(Note: PS4 review code provided by Spike Chunsoft)
Back when the game was first announced it piqued my interest for the longest time. When Spike Chunsoft announced its surprise localization I was all the tingle. A game whose story is about a group of girls facing great challenges and tears playing a big role in both story and game mechanics. Question is whether the tears shed were filled with emotion or dry as a desert. Let us find out as we take a look at Crystar, developed by FuRyu.
Platforms: PS4, PC (Steam)
Genres: Action, Dark, Drama, JRPG, Moepocalypse, Yuri.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Length: 20+ hours (1st Playthrough)
For when I weep, then I am strong.
A girl named Rei and Mirai, her little sister, are dragged into the afterworld of Purgatory. To save her sister, Rei signs a contract with the Demons of Purgatory to fight the monsters infesting their world. Rei and her fellow Executors must face their pasts and confront their tears to overcome the Torments and monsters ahead of them. Will Rei save her sister’s Soul before it’s too late?
Similar to the recently reviewed Death End re;Quest the “Dark” and “Moepocalypse” tags are applicable to Crystar. The difference is in Crystar the turmoil our heroines must face is more the emotional kind than the bloody/gory/gritty, which makes sense as this is the story of ladies fighting to uncover the truths of their past, overcome their demons and facing the Revenants that want their valuable souls. Tears play a pivotal role in expressing many kinds of emotions be they tears of joy, sadness, frustration, relief, regret, anguish, resolve, etc. Crying is shown to be very powerful because, again, it says a lot about how the person is feeling, not just sadness. Through Rei’s journey deeper down Purgatory she is haunted by specters of the past and present, struggling with all her decisions and mistakes, enduring MANY trials and tribulations outside and inside herself as it gets harder and harder to both control her emotions and maintain her “self”. Put simply Rei is not only fighting to rescue her sister but discover who she is as a person. Her fellow Executors (3 of them who join as the story progresses) have their own obstacles to try and overcome which I will not spoil but will say are equally engaging when given focus. It is a very touching journey full of highs and lows that could have players going “Why does the screen look watery? Oh wait. It’s my tears”. It certainly tugged at my heartstrings on multiple occasions.
The screenshots do not do it justice but trust me when I say visually the game looks quite nice. Think of it as a PS3 anime game on a PS4 akin to later titles by Compile Heart/Idea Factory but prettier. The girls’ eyes sparkle like beautiful jewels and most of them are nice to look at. The dungeons explored throughout Purgatory are colorful, even the darker ones further down the line. When levels/dungeons/areas in a game are so nice I take a moment to stand still and bask in the environment that to me is a sign of good graphics, which Crystar definitely has. Do not expect “Triple A” budget graphics but it is not necessary for games to achieve visual splendor as Crystar shows. The soundtrack is really cool with a mix of classical, techno and “gamey” tunes. The techno and gamey parts come in the form of “computery” sounding beats in certain tunes. The best example of this is the Demon Sisters (whose name made me smile when they first introduced themselves) theme. Oh and I really like when games feature an event/movie and music menu. Crystar has the latter. The voice acting is pretty good both in English and Japanese. While this is not that big of a deal both dubs (Not just the Japanese one) are fully voiced and not partially like some other JRPGs so players can get the complete vocal experience.
Let us move on to the gameplay. First up the menu. Before taking on the latest Ordeal/Mission Rei gets to prepare in her little Gothic room by sorting out the acquired Torments from defeated Revenants. Said Torments turn into Sentiments Rei and Friends can equip. Certain Sentiment names also fit the respective Executor Girl. Sentiment weapons and armor become stronger by fusing with other Sentiments of the same level while armor and accessories require fragments found in breakable gems, gem shaped chests and enemies. The acquired Torments serve another neat Album related purpose but I will leave that for players to discover. Other menu options include event specific phone calls, the aforementioned Album featuring terminology and gameplay refreshers and the Save/Load option. However, the most important option is “Thelema”.
Ah yes. One more things regarding Sentiments. Guess how Rei releases the Torments from her soul to create Sentiments. It is connected to what exactly Revenants are. Like I said, the poor girl goes through A LOT in her journey.
Before we get to the combat be aware that there will be times during cutscenes where players must pick one of two choices. These can affect the story over time. Speaking of choices, I will not say anything but Crystar has one of the most interesting prologues I have ever seen in a JRPG. Trust me.
Now on to the combat. While I gave high praise to the story and presentation (Most of the cast are great too), the combat is decent at best. Put simply this is one of those games where players will have a greater experience seeing events unfold than the gameplay. Something akin to Drakengard 3 (but not clunky at all) or story heavy “Walking Simulators”. That is not to say the gameplay sucks, far from it. Think of it as something along the lines of Nights of Azure (but with less depth) instead of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. Dungeons are straightforward Point A to Point B treks with a few “Destroy them all to progress” areas. Other than that it is a decent “hack n’ slash” game where the Executors fight a bunch of neat looking Revenants though the bestiary is not large so expect to run into color swaps at around “World” 3. Most worlds consist of 3 Ordeals and an optional Side-Ordeal. While players can skip most areas excluding the “destroy them all” ones it is recommended to fight as many as possible to Level Up because later enemies and especially bosses are “damage sponges” on Normal and Hard. Having played most of the game on Hard difficulty I can attest to this. While the game is overall not too very hard expect enemies to easily overwhelm players if not careful as they watch the active girl’s health drain fast without them being able to do much or hopefully rely on their Guardians to counterattack (except one Executor). Another reason to fight is to take down the tougher Revenants with a red aura (Regular enemies with stronger attack and much more health) because beating them provides Torments for players to turn into Sentiments for fusing and enhancing equipment.
I mentioned Guardians before. Think of them as Stands from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Rei’s Guardian, Heraclitus, is special for story reasons. Other than that 3 of the Executors are aided in battle by their Guardians when their Tear Gauge is full. Players fill up the gauge by defeating enemies, using certain items or spending some SP (Skill Points) to cry tears and fill it up that way (Obviously the girls are left open to attack so best to use this in safe areas). When the Tear Gauge is full players can summon their Guardian (One girl being the exception) and enter their Super Mode as both go to town on enemies before the gauge runs out. At any time in this mode players can press the assigned button to unleash a Super Attack. Keep in mind the gauge drains instantly when doing so so best safe it for before the gauge is empty.
There are 4 playable characters:
- Rei is the balanced one.
- Girl #2 is the powerhouse who is slow and not combo heavy but hits like a truck.
- Girl #3 (my favorite character in the game and to play as) is the combo fiend but gains experience slower than the others.
- Girl #4 is the ranged character with the weakest attack power and lowest health but good for crowd control when enemies cannot reach her. Makes sense because otherwise she would have been the best character in the game.
Lastly we have the main event. So, the girls who want Rei or have the hots for girls period express several kinds of love:
- You are so cute I want to hug and kiss you all over.
- You are so cute when you struggle.
- I want to spend every single moment of my life with you.
- I have been confessed to by many girls.
- I love you but I don’t know why. I’m just so happy when I’m with you.
Something like that.
Overall Crystar is a game worth experiencing should readers find what they read interesting. It has an emotionally engaging story, a mostly cool cast and the presentation is quite nice. While the gameplay is not amazing it has its merits and can provide a solid time but can feel repetitive at times but as I said is worth the trek.
PS: The PS4 version had 0.5 seconds of its OP cut because of some nudity. That is all. Everything else remained intact.