Crystal Adventure (DSiWare)

Game Review

Crystal Adventure Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

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 and...no. 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.

From the web

User Comments (34)



Void said:

I would say the wonky hit box is enough to lower it to a 2 atleast.



Syntax said:

Does the ehop have some kind of quality control? Nintendo need to hire Gandalf.



Stuffgamer1 said:

I don't expect much from CIRCLE, and for good reason. This actually sounds less fun than Dragon Crystal...but it's also slightly cheaper, so you get what you pay for. Hard to trust a $2 RPG.



Birdman said:

Well, glad I held off on this one, though that video of it on the eShop was pretty convincing not to buy it either...



Philip_J_Reed said:

How did this get a 3?

I must have just been feeling really happy about being done with Christmas Wonderland 2.

This actually sounds less fun than Dragon Crystal

I like Dragon Crystal quite a lot! I almost used it as a comparison point in this review, but I thought that might be a bit misleading, as the combat in that game is turn-based (and, well, is actual combat), and its levels are randomly generated. Here it's the same thing every time.



accc said:

How in the hell did this get anything other than a '1'? It sounds like the autosaving issue completely breaks the game.




Dragon Crystal was really fun.
I will definitely pick this one up, though. Great review Brutus, keep it up man!



Windy said:

ive been playing this game and actually found it to be a fun exploration game. however there are some flaws. One is that you can get trapped with nowhere to go causing you to have to start over. This game has some interesting gameplay that I really wish they might expand upon such as a real battle engine such as Dragon Tower which is the game that circle copied and rushed to get out to the eshop. This game is just not finished in my oppinion. plus it was released at the right time for the eshop cause simply put......we are starved for an RPG. im still having fun with this cheapy and would probably give the game a 4 or a 5. probably a 4 since I do think its unfinished. Is it worth a playthrough? well if you are particular and would love to play a perfect game with no flaws? No dont buy it. Maybe if you have nothing better to do and drop a buck ninety nine on a cheapy and amuse yourself for a couple hours then maybe yes. its not groundbreaking for sure. but I must say its more fun than planet Crashers



ClassicJetterz said:

So...why exactly are developers still creating DSiWare? I know this game must have been in development for several months (if it even took THAT long, according to this review) but couldn't they be like UFO games and just make awful 3DS eShop games?



Windy said:

This definately tells us right here. 1.99 games are just not very good.



slidecage said:

i still say Crimson Shroud will be a flop too hard for the basic person to understand.. i say it gets a 5 or 6 tops next week



slidecage said:

Castle Conqueror - Heroes 2 hits dec 20 in the states for 500 i think i save my points for that



Jaz007 said:

I think dsiware games are still being made because dsiware is a cheaper way to make shovelware than 3dsware is.



RR529 said:

@slidecage, according to Phillip_J_Reed (whom is reviewing it), he's actually really enjoying Crimson Shroud.

He's said that battles are pretty standard menu based turn based stuff (with the dice usually doing little more than deciding how strong your attack will be, or how much MP is used during a magic attack). You don't even move with the dice (you just tap where you want to go).



pkrockin said:

You can't get stuck if you don't want to. Right after you advance to the second floor, a big green floppy disk with the word "saved" appears in the corner. Right off the bat, the game says, "Hey, I save the game when you change floors!" If you're pissed about that, you're not actively playing this game. Secondly, if you worry that you make a mistake, you can close and restart the software. Or, if you are familiar with video games since the SNES, you can press L+R+Select+Start to do a soft-reset. Only takes a few seconds of experimentation to figure that out. Thirdly, how are you accidentally opening doors or picking up items? I think I did that 3 times total in my playthrough of all 24 floors. If you don't wiggle your circle pad constantly or just use the D-pad, you should be fine.
On my first play of this game, I was screwed by the fourth floor and realized I had to put some effort into my choices. After that, it was much more rewarding. Game taught lesson-->player applied lesson-->player succeeded-->player felt good about himself and the game. Not every game experience has to be so passive and thoughtless. It's okay if you have to fail to learn!
As far as roguelikes go, this is pretty standard stuff, so a lot of these complaints about the game's passive combat or the game screwing you over are unnecessary. This is what roguelikes are like. Actually, this game is a lot more friendly than most roguelikes (Dragon Crystal included). Nothing is randomly generated, so you can replay segments with no surprises as much as you like until you're satisfied with the outcome. Truthfully, the player takes no uncalculated risks, which makes it a lot easier and friendly than Dragon Crystal.
Although there isn't an inventory system, you are managing your money for times you need it as well two types of keys. You also are managing your consumption of health potions and are choosing what power-ups are worth fighting for and when to fight for them (resource management).
Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying the game is a gem. But you did play it poorly and your review number reflects that. Considering it costs $2, this game is more closer to 5/10.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Right after you advance to the second floor, a big green floppy disk with the word "saved" appears in the corner. Right off the bat, the game says, "Hey, I save the game when you change floors!" If you're pissed about that, you're not actively playing this game.

Nobody's saying it's not clear that the game autosaves. It obviously is. We're just explaining why that's a problem.

Secondly, if you worry that you make a mistake, you can close and restart the software. Or, if you are familiar with video games since the SNES, you can press L+R+Select+Start to do a soft-reset. Only takes a few seconds of experimentation to figure that out.

When a game requires to you reset it externally — there's no in-game option to restart from an old save, or to reload a level — because otherwise you'll be fenced into an unwinnable situation, that's a pretty text book example of bad design.

Of course you can reset the game. You can reset any game. That doesn't really have a bearing here, and the fact that you'd have to reset it in order to advance — or, rather, in order to not get trapped for eternity in a situation from which you can't escape — only highlights how clunky this game really is.

Thirdly, how are you accidentally opening doors or picking up items?

Just the way you explained it happening to you. The fact that it's possible to lose your keys that way, or to pick up an item you don't want, is problem enough. The fact that you would then have to reset the game externally or risk getting stuck in an unwinnable place is even worse!

As far as roguelikes go, this is pretty standard stuff

This is not a roguelike.

Nothing is randomly generated

That's why this is not a roguelike.

you can replay segments with no surprises as much as you like until you're satisfied with the outcome.

As long as you don't mind resetting the game constantly, that is.

But you did play it poorly

Well, thanks for reading.



pkrockin said:

"there's no in-game option to restart from an old save, or to reload a level"
L+R+Select+Start. It's definitely inelegant and not as cool as using your Sands of Time dagger, but not out-of-game.

I agree that unwinnable situations suck. I suppose I was lucky to have that moment early enough to learn from it. The lesson was "don't make stupid choices that you will regret later."

I accidentally performed actions by being dumb or not looking where I was going. Had nothing to do with spotty controls. How can I fault the game for that? Besides, gold and keys are plentiful.

As for its genre, you can consider this a "proto-roguelike." Feels pretty much the same as any roguelike I've played.



Windy said:

I think the game is interesting personally and would love to see circle expand on some of this type of play. First a storyline would be cool. Second the saving is horribly flawed. you shouldnt have to quit the game and restart it. I rated the game a 3 in the eshop I just hate giving out 2's. there are some far worse games to get than this one that are actually rated higher than this* * cough cough** Planet Crashers! 3rd some choices other than Running in the battle system. I think this could have been made into a good decent game but it does feel unfinished. Man some people posting what a POS probably havent played this game and shouldnt really knock it till you try it. It's not all that bad



Windy said:

@pkrockin I think everything you posted is correct. sounds to me like you did a solid play through and its played by learning. im wondering if the developer actually intended the player to get stuck every once in a while and force starting over to teach the player. I like the game and have bought some 1.99 games that are not near as interesting.



longtimegamer said:

I finished this. You top at level 60, though that's pretty close to the end.
You can open doors accidently at times, though using the dpad fixs that. It's not quite as mindless as it sounds, as you have to pay attention to the fights to see how the're to get a feel for how the battle is going. also, you should save things till you need them.
It would have been nice if it had a story. Music didn't bother me either. I enjoyed this for what it was. I think it was worth the 2 dollars.



longtimegamer said:

BTW....I got that Dragon Crystal just before I beat this. I was probably influenced by playing this.



Windy said:

RPG fans there is some fun here but the game is not perfect and does feel a bit like a betatest. The game is definately worth 1.99. I hope they will go back to this game and implement some things players here have mentioned. I think there is a place for this type of game if its done right



ZephyreSyx said:

I was very skeptical about this game in the eShop and I was thinking it's gonna be a very bad experimental game like 3 heroes: crystal soul games. But when I saw the video of the game in action, I recognized the gameplay and brought it IMMEDIATELY! (and at 2 dollars!)

To those that aren't familiar with this particular genre, it is based on a game called Tower of the Sorcerer, made by Oz and Kenichi. It also inspired another game called DrodRPG, created by caravelgames, with simular gameplay and a lot more game mechanics.

I can assure you this game can be deceiving as being an actual RPG game as it carries all the mechanics, and it's definitely not a roguelike. It is really a puzzle game that requires you to pick and chose the best route and fights, while figuring the best way to increase your stats. It DOES requires several retries in order for you to complete the game as each try you gain a bit more knowledge in going further in the tower (think of it as a large scale desktop dungeons).

Crystal Adventure stands out from the two mention by putting EVEN MORE RPG elements to the game by adding an HP cap, duration on weapons, and level ups. Interesting also, you can collect fragments within the dungeon to boost HP, ATT, or DEF. The game however is missing a way to see the strength of your foes and it wants you to guess, engage and retreat if the fight goes bad. It's a different approach, but I don't quite agree with it. Careful calculation, perception and problem solving should had stayed as the base of the game. This, however, tries to be too much of an RPG when it's not.

This game could had been a hell of a lot better then what is put into it's development, and would had introduce some people to it's unique gameplay if it hadn't been done poorly. >.< First clue is the absence of an easy to implement grid movement which could prevent accidental fights, pick-up, and involuntary door openings. Second is the auto-save which simply having a manual save would had suffice and would help a hell of a lot when it comes to backtracking from your mistakes. I figure the obscurity of it's genre is so off from traditional games, the publishers thought the effort that could be put into it is pointless as not too many players would actually get it and just put it off as a badly made 'rpg'. I said not doing so did more damage in the long run and may had close many doors for developers that would try to create games like this.

For those that are interesting in learning and play more of this type of game, google 'Tower of the Sorceror', and 'DrodRPG'. The first is free and the demo is availible on caravelgames website. I found DrodRPG worth it because you can also download great quality user made levels, which are called 'holds'. They are collaborated on the forum before publishing it in their cloud.



Joygame51 said:

again UNDER RATED I give it a solid 5... so it has a few flaws... but besides the auto fight (YUCK) its not a half bad little game for the price ...OK by me.

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