By Steve Baltimore / September 30th, 2019
|Release Date||August 27th, 2019|
When Spike Chunsoft first announced they were bringing Crystar to the West, I wasn’t really sure what to think. The game is developed by FURYU and I’ve had a love-hate relationship with their titles. However, the more I saw of Crystar the more interested I became in it. I loved the art style and music, so I got excited to check it out. I have to say this game was much different than I expected, but the question is: was it in a good way?
The story follows a young girl named Rei Hatada as she find herself in the strange world of Purgatory. She doesn’t remember how she got there, but the one thing she does remember is that she killed her sister Mirai. She is reunited with her in this strange world, but the duo is soon attacked by a strange monster. Mirai falls into a large ravine, and Rei loses all hope for a moment, but soon her guardian awakens and gives her the power to fight these monsters.
In order to save Mirai, Rei makes a deal with two demons, Mephis and Pheles. They tell her if the will be their Executor and collect Idea, they will help her save Mirai. Rei then sets out on a journey to have her sister’s soul before it is reincarnated at the lowest level of Purgatory. She meets some friends along the way, and unravels a story with more twists and turns than anyone could ever imagine.
Without going into spoilers, I will tell you that the story of Crystar is by far its best feature. This tale is dark, emotional and will stick with you for a long time after you finish playing. While Rei is a great character in her own right, her supporting cast of party members adds a lot of flavor to this mix. The first of these you encounter is a young woman named Kokoro Fudoji. She seeks revenge on a Revenant named Animesis for stealing the souls of her lover and unborn child. You also encounter a young girl named Sen Meguimlba. She ended up in Purgatory due to an accident, and now seeks out her own justice. Last, but not least, we have playful Revenant Nanana, who has an unusual fixation on Rei for some reason. Not only do all these characters play off each other well, but their tales intertwine and make for one of the best stories I’ve seen in gaming in a long time.
The gameplay here is pretty basic. The Demons give ordeals in which you can collect the Idea needed to bring Mirai back to life. Each of these consists of a few stages with a boss battle at the end of the last one. Combat is your typical Action-RPG, two button combos with a few special moves thrown in for good measure. You can switch between your party members on the fly and the girls get a slight boost for a few seconds when switching in. The girls each have a different set of special moves that will help slay all the monsters in your path, and if that’s not good enough they can summon their guardians as well. When the tear gauge is full, you can summon a guardian and give a huge stat buff for a short time. Pressing L1 again will unleash a special move during this time that inflicts massive damage. While there is nothing groundbreaking here, the combat is pretty solid. I think something to spice it up a bit would’ve been a welcome edition, but there isn’t anything broken here.
While you are slaying the monsters that inhabit Purgatory, they drop a few different items. Some of these items are sentiments, which are the memories of the dead. You can purify these in your room and equip them for important stat buffs. They are basically your weapons and armor, and they can be upgraded with other materials you gain as drops. A very nice addition to this is the game keeps a journal of these memories and you can see the story of how some of these monsters ended up here. These tales range from humorous to downright depressing. I felt this really added to the game’s overall presentation and more titles should use the as example of how to make earning equipment fit into your narrative.
Graphically speaking, Crystar looks great. It has very stylized art and it really lends itself well to world they are presenting. The stages range from dark forest to a castle interior and each is as disturbing as the next. The hand-drawn memory sequences are both haunting and amazing at the same time. The character models and alternative color schemes that can be unlocked for their costumes all look fantastic, and enemy models are nicely done as well. The boss models in particular have a lot of detail and look very menacing. My only issue here is there should’ve been more enemy types and fewer recolors, but this a typical problem in an Action-RPGs like this.
The soundtrack in this game is the most fitting I’ve come across in a long time. I can tell that each track was hand-selected to add more mystery and dread to the depressing world of Purgatory. The opening and ending theme sound great as well, and if you were looking to pick a quality OST, this would be one I would have recommended. The game has both English and Japanese voice acting, and both tracks are well done. The voice actors do a fantastic job bringing these characters to life. The choice of which track is best comes down to preference.
While I do feel the gameplay in Crystar is simple, the story and aesthetics truly make this a one-of-a-kind title. I really want to gush about all the great twists and turns in the story and about how these characters grow as the game progresses, but that’s all spoilers and I think everyone should play this one for themselves. I played around 30 hours and completed all of the main story. I did feel that making you run some of the latter stages three times with just a few story changes was a bit much, but there was a good payout on in the end so I can let that slide a bit. I feel like this game is well worth the $59 price tag if you’re into games with a deep and meaningful story. I feel like this one might get buried by bigger releases this generation, but I hope people don’t overlook it. Crystar is a very special title that I feel everyone should give a shot.
Review Copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.