As I looked through the games I’ve played over the last few months, I realised that not only did I play CRYSTAR a few weeks before launch, I was (and still am) the first person to platinum the game – yet where is my review? Absent of any excuse other than never completing it due to health issues, I’ve scrapped that which I had written and decided to start again.
Developed by FURYU Corporation and published both digitally by Spike Chunsoft and Physically by Numskull Games, CRYSTAR is an action RPG which will fill you with various emotions and feelings as you traverse through the many stunning-looking layers of Purgatory. Some say it has gameplay mechanics as seen within the Persona franchise, some from games such as Tokyo Xanadu and Akiba’s Beat, and there’s even a more disturbing glossary of enemies than the creepy Pokedex (seriously, some of the entries in Pokemon are very disturbing).
However, despite the similarities, CRYSTAR is so much more than a mere copy or ‘clone’ of any of these other franchises, it’s a game which sucks you in and keeps you invested right until the end, then until the next end, then the next, then the next…
You are Rei, a young girl who finds herself and her sister, Mirai, within Purgatory – the space between life and death. At this point we have no idea why we’re here or what’s going on, all we know is that we have to get out of here and return to the safety of our home. However, after a brief encounter with one of the many creatures who reside within this realm, Mirai is taken from you, deeper into the land of the dead and out of your grasp. Unable to help, you agree to work with two demons who promise they will bestow “Revival” upon your sister as long as you accept and complete their contract – technically making a deal with the devil.
As your sister is your world, despite being hazy with your memories, you agree to whatever is asked of you, a job which utilises the secret powers you seemingly hold – become the Executor of the dead in Purgatory. Each floor contains numerous Revenants to kill (souls trapped within Purgatory who refuse to have their memories wiped and thus manifest themselves as beasts and monsters) and Specters (the same only these ones don’t talk or share memories upon being executed).
This makes your job even harder as each Revenant comes with its own memories, snippets which get rather emotional and disturbing the more you collect and piece together. However, should you wish to see your sister again, you have to come to terms with the fact that although some of the creatures contain the souls of young children who were killed in horrific ways, they’re dead and executing them is for the best.
Rei isn’t a monster, neither in the physical or mental definition. She manifests within this world as a beautiful young girl, unlike the creatures everyone else seems to become. But, this doesn’t mean she ever thinks of herself any higher than the rest, she becomes emotional and sorry for every Revenant she executes, emotions which build up until she returns home after each level and cries for each and every one of the named beings she ‘saved’. If you’ve not guessed by the name of the game, crying is a big part of CRYSTAR, the tears you shed are used to enhance your abilities and purify your mind of the negative thoughts and events the Revenants endured upon their death on Earth.
The demons task you with clearing out each of the floors until you take out the one they wish you to rid the underworld of. I don’t want to give away too much but, this is only the beginning as you’ll loop a few times, bringing with you the memories and events of previous playthroughs. This allows our protagonist to become aware of certain events and choose different pathways and alter the narrative with each new playthrough – which reminds me of Raging Loop. It’s a very long game but well worth it for the interesting narrative and the various branches which occur throughout your playthroughs.
I mentioned above that some people look at CRYSTAR and instantly think it’ll be like Persona or Akiba’s Beat (maybe even Tokyo Xanadu with that games’ portal worlds) – but that’s a bit misleading. The game is a real-time action RPG, so more akin to Akiba’s Beat than Persona, which is turn-based. However, you can, once unlocked, swap between multiple characters at will, in order to utilise all of their unique attacks, just like in Tokyo Xanadu. But, CRYSTAR is rather simple, the basic combat consists of a few attacks which don’t really develop over the course of the game but you do unlock four special attacks per companion, each one providing their own attack style.
Unlike both games mentioned above, there’s no ‘outside-time’ like walking around a city or going to the shops. When you’re not on one of over 50 levels (once unlocked), you’ll be sat in your room with your fluffy dog, Thelema. From here you can purify the Torments (the cries of a Revenant upon being executed) and use the Sediments you receive to modify or fuse together new enhancements for your characters, check up on the Memoirs you’ve collected, change your clothes, phone other NPCs for a chat, or pat Thelema. And yes, you can pat the dog in CRYSTAR and there’s even a trophy if you do it 53 times (the height of her breed) – although you’ll do it many more times than that as she’s adorable!
Your goal, at first, is to follow the story and make your way through the uncharted levels which are drawn as you explore, execute any ‘named’ Revenants to collect their Torments, then find and slaughter the boss. You can only hold ten Torments at a time so you have to strategise who’s you wish to ‘collect’ as completing your Memoirs is a big part of obtaining the platinum trophy, as well as unlocking all of the creative stories around who the souls are and why they died. Let’s take a deeper look at what these are…
As stated above, each level is occupied by the dead (both the boss and the smaller Revenants/Specters). Due to their prolonged time within this realm, their physical appearance has become that of a beast or creature. This is one of the first issues of the game, one which a lot of people will pick up on and probably complain about – there’s not a lot of variety in the enemies. There are around 23 designs (including the unique bosses) which contain about 13 which are reused countless times as the Specters on each floor.
However, if you can look past the small number of designs, these Specters are purely there to act as cannon fodder like in games such as League of Legends. However, every now and again you’ll come across a ‘named’ Revenant (usually a pallet-swapped Specter or a unique boss) which will be one of the 99 which talk and give you Torments and memories. Executing them will unlock one of the three pages of their Memoirs upon purging their Torment via crying back in your room. You need to return and execute the same-named being three times to fully unlock their memories as to why and how they died or their last words and thoughts.
I urge you to read through the Memoirs as you unlock them as some of them are really sad and tragic, talking about suicide, abandonment, murder by a parent, drowning, and even the sad tale of a child who locked himself in a refrigerator when playing hide-and-seek, yet nobody found him. The short stories in CRYSTAR are about as depressing as the various stories we saw in WILL: A Wonderful World, a Visual Novel which has you alter the life of numerous people who are also going through murder, deceit, abuse, and abandonment.
In regards to collecting the Memoirs, I thought it was really hard as it easily took me around 60+ hours, but these days you can do it much quicker as there are a few guides out there. Basically, it involves a little RND as to which Remnant will show up when you enter a level. However, each one has a level they’ll always show up on at some point. So, once you know where they’ll appear, enter the level and if the named creature isn’t there, back out and go back in – it’ll eventually appear in the same spot each time it’s there. This aspect, the collecting certain Revenants, is most likely why the game was likened to Persona.
Over the course of your playthrough of CRYSTAR, you’ll meet up with three other playable protagonists. These are all stuck in Purgatory and can’t return, unlike you who can go back into your bedroom. Each one has their own agenda and even a narrative pathway which will trigger once you ‘loop’ the story. I personally loved this as it meant that the game doesn’t only encourage you to play as each of the girls so that you can level them up and remain on top of upgrades when you need them, but it also gives more exposure to the purpose of each girl and why they’re there.
Again, just like the Memoirs, I’d advise you to not skip the story as you play the game, even though various loops will repeat key plot points, as each one has subtle changes which alter the gameplay and perspective on certain characters each time.
Rei and her three companions can utilise the power of their individual tears in order to summon Guardians who follow them around for a short period. Tears are obtained on the level by either killing the dead or forcing yourself to cry at the expense of SP (which is used for the special attacks). Once again emphasising that although the tears are technically born of sorrow, they can be used to enhance and empower the protagonists on their journey into the unknown.
Out of the three companions you meet in CRYSTAR, I love Nanana. She’s very immature and rather dopey, and she has a long-ranged attack meaning you don’t have to get up close and risk being slapped about! I don’t know what it is about her, other than having a name that rhymes with banana (which is fun), but I found myself choosing her and Rei as my ‘mains’ the majority of the time.
CRYSTAR is out on both Steam and the PlayStation 4 and, would you believe it, the PlayStation 4 version has been censored! However, before you go knocking on Sony’s door and flat out refusing to buy the game simply because I said it’s been censored (and another publication before launch who acted like this was a crime against humanity), let’s see what’s changed.
The opening cinematic originally showed the naked arse of our protagonist, Rei. The website (which I won’t name) wrote their article in March and expressed their anger against no longer being able to see the naked buttocks and described the (literally) half a second scene as: “Her skin comes back as her battle skirt develops and it shows her bare rump for a brief second, jiggling in all its exposed glory.”
Now, it’s come to light since then that the original intro is in the Steam version but not in the PS4 version, but this isn’t anything you should really be complaining or expressing dislike towards. Why? Rei is a fifteen-year-old girl, a fact which is stated within the game shortly after you begin your first run in the hellish dungeons. So, are you really going to express that you’re unhappy you can’t see the naked arse of an underaged girl “jiggling in all its exposed glory”? It’s similar to WILL: A Wonderful World where the only obvious change was the alteration of a scene which depicted child rape between a man and a boy – the scenes in both games were clearly adjusted for the rating boards and western audiences.
However, depending on how inclined you are in looking at younger girls in cute outfits (not judging), CRYSTAR comes with a number of outfits to dress up in, some of which do actually expose the characters panties as she runs around if you angle the camera correctly. So, half a second of naked butt flesh gone, floaty skirts and dresses with exposed panties are still here (on the PS4).
Visually, I love CRYSTAR. I’m going to try and put a bunch of diverse screenshots on this page showing off the various designs (with no spoilers). The bold neon colours, use of bright lights, vibrant blue skies, glowing gold machinery and illuminating special effects are all brilliant and pure eye-candy. It’s also a nice contrast to the sepia and disturbing hand-drawn cutscene memories and the dark and gloomy real-life back in your room moments. Everything in Purgatory is really fantastical and magical, from the floating land to the demonic inhabitants.
Upon starting a new game in CRYSTAR, you’re asked if you want to play in English or Japanese (in regards to the vocals). I know a lot of people always choose Japanese but please, try out the English. Some of the more notable voices which are included in the English cast are:
– Brianna Knickerbocker (Rin in Catherine: Full Body, Tita in Trails of Cold Steel III, Shenhua in Shenmue III)
– Xanthe Huynh (Haru in Catherine: Full Body, Haru in Persona 5 franchise, Altina in Trails of Cold Steel III)
– Jackie Lastra (Iris in AI: The Somnium Files, Iris in Death end re;Quest, Ricotta in Ys VIII)
– Laura Post (Kasumi in Persona 5: Royal, Primrose in Octopath Traveler)
– Cassandre Lee Morris (Morgana in Persona 5 franchise, Fie and Alfin in Trails of Cold Steel III, Marie in Astral Chain)
– Michelle Marie (Millium in Trails of Cold Steel III)
There are a few others who have also done voice-over work in lots of JPRGs, Anime, Feature-length animated movies, and more. Going into the game, I wasn’t expecting the quality of voice acting which we were given – it was a nice surprise and really enhanced my experience playing the game.
Also, as a side note – the music is incredible. I’ve had it on whilst writing this review (as when you’re in your bedroom, you can replay all of the in-game music tracks). I’m going to track down any physical or digital version I can purchase once I’ve finished as I need it for my collection!
One last thing…
Seeing as it’s Christmas in a few weeks (if you’re reading as soon as it’s published), Spike Chunsoft has released a new batch of costumes for you to dress all four of the protagonists up in. If you own or are thinking of picking up the game on the American PSN store, you get 30% off the price of this Christmas-themed pack (and individual costumes) until December 20th 2019, bringing the price down to a low $3.49
However, if you live in the UK, like me, it’s a whopping £6.19 for all four costumes, or £1.29 each (which makes it £5.16 if you buy them separately). I’ve reached out to Spike Chunsoft to see if this is a pricing issue as you actually save over £1 if you simply buy all four costumes on their own. The same issue occurs in the EU with the Euro pricing, charging you around €1.13 MORE than if you were to buy them separately, never mind the usual discount for buying them all as a pack.
If it turns out the pricing is wrong, I’ll update this part of the review once we’ve been informed. Otherwise, NA customers go crazy, buy the costumes and dress up in your festive outfits.
Despite the combat and gameplay becoming slightly monotonous if going for the platinum (due to a lot of grinding), CRYSTAR is a beautiful game which evokes a lot of emotions through its brilliant narrative and haunting Memoirs. Just when you think the game is over, you realise you’ve barely begun as you get whisked back to the start in order to build upon the experiences you had the first time and pick new paths to uncover a new narrative each time. This brilliant mechanic along with the memorable protagonists, absolutely superb voice acting, mesmerising music, and truly disturbing lost Memoirs of those you execute, all combine into an experience you shouldn’t miss if you love action RPG games with an emotional narrative and fantastical visuals.
Although releasing a few months ago, CRYSTAR is well worth picking up today in order to play over the Christmas holidays. I’d even recommend picking up the new DLC pack so you can dress all festive and immerse yourself as Mrs Clause, the Remnant slayer who will cry for your sins and free you of your Torments. However, if you live in the EU or UK, make sure the pack isn’t more expensive than buying the DLC separately…
If looking to pick up the game physically, Numskull Games did the physical distribution here in the EU and have included a mini artbook within all new copies (our amazon link is in the sidebar). However, if you pick it up digitally or physically, you will get the Summer Collection DLC included.
- - Beautiful environments which have a stark contrast to the depressing and lonely aspects of the game
- - Incredible voice acting from a number of infamous voice artists in the world of JRPGs and Anime
- - Very creative and disturbing Memoirs to discover
- - Lets you pat the big fluffy dog as many times as you want
- - Very long narrative which changes every time you loop, allowing you to progress in new ways with recalled prior memories
- - The gameplay can feel a little monotonous and repetitive if grinding for the platinum
- - Some people may think the combat is a little too simple in the early stages
- - With no indications on where the named Revenants are located, trying to get the platinum blind will take a very long time (I know)