Puzzle Fighter Fans (Maybe?) Rejoice

HIGH Solid controls.

LOW Constantly getting kicked out of online matches.

WTF Johnny Turbo. Yes, that Johnny Turbo.

Crystal Crisis shares the same spirit as Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.

Pairs of blocks, or in this case crystals, drop from the top of the screen. Players move and rotate these crystals to create large groups of the same color. Occasionally, a diamond-shaped Spark Crystal will fall as part of the pair. Have the Spark Crystal touch same-colored blocks and all adjoining crystals of the same color disappear.

Players complete this task against an opponent, whether it be human or AI. Eliminating more than one group of colors at the same time creates combos, which then fill the opponent’s playfield with countdown blocks. Countdown blocks can’t be eliminated until their clearly-marked timer reaches zero. The larger the combo, the more obstruction that fills the opponent’s field.

Creating combos and eliminating groups of colors also fills up a combo bar. Fill the combo bar and characters can unleash a stronger special attack, like scrambling the other player’s crystals or slowing the rate at which opponent’s falling pieces move. The combo bar can also be used to create a defensive move, like knocking out large chunks of crystals or speeding up the countdown blocks.

Like Puzzle Fighter, Crystal Crisis collects its characters from a wide range of sources. There are indie game characters, like Quote from Cave Story and Isaac from The Binding of Isaac, but it also includes faces like Johnny Turbo and even Astro Boy! All characters are lovingly recreated and easy to identify. Each one also has a personalized background that’s influenced by their the source material — they’re popping with color and animation, and keep the backdrops from being stagnant. Crystal Crisis is gorgeous to look at.

The controls are top-notch. Like many other puzzlers, the falling pieces can be rotated, shifted, and even slammed down quickly. Titles in this genre need precision control, and Crystal Crisis doesn’t disappoint.

Despite being familiar with it as a concept, I’ve never played Super Puzzle Fighter, so Crystal Crisis was a new experience for me and I enjoyed the basics. However, it has an extremely high difficulty curve. I stuck mainly to arcade mode (defeat a string of opponents with a “boss” at the end) but was having issues even on Normal, the easiest setting.

Fighters in the first two stages would often defeat me, sometimes quite quickly. After a few attempts, I was able to beat the Normal stages, but I wasn’t finding myself improving. I will never be a puzzle master, but titles like Tetris and Puyo Puyo make me feel like I’m getting better each time I play. I never got that impression while playing Crystal Crisis.

Besides the steep learning curve, my biggest complaint with Crystal Crisis is the online gameplay. Since my skills were lacking, I attempted to play an unranked match, but didn’t have much luck finding any matches. After five minutes of waiting for an opponent, I gave up and chose ranked matches. These were easier to find, and I was playing within minutes.

Once I began playing, my opponents made quick work of me. No big deal, it’s what I expected. However, I had combo’d enough before defeat to activate a special attack, but when I pressed the button I was instantly kicked out of the match! I tried again and experienced similar results. I tried again a third and fourth time and again, was kicked out of the match. This is clearly an issue that needs to be patched. After seeing that the functionality was broken in a fundamental way, I gave up and decided to stick to single player.

Overall Crystal Crisis is a well-made game, but it’s not the most welcoming to newcomers and has significant issues with online play. Fans of Super Puzzle Fighter will probably enjoy it, but I’m not sure many other people will.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Nicalis. It is currently available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the arcade mode was completed on normal difficulty. Less than 1 hour of play was spent attempting to play the online multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone 10+ and contains Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Suggestive Themes. Characters get hit and fall when attacked or defeated, but it always appears like a knock-out rather than a death. The mild language is very mild as nothing comes to mind that would be worrisome. One character is a zombie that rises from the dead to start a match, but this character is still smiling and cartoon-like. Parents should feel safe letting their kids play this game.

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options. There are six different options available, including one specifically named “Colorblind”.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is not fully accessible because it begins with a voice-over introduction that does not contain subtitles. There does not appear to be on option to turn on the subtitles for the opening video. The rest of the game is subtitled, but the text size is not adjustable. Each character is clearly on screen when they have dialogue. There are no other noticeable audio cues.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The left joystick and D-pad move the crystal squares left and right. The squares will drop quicker by holding the down direction and will slam down almost immediately by pressing up. The A button rotates the crystal pair clockwise, while the B button rotates the crystals counterclockwise. Defense is performed with the ZL button and attacking opponents is performed with the ZR button.

Brian Theisen
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