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Based on the Japanese version of the game.

Crystar isn't very fun to play at all, but everything else about it is above average to excellent. The art direction and character designs are evocative, affording the game a distinct visual presence, and it never "breaks character" in terms of aesthetics or tone. It also excels on the audio side of things, with a solid soundtrack courtesy of Sakuzyo and excellent performances from all of the voice actors.

The plot and writing are also approached with much more care than the average mass market title; Crystar successfully maintains a serious atmosphere throughout and handles heavy topics with the appropriate gravitas. One noteworthy aspect of the narrative is that there is essentially no optional story content whatsoever. Many modern JRPGs lean on social link systems (or similar) to flesh out the characters and provide a sense of breadth, but Crystar eschews that line of thinking. As a result, I can see people finding the story progression being too linear/rigid (the repetitive gameplay doesn't help matters), but I see it as a boon; since there are no side events, every character must be used in the main story and interact with each other throughout, which results in the cast having a genuine depth and sense of camaraderie that the social link format can't really accomplish. The plot itself also doesn't pull any punches, pulling off consistently surprising developments alongside meaningful twists and revelations. I also appreciate that, while the setting itself has some pretty interesting background elements that you can discover for yourself by reading through the memories you pick up from enemies throughout the game, the ultimate conflict is a personal one and the characters are only really interested in proving themselves and overcoming their own traumas, not changing the world or killing god or anything (though they do accomplish something pretty major in the process). The final sequence of events might have felt eye-rollingly cheesy in some other games, but Crystar actually managed to pull it off. I should also reiterate here that the voice acting is absolutely fantastic throughout; the performances really sell the characters, especially Nanana and Rei. Every single line of the game is voiced, too, which is somewhat of a rarity even in JRPGs now.

My only real complaint with the narrative elements is that it feels like some things could have been pushed even further; in particular, I feel like the ending was maybe just a bit too straightforward. (Rot13) V guvax vg jbhyq unir orra vagrerfgvat gb frr Zvenv npghnyyl erghea gb gur jbeyq bs gur yvivat jvgu Erv, jvgu gur gjb bs gurz univat gb errinyhngr gurve eryngvbafuvc pbzcyrgryl, naq Erv yvivat jvgu gur xabjyrqtr gung ure fvfgre vf rffragvnyyl n znff zheqrere jub tbg njnl jvgu vg. Univat Zvenv qrpvqr gb tb guebhtu gur ervapneangvba cebprff vf gur "zbeny" jnl gb cynl guvatf, ohg V guvax vg jbhyq unir orra n ovg zber ernyvfgvp naq creuncf rira zber gehr gb gur gurzrf bs gur fgbel vs fur jrera'g jvyyvat gb tvir hc ba Erv, naq guhf yvsr, fb rnfvyl. V qhaab, znlor guvf jbhyq or gbb qnex nsgre gur erfg bs gur raqvatf? (End Rot13) In general I think JRPGs should spend more time on the ending sequences and epilogues, and Crystar did feel like it ended a little too abruptly for my tastes. At the same time, the characters have all been through a lot, so maybe it's best to give them a bit of a respite at the very end, lol.

I must also emphasize that the game is not at all fun to play. The ARPG combat doesn't feel awful to play or anything, but there's no depth to the system at all and only a few enemy types. The map design is also extremely haphazard, with chunks of terrain pasted together in unnatural ways and no design elements of note other than a few chests here and there; it almost feels like it's procedurally generated, even if it isn't. You end up just sort of mindlessly button mashing your way through a bunch of very similar maps, some of which you need to play more than once. I suggest putting the game on easy mode (the difficulties don't seem to affect anything but enemy HP and damage output) and engaging with the gameplay as little as possible.

My final criticism would be that a lot of the music, despite being very good on its own, simply isn't used very well. The map themes are way too quiet (I ended up having to turn the game volume itself way up and then reduce the volume for the sound effects and voices separately), and many tracks just don't play for very long at all, with several only being used once or twice near the end of the game. Given how many tracks there actually are, and how much work Sakuzyo put into them, this was pretty disappointing.

Overall, Crystar is a game that is very flawed as, well, a game, but succeeds to varying degrees in every other way and delivers a satisfying narrative with well-realized characters. While it's not on the same level as DoD3 or Berseria, if you want a commercial JRPG with 1) a female protagonist and 2) a serious, relatively mature story, Crystar should definitely scratch that itch. As long as you can put up with the monotonous experience that is actually playing the game, anyway.

[While I wouldn't really classify Crystar as a yuri game, all of the principal cast members are female and develop meaningful relationships with one another, in addition to simply possessing agency in their own right. Mirai's obsession with Rei is also pretty... satisfying? Writing this now, I realized you can kind of see the game as Hisaya's version of Madoka, so people who liked that will probably like Crystar too...]


Another PS1 JRPG that is perfectly representative of everything that a "PS1 JRPG" is. If that's your jam, then go for it.

Just make sure you craft the Eternal Sphere on disc 1, preferably right after the tournament, or you're not a real gamer. What, it's easy if you use Orchestra!


Great game if you ignore how dumb the story is... which is admittedly pretty difficult.

I think the twist could have actually been used in an interesting way, but it probably wasn't a great idea to try it in an established series.


Not only is it a bad game, it has Jordan Peterson propaganda!


Starts out pretty exciting, but loses steam in the second half. I think there's a lot of room to improve on the basic formula here, so I hope the sequel actually comes out at some point...

Has some yuri elements.


One of the most needlessly complex games of all time, but that's kind of the appeal. I'd like Nippon Ichi to make another SRPG with this system, because Phantom/Makai Kingdom felt pretty damn rushed...


Don't really feel like rating the entire series; this is the best game in it overall.

Disgaea is one of the best examples of a series that consistently iterates on itself in successful ways. I hope Nippon Ichi survives to make a Disgaea 6.


Only entertaining if you're some sort of weirdo who enjoys NES Metroid on a sexual level.


Best map design in any game, period. Also has a pretty robust class system that allows for a lot of viable party setups. Just be prepared to play the game for a really, really long time, because it's really, really fucking long.

Writing is mostly vapid, but the character designs are excellent.


What happens when someone tries to recreate oldschool JRPGs a little too faithfully.

Battle theme is pretty nice.


Extremely unfinished, but what's there is... fascinating. I really wish someone would make a modern game that explores the multi-scenario concept in a deep way like this game and Live-A-Live did; I haven't played Octopath Traveler, but that's mostly because it seems like a step back compared to these games. :/

Blue's ending is one of the most hilarious things in any game ever, both ironically and unironically.

Asellus's scenario has yuri!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The battle system is like a really boring version of Tales, but it has yuri so who cares!?!?!?!?!?!?!?


Probably the first roguelike that I ever played? Fascinating mixture of monster raising, a town sim (featuring a bunch of girls to date), and roguelike dungeon exploration ala the Fushigi no Dungeon series. It sounds like too much of a weird hodgepodge of things to work, but somehow it does. Representative of Konami's ambition and confidence back in the 90s. Too bad those days are long past us.


Another game that I would consider a quintessential "JRPG" in every sense of the word. It won't blow your mind, but pretty much every aspect of the game is at least competent and I doubt anyone will walk away hating it.