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Thread: [PS4] Crystar

  1. #1

    [PS4] Crystar

    I wanted to start this thread earlier but my poor writing skills got the best of me and I was never able to get something that was at least intelligible. Due to this I'm probably near the end of this action game published by Furyu (Unchained Blades, Lost Dimension, Caligula, Legend Of Legacy) and developed by Gemdrop Game Studios (Lost Sphear, I Am Setsuna).
    Both publisher and developer aren't exactly new to the industry, but I can't say that any of their games have ever been groundbreaking. I did enjoy Setsuna for a short while but I've played better JRPGs, and skipped Lost Sphear completely. Crystar is yet another average game offering nothing new but could have been memorable with a bit more work.

    You play as Rei, a girl who finds herself in a strange land. At first she's only a soul, unable to remember who she is, and in the form of a butterfly. Soon she regains her memory and meets her younger sister, Mirai, but the two are divided by the bad girl of this game, Anamnesis. Rei accepts the help of a mysterious guardian, Heraclitus; Rei repels Anamnesis but in a fit of berserk rage kills her sister. After that the two demon sisters Mephis and Pheles tell Rei that if she collects enough Idea (memory of the deceased), she'll be able to get her sister back.
    I must say, if Crystar is good at one thing, that thing is to use, abuse, and misuse words and names related to Greek philosophers, religion, dreams, and time. And, if you think that Mephis and Pheles' names are a bit on the nose, "and" translates to "to" in Rei made a contract with "Mephis to Pheles". Everything is going to be fine!

    During her journey Rei will meet other three playable characters that in some way or another have something to do with Anamnesis or Rei.
    Many cutscenes have two or more dialogue choices, but from what I've seen so far, those don't influence the story in any meaningful way, only two or three lines of dialogue after that. I might be wrong, but the events following the defeat of the Anamnesis point to a static storyline with no alternate endings. Or they might be pulling an I Am Setsuna here and

    have only one meaningful choice at the very end of the game (I've checked)

    . Crystar doesn't end at the defeat of what has been mused for most of the game's length as the main bad girl, although I suspect it won't take long to reach the "real" ending after the fight against Anamnesis.
    Anyway, the story is full of twists and turns that are easy to see miles away, and of the two pivotal scenes I've witnessed so far, none have been able to stir any emotion.
    The story is rather standard in its development, and every character feels cold, despite them might having a pretty grisly backstory or dramatic development within the game. Rei goes through an "angsty" arc, but everything is resolved within a chapter, and her descent into that isn't particularly hard or felt, it just happens. So does her getting out of that. The other cast is just there, you are introduced to them, they have their short story arc, and one more scene relevant to the story later.

    And, just like many other games, I feel completely disconnected from videogame characters if I don't go through hardships with them. With hardships I mean a challenging and interesting game: the combat in Crystar is very basic and boring.
    It's nothing you've never seen before: jump, two attack buttons, R1 plus face buttons for the equipped special attacks, L1 to summon the guardian. You can string four-five normal attacks together for a combo and depending on the character, you can sacrifice one standard attack for a special. SPs for special attacks are gathered by hitting enemies with normals, and you can set items to auto-heal characters.
    Strong enemies drop items you can turn into weapons or armour, and you can fuse them together to increase their effectivness, and if they have slots, use crystals to get additional effects. One thing of this system is that getting good items is kinda hard, I've been using the same weapons and armours for most of the game, enemies just wouldn't drop better items.
    Overall the system isn't broken, but it's boring. There's no enemy variety, recolours appear from the second chapter onward and nothing except their appearance changes, to the point that one boss gets demoted to standard enemy, and a second boss is just a larger version of a standard enemy.

    Each chapter is set in a new dungeon. Chapter have three mandatory dungeons to progress the story, and a fourth to grind for money and items, although you can replay every stage you want. Dungeons have a variable number of floors. The dungeons aren't randomly created but they surely like they are, as every single one of them resuses rooms, corridors, and crossroads, leading to a constant sense of deja-vu and, again, boredom. I won't deny that in the last dungeon all these components are used in a rather clever way, but the only thing to really set dungeons apart is their main colour, as even background elements are reused between chapters.
    And again, I won't deny that Crystar at times looks good and the lighting is masterfully used and perfectly changes the mood between dungeons, but what is a striking and peculiar art style in the beginning ends up being boring to look at throughout the game.
    No matter their graphical guise however, dungeons are empty. Enemies reside only in large open areas ("rooms", if you will), they don't respawn, and if you, like me, have to complete a map before proceeding, you'll be doing a lot of running around empty corridors and rooms with only the sound of footsteps and background music...which can be pretty cool at times. Enemies will never willingly get out of their assigned rooms, and if you push them, they'll just try to get back inside, eschewing any attack. If you are outside a room you won't be able to lock onto enemies and lock will break if you get out.
    Some enemies are also more concerned about running away from you, even a few bosses, which makes fighting them particularly infuriating.

  2. #2
    Game completed! Oh boy the last part was painful to go through.

    So, after you defeat the last boss the game throws you at the very beginning, only to jump forward to the last chapters after Rei gets separated from Mirai. Now you have to replay the last three chapters, with the same dungeon layout, enemies, and bosses as before. You do get a few new scenes and a second final boss, but nothing much. If in the first segment I explored everything, here I just fought monsters on my way to the exit.

    After this segment the game...brings you back to the beginning. Then it jumps forward and you need to replay the last three chapters.
    You get different scene, a different final boss, and here I just filled the guardian meter for all four characters and then avoided every single fight and beelined for the exit.

    After this second "fake ending", the game restarts.
    Yep, you need to replay the last three chapters once again, with the same enemies, dungeon layouts, and bosses, with the addition of a single new final encounter.

    After this...the game restarts, but you just need to play one final, sweet, dungeon. Here I've just ignore all enemies and fought the bosses. And after going through two boss fights, the game ends.
    I think there are alternate endings, but I suspect the only choices that influence the outcome at the ones before the very final boss, and that everything before is fixed and can't be influence by the player.

    During the first playthrough I thought Crystar was just yet another slightly below average game, but all of this repetition made be loathe the game. DMC4 and Bravely Default pull something similar, but the combat in DMC4 is highly refined and fun, here is absolutely boring. Bravely Default might recycle bosses and environments, but at least you put yourself against very strong bosses that forced to make the best out of your party; while going through the last three dungeons multiple times I've abandoned dodging, parking myself in front of bosses and hacking away. Heals are automatic, and against some bosses being so close will make most of their attack outright miss you.

    Man, running through the last 3 dungeons 3 times was an absolute chore. As a result of the boring combat, enemy reuse, and dungeon design, I felt little connection to any of the cast, and this led me to skip a lot of cutscenes. Not that I missed a lot, because I could figure out the story and its twists by watching only some of them.

    Crystar's bad. Stay away.

    Also, a correction to my opening post: Gemdrops didn't develop I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear, they helped the real developers (Tokyo RPG Factory). They helped in a lot of other games, like Dragon Quest XI, and developed a few VR titles, and Crystar is their first "full" big project.


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