Developer: FURYU Corporation
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: NIS America
The Switch has a history of being unable to run games due to hardware limitations, and yes, recent releases would seem to confirm this. However, Crystar from developer FuRyu proves that games can run well on the console hybrid giving fans who held out a chance to play this unique JRPG on the go.
Crystar follows Rei, a young girl, on her search for her sister Mirai’s soul after they are thrown into Purgatory by the mysterious Revenant Princess. Two demons who claim to be the managers of Purgatory give Rei access to a guardian and a way to stand up against the Revenants and other foul beasts who haunt the afterlife. It’s now up to Rei and her friends to defeat the Revenant Princess and give Mirai a second chance at life.
This synopsis isn’t too different from other JRPGs I have played. If anything, I would say that the story can be relatively predictable in some sections if you’re a veteran of the genre. I consistently found myself calling out specific plot points hours before they would happen, but the characters kept the whole experience enjoyable.
Each girl has a distinct, if not mildly trope-filled charming personality. So, whether it’s the self-styled older sister Kokoro, the serious Student Council President Sen, or the fun-loving Nanana, these characters and their interactions are fun to watch. Fans of anime will quickly acclimate to the story and enjoy it for what it is.
The gameplay is simple enough but has some depth, so you don’t have to completely turn off your brain. The developers achieved this by having certain enemies absorb more damage than others. This tactic forces players to identify easier targets to take down before the beefier enemies or to spend time building their Super meter.
Once this meter is filled, Rei and the others can summon their guardians. This enhanced state allows them to hit harder and unleash their ultimate technique, making it easier to take down targets. But, on the other hand, it can also trivialize most encounters. Therefore, I often used a tactic to save my super meter and then sequentially unleash their ultimate skills.
Surprisingly, using this tactic never caused the framerate to stutter. I tried to push the hardware even further by repeatedly using my flashiest attacks, but the framerate held strong. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t weird graphical issues during attacks. It’s most noticeable when fighting a plant boss whose attacks had apparent performance issues.
It took me a few seconds to realize why it looked so peculiar to me. Each time the boss fired off this attack, it dropped the framerate of the boss and the attack themselves, while the player character’s framerate stayed consistent. So while looking slightly off, this inconstancy didn’t ruin the fight or drag it down.
While exploring the dungeons of Purgatory, you’ll begin to notice an insane amount of pop-in that goes on as you make your way through each floor. It’s the most noticeable in straighter areas, as players will frequently see the rest of the path where enemies suddenly pop in and find themselves with the burden of existence.
This technique is frequently employed to reduce the system’s load by not rendering everything all at once. Usually, developers hide this by either using walls or obscuring the area until it is fully loaded. Contradictory to this, every dungeon is brightly lit, and players can see much further than needed. It forces the pop-in issue to be far more noticeable than it should be.
One dungeon decided to change this by being much darker and obscuring your vision with a fog. In-universe, this level is supposed to be so dark that the characters can hardly see, making navigation intentionally difficult. However, I think this is the best-looking dungeon, and it employs the easiest pop-in fix, which makes me wonder why this couldn’t be done for the rest.
The other dungeons don’t need to be moodily lit, but instead, try some of the same techniques that this one uses. For example, using a denser fog and more twists and turns would hide the issue and keep all the benefits earned. These techniques would also make the dungeons more memorable, as most look so similar that I would be hard-pressed to tell them apart in a police line-up.
Despite the usual pains of being a Switch port, Crystar finds a new home on this console. Every system of this moody JRPG provides a unique experience that you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. I’d highly recommend this version to those who have yet to play, but keep in mind that this game is as niche as they come, so it’s best to keep that in mind to know what you’re getting yourself into.
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