Review: Crystal Adventure (DSiWare)

In which "adventure" is revealed to be a relative term

If there's one thing RPG fans enjoy, it's a good story. The quest should be epic, the characters should be interesting, and there should preferably be a few surprising twists along the way as well.

Here is the story of Crystal Adventure: you get bored quickly and delete it.

Okay, you caught us. The actual story, as can be found on the CIRCLE Entertainment webpage, is that there are some rare crystals containing a "secret magical energy", and rumour has it that an unknown sorcerer is collecting the crystals for some unknown reason and storing them in an unknown location. It really is that vague, and it reads more like the framework for a plot than a coherent storyline. You play the role of "the most famous bounty hunter in the kingdom", but evidently you're still not famous enough that CIRCLE knows your name, so we never find that out.

Again, that's all from their website, because the game itself — help file included — makes no reference to a story whatsoever.

Is that a problem? In itself, no, of course not. But it's emblematic of the entire approach Crystal Adventure takes; if it's possible to avoid including it, the game avoids including it. And since it's possible to avoid including a lot of things — such as context, interesting environments, an interactive battle system, some explanation of what's going on, a reason to keep playing, etc. — the game ends up being a totally unremarkable and never interesting slog through a single boring dungeon.

The gameplay attempts to be as vague as the plot, seeming again more like a framework than a finished product. You move with the D-Pad There's no "and". You move with the D-Pad. That's all you do.

If you touch an object you pick it up immediately. Since an inventory system is something else it's possible to avoid when designing a game, everything you find is immediate use. These include stones that increase your defence and attack power, HP refills, and money. If you touch an enemy, you fight. Or, rather, you sit patiently watching yourself fight, because Crystal Adventure simply slaps you and the enemy together like two rag dolls until one of you dies.

As simple as the concept sounds, the way the game treats items and battles creates a wealth of unnecessary issues. In terms of the items, nothing respawns and nothing drops when you defeat enemies. Every item in the game is lying on the ground, and if you pick it up it's gone forever. It doesn't help that "the most famous bounty hunter in the kingdom" has a wonky hitbox and will sometimes collide with items when he walks past them. That means you can accidentally pick up HP refills when you don't need them, and they won't reappear by the time you do need them. You can also accidentally open a locked door by walking past it, and if it's the wrong locked door there won't be any additional keys to go back and pick up, which means you may well end up stuck and unable to advance in the game.

The treatment of the battles is just as bad, perhaps worse. There's no way of knowing how powerful an enemy is until you start fighting it, which is bad enough, but the option to flee the battle also comes with a delay, meaning you can find yourself worn down or killed before your character finally decides to run. When you defeat enough enemies you level up, which refills your HP, but since the game autosaves every time you walk through a door, you may find yourself stranded with low HP and no enemies that are weak enough to fight. You may — and will — literally run into situations in which you simply cannot progress in the game.

It's really the autosave that's a problem, because that prevents you from undoing anything that accidentally happened. If you lose all of your keys or get beaten down too much by enemies or spend too much gold, you're stuck the moment you walk through a door. There's no going back with the exception of just starting the entire game over from scratch. And when the experience is as bland and unfun as this, that's not an appealing thought.

Even when you die — which happens with no special animation or notice; the screen simply fades out in the middle of battle and you're kicked back to the menu — you restart from the autosave, meaning you'll still be in the same impossible situation that just killed you.

In terms of presentation the game is a bit south of average. The visuals are grey and dreary and lack character, and they glitch easily if you repeatedly press against the wall in small passageways. The music is repetitive and irritating, and the battle sounds are reminiscent of an untalented rap artist trying to beatbox. It's bad.

Crystal Adventure feels like a game that was given up on halfway through development, but released anyway. There's no sense that the game even wants you to complete it, and the foolish autosave system will prevent most of the die-hard RPG fans from doing that anyway.


With a total dearth of variety and a game-wide sense of developmental carelessness, Crystal Adventure is both unfun and feels unfinished. The fact that the autosaves can easily fence you into an unwinnable situation — with the only option at that point being to restart the game from scratch — is just the icing on this half-baked cake. This is the version of Crystal Adventure that should have been distributed to beta testers, not to actual customers. Leave this one in the dungeon.

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