Monday, August 5, 2019

Crystal Crisis (NSW, PS4, PC) Review

Recently released on the PlayStation 4 and already available on the Nintendo Switch and Steam, Nicalis's Crystal Crisis is a match-based puzzle game that pits opponents against one another in battles. It's similar to another puzzle fighter series out there. Now, if only I can remember the name of it... It's almost like I already said it... Regardless, here's SuperPhillip Central's review of Crystal Crisis.

A game whose inspiration may be crystal clear, but it's in no crisis of not being fun.

I'm terrible at fighting games, so perhaps you're like me (and God help you if you are) and yearn for a "fighting game" that solves its squabbles not with complex button combos to memorize, but instead fast thinking and chaining combos of crystals and clusters to score points and decimate your opponents. If that's your thing, then Crystal Crisis from Nicalis aims to fill a gap in the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam libraries that are currently missing out of a modern version of Capcom's Puzzle Fighter series. While the collection of all-star characters aren't as much of a draw this time around, the engaging and entertaining gameplay of Crystal Crisis very much is, offering a great layer of depth and sophistication.

The heroes of Cave Story battle it out for puzzler supremacy.
Crystal Crisis takes the familiar gameplay of Capcom's Puzzle Fighter series of versus puzzle games and puts its own spin on it. Each match has crystals in pairs of two falling from the top of the board to the bottom. Your objective is to connect similarly colored crystals together and then use specific spark crystals that can shatter those connected crystals. This action will send crystals to your opponent's board, but these can't be interacted with until they've cooled down, signified by a countdown timer that ticks down after a pair of crystals is put down. The more crystals you shatter at once, whether in connected lines or in even more powerful clusters, the more countdown crystals fall onto your opponent's board with the hope of filling their board to the very top, resulting in a K.O. to them. Of course, your opponent will be doing their best to do the same to you. 

It's going to be a bad night for THIS Knight if Ninja has his way with things!
If any of this sounds a wee bit confusing, then fear not--as Crystal Crisis sports a very helpful tutorial that not only shows you the ropes of the game, but it also allows you to try each instruction out yourself through a nice amount of interactivity. You'll learn the basics of chaining, how to wrap crystals around the sides of the board, and much more.

Crystal Crisis brings an interesting cast of characters, some from various Nicalis-published properties like Cave Story, The Binding of Isaac, 1001 Spikes, and Code of Princess EX, while the most notable chunk of the roster arrives from Tezuka Productions with characters like Astro Boy and Black Jack. Wholly original characters round out the rest of the roster, and each possess their own stage, though that's merely for aesthetic purposes.

Aban's about to find himself K.O.'d if he doesn't pull some trick out of that hat of his!
What does differentiate each character from one another is their Burst abilities. These come in both offensive and defensive forms, and are activated with the press of the ZR or ZL buttons respectively once a character's Burst Gauge has replenished enough. This act is performed by shattering crystals and clusters. Depending on the character, Burst abilities require part or all of the gauge to be filled in order to use them. Generally, the more powerful Burst abilities require a full meter as a means to keep the game balanced. 

What's this? A full Burst Gauge means Aban can attempt to turn this
 match around with his Defensive Burst attack!
As I said, Burst abilities come in offensive and defensive forms, so they're great to either pile on the punishment to your opponent or save yourself from defeat. Either way, they're clutch abilities that can really turn a match around, and seldom feel unbalanced from one another. Whereas Cave Story's Quote uses a missile launcher to destroy a segment of blocks from his side of the board with his defensive Burst ability, Johnny Turbo of North American TurboGrafx-16 marketing fame can use his offensive Burst attack to slow down how fast his opponent can lay down crystals in their grid. 

Crystal Crisis comes equipped with a whole slew of available and unlockable modes and options for players to consume. The Story mode is relatively short, but it offers replay value through different paths and opponents depending on which characters you choose from when given the choice. There's the standard Arcade mode, as well, which pits you against a series of six AI opponents, an endless Survival mode, Versus modes for one-on-one, tag team, and free-for-all battles, and also online play. However, the latter is not populated whatsoever, so it's next to impossible to find a random to play with unless you have great luck. Regardless, what online matches I was able to have with friends ran relatively lag-free on the Switch build of the game.

Crystal Crisis's story is fast and loose--far less entertaining than the battles themselves, as one would expect.
Additionally, in-game achievements and content in the music and art galleries also add replay value to Crystal Crisis, and the ability to select which color crystals you want (great for colorblind players), add or remove Burst abilities and more, allow you to play the game how you want.

Sporting a pleasant art style with its chibi characters and their stages modeled in colorful detail, the presentation of Crystal Crisis delights. Though most of the game--apart from Peter Cullins (Optimus Prime of Transformers fame) providing narration and Johnny Turbo's lines of dialog--is completely voiced in Japanese, it's a small price to pay for the bounty of twenty characters in the game on display. The music, too, is well done, bringing familiar remixes to fans of the games the characters come from as well as original themes. Perhaps my only distaste with the presentation of Crystal Crisis comes from its loading times, which can take 20-30 seconds between matches and modes. 

Code of Princess EX's Solange carves up the Crystal Crisis original character Hunter with her sword attack.
While Crystal Crisis doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from its blatant inspiration, the game still does its important duty and does it well, which is being an engaging and entertaining match-based puzzle game. The bevy of available modes, options, and characters to choose from make this a Puzzle Fighter clone that is more than worthy of a "match" for fans of that series. Crystal Crisis is a crystal clear winner.

[SPC Says: B]

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