Gaist Crusher is one of those multimedia extravaganzas where right from the start there’s a TV series, manga and other merchandise all lined up and ready to drain the wallets of anyone unable to withstand the assault. This 3DS offering — developed by none other than the legendary Japanese studio Treasure (Gunstar Heroes, Sin & Punishment and Ikaruga, amongst others) — is the video game “arm” of this multifaceted and highly coordinated attack.
It’s worth taking a moment to point out that these impressions come from the demo on the Japanese eShop, and while we’re aware that the retail game has more of everything, we aren't able to confirm exactly what additional content will be included, or how different (if at all) the finished cart is from this demo.
The demo is split into three distinct parts – a short tutorial, a set of three single player levels and a “search mode”, which appears to be a way to use the 3DS cameras to read small QR-like codes that are of course only available on the back of related Gaist Crusher merchandise. Did someone say "money spinner"?
The single player mode is the main event, and plays like a traditional 3D brawler. You’re given one character (Rekka) and five “Gaist Gears” (think fancy armour) to choose from before the start of the stage and you can’t change to another type unless you quit and try again from the beginning. Each Gaist Gear has three forms to use in battle; “Mail Form”, “Weapon Form” and “Extreme Form”. Mail and Weapon modes can be switched between at will, with Weapon Mode offering increased attack powers (and a whole new move set) at the expense of Rekka’s defence.
Extreme Mode can only be used for brief periods once Rekka’s EX gauge has reached its limit, the benefits being that in this robo-animal mode he's very powerful and is invincible for the short time it's active. The fact that all Gaist Gears and end of level bosses are aligned to a particular element and have strengths/weaknesses to others will probably cause many seasoned Nintendo fans to think of Mega Man, and knowing beforehand which Gear is the "correct" one to use for a stage will make things easier to handle.
We’re prepared to accept that as fully-grown adults, we're perhaps not part of Gaist Crusher’s target demographic, but most gamers would still expect more from an action game created by a team with Treasure’s pedigree. Once you get past all the posing and hot-blooded youths shouting at the top of their lungs, there’s really not much else of note here; combos never really feel fluid, enemies are too abstract to have any personality and the Extreme Mode transformations — while visually impressive — are clunky to control and nowhere near as useful as you’d expect. There's a chance that when aligned with the flood of toys and other merchandise, Gaist Crusher's appeal will increased, but at the moment we can't help but feel a little disappointed. Here’s hoping Treasure’s next game sees the studio return to the quality we know it can produce.