Overview – developed by FuRyu and published by NIS America, Crystar is an action focused JRPG with a striking manga art style. As Rei, travel purgatory and fight the revenants, all to rescue your sister Mirai and revive her. This version of the game is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, containing all the additional DLC content in the package. A link to this version of the game will be at the bottom of this review.
Declaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Crystar that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Content Warning: this title features descriptions/depictions of death, neglect and suicide which some may find disturbing. Please proceed with caution and at your own discretion if any of these topics are uncomfortable for you.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story. When discussing the gameplay, I will be only discussing the core elements of the gameplay to prevent spoiling the surprises this game has.
Story – a young girl named Rei is pulled into the afterworld of Purgatory by an unknown force, along with her little sister Mirai. While they try to find a way home, they are attacked by a terrible monster and Rei unlocks a power hidden within her. To protect her sister, Rei fights against the dead souls of Purgatory. However, this power is turned against her and she accidentally kills Mirai, mistaking her for an enemy.
Devastated by this, Rei weeps at what she has done. Sensing an opportunity to benefit themselves, two Demons appear and speak to the traumatized girl. In exchange for the tears of her suffering and hunting down the wandering souls of Purgatory, they will revive Mirai and reunite the two. Taking this offer, Rei signs a contract and becomes an Executor of Purgatory, setting out on a journey that will put her in great danger, all to save her beloved sister.
Gameplay – the gameplay for Crystar is a mix between dungeon crawling JRPG and action brawler, with labyrinthine maps for the player to explore. The core of the gameplay takes place in these dungeons, with the player roaming through the zones of purgatory, moving between floors and battling the denizens of this afterlife. Each mission in the game is designated as an Ordeal, a trial where the objective shrouded in mystery until it is taken on.
To clear these missions, the player has to carve their way through waves of enemies that appear throughout Purgatory, gaining experience for each enemy slain and leveling up at each milestone. Battling enemies within purgatory is fairly simple, with the player having access to a basic move-set in familiar hack and slash style combat. During the course of the game, additional characters will join the player forming a party, which allows switching between units during the battle.
The basic move-set for the characters are as follows;
- Basic Moves – there are light and heavy attacks that the player can use, hitting enemies with consecutive attacks. The light attacks can be chained into heavy attacks, giving extra flexibility to combos. The player can also jump and perform aerial attacks with either the light or heavy attack. Enemies can be locked onto, showing a health bar and focusing the camera onto that target.
- Movement – the player will sprint if holding the movement stick in a direction for longer than 2 seconds, allowing them to move faster and dodge enemies. There is also a dash that will send the character in a direction, but it cannot be used quickly as there is a short cool down between dashes.
- Skills – characters have unique skills that use the SP meter and deal heavy damage to foes. There are 4 skill slots that each character in the party will have access to, with one skill for Rei at the start of the game. As the characters in the party level up, they will gain new skills at preset points and the skills can be freely assigned. SP can be recharged by dealing damage to enemies.
- Idea – during battle, a tear gauge for the characters in the party will charge from dealing and taking damage (the gauge can also be filled up by depleting the SP gauge). When the meter is full, Idea Release can be activated, giving the player a significant power boost until the meter runs out with a special attack that uses up the meter for massive damage.
While exploring the levels of purgatory, players will encounter a variety of enemies that roam the different locations of the afterworld. First are the Specters which are general enemies that appear throughout the Ordeals, with a different designation for their strength in ascending order. They populate the different layers of the afterworld and are the most common enemies that will appear, they aren’t the most dangerous enemies, but can overwhelm the player in numbers.
There is a second type of enemy that the player will find. These are called Revenants and pose a greater risk to survival in purgatory, they will often resemble general specters when encountering them, but are much stronger. When encountered, a Revenant will have a red halo hovering above their head, allowing them to be seen when in battle and they have unique names too. However, these aren’t the only type of revenants that will be encountered by the player in game.
At specific points during the story, the player will encounter Boss Revenants, which are of even greater strength and can cause significant damage quickly. These bosses are challenging and will push players to do the brink, with a lot of health and attacks that can wipe out a lot of health if unprepared. This is likely the best time to use the accumulated power of the IDEA, releasing it to do as much damage as possible in a short amount of time to wear the enemy down.
When enemies are defeated, loot is dropped that the player is able to collect. These items include essence, which is a currency that can be used to buy items from the Peddler in Purgatory and torments, a special item that is dropped by defeated Revenants that can be purified (discussed further down). As well as the loot from enemies, treasure can be found scattered throughout Purgatory, with consumable items hidden within chests and resources called thoughts hidden in breakable crystals.
There are also story events that will occur throughout the game, usually at the start of an Ordeal, however they can occur at key points to push the narrative forward. These plot points will appear as books, showing the player the memories contained within and provide context for events that happened to that character. These story scenes make for smooth transitions between the afterworld of Purgatory and the real world.
Speaking of the real world, outside of the dungeons of Purgatory, the player is able to purify the torments that are collected during Ordeals and more in Rei’s room. Here are the features that can be accessed while in this location;
- Ordeal – select a trial to challenge in purgatory, with both main story challenges and optional challenges that can be taken on. All cleared Ordeals can be replayed freely to farm resources and experience.
- Organize – here the Torments collected can be purified through Rei’s tears, turning them into Sentiments, equipment that strengthen the Executors in the party to boost their stats. Sentiments can be fused with others to create stronger variations of them, as well as made stronger by giving additional bonuses if they have open slots by using resources collected in Purgatory.
- Phone – contact characters while outside of Purgatory, conversing with them and gaining extra story progress, providing additional context to events that occur.
- Change Clothes – here the player is able to change the costume that characters wear while in Purgatory, with all the costume DLC that was available for the previous release of this game included from the start.
- Album – this is a record of events that occur throughout the game, providing a summary of the plot that has occurred so far, battle records that show play time, enemies defeated and more. There are also memoirs of the dead, where the stories of revenants can be viewed to provide optional lore for the player, with a glossary of terms for quick reference too.
- Music – a simple sound menu where all unlocked music tracks can be listened to freely, with new tracks added throughout the game.
- Thelema – take a moment to play with Rei’s pet dog Thelema, doing this warms Rei’s heart each time that she spends time with her faithful companion.
- Save/Load – this is the only place that the game can be saved and loaded manually. While there is an auto save feature that regularly saves the game, the manual save and load system allows players to experiment with different skill and sentiment compositions.
The last thing I want to talk about is the camp menu which can be accessed in both Purgatory and Rei’s room. While in the camp menu, the player is able to view the status of the active party, seeing their level, current HP and total SP points, along with their equipped skills. Players can also use items to recover health, cure status ailments and discard unwanted sentiments when there is a surplus of them, exchanging them for an essence payout.
Sentiments can be equipped here, with three designations for the sentiments and some restrictions on how they can be used. The equipment that can be used by characters is separated into Aggressive Sentiments, Protective Sentiments and Bolstering Sentiments, providing additional bonuses for stats as well as passive bonuses depending on the item equipped. There are class specific sentiments that apply to specific characters, letting the player easily distinguish between them.
Skills can also be modified freely in the camp menus, with the ability to map unlocked skills for each character as the player wishes to. This grants further flexibility to the combat system, by letting players mix and match the skills that they have unlocked to fit their play style. New stronger skills will be unlocked during the course of the game, which means that the weaker skills can be switched out, making space for more abilities to use while retaining their core functions.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving into the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls system for this title uses a basic layout with all main skills on the face buttons, party members tied to the D-pad and special functions on the shoulder buttons/triggers. The camera and movement controls are nice and smooth, with all core inputs working well on both pro controllers and Joy-Cons. However, there are some minor flaws to the control inputs, as they can feel slightly delayed, with attacks occasionally missing inputs, but it doesn’t have a severe impact on the gameplay.
Difficulty – there is a balanced difficulty curve to this release. The leveling system keeps non active party members earning XP while out of combat, while also having a boost system that will provide attack increases when characters are switched out depending on damage taken. The abundance of items, essence and resources to strengthen sentiments makes this game a fair challenge for all, with three difficulty settings that modify the damage taken/dealt in battle.
Presentation – the visual style for this title is pleasing to the eye, with bold 3D models for all characters and environments that are rendered very well, building the world of Crystar. The 3D world contrasts well with the striking manga style art, which is expressive and adds extra weight to emotional scenes with the in game renders in the background. This title does have some graphical downgrades due to the hardware limitations, but this doesn’t impact the gameplay and while some details are omitted it doesn’t detract from the overall quality.
The soundtrack for this title has a lot of variety to it, ranging from melancholic piano and orchestral pieces, to industrial/electronic compositions that give a tense atmosphere to combat in Purgatory. There is also a dual language option for Japanese and English character voice tracks that play throughout the game. The English voice track for this release features talent from anime and video games, including Brianna Knickerbocker (Mary Skelter), Kayli Mills (Re:ZERO) and Xanthe Huynh (Cells at Work!).
Final Thoughts – I had no expectations for this title going in, due to only seeing a few clips of the game from trailers, so I was unprepared for the impact that the narrative had. The story pulled me in and made me feel things, which is always a good sign when playing a narrative driven JRPG with themes of sorrow and loss. The gameplay loop was simple to pick up, with easy to learn mechanics and action that flows very well, but may feel repetitive to some players after a while.
I very much enjoyed the overall experience of this title, with the gameplay, story and presentation working together in a very cohesive way. Unfortunately, there are some minor flaws to the combat, with the occasional missed input and some slowdown during flashy special attacks, but they don’t disrupt the gameplay significantly. However, I was very impressed with the amount of content that is on offer with this title, offering bonus side missions and multiple choices to dialogue during some cutscenes.
In the end, I give Crystar a final score of 4/5. This title is a complete action JRPG package, with an easy to pick up gameplay system, a world that features a cast of unique and interesting characters, coupled with a story that has depth to it around the subjects of death and loss. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
3 thoughts on “Crystar – Nintendo Switch Review”
I don’t have a switch, so playing this game is out of the question xDD. But can I just say I really like your review, it’s nice and easy to follow.
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Thank you for your comment and the feedback. Crystar is also on the PlayStation 4 and Steam platforms, but the DLC is missing, that is why there are no links for those platforms as I wanted to prevent any confusion for those looking to buy it.
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You’re welcome Wolfie, sorry for the late reply too. That is nice to know it’s on steam too 😀