Puzzle fighting video games have made up some of my favorite competitive games to play with friends for a long time. The challenging and competitive nature of the genre makes them perfect for showing off your skills as a gamer and possibly ending friendships. This is why I was so excited to get my hands on Nicalis’ new entry in the puzzle fighting genre with Crystal Crisis. While the game borrows some familiar systems it excels with its unique character roster and features that make it stand out in the genre.
Crystal Crisis has only a handful of modes available to the player at the beginning with Arcade Mode being the first option on the Main Menu. While I found this strange at first, it became quite clear to me why they did this after completing the Story Mode. The Story Mode itself is pretty interesting. Each level has two fighters face off, but the catch is that you have to choose the fighter who you want to play as between the two. The fighter you choose will be the one that moves on, considering you win. These choices do affect the final battle and ending of the game which varies depending on which characters make it to the final boss.
I ended up really liking this approach to a Story Mode if only it allowed me to get used to each character’s special move called Burst, which includes an Offensive and Defensive ability. Using Burst exhausts the character’s Burst Guage which fills up from clearing out blocks. Offensive abilities vary from either adding blocks to the enemies side or mixing them up to throw off any strategy they were planning. Defensive abilities can clear out a row of blocks for you or even allow you to switch blocks around to connect colors. However, some abilities were underwhelming or complicated to understand which made me not choose certain characters.
The main game has players clear out blocks by matching colors. Sooner or later a crystal block will become available that, if connected to a corresponding colored crystal, will break the matched colors. For extra points, players will need to build squares with the matching colors as well as create chains of broken crystals. Once the colors are broken, the character will launch an attack on the opposing character and send timed blocks over to their grid. These blocks are colored and can be broken in various ways, but once the timer hits 0 the blocks will turn into solid blocks.
For a puzzle fighter, Crystal Crisis has a lot of strategy in its systems. Creating chains and matching colors comes at the expense of banking on a crystal to emerge with the color you are expecting. There is also an additional poly-crystal globe that will shatter all the blocks of whichever color it lands on. This creates a pretty hectic playing experience with a lot of room for back and forth between the two characters. There were many moments during my time playing where I felt all hope was lost and then I received the crystal I had been waiting for and completely turned the tide of the battle.
Following the Story Mode, Arcade Mode gets a bit of a facelift making it where I spent most of my time after completing the Story Mode several times. After completing each mode, new characters will be added to the roster which adds new abilities and skills to learn across all the game’s modes. Additional modes that unlock during gameplay are Inline Mode, Tag Team, Memory, and More. Inline Mode turns the game into a match three game which can get rather challenging on harder difficulties, Tag Team Mode allows players to switch between characters at will who have their own individual grid and skills to use, and Memory Mode hides the colors of blocks after they’ve landed which makes it super challenging and fun.
There’s a lot to unlock in this game as you get comfortable with its various modes and systems. The Story Mode also offers a nice dose of replayability if you choose different fighters during each mission. With that said, everything is a warm up to test your skills online against friends and others in unranked and ranked modes, with custom modes also available.
Other features in the game include changing the color scheme of the block for accessibility and player preference. There are also options to turn features like the Burst gauge off if you want as well as four levels of difficulty. One thing that I didn’t like about the game was the load times, which can get pretty lengthy and this becomes even more prominent after the tenth retry of the final opponent on Master Mode.
Crystal Crisis is a game that is truly capable of finding its own footing in the puzzle fighting genre. It’s fun and addictive gameplay is fueled by its perfect balance of challenging and easy to learn systems. I quickly found myself having a great time taking out blocks and playing as some of my favorite characters of all time such as Astro Boy and Isaac. Lengthy load time aside, Crystal Crisis is a game that I can’t wait to play against friends in. It takes a familiar formula that fans of the genre will understand and throws in just enough unique features to make it stand out.
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