QCF: Crystal Crisis

n the short time since its release, the Nintendo Switch has obtained a fantastic selection of third-party games for almost every genre, but only Nicalis has really striven to have at least one quality game from every genre on the platform. Crystal Crisis is their recent entry in the Puzzle arena, and boy, does it do a good job of filling that niche.

Generally speaking, Crystal Crisis is more or less a fresh take on the tried-and-true Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo formula, identically incorporating a large roster of characters and most of the same mechanics players have seen since the 1996 CPS2 original. Players build up crystals of various sizes on one of two identical playfields known as the Grid, all which can be cleared away with special pieces of the same color. Like-colored crystals will bond together along any edge they come in contact with at rest. Forming a mass of the same color 2 by 2 or greater will form a larger crystal called a Cluster. When the properly colored catalyst block called a Spark makes contact – regardless of the size of the crystal mass or cluster – it is destroyed and the rest of the field falls into place.

This allows for payers to plan out and create massive combos with the right amount of skill, lining up sparks and scoring huge points in the process. But there's a new twist; unlike Puzzle Fighter, Crystal Crisis has what can only really be described as word wrap for puzzle games; there is no real wall for pieces to slam up against, instead of appearing on the other side of the field as player moves their pieces beyond what should be a border. Players can even split the piece between opposing sides of the filed, allowing for even more flexible combo formation! Of course, these combos also serve another greater purpose.

Like Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, the player will be facing off against a computer-controlled opponent that will also actively subdue the player. Performing combos will create garbage blocks that will litter the opposing side's grid. Breaking clusters will also result in an attack with double the power. These garbage blocks can be cleared out, but it takes quite a bit more effort to do so since regular crystals need to be cleared in conjunction with the garbage pieces. Thankfully, there are various ways that players can mitigate or retaliate against large combos messing up their side of the screen.

As mentioned before, Crystal Crisis features a large roster of colorful characters from a number of Nicalis titles and beyond. Characters like Umihara Kawase, Solange from Code of Princess, Quote and Curly from Cave Story, The Binding of Isaac's titular character and even guest characters like Astro Boy, Black Jack and the super-obscure Johnny Turbo. Each of these characters has both a defensive and offensive Burst technique to help control the player's grid and mess with the opponent's. A gauge will fill whenever crystals are cleared from the screen. Some gauges are segmented while others require a full charge to use in an all or nothing fashion. A skillful burst can significantly turn the tides of a match gone wrong... or, perhaps, assist in a speedy win. That's up to the player.

A number of game modes await the player in Crystal Crisis. The typical Arcade mode is here with the player taking on several progressively more powerful computer opponents using their chosen character. But there's also an extensive story mode too, which also throws a nice twist into the mix; each episode of the main story takes place between two different characters and players can choose which of the two they will take the stage on with. Depending on the characters chosen, new story paths can open up and new characters can be unlocked for use in Arcade and Versus play.

Speaking of Versus play, but online and offline modes are available to take the fight anywhere from the couch to the world at large. Crystal Crisis also makes for an excellent versus game to play in Switch Tabletop mode wherever players may be.

Visually, Crystal Crisis incorporates smooth 3D visuals that give it a good amount of pop. A lot of puzzle games including greats such as Lumines Remastered rely entirely on 2-D elements. Which, honestly isn't at all bad in the slightest. Nevertheless, having everything from the characters to the backgrounds and even the crystals themselves built within a smooth polygonal engine looks pretty great. In addition, of course, are the iconic character designs from the works of Osamu Tezuka make for a great

The Nintendo Switch version of the game looks and sounds pretty great, with a great soundtrack, great effects for crystals, combs and special effects and the right amount of original Japanese VO, cheesy delivery from characters such as Johnny and even narration by none other than Peter-Freaking-Cullen. What a surprise it was to hear Optimus Prime himself in muh puzzler.

Many options also exist for players to tweak the general gameplay in terms of speed, burst abilities, and gem conditions. There is even a bevy of extras, including concept art, a music player and even tweaks to everything from the gem colors to the general UI which, by the way, is slick and clean.

It all sounds pretty good then, but here is one major concession in the Switch version specifically; the load times can, well, they can take quite, a, bit, of, time…To—get…through. This is not nearly as much an issue on the PlayStation 4 as it is with the Switch, so a little patience will definitely be needed, especially in Story mode.

All in all, if a puzzle game with a modern take on the Puzzle Fighter formula is what you crave, Crystal Crisis should be more than capable of sating your appetite with its gem-crushing, frenetic gameplay, and will hit the spot for anyone with a hardcore taste for puzzlers. Any puzzle fan looking for the next colorful head-scratcher to solve on the Nintendo platform would do right to add Nicalis’ quirky take on the genre to their Switch library.

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