Crystal Crisis is most easily described as a clone of Capcom’s Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo only with offensive and defensive super moves, an obscure character roster, high production values, and with gameplay that entertains both online and off.
Like most well-based competitive puzzle games, the goal is to drown your opponent in garbage pieces while you try to stay alive for as long as possible, also aiming to achieve a high score in the process. Like Puzzle Fighter, colored sets of pieces fall from the top of the screen but are destroyed through the use of a crystal. Stacking a bunch of red blocks, for example, will only disappear if a red crystal is placed on top of them or directly next to them. Combos are important to not only increase score but to also send garbage pieces to your opponent’s well. Gameplay is simple to pick up and play but definitely requires skill to pull off multiple combos.
A few key features separate Crystal Crisis from Puzzle Fighter. First are the power burst moves. Once enough energy has been stored, the player can tap the a trigger to perform an offensive attack, such as changing pieces of the opponent’s stack, or can press the another trigger to active a defensive move that can help remove pieces from the player’s well. Even with a roster of a couple dozen characters, all super moves are varied and should help create personal favorites. Thoughtfully, the player can understand what these burst powers offer by tapping the pause button during gameplay. Although I felt Puzzle Fighter was never lacking anything without the use of super moves, Crystal Crisis gains that extra gameplay spice because of this and should make competitive players even more competitive.
Crystal Crisis also makes use of well-wrap. Meaning, if a piece is pushed through the right side of the screen, it will appear on the left and vice versa. Taking it one step further, the player can even spilt the pieces across this gap, having one of each of the two pieces fall on each side. It is an interesting mechanic that pros will surely utilize but this option can be toggled in the option screen if it becomes cumbersome to old-schoolers.
For a puzzle game, there is a shockingly high amount of emphasis placed on narrative. The opening cinematic sequence, for example, is very well done, colorful, and really has no business being as good as it is for a puzzle game. The guy who voices Optimus Prime in the Transformers series also narrates the game and even speaks quirky and nonsensical lines before each match similar to the Soul Calibur series; it is wonderful. The character roster, however, is easily the standout feature of Crystal Crisis as it mixes obscure games into one world. While a similar roster was featured in Blade Strangers, a 2D fighter, there are many characters here that should have all but the most dedicated fans scratching their heads. You might recognize the robots from Cave Story or the little crying guy from Binding of Isaac, but you might not know who the Indiana Jones lookalike guy is or why babes are dressed in bikini armor. There is no question that fans will truly enjoy this unique character roster, casual players will probably a bit lost. With that said, perhaps this title’s biggest flaw is the complete lack of background information. In comparison, look at the Smash Bros. series and their Trophy information. Here, the player can read a paragraph about the background of each character, the game(s) they appeared in, along with the published year. There is nothing like that here in Crystal Crisis and is a huge missed opportunity given the extensive cast of playable characters.
There are plenty of modes for the player to explore both online and offline. The story mode even features branching paths, many unlockable characters with background environments, and there are numerous VS options available. There are built-in Achievements to unlock but unfortunately do not unlock anything other than personal satisfaction. Visually, the player has several options to explore including color variations (there is even a color blind mode) and grid perspective. Personally, I much prefer grid perspective off as the slight 3D effect makes it more difficult to determine where a piece is falling in the well but nice to see the option there. There are also a lot of optional content to enjoy in the extras portion of the main menu that features artwork and other visual treats that dedicated fans should enjoy. Even if you don’t play online (requires Nintendo Online subscription), the AI carries a steep challenge even on the lower settings. For fun, I booted the AI opponent to max difficulty and I got absolutely smoked so veteran players should look forward to the high challenge.
The production values in Crystal Crisis is surprisingly high, especially for a puzzle game, and is a million times better for it. Longtime fans of Puzzle Fighter should feel right at home but the gameplay is friendly and fun enough for even the most casual players to enjoy.
Crystal Crisis also has a PS4 port scheduled for 2019.
Also Try: the puzzle game option in the Mutant Mudds Collection (Switch)
Don’t Forget About: Puyo Puyo Champions (multiple)
Wait For It: Puzzle Fighter X Tetris