Crystal Crisis (Switch) – A Crystal Busting Cataclysm

Released on: May 28 2019

Available Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, PC

Price: $22.79 CDN ($19.99 US)

Published by: Nicalis Developed by: Nicalis

I love action-puzzle games. Games like Tetris, Dr. Mario, Puzzle League (known as Tetris Attack in its initial Super Nintendo release), Puyo Puyo (Puyo Pop) have been my jam ever since I played these games with my mom when I was younger. When I heard there was a game coming out that was Super Puzzle Fighter, with Nicalis characters, I was on board. Hoping this would be a fantastic new puzzle game, I picked up Crystal Crisis on release day. Is Crystal Crisis worthy of satisfying my falling-block puzzle itch?

The Red Crystal: a jewel so powerful, it breaks the barrier between dimensions. As one would think, evil individuals, seek The Red Crystal’s power for nefarious purposes. It is up to various heroes from different dimensions, to come together, and destroy the dangerous Red Crystal. I enjoy the way Crystal Crisis handles its story mode. Each battle, the player can select what character they play as, which will determine who they will face in future battles, which helps with future playthroughs of the story mode. The story mode is short, though. I was able to beat the story mode on my first playthrough in less than an hour. The story mode is also on the simpler side. I do like that the easier difficulty lets less experienced players enjoy the story, but for those hoping for an extra layer of challenge to help lengthen the playtime, Crystal Crisis falls slightly short in that respect.

The story mode does have this quote that I find somewhat inspirational.

For the most part, I like the visuals. The characters are colorful and expressive, and I enjoy the myriad of customizable options for the blocks to help people with colorblindness. The player can also customize the color of the menus, which is nice. 

One of the major selling points to Crystal Crisis is its characters. There are a bunch of indie game stars to select. A few key examples are Quote and Curly Brace (from Cave Story), Isaac (The Binding of Isaac), Aban and Tina (1001 Spikes). There are even characters from other media, too (Astro Boy is one that comes to mind.) While most of the other characters elude me, I do enjoy crossovers, since I get to learn a little bit about them.

It feels weird seeing Astro Boy with a bunch of indie game characters.

Those familiar with Super Puzzle Fighter will know what to expect from Crystal Crisis, as the gameplay is identical. For the uninitiated, players match colored crystals together, either in a rectangular fashion or individually. When a burst crystal appears, players match that color with an identically colored crystal block to make a bunch of blocks explode. The number of blocks removed this way will reflect how many timer blocks the player sends to their opponent. Timer blocks cannot be removed until they turn into regular blocks, which happens after the timer expires. What I find most appealing about Crystal Crisis (and Super puzzle Fighter for that matter) is how quickly a game can turn. One second, a player can be at a complete disadvantage, the next, they get a crystal that ultimately turns the game around. It makes the game exciting and accessible for most players. Where Crystal Crisis differs from Super Puzzle Fighter is with the Burst Gauge. The Burst Gauge is Crystal Crisis’ take on a “super meter” found in most fighting games. When it is full, each character can activate their unique special attack, which can help them take the advantage or use their defensive burst that will help them stay in the game. It makes each character unique, which is hard to do with a puzzle game. 

Helen’s offensive burst scrambles the opponents blocks.

Some games have limited options when it comes to single-player modes. Crystal Crisis does not have this problem. Other than story mode, there’s arcade mode, survival mode, tag team mode, and even a training mode. Including all of these modes shows that the developers of Crystal Crisis tried to give as much value to the player as possible.

One issue I have with Crystal Crisis is how to unlock stuff. When I saw the character select screen for arcade mode, I noticed that I was missing a chunk of the roster. So I looked all over the internet, trying to find out how to unlock the missing cast. Even today, it’s still unclear how to get them. The extra modes also need to be unlocked, and their unlock condition is just as ambiguous. Usually, I like finding stuff out on my own, but when it comes to fighting games (or even puzzle games like this), I tend to want all the characters and modes as soon as possible.

I’m missing two characters and I have no idea how to unlock them!

As much as I respect Crystal Crisis’s inclusion of all the single-player content, I still found myself dropping the game rather quickly. Since Crystal Crisis plays like a puzzle fighting game, it is best enjoyed with a friend. There is a respectable online mode, but that too, I feel, gets old a little too quickly.

Crystal Crisis features voice acting for the majority of its characters. The issue I have with the voice acting is most characters have Japanese voices, but the narration is purely in English (voiced by the impeccable Peter Cullen of Transformers fame no less.) I do wish that Crystal Crisis had the option to customize the language of the voices for consistency’s sake.

As much as I like the chaotic nature of Crystal Crisis’ gameplay, the luck-based nature of getting the right pieces might put some more competitive players off. Occasionally, a Poly-crystal will appear instead of a Burst Crystal. The Poly-crystal will clear every block of that color on the player’s field, regardless if they are timer blocks or regular blocks. The Poly-crystal has the potential to not only rescue a losing player from inevitable defeat but completely bury the winning player. While I like mechanics like this, because it prevents new players from getting destroyed, I do feel this could anger some players.

The Poly-crystal even destroys timer blocks with time still on them, which can completely turn the tide of battle.

Crystal Crisis packs a decent amount of content for its price. If the story mode was slightly longer, and the characters and extra modes had clearer unlock conditions, Crystal Crisis would be a game-changer. I would still absolutely recommend Crystal Crisis, since the multitude of single-player modes, and the gameplay is deep enough to engage players.

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