,335
Fantastic game, also whenever I see threads like these it just reminds me of how kickass my Mega Drive collection was back then. It'd cost me a fortune to rebuy it now.
 

srtrestre

Member
Oct 25, 2017
10,122
Sega may have gone for the jugular with all those Zelda-likes, but Nintendo was like



BTW I've loved every single "issue" of your Sega Obscura series. This is the kind of content I expect from professional gaming sites but seldom get. Amazing work!
 

Aaronrules380

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
10,748
I'm sure the game is great in it's own right, but I think it's a bit odd to suggest Sega went for the jugular when pretty much nobody ever mentions this game anymore, whereas everyone know ALTTP. This of course isn't necessarily an indicator of actual quality, but it does make me wonder how much stuff like nostalgia might be playing in to the OPs opinion here. That said, it does look great and I'd certainly be willing to give it a shot if it was rereleased in a convenient way
 

Jojo Leir

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
609
That was a great read, your threads are a treasure. Do we know what Centy's staff went on to do after this?
 

julian

Member
Oct 27, 2017
6,134
I learned my lesson last thread. Not reading anything and spoiling it for myself!

I’ll just go on eBay and buy it for.....$400?!?!?!
 
Oct 26, 2017
3,335
I'm sure the game is great in it's own right, but I think it's a bit odd to suggest Sega went for the jugular when pretty much nobody ever mentions this game anymore, whereas everyone know ALTTP. This of course isn't necessarily an indicator of actual quality, but it does make me wonder how much stuff like nostalgia might be playing in to the OPs opinion here. That said, it does look great and I'd certainly be willing to give it a shot if it was rereleased in a convenient way
There are lots of games on less successful consoles that would be regarded as stone cold classics if the were released on the more successful ones. It's one thing that sets video games apart from other creative mediums, albums, books and films are never locked away on less successful formats.
 

Rotini Noodle

Member
Apr 3, 2018
463
Beautiful post. I'm always replaying this every few years on whichever device can run it. Took me the entire summer to beat it since I had no way of getting a guide (and no internet). I still have my copy, so I feel OK saying that it makes a wonderful icon on my Switch home screen.
 

Jeeves

Member
Nov 21, 2017
410
Thank you for placing this game firmly on my radar. Never heard of it before but it sounds incredible.
 

Aaronrules380

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
10,748
There are lots of games on less successful consoles that would be regarded as stone cold classics if the were released on the more successful ones. It's one thing that sets video games apart from other creative mediums, albums, books and films are never locked away on less successful formats.
I mean this is definitely true, but at the same time there are plenty of genesis titles that are well known and well regarded even today, and this is definitely not one of them for whatever reason. And while the SNES was way more popular worldwide, the genesis/mega drive wasn't really a flop either, especially if we're focusing on the west where the two platforms were neck and neck (The vast majority of the gap between the two platforms comes from Japanese sales)
 

1upmuffin

Community Resettler
Member
Oct 25, 2017
381
I haven't played this but it looks really neat! I'd like to give it a go sometime.
 

Rook

Member
Oct 30, 2017
79
Every post in this series is amazing, and this one is the best so far. Thank you for the outstanding content!
 

Virtua King

Member
Dec 29, 2017
2,071
Yeah, it's pretty great. I also can't believe how crazy expensive games like this and MUSHA have gotten over the years.
 

Matarick

Member
Nov 11, 2017
40
I can sense some similarities to the recent direction of Destiny 2: Forsaken and the pre release plot of Destiny. I just hope it gets re-released in an easy to access format.
 

Laxoon

Member
Jan 24, 2018
1,009
https://www.resetera.com/threads/what-are-the-chances-of-a-crusader-of-centy-soleil-remake.100192/

Fingers crossed baby. Probably my number 1 game when it comes to nostalgia ties. I wish people would discuss it more without being forced to mention Zelda though.
Unfortunately I feel like the only way I have a chance of getting friends to try it out is to mention Zelda.

That was a great read, your threads are a treasure. Do we know what Centy's staff went on to do after this?
Memory's kinda hazy but I think they went on to make a japanese only sega saturn game called Linkle Liver Story for the saturn which is kind of a spiritual successor to Centy and just got a english fan-translation a few months ago. They're still around as Nex Entertainment and I think the last thing they put out was the Bayonetta PS3 port. They had a game coming out called Killing Bites for the PS4 but it was cancelled.
 

Ultimadrago

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,823
Well, this certainly looks better than the other take on Zelda I hear all the time, Alundra, an awful boring action-adventure title with dash of platforming puzzle. There are few times I've been tricked into trying a "classic" title so hard. This at least looks promising by comparison though.
 

takufox

Member
Oct 27, 2017
149
Sega really snapped there. I really liked the competition between the two back then. I think It pushed both publishers to come out with some really great titles.
 

Baconmonk

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
4,730
All of these threads are fantastic. I've had a growing appreciation for Zelda-alikes recently, this gives me some new stuff to search for with my Mega SG.
 

JLP101

Member
Oct 25, 2017
964
Great work OP. Never even heard of this game. Makes you wonder how many games are out there that deserved to be preserved/re-sold.
 

Fularu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,045
I love this game so much that i had to get a japanese copy on top of my french one for the lovely art
 

Ryuelli

Member
Oct 26, 2017
4,596
Never heard of this game until now, but it looks beautiful. Would love to try it at some point should it ever get ported to something.
 

bionic77

Member
Oct 25, 2017
12,018
I can’t believe that I have never heard of this game.

Amazing write up by the OP. That’s the kind of article I would be glad to pay for in a magazine. I wish more people here would strive to write like him instead of the usual garbage of X is better than Y or here is a completely unoriginal hot take on why Z sucks.
 

Xero grimlock

Member
Dec 1, 2017
847
still own my original copy, but havent playednit since release, so i forgot about a lot of the story, and yeah im going to need to replay this.
 

duckroll

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,850
Singapore
I'm not sure making a game that failed to resonate with a wide enough audience and hence never getting a sequel, spinoff, or even a proper port to any future system, is really considered "going for the jugular". A more apt phrase to for this game is "You come at the king, you best not miss". Unfortunately for all their best intentions, the game did miss the audience and hence is largely forgotten until brought up again in threads like this that deal with obscure and forgotten games.

Sorry that the truth hurts, but Zelda takes no prisoners. This game is not bad though.