Over time on VC&G, I'd like to introduce vintage gamers to obscure, overlooked or never released in North America games that are worth playing. And unless you live in Asia, you've probably never played Moon Crystal, as I believe it was only released in Japan. It's a shame this title didn't come to the US — it's a grade-A quality game, with incredible gameplay, graphics, and animations. The only beef I have with the gameplay is that it takes a long time for your character to turn around (a lot longer than the instant 180 in most games), and that takes a lot of getting used to. All of the monsters and the main character have very fluid animations, with more frames per movement than I think I've ever seen in a NES game. Moon Crystal also has a great story-telling intro and detailed, animated, and colorful cinematic cut-scenes between stages (ala Ninja Gaiden).
I haven't played much past the third stage yet, but I'm looking forward to the rest of the game. So far the difficulty level hasn't been too hard. The style of gameplay is pretty typical action platformer, where you jump around and stab enemies with your sword. You can also get power ups over time to become stronger, which is nice. The main character has a really neat ability taken straight from Prince of Persia — the edge grab. You can jump up to a platform that's too high for you to jump to conventionally by pressing up on the control pad while jumping. Your character can then grab onto the nearest ledge and pull himself up. This comes in handy as a last-second save: if you underestimate your jumps over an open abyss, you can hold down up and grab on to the side of the edge before you fall in.
Moon Crystal is one of the best Famicom games never released in the US. But don't take my word for it — try it out! Unless you can find the original cart for the Famicom and have a means to play it, you'll probably have to stick with the emulator route. But where can you get the game? I guess you'll just have to find it yourself. But once you do, it's definitely worth a play.
Here are some more Moon Crystal screenshots: