valentino's Crimson Gem Saga (PlayStation Portable) review

Crimson Gem Saga Review

Crimson Gem Saga has a few  interesting high points, but seems to be all lost in the endless fluff that you do. Every little quest gets more and more annoying. Almost as if they were deliberately stalling for time. But if it wasn’t for the games final moments, most of this game would be rather dull and forgettable.

The story has you in control of lead character Killian who just recently graduated from university and is on his way to make his way in the military world. After receiving a recommendation letter from his principal to join the Excelsior Force, Killian makes his way to join them only to attacked by two mysterious people and wakes up being taken care of by an elf called Spinel, who informs Killian that everyone from the Excelsior Force is dead. Having nothing left to do Killian finds out that Spinel is a “Treasure Hunter” looking for the Wicked Stones, gems that hold mysterious powers. Spinel convinces Killian to join her efforts and they go off to find the Wicked Stones.

The games story is rather typical, with other characters joining your cause. Each one has their one personality traits and their own reasons for joining you in your quest for the search of the Wicked Stones. But, almost like some Anime shows out there, it never gets interesting till the end. A lot of your time will have you going from dungeon to dungeon to simply open up the path you were originally going to. For example; one of the first quest you get is to solve a problem in a church. The story eventually leads you to a small town where you must talk to someone at night. So you head to the inn and find a girl telling you her grandma, who runs the inn, is sick and only some orb in a dungeon can heal her….. yup.

A lot of the poorly written out situations could have been done a lot better, such as the example I told you. But it really wouldn’t be such a problem (or maybe it still would) if the game just gave you a better reason to go off and fetch items 80% of the time. And in between those fetch quest you don’t really get much story or character dialog from your party. It’s almost as if every beginning, middle and end of each chapter (a total of four chapters) is where you get some story and the rest is just a bunch of fetch quest.

But, that’s not to say that Crimson Gem Saga doesn’t have its own charms. Graphically, the game certainly does stand out. Its bright palette of colours give the world a lot of life. Towns are full of sprites doing there thing and some even have humorous things to say. Graphically speaking, this may be the best looking RPG out there for the PSP right now.

Another thing that is quite charming, is some of the dialog between characters. A lot of the time, characters will banter between one another about everyone’s characteristics. And at certain points the game makes fun of itself with its self-awareness of how repetitive the fetch quest can be and ops to take care of the source rather then handling the situation. Though few and far between, most of these moments are the most memorable of the game.

Gameplay wise there isn’t  much to discuss. The game does not have random encounters so you see the enemy on the map. The way the system works is if they don’t see you engage them, then you get first strike when the battle begins. Which basically, has your characters attack all of the enemies for some damage before the match begins. If they do notice you, then they’ll have an explanation mark over their heads. At that point you can either charge into them and the battle will start normally, or, try to book it and run away from them. After a certain amount of time, the enemy will start to run towards you and if they do catch you, then they may attack your party for damage or the battle will start normally. It isn’t exactly explained whether or not they will attack you, which makes it quite annoying.

Another annoying thing is exactly when they spot you. Ideally, you’d want to sneak up on them from behind but, there were a lot of times that the enemy would turn around the second I was about to get them from behind. So exactly knowing when to go in and try for the first strike is like a crap shot. Another annoying thing, is when they do notice you and run after you. They run at a faster pace then you do. So, unless your near an edge of a map that will send you to another room, odds are, they will catch you. Of course, this can be prevented later on in the game when you can buy shoes to equip to make you run fast. But of course, your sacrificing further stat increase for your shoes. So the choice is yours.

Battles themselves are rather simple with a bit of a twist. The battles are the standard turn-based action with your standard skills and such. You can see who’s turn is next and plan accordingly. One problem of this system is that each enemy is given a generic troll face. So knowing which monster is going to strike takes a lot of memorization. One interesting thing to note is something called the critical combo system. Whenever you decide to attack normally and deal critical damage to the enemy, the X button will appear prompting you to press the button. Do it correctly and your character will attack a second time. If you get a critical attack yet again then your promoted to press X again. If you press X properly this time, then your treated to a nice attack animation and even more massive damage. It’s a nice system but it comes to infrequently and the time needed to press the X button is rather quick. So ultimately you rely mostly on your skills

Gaining skills is done by the old Skill Tree system. Your entire party shares SP that goes into each skill. So you can freely choose who can get what skill despite the fact that they may not be in your party all the time. When you choose a skill to learn you must fill the meter to first unlock that skill and fill it up once again to learn it. It may be an annoyance but it keeps things a bit more balanced in the overall scheme of things. One thing they could of improved on is the speed that the meter fills. It goes slower and slower the more SP you need and it is understandable why they made it that way but its still an annoyance.

Actual fights come in either regular fights and boss ones. Usually, using skills seems to over power regular enemies and seems to be recommended for boss fights. Normal fights aren’t too hard but the levels of the enemies are. From one dungeon to the next the game expects you to have grinned enough in the previous dungeon to be ready for this next one. And, if your not at a high enough level the bosses can become rather difficult. Strategy in the game isn’t that meaningful and for the most part, it usually comes down to a battle of nutrition between you and the bosses. If you can survive their furry then you can beat them rather easily. But with the super increase of the the enemies levels from dungeon to dungeon it can become a real pain grinding over and over again.

There’s nothing too elaborate about the dungeon crawling in the game. Most of the time, it’s either finding your way from point A to B, finding all keys to open a door or pulling levers. Its nothing too hard but a lack of a map can be annoying at these certain parts.

Voice Acting is rather solid with some familiar talent in the bunch. Their voices are fine and seem to fit the in-game style but seems to be lost in the character portraits. While the sprites have this Anime vibe the character portraits have an almost realistic look to them. In some ways, it can take you out of the conversations. Their is also only one character portrait per character so it can get a bit tiresome seeing the same blank expression on each character. But the voices (and localization) make up for itm for the most part. Music is solid through out and can be one of the most memorable things of this game.

The game itself last about four chapters (plus a prelude) and can be done rather quickly if your not looking for hidden treasures or doing more fetch quest. The games overall story seems to feel like an 26 episode Anime. For almost 22 episodes, nothing really happens until the final four. But when the finale comes, it ends very strong. The games story really doesn’t do enough to flesh out anything other the quest to find the Wicked Stones. There’s a bit of a plot twist but nothing really worth mentioning till the very end.

Crimson Gem Saga presents itself as a strong contender to be a stand out RPG on the rather quite PSP system, but it doesn’t do enough to make it extra special. Their is a bit of charm early on in the game but that seems to diminish as the story progresses.

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