I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it a thousand more times: a video game has never made me feel anything other than hungry. Sure, that could mean varying degrees of hunger, but it’s hunger all the same. That’s why it might seem weird that I’d be playing a game that’s all about feeling stuff. Crystar, an action-RPG from FuRyu and Gemdrops previously released on PlayStation and PC and now available for Nintendo’s Switch, focuses on sobbing all over the place to power yourself up. Snacking clearly wasn’t going to help here.
When her sister’s soul is taken into purgatory, Rei decides she’s going to go and get her back one way or the other. That means working for the place’s management. As you might imagine, part-time work sucks, though you probably didn’t expect it would involve slaying demons and taking on the negative emotions associated with them. With the help of some new friends, a spiritual guardian and her adorable dog, though, Rei’s got a chance at fixing things…but it’s worth keeping in mind that plans don’t always work out quite like one expects.
Crystar’s basically a visual novel with light action-RPG elements. There’s combat and dungeon exploration, sure, but it’s pretty clear right from the start that this isn’t where the majority of the development time and attention went. You’ve got light attacks, heavy attacks, specials, a super mode and associated super attacks and hordes of baddies that need to be taught a lesson. As characters join Rei’s party you’re able to switch between them, which is mostly useful to aim for enemies’ weaknesses and do maximum damage.
Combat in Crystar is a pretty mashy experience that owes a lot to games like the Musou series, so don’t come in expecting the next EVO game and you’ll be fine. Between battles, you’ll craft upgrades, do that crying thing that’s the game’s selling point – which converts negative emotions from defeated enemies into usable upgrades – and play with that cute dog. None of this is the worst but it’s definitely a distraction from the story. At least all the grinding you’ll need to do to keep up with Crystar’s content will unlock surprisingly grim descriptions of the various Revenants you’ll battle.
Plotwise, though, Crystar’s a little more interesting. Without getting too deep into a story that’s better experienced than explained, if games have only made me feel hungry, I might have needed a second lunch after playing through Crystar. Fans of the Persona series and similar anime and games are going to have a lot to chew on here; Crystar’s plot goes in directions that are a lot more interesting than you’d expect given the standard anime concept.
By “interesting” I mostly mean that this is a surprisingly dark game given its kid-friendly appearance, so beware if games make you feel a little more than hungry. With a plot like this, it’s a shame the gameplay struggles to keep up.
It’s a little shocking that the Switch can keep up for a change, though. Unlike, well, pretty much everything on the console, Crystar looks and plays just fine with few to no framerate issues. Even the sound’s just fine. It’s like the Switch is an actual, honest-to-god gaming system that can do titles justice if they’re given the necessary love. Who’d have thought? Naturally, Crystar’s been out on PC for a bit and if you’ve got the choice you might want to try it there instead, but if you want a mobile-friendly version of the game the Switch port is just fine.
Crystar is an emotional story with an action-RPG slapped on top. If you’re into the former, rest assured you’ll be able to endure the latter to see more of it. Just make sure to come in prepared, particularly if you’re acutely affected by this sort of tale, and you’re bound to have a great time. Is “great” the right word for a game that’s meant to make you sad? You’ll have a memorable time. Let’s go with that.