Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo shook the world back in 1996 with a block-matching twist on the competitive action of Street Fighter. Since then, though, we’ve barely seen any other games of that style come out besides a Mortal Kombat minigame and a ill-fated mobile sequel. Now, indie powerhouse Nicalis has decided that enough is enough. They’ve taken matters into their own hands with Crystal Crisis, a supreme crossover title that pays great tribute to that classic Puzzle Fighter action.
As soon as you launch Crystal Crisis, you’re treated to a double whammy of bizarre cameos in the form of an opening narration by Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and a tutorial led by bizarre TurboDuo mascot Johnny Turbo. On top of these two, anime all-stars Astro Boy and Black Jack show up as playable characters. These colorful crossover stars, combined with Nicalis-published icons from games like Cave Story and Binding of Isaac, make up a huge cast of wild characters that you would rarely ever see intersecting. A game like this was likely to flounder with a cast of totally original characters, so having a slew of familiar faces and voices in it really helps add to the presentation and flair of it all.
Flair is something that Crystal Crisis has in spades. Characters and environments are rendered in full 3D, but with a vibrant, hand-painted style that adds an incredible artistic touch to everything you see. Those vivid visuals are matched by an incredible soundtrack of energetic, electronic jams. I couldn’t stop rocking my head to them while I played. And all of this is bundled together by menus and UI that are sleek and vibrant while still maintaining a much-appreciated simplicity.
These simple interface designs perfectly complement the simple-to-learn yet hard-to-master gameplay of Crystal Crisis. Every match consists of two characters manipulating 2-piece color blocks on their own Tetris-style grids to match colors and rack up points. You can’t clear blocks until you match a detonation crystal of the same color to your stack. Triggering multiple crystals in a row will rack up a massive combo. You’ll want to go for both of those whenever you can, because clearing blocks and combos sends an equivalent amount of timed junk-blocks to the screen of your opponent. First player to run out of space in their grid loses.
The basic flow of gameplay is incredibly simple, and anyone should be able to pick it up in a few minutes. The challenge and struggle of deciding to go for quick and short block-clears or risking a loss by patiently setting up longer chains is addictive. Plus, even on the lowest difficulty setting, AI opponents can often be nail-bitingly difficult to deal with. That difficulty is sometimes frustrating, but never broken or abusive.
Bursting with features
An extra layer gets added to the mix in the form of character-specific Burst attacks, though. Every character in Crystal Crisis has their own unique Defense and Attack Bursts that you can dish out by spending a meter you build through clearing blocks. Attack Bursts might shuffle an enemy’s board or send a pile of junk pieces down on them. Meanwhile, a Defense Burst could make huge holes in your own board or negate your enemy’s incoming attack. These tools give you just one more thing to keep track of while playing. That extra piece of the puzzle creates a tense game of meter management and enemy board analsysis that I loved. My only gripe was that Burst attacks don’t activate insantly, leading to a few times where I pressed the button only for my attack to come out too late.
And there’s a lot more in this package that will keep you busting blocks for a while to come. Arcade mode has a variety of unlockable variations like time trials and team battles. Meanwhile, a cute but incredibly simple Story Mode provides more stuff to do. There’s even an in-game achievement system to give you extra goals to shoot for.
Crystal Crisis is, put simply, puzzle perfection. It’s simple, addictive, and oh so colorful. The wild cast of characters is a treat, especially for Nicalis fans, and the amount of modes and options in the game makes this more than just a tiny little puzzle game. It’s competitive gold, and well worth a purchase from anyone looking to scratch that Puzzle Fighter itch.
A review code was provided by the publisher.