Crystar was first released in Japan and Asia back in October 2018 as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. Spike Chunsoft, a big name in the JRPG world, are responsible for bringing Crystar to the West. The localization means that Crystar will be released in the West with English text and audio. Pre-ordering before the August 27 release date will also grant the Summer Collection Costume DLC. This is merely a pack of customizable summer-themed appearance items.
Crystar is a fantasy story where the protagonist cries and fights in the afterworld. Driven by the concept of Catharsis: the purification of the oppressed mind through releasing pent-up emotions. A tearful, emotional journey with an invaluable, one-of-a-kind story.
In Crystar, the player will assume the role of Hatada Rei. Hatada Rei’s overarching goal is to save her sister from purgatory. Her sister, Hatada Mirai, found herself in limbo after being killed accidentally by Hatada Rei. Rei made a deal with devils (Mephes and Phelles) in a bid to rescue her sister from the clutches of the underworld.This contract sees Rei reap the souls of the dead and other monsters in limbo to fulfil her contract with the devils. The names of the devils form the name Mephistopheles. This name is associated with the Faust legend of a scholar, based on the historical Johann Georg Faust. In the legend, Faust makes a deal with the devil at the price of his soul, Mephistopheles acting as the devil’s agent.
Crystar is wholly a game that plays heavily on themes of melancholy, regret, guilt, tragedy, and salvation. Crystar is essentially the archetypal tragedy. Hatada Rei represents the pure hero; an innocent victim of a tragic accident. We empathize and feel pity for this hero. Tragedies, such as in Crystar, represent a loss of innocence and how the hero must leave their innocence behind. In typical tragedy plots, the hero accepts “the call to adventure” and embarks on perilous physical or psychological journey to achieve their goal. Hatada Rei does just this, embarking on her perilous physical and psychological journey to take down monsters in purgatory.
The journey Hatada Rei will embark on is indeed a perilous one. Dark psychological themes are present throughout and Crystar tackles these themes head-on. Along the way, Hatada Rei encounters characters with similar struggles who will go on to join her team. Every character you encounter is battling with their own internal struggle. There are various ways to learn more about each character’s backstory and there is generally a lot of character building as the story unfolds.
Crystar represents a battle against demons, external and internal. The journey that Hatada Rei embarks on is to fight and overcome these two kind of demons. Her companions will certainly help her along the way. This is as much a story to save her sister as it is to save herself. The character does this by delving into memories and learning to battle her demons and negative emotions.
Crystar is an action JRPG that follows the typical formula with light and heavy attacks accompanied by dashes and jumps. Combat feels fluid and in the starting areas, feels challenging. However, there is not much progression or adaptability when it comes to the combat gameplay. In the mid to latter stages of Crystar, this can definitely become tiresome; especially since it is not overly challenging. The unique element that Crystar brings is the crying mechanic. If Hatada Rei finds an opening to cry and fill up a tear gauge, this allows her and her companions to summon guardians for more powerful special attacks. Guardians will attack after you awaken them. Based on your remaining health, they will assist you by auto-guarding and countering.
The variety comes with the various party members that the player can control. Each party member has separate and unique styles and abilities. The gameplay mostly involves battling through dungeons. Unfortunately, as aforementioned, the biggest issue that became apparent is the repetition. Dungeons are different from one another but it becomes clear they borrow from each other fairly frequently. Each dungeon has its own dark theme that tackles emotional peril of a hero or monster. Enemies can also get repetitive as there is not a lot of variety when it comes to the ‘minion’ enemies faced.
Ultimately, the redeeming factor of Crystar’s gameplay is by far and large the fluidity of combat. Everything you do is seamless and this alleviates the issue of repetition. Boss battles are far more engaging but again, not as difficult as one might hope. Having said that, boss battles are premeditated with the discovery of lore surrounding the boss you will soon face, building suspense as you progress. The bosses don’t have a huge array of attacks but as their health depletes they do have some tricks left up their sleeves. Some enemies in the game have souls that Hatada Rei can purify in order to attain new and better equipment.
Graphics & Audio
Graphically, Crystar is presented in a very distinct but beautiful artstyle. The aesthetic is by far and large one of the best properties of Crystar. The colour just pops with a shine that gives a fantasy aesthetic to the environments. Technically, the lighting is done very well and, for this type of game, far exceeds expectations. Character illustrations are very pleasing and fit with the tone and themes of the game. Every character in your party stands out with their unique looks. One downside however is the enemy design which can often be reskinned from one another which doesn’t give too much distinction graphically. In terms of audio, the music is beautifully uplifting and melancholy where appropriate. The tracks really are great and the option to listen to them via the menu is a welcome feature indeed.