The first time I opened Crystal Crisis for the Nintendo Switch, I didn’t know what to think. What seemed like a fighting game featuring a magnificent array of characters turned out to be something entirely different. Its developer, Nicalis, does refer to it as a fighting game. But it’s really a puzzle fighter. Longtime puzzle fanatics may remember Capcom’s Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo featuring Street Fighter characters, and that’s what Nicalis appears to be aping here.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic. It features highly detailed characters and animations. The little cut scenes leading up to each “battle” are well executed and add to the fun of the game. Character animations during fights are (depending on the move) cool and hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed the moves, even though they weren’t executed with fancy button combination, but rather by finishing parts of a puzzle.
The characters are the high point of this title. Where else are you going to find both protagonists of Cave Story (Quote & Curly Brace), along with Astro Boy and a ninja? It’s fun to play as each character and unlock additional characters as you play. If you’re a fan of Nicalis titles and various other IP, you’re going to feel right at home here.
Gameplay is where things take a bit of a bizarre turn. Try to imagine the game Columns or Wario’s Woods or even one of those smart phone puzzlers. Now, convert everything to 3-D and add a story. Whoa. All of these things combine to create an overall satisfying gaming experience that can be played in small bursts or even hours at a time.
The audio is good, on par with what I’ve come to expect from this studio. Tunes are exciting, bombastic, relaxing and fun depending on the stage. Sound effects aren’t annoying or distracting and only contribute to the experience. I enjoyed the music of each of the individual games represented (especially Cave Story) and it’s nice to see the logical expansion of these styles in game like this.
The game is loaded with content, including extras. These are a nice touch, with the ability to customize crystal colors, menu colors, view achievements, check out the gallery and listen to your favorite tunes from the game. Training is extremely helpful, especially if you’ve never played a similar puzzle game before. I initially struggled with the game, until I completed the training and, well…the pieces just sort of fell into place.
The arcade mode itself has several sub-modes and challenge levels. Beginning from a roster of ten initial characters (with more unlocking as you go), you compete to win. It’s pretty straightforward. Story mode and versus mode flesh out the gameplay a little bit by providing context and plot for the former and some enjoyable online versus play with the latter mode. Each mode offers a unique experience, so players will probably spend quite some time on this title.
This strange way of creating “lines” in the puzzle separates this game from some of its predecessors and provides a fresh take on the puzzler genre. The other neat aspect of these is that they’re set up as battles, so each time you clear a line in your puzzle, the avatar of your character physically attacks the opponent and vice versa. The animations are fun to watch and contribute a certain atmosphere to the game that only serves to enhance its charm.
The game is perfect for casual gamers and even the more dedicated gamer will find something to like here. The brevity of some parts of the game lends itself well to the former, while the story mode and unlockables are perfect for the latter. With its superb puzzles, great graphics, enjoyable gameplay and overall charm, Crystal Crisis is a worthy investment for any fan puzzlers, fighting games, or both.
Crystal Crisis Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Crystal Crisis is a fun puzzler featuring various Nicalis characters and other cameos. You’ll be battling it out against the CPU or friends to see who comes out on top.
Based in Colorado, David Buck is an author, musician, and media specialist. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and builds scale models, mostly starships and movie cars.