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Review

Review: Crystar

Furyu have been invol­ved with some inte­res­ting games over the years, but many of them end up fai­ling to turn their uni­que con­cepts into a fun expe­ri­ence. Crystar unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly fol­lows this trend, doing litt­le to build upon its base pre­mi­se while also having some of the dul­lest game­play we’ve ever seen in an action RPG.

After sud­den­ly being drag­ged into a stran­ge world and with no recollec­tion of how she ended up the­re, Rei Hata­da soon dis­co­vers that her sis­ter Mirai was also taken. Pro­mi­sing to pro­tect her sis­ter, they quick­ly beco­me sepa­ra­ted after a mons­ter attacks the pair. Rei’s resol­ve to save her sis­ter mani­fests in an new power that she can use to fight the mons­ters that inha­bit this world. Her new power ends up back­firing though, causing her to stab Mirai once they reu­ni­te, sepa­ra­ting the sis­ters once again. In her grief, 2 demons appe­ar to offer Rei a deal: Make a con­tract with them and hunt down the Reven­ants that prey on human souls. Do this, while collec­ting enough Idea crystals along the way, and she can be reu­ni­ted with her sis­ter in the real world. Rei agrees, beco­m­ing an Exe­cu­tor for the demons, defea­ting Reven­ants in Pur­gato­ry, mee­ting others who have made deals with the demons and fin­ding out the truth about their sud­den appearan­ce in this world.

Initi­al impres­si­ons of Crystar are rather posi­ti­ve, as it sets up the main character’s moti­va­ti­on and the stran­ge world of Pur­gato­ry. It has a dream­li­ke feel to it, adding to the sen­se of mys­te­ry ear­ly on. The sce­ne whe­re Rei attacks her sis­ter after losing con­trol does a good job of making you sym­pa­thise with her, and for the first hour or so it’s not hard to be drawn into the sto­ry the game wants to tell. Howe­ver, it doesn’t take long though for your inte­rest to be repla­ced with a fee­ling of disap­point­ment. Every plot point that fol­lows the ope­ning of the game is eit­her incredi­b­ly pre­dic­ta­ble or poor­ly done, making for a sto­ry that has no sur­pri­ses or any way to keep your inte­rest.

For the ent­i­re sto­ry, the­re are only a hand­ful of named cha­rac­ters, mea­ning that whenever someo­ne is men­tio­ned by name it’s obvious that they will be important in some way. Not­hing too unusu­al, but the way Crystar fores­ha­dows events is far too hea­vy-han­ded. As an ear­ly examp­le, Rei deci­des to check a sin­gle news arti­cle in the real world, and unsur­pri­sin­gly someo­ne rela­ted to it shows up right in the next chap­ter. The demon twins are sus­pi­cious, so of cour­se the game spends far too much time focu­sing on this, remo­ving any sen­se of mys­te­ry that could have been crea­ted by lea­ving it more ambi­guous. It’s a shame, becau­se at its core this is sup­po­sed to be a game about dealing with tra­gic events and the emo­ti­ons that you feel from them. The set­up is the­re to at least make the cha­rac­ters feel human, espe­ci­al­ly Rei who has alrea­dy had to deal with the death of her par­ents befo­re the events of the game. Crystar never tri­es to spend enough time buil­ding on its cha­rac­ters though, giving them only the ligh­test of back­sto­ries befo­re moving onto the next pre­dic­ta­ble plot point.

At least the sto­ry had some poten­ti­al, even if it doesn’t go any­whe­re, but the action game­play is very unin­spi­red and incredi­b­ly repe­ti­ti­ve. Your main light attack com­bo is what you’ll be using for most of the game. It’s fast, even for the slo­west of the 4 play­a­ble cha­rac­ters, and can keep most regu­lar enemies and even some bos­ses stun­lo­cked until they die. This makes the hea­vy attack com­ple­te­ly point­less due to it being slo­wer and usual­ly lea­ving you open to attacks from enemies. 4 skills can also be set per cha­rac­ter, but most of them are eit­her too weak or slow to be of any use. Wit­hout any rea­son to do anything bey­ond mashing one but­ton, Crystar quick­ly beco­mes incredi­b­ly boring. The­re is a tear gau­ge that fills up as you attack enemies or are hit yours­elf, yet even the guar­di­an mode that you can use once it’s full just gives you more of a rea­son to use the light attack com­bo over anything else.

Mir­ro­ring the lack of com­ple­xi­ty in the batt­le sys­tem is a lack of con­tent in gene­ral. Throughout the ent­i­re game, you be run­ning into reco­lours of the same tiny pool of enemies. The­re are at least 5 ver­si­ons of each regu­lar ene­my, and many of the boss fights just use regu­lar ene­my models with a dif­fe­rent skin. None of the­se enemies are inte­res­ting to fight, and half­way through the game we just star­ted to run past all unne­cessa­ry fights. Bet­ween the lack­lust­re sto­ry­tel­ling and boring com­bat, it beco­mes har­der and har­der to care about wha­te­ver is cur­r­ent­ly hap­pe­ning in the game.

The only area that mana­ges to impress, even with some major issu­es, is Crystar’s pre­sen­ta­ti­on. Every 2D ele­ment of the game’s UI is dis­tinc­tive and the cha­rac­ter art­work shows much more emo­ti­on than the lifeless 3d models. In fact, most of the cuts­ce­nes would look bet­ter if they had only used the 2D por­traits, sin­ce the cha­rac­ter models will often not rep­re­sent what is actual­ly sup­po­sed to be hap­pe­ning. Envi­ron­ments are also weak com­pa­red to the 2D art­work, though at first they don’t look too bad. The plat­forms and buil­dings dot­ted around look sim­plistic, but they get the job done and add to the other­world­ly feel of Pur­gato­ry. Howe­ver, after a few chap­ters the amount of asset reu­se stops most are­as from having any real iden­ti­ty. You see the same floor designs, the same enemies and the same few bos­ses con­stant­ly, the sur­pri­sin­gly memo­r­able music being the only worthwhile chan­ge bet­ween are­as.

Conclusion

In many ways Crystar reminds us of Onina­ki, ano­t­her recent release. Both deal with ano­t­her world whe­re the souls of the dead appe­ar, and both have disap­poin­ting sto­ries and unin­te­res­ting action game­play. While the­re are hints at what could have been, in rea­li­ty Crystar is a cho­re to play with no real reward for sti­cking with it until the end.

A copy of the game was pro­vi­ded by Nums­kull Games for review pur­po­ses. A phy­si­cal ver­si­on is also avail­ab­le for PS4 release of Crystar.

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