Time for a trip back to 1990! In the wake of more popular NES games such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 3, and Dr. Mario (yes, two Mario games were important that year) -- not to mention the influence of the Sega Genesis on the market -- numerous lesser-publicized releases were pushed to the wayside. One of these games is Arkista's Ring, a pretty low-key game that I don't even remember seeing in stores or at my local video game rental centre. Published by the relatively unknown American Sammy (the American arm of just plain ol' Sammy), this game tried to wedge its way into mainstream eyes but ultimately failed. Of course, it didn't help that the game wasn't too interesting or innovative, either.
So the story of Arkista's Ring starts with... Arkista's Ring! What else did you expect? The Ring of Roy? Apparently, this ring keeps the Elven Kingdom bright and joyous somehow. But the evil Shogun decided that he wanted the ring for himself and stole it. So now the Elven Kingdom is gloomy and covered by a film of darkness. Who will save them? Only one warrior is suited for the task of getting that ring back: Christine, the elf girl! Fight, Christine, for everlasting peace in the Elven Kingdom!
Christine must travel through 125 stages of ghoulish monsters... well, okay, sometimes I can figure out what they are (the skeletons look like skeletons, but some monsters look like they could be any giant goons) and moderately annoying mazes. Actually, there are only 32 stages, but they are repeated until you get to Stage 125; only the difficulty level changes. That's a tad lazy, isn't it, especially for a game of this time period. Each stage requires you to defeat a certain number of foes (who may or may not respawn) before a key appears, which will allow you to open doors and get to the staircase or giant doorway out of the stage. You are only equipped with a bow and arrow to go on your killing spree, but along the way, enemies will drop something useful for you in small bags, many of which you can store and re-use later, such as the Fire Wand, Elf Mirror, and Ninja Stunner (which, as the name implies, stuns ninjas), as well as revitalizing health items and armor upgrades, most of which are applied immediately.
The overall fighting and movement system is annoying, to be honest. My biggest concern is that, in order to move around, you must take a step forward, which makes maneuvering in close quarters with monsters difficult. In games such as this, you should be able to turn without moving forward. Now you just end up walking into enemies. That hurts. Y'know what else hurts? Immediately getting shot at as soon as you cross the same path as an enemy with very little time to react (if any). That's just swell if I want a magical orb wedged in my buttocks. As well, there are certain enemies (perhaps I could consider them bosses) who can only be reasonably defeated if you have a special item on hand to improve your offensive power. Don't have it? Consider yourself dead. How fair is that? (Answer: not very.) All in all, I found myself getting hurt not because I stink as a player, but because the game's mechanics forced me to stink.
The graphics in this game feel a bit ancient for the time. They have a similar top-down point of view as older games like The Legend of Zelda and Ys. They're not horrible, but they are nothing to write home about, and they certainly would feel underwhelming compared to some of the other releases at the time. The same can be said for the music and sound. Certainly the sound effects are generic, and most of the soundtrack comes off feeling the same way. Whether there was serious love poured into this project or not, it's hard to decipher. However, I have to say that overall, Arkista's Ring did not strike me as anything more than a mediocre action-puzzler that was simply there to make a bit of money for the company. With pretty much the entire game suffering from generic content, it's no wonder it fell flat on its face against the other major contenders. So if you want to have this game in your library, that's fine; it can bring some fun to the table for a little while. Just don't expect it to have a lasting effect on you.