Many of us at some point in our lives have experienced the feelings of depression and loneliness. They are serious subjects that we just have to face and come to terms with and try to overcome. I’ve experience both of those things when I was growing up and video games were actually how I kind of dealt with the negative feelings that came from those things. You may be wondering why I’m talking about these subjects in this review you clicked on but it’s because both of those subjects are things that Crystar, the new anime action RPG from Spike Chunsoft, deals with in its story.
Of course when you mix heavy subject matter into a video game you always hope the developers do it in good taste and Crystar does do that. The story in the game is about a girl named Rei Hatada who ends up trapped in Purgatory along with her sister Mirai. Things go wrong fast as Mirai ends up dying at the hands of Rei herself. Stricken with grief over the death of her sister, Rei strikes a deal with two demons so that Mirai can be brought back to life. All she has to do is find something for them called “idea.” Things don’t get easy for Rei in this game as you often see her struggling to keep it together and crying which actually plays a big part in the gameplay systems.
The gameplay in Crystar has you moving through Ordeals which are levels and exploring each floor within for items and enemies to take down for XP. Your enemies are called Revenants and you can fight them with your basic attacks, combos, and various skills that you gain during the game. The regular attacks at your disposal get repetitive fast as they don’t really change over the course of this 20+ hour game. The skills you gain though do help differentiate combat a bit. You can have up to four different skills equipped at one time and each one uses up your SP gauge. As you progress you gain new party members who can be switched between on the fly and each one has things that help set them apart from the other characters. The enemy variety in the game isn’t great though and I found myself fighting the same ones over and over quite frequently. There are boss battles at times too but they were more time consuming due to how much damage they could take rather than difficult.
When you defeat a Revenant it will release a spirit like apparition called a Torment that will attach itself to Rei. These spirit like things will reduce her stats so long as they are attached to her and up to ten of them can attach themselves to her at a time. These Torments also represent those darker themes in the game as when they are attached you’ll see words that Rei is basically hearing that is causing her grief. In order to get rid of these Torments you’ll have to make use of that crying mechanic I spoke of earlier. Crying not only gets rid of the Torments but also turns them into good things such as weapon upgrades, armor and Sentiments. Sentiments are things you can equip to give stat boosts to the characters. Crying can also be used to summon things called Guardians during combat. By filling up a teardrop gauge on the screen a Guardian can be summoned to both attack your enemies and protect you from damage. You can fill the gauge up both by crying and by chaining together attacks in combat.
Crystar gives you a safe space to quiet things down for a little which is Rei’s bedroom. Here you can talk with other characters in the game on a phone, spend time with Rei’s dog Thelema, cry to get rid of Torments, listen to any music you’ve heard in the game and a couple other things. It’s also here where you’ll really notice just how badly Rei is struggling with the issues going on. The game really does a good job of showing her struggles just by looking at the expressions on her face. You can also learn about the struggles of others here such as the Revenants you defeat. This is done by reading the Memoirs of the Dead which provides background information on who they were before they died.
The graphics in Crystar is kind of what you would expect from a Japanese anime game. All of the characters are pretty cute and the artwork in the game is detailed and colorful. The game features some nice environments complimented by good lighting but I found many of the areas started to look bland the longer I played. The music in the game is really good too and as I said above you can chill out in the bedroom to enjoy any of the tunes you really like. Sadly the sound effects during combat aren’t so good and those along with the remarks the characters say while fighting get very repetitive. The last thing I’ll touch on is the trophy list on PlayStation 4 and there are around 50 or so to earn. It isn’t a hard list I would say but you’ll have to put in a lot of hours to get this Platinum.
While the combat mechanics weren’t very deep or innovative the dark storyline of Crystar is what you really should be checking this game out for. I honestly didn’t expect it to be so heavy prior to playing but the story in this game dealt with all of those very real subject matters in great fashion. I’ve experienced many of the feelings Rei has to overcome in Crystar and if you have too this will be a game you can relate to as well.
*Crystar is out now on PlayStation 4 and PC. Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Great narrative that deals with many real world mental health problems that many of us have dealt with
- Nice visual style and great OST
- Combat is easy to pick up and play
- Combat isn't very deep and can feel repetitive
- Lack of enemy and environment variety
- Boss battles were kind of boring