Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Crystar is an action-RPG originally released in 2018, now coming to you in a Switch port. A story of the broken, trying to find that piece that completes themselves. Crystar is an emotional adventure into what people will do for both their loved ones and the sake of their own ego.
Crystar tells the story of the young girl Rei Hatada, who wakes up in a mysterious world as a butterfly. This world, as it turns out, is Purgatory, the land where the souls of the dead reside before being purified of their memories and reincarnated. Rei, however, isn’t actually dead, she has simply been drawn there by a powerful spirit. After a confrontation with the malicious spirit, Rei’s sister who was dragged along as well, Mirai, is killed. Two demons then appear, providing Rei with the opportunity to sign a contract. In exchange for cleaning out the more malicious residual spirits, or Revenants, they will restore Mirai to life, but only if Rei can recover her soul before she gets purified. So Rei’s journey begins into the depths of Purgatory, combating Revenants and meeting friends and new party members along the way.
As far as gameplay is concerned, Crystar is fairly basic in its playstyle. It is very much a traditional sort of 3D hack-and-slash style gameplay, with small groups of enemies, the occasional tough enemy, and a boss each stage. You have your dash, light attack, heavy attack, special attacks that can be assigned, and jump. You have a sort of “over-limit” gauge that will build up, and then you can use for increased firepower and a special attack. Exploring Purgatory is also fairly generic, as you will explore floors looking for a gate to the next floor, or a fight with some Revenants to clear the zone, or “Ordeal”, as it is called in-game. Purgatory is divided into floors, usually with each floor featuring new enemies, sometimes simply palette swaps of old enemies, three story based Ordeals, and one optional bonus Ordeal that unlocks after the story Ordeals.
Where the gameplay is a little more interesting is in the powered up enemies you find, the Revenants. Upon defeating a Revenant, they will drop a torment, of which you can hold ten at a time. Upon returning to your room, you can cleanse the torments by crying them out. These torments are then turned into sentiments, which are the equipment for Crystar. Each character has their own unique weapon sentiments, and they share defensive and accessory type sentiments. In addition to being equipment, these torments can unlock interesting background history on the Revenants you find them from. Sometimes this is as basic as telling you they died from overwork, other times you get this horrendous tale of how a child’s friends tricked him into hiding in an old fridge during hide and seek, and then left him stuck in there until his body was found several years later. I haven’t looked at my fridge the same since.
I’d like to mention right now that if you do pick up Crystar, you may be frustrated that you can’t sell anything. Well, that’s wrong. If you go into items, then to your sentiments, then select discard, you can turn them into “essence”, which is then used in the fusing and modifying of sentiments to make them stronger or give them special passive effects, such as confusion immunity. Also, you have a floofy dog named Thelema, and she’s the best girl, and you should totally pet her all the time cuzshe’sjustsocuteandlookatthatlittlefaceIjustwannacuddleandsnuggleandruffleand- ahem, sorry, yes, cute doggo. Best girl. Give pets.
To be perfectly frank, Crystar is a little repetitive. The combat gets fairly stale rather quick once you figure it out, the areas tend to be mixes of different sets of the same “tiles”, just organized differently, and at times it can feel like a slog getting through an area, especially since there are no checkpoints mid-Ordeal. I suppose the upsides here are that the combat isn’t that difficult, and the Switch port is rather useful to mitigate the repetitive nature.
Seriously though, I have this tendency to get about halfway through a review title, and then see how far I can speedrun through the rest of the game before I have to go back to playing reasonably. I finished my first ending while only fighting the bare minimum amount of enemies and not changing equipment since the halfway point to that ending. I definitely wouldn’t suggest this, but it does set the tone for the difficulty rating. Alternatively, you can swap characters a lot to try and stave off the muscle memory. I tried to swap to a new character each time one leveled, in order to both keep them all at the same level, as well as keep things interesting. Thankfully each character has their own unique playstyle.
The Switch port is also handy, as it is rather easy to pause mid Ordeal and put down for a bit, keeping things fresh for longer. While the Switch port does seem to have received a graphic quality reduction from the PS4 version I’ve also played, at least from what I can tell, the game still runs smoothly, and being able to take it around as a hand-held title is nice. Even for the PS4 version, I was only doing a few stages here and there between other things, so this type of playing habit makes good use of the Switch portability.
While Crystar may be a little repetitive in nature, it tries really hard to set the tone in its visuals, music direction, and storytelling. The character artwork is really pretty, and the character models are really well done, albeit a little rougher on the Switch port. The backgrounds and layout on each floor are interesting and well themed, and the music does a good job of matching the tone. It’s also really neat that every time you perform a different action in Rei’s room, she has a different background situation. For example, if you listen to the music gallery, she will be sitting with a media player and headphones on.
Overall, I have to say I quite enjoyed my time with Crystar. While the combat and areas you progress through tended to get a little repetitive, the storytelling, art, and music direction, as well as an interesting cast of characters, is what really keeps the title together. While I wouldn’t recommend picking up the Switch version if you already own Crystar, it is quite nice for a title that you can pick up every so often to go through a floor or two, or some of the shorter stages, without feeling the burnout.Score: 7.5 / 10