Release Date: August 27, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Action RPG
Most RPGs seem to focus on huge quests to save the world. While this is grand and all, I enjoy when developers tone down the heroics and focus on character building and human interaction. It just so happens that this is where developer FuRyu’s newest RPG, Crystar, shines. With a unique premise and dark presentation, I was eager to dive into this world to learn more.
Crystar begins rather suddenly as the player assumes the role of Rei Hatada, who has found herself in purgatory with her sister Mirai Hatada. It’s not explained how they got there at first, but that information is delivered throughout the story. By recalling their memories, the two sisters gain access to their bodies but are intercepted by a Revenant known as Anamnesis. It’s here where things get heated as Rei gains access to a powerful guardian known as Heraclitus and fights against Anamnesis. However, an accident leaves Mirai fatally wounded and she is then lost to purgatory.
All hope isn’t lost as the managers of Purgatory show up and offer Rei a chance to save her sister. All she has to do is sign a contract to become their Executor and collect Idea crystals. Without much thought, Rei signs and her journey through the deepest parts of Purgatory begin.
It’s important to take some time to explain just how much of a focus Crystar puts on its characters and this premise. Each character has an inner struggle that led them to this dark place and they each deal with it in their way. The dark themes presented in the story can be heavy on the player as they learn new information about the world and the characters. Furthermore, things, like reading the news and looking into the character’s memories, offer insight on what’s to come, but the game never reveals too much. This slow unveiling of backstories creates a nice tension between the cast and the managers as new elements come to light.
From the beginning of the game, I was totally on board with the story and it just kept getting better. The issues that it touches on are unapologetic and crude but offer a nice conclusion to how the cast eventually overcome these hardships. This is all backed up by an amazing English audio track which captures the emotions of the story but also presents the light-hearted scenes in an accurate way. Given that the cast of characters is mainly female, it was important that each voice stands out so that they don’t sound like one another and I felt that this cast did an excellent job and making these character’s unique.
Gameplay in Crystar has players controlling one of the available party members at a time who each have unique weapons and abilities. You’ll travel through dungeons and beat up enemies using the game’s action battle system. Attack combinations can be mixed up using weak and strong attacks, but it all plays out the same during battles. The game gets rather repetitive in the later dungeons even if you combine new abilities with attacks. However, some could say that that this is just the nature of the beast for a game like this, but there are a few things that would have made this a bit easier to get through.
For one, each dungeon is pretty much the same, minus a theme that outlines the path. Over time, its easy to notice the copy and paste sections of a dungeon and it feels like you’re just playing the same map each time. It honestly wouldn’t be so bad if the dungeons weren’t so large in size, which makes them feel more like a maze. It’s not necessarily bad for a dungeon to be big, but the constant repeating of paths and rooms makes it all seem unnecessary for this game. Furthermore, the enemies don’t really change throughout the game and you’ll encounter them a lot. While some enemies are tougher than others, I found that I only feared these annoying flower enemies who shoot pods at you from across the room.
With both environments and battle system coming off as repetitive, it’s easy to just mindlessly lose yourself to dungeons if only to get to the next story section. Luckily, the battle system is extremely responsive. Dodging and executing special abilities using guardians is all just a button press away, which makes fights painless. I should also add that the boss battles are both engaging and tie into the story. What helps is that at the beginning of each chapter, the game offers short insights to the boss that you’ll encounter and it’s that build up that sets the stage for a pretty awesome fight.
Certain enemies in the game contain souls that can be purified in order to gain new equipment. This process is interesting, but it took me a while to wrap my head around it. Players are able to fuse items as well make them more powerful, but this requires materials from the dungeon which means you’ll have to fight monsters and not just run past them to the next floor. Other activities involve petting your dog, which gives the player time to calm down between story missions.
Character illustrations are beautiful in Crystar and they really set the tone of the game. Each character design is unique and stands out, which is great for such an emotional game. I especially enjoyed the storybook scenes which showed obscure versions of the characters from their memory. Also, the music here is beyond great and the developers probably knew this because there is a menu available to simply listen to the tracks with Rei.
Crystar does some amazing things with its dark premise as it tells a story that isn’t about saving the world, but more about the emotions of characters who have to deal with real-life events through a fantasy quest. It’s these characters and relationships that will get you through the repetitive nature of the dungeons because you’ll want to see it through until the end. It also doesn’t hurt that the characters are cute as hell and the game includes bathing suit costumes for each character.
Crystar knows its fanbase and while it doesn’t present anything groundbreaking mechanically in its features, it does do enough to satisfy those who appreciate strong characters and unique plots. Through all the mindless hack and slashing, I had fun knowing a decent boss battle was waiting for me at the end of the dungeon. So if you’re looking for an RPG that will easily consume you with some great writing, then you will definitely enjoy this game.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.