Magical Girls powered by tears.
What They Say:
CRYSTAR is an Action-RPG developed by FURYU Corporation. Rei fights her way through the afterworld of Purgatory to rescue Mirai, the little sister that she killed. CRYSTAR’s unique game mechanics allow the player to harness the power of grief. Use Rei’s tears to craft weapons and armor as well as summon a Guardian to protect her in battle.
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I booted up Crystar and, to be honest, it is one of the most bizarre JRPG’s I’ve ever played and I’ve played a bunch of weird games in my time. Thankfully, though, it’s a good weird game that is a nice breath of fresh air among more cliche games these days.
In Crystar, you play as a girl named Rei who ends up in a strange world called Purgatory. The game kicks off without wasting any time and requires you to figure out the story as it goes. Without spoiling anything, some crazy, strange, and depressing stuff happens with the first few moments of the game.
Rei’s mission within the world is to kill revenants who are in the world of Purgatory in order to fulfill a contract and save her sister Mirai. In all honesty, it is a magical girl game without it ever really mentioning the fact that Rei and her fellow executors are actually magical girls.
The game is broken up into various chapters where the player must complete missions called Ordeals involve finding and executing a certain monster. As you complete those missions, you slowly find out more about the world of Purgatory, the interesting characters within, and get closer to rescuing your sister.
By far the biggest weakness of Crystar in all of this is the potential to become repetitive quickly. As you go through the various areas of Purgatory, the areas do change a bit but in the end, it mostly feels like a palette swap of colors both in the area itself and the enemies, too.
You’ll quickly get to know the various enemy types you’ll encounter along the way and the areas will feel mostly the same in each level. So, it quickly becomes a repetitive routine of navigating a level to find the portal to the next floor, kill similar enemies along the way, and then fight a pseudo-boss revenant at the end.
Though the game can be repetitive, it has a fun action-RPG combat system that is enjoyable to play in chunks. Rei and the other executors have a base weapon that you can use to unleash light and heavy attacks in quick succession combos.
On top of that, you have some skills that you learn as you level up from defeating the enemies in each level. These skills include spin attacks and the like that use up your SP. You are also able to dodge enemies by dashing away quickly.
All in all, Crystar has a fast-paced action combat system that is entertaining and was enough to keep me engaged for a few missions or chapter at a time before requiring a break. Everything that you do in combat (including getting hit and chain hits) builds up a tear gauge that allows you to unleash your Guardian partner (think Persona) who fights alongside you and allows you to execute your ultimate attack.
I found that that was only necessary for the boss fights in the game since the majority of the game is fairly easy. There are varied enemy types like some that shoot seeds from afar, heavier enemies with a lot of health and strong hits, and even flying monsters but there isn’t much challenge on the normal difficulty.
However, the boss fights are much more unique and challenging, requiring you to actually utilize all of your skills and mechanics to dodge moves and win. The boss designs are more detailed and interesting, too, along with the stories behind them.
Most of the major bosses in the game give you a bit of depressing backstory that was quite surprising since I didn’t see it coming. And therein lies the strongest part of Crystar: its characters and writing. In fact, this is one of the most somber games I’ve ever played.
As such, it does make it so that I can’t recommend the game to those who aren’t fans of depressing games but, otherwise, it’s a well-written story that is captivating and caused me to want to keep playing. Rei herself is a complex, deep character who carries the crux of the story on her own.
She is joined along the way by other executors (aka sad magical girls) that have their own motivations and they each add an interesting wrinkle to this Alice in Wonderland-like game. The story doesn’t hold back one bit and deals with tough issues like suicide, mental illness, and more.
It does so by using Crystar’s fascinating graphics that are gorgeous and haunting at the same time. The game is mostly shown in an expressive 3D style that does a great job of contrasting dark and light colors but it also has more freeform sketch-style 2D cutscenes that are unlike anything else I’ve seen in a video game before.
Crystar feels like the dark Alice in Wonderland-like JRPG that I didn’t know I wanted. The combat is swift and exhilarating even if it does get quite repetitive at times. The story revolving Rei and the other well-written executors is willing to go where most other games don’t and deal with some tough topics. Though I wouldn’t recommend Crystar to everyone, JRPG and anime fans should check it out as this beautiful game is sure to be a sleeper hit for 2019.
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Platform: PS4 (reviewed on PS4), PC
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.