Monday, July 11, 2011

Crimson Gem Saga Keeps JRPG Intact, but is Sadly Bland

It is inevitable for human beings to compare past knowledge and experience to present decisions. In fact, that is how we learn. That is how we, as a species, evolved. So it's not hard to believe that I picked up Crimson Gem Saga because it reminded me of one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) games of all time: Final Fantasy IX. The style is set in a mix between the fantasy of knights and mages while including a little bit of the steam ship style machinery. The battle system was old school RPG with leveling up and abilities and tons of equipment. The graphics were colorful and crisp. And then there was the very cool anime trailer that looked like cut scenes from the game. I was pumped. Unfortunately, not everything is what it seems, and compared with the game I hold on high, Crimson Gem Saga was a huge disappointment.

The story of Crimson Gem Saga follows Chevalier Killian von Rohcoff as he graduates from his academy. Though his rival gets a better job, he continues to keep going on and eventually joins a vast battle. After two enemies massacre the entire army and leave Killian and a Thief Mage Spinel alive, the two embark to figure out who it was that they fought in that ferocious battle and to figure out more about these Crimson Gems.
Character Combos: Pretty Attacks, but not always what they're cracked up to be.
The story isn't overly complicated and is very archaic and generic, falling in line with the typical RPG save the world, which is exactly what you want from a game like this. However, there's very little depth to the story and the progression stays stagnate through out the middle portion of the game until the end where it suddenly escalates to the end of the world.   Even the characters fall flat, often given very little personality or depth to who they are and why they act. And the icing on the cake: those really cool anime cut scenes I thought I saw don't exist. It's an anime intro created before the title screen of the game which feels absolutely wasted.

The combat system is turn based with the turn order view able from a timeline of sorts at the top of the screen. The characters take a formation with one in the front, two on the left and right of the front fighter, and one in the back (they make the formation of the buttons on the left side of the PSP) which  reminded me too much of Valkyrie Profile, but without the unique battle system. The character positioned in the back gets the benefit of being protected from total damage by physical attacks. Characters learn abilities as they level up and can use them inside battle, costing MP, though most of the time attacking will suffice to finish the battles. Most of the fights are fairly easy until you get to the two optional bosses where the difficulty sky rockets for no apparent reason, and the final boss which you don't have to defeat to beat the game.
Beautiful Sprites with a Slick Interface can't always save a Game.
The graphics are crisp, bright sprites. The character designs are extremely well done, and the backgrounds are gorgeous, as well as the battle animations. The music is light and whimsical for the most part and the voice acting is well done, but with it being used sparingly, I didn't cry over having the PSP volume down most of the game.

The one aspect I really appreciated about the game that was not done up nearly as much as it should have been was the fact that the designers poked fun at themselves and the RPG genre as a whole. The one instance that really sticks in my mind was when I stumbled across a treasure chest filled with Gas Bombs and some Gas Masks, to which Killian commented: "Was someone planning to rob a bank or something?". These little nuances make it more interesting to play the game and really shows the personality of the developers. If only they had taken more time to use these opportunities.

Overall, Crimson Gem Saga isn't a bad game. It's just the game that has been played over and over and over again. If it's been a while since you dove in to an old fashioned RPG, this will help curb the addiction. But if you're looking for something with a lot of content and a lot of depth, it would be better to look further.

6.5 out of 10

Here are a few extra links about Crimson Gem Saga:
the Wiki:
the Official Webpage:
the IGN Review:
the GameFaqs:

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