Crimson Gem Saga Review

It can be a bit of a grind and won’t wow players with its originality,but Crimson Gem Saga from IronNos and Atlus is a fine traditional RPG experience that’s easy to play and features an excellent user interface and attractive presentation.

Unlike the majority of traditional RPGs, Crimson Gem Saga is only partly serious. It features witty dialogue, colorful characters, and jokes that poke fun at games, pop-culture, itself, etc. The game’s plot (one involving the return of a world-threatening power from a forgotten empire via a number of magical artifacts) is fairly generic as a whole, but its constituent parts — individual scenes, character interactions — make it enjoyable.

Character voice-overs are well done, and convey feelings of both conflict and chemistry between characters, and the overall musical backdrop is varied, appropriate, and catchy, ranging from militaristic marches to more foreboding tunes. Attentive RPG fans will hear heavy influences from prior games in the genre, which can be either a good or a bad thing.

Crimson Gem Saga‘s visual stylings match the the game’s lighthearted nature. Backgrounds look like a mix of pencil and watercolor, and do a very good job of describing space in the game world. In some areas, though, there is a fair amount of graphical repetition. Sprites are small, but are still detailed and well-animated. Better are the overlayed character portraits, whose heavy outlines and soft, refined look illustrate the characters perfectly. Unfortunately, there is only one piece of artwork per character, and none are animated.

This turn-based RPG is very simple in terms of gameplay. Players will talk to non-player characters and watch cutscenes to figure out what to do next. These objectives are given as quests, which are organized into a list that is more of a do-this-next reminder than a collection of options to choose from. After adding a new quest, it’s then out into the field to battle enemies on the way to each successive destination. Battles are menu-driven, each character having the option to attack, defend, use items, use skills, and try to escape the fight on their individual turns. Although enemies are visible in the field, eliminating random encounters, they are still difficult to avoid, and the player is encouraged to engage each as quickly as possible to gain the upper hand in combat. Skipping battles would leave player characters ill-prepared for future challenges anyway, so free choice is really just an illusion in this regard.

Characters level up frequently, fully restoring hit points and magic points, and curing all status ailments with every level. This allows players to stay in the field longer without draining resources, but also acts as an excuse for players to endure some fairly heavy grinding. In addition to the automated improvement of character stats with each level, players are also rewarded with skill points after every battle. These are pooled for the party and then used to unlock new in- and out-of-battle abilities via individual characters’ skill trees. This helps to balance the hands-off feeling of the more traditional leveling-system. The downside to the skill trees is that they force players to first spend points to reveal skills and then again to learn them. It can be quite annoying.

Otherwise, the game’s user interface is clear and easy to use, from battle options, to shops, to equipment, to the main menu. Nearly everything loads at a decent rate, although there are a few disappointing disc-read stutters at seemingly unnecessary junctures, such as adding points to character skills.

Crimson Gem Saga is a solid RPG that will appeal to traditional JRPG fans with its clean look and smooth gameplay, even if the story is a bit generic and leveling can be a chore. Those looking for something that pushes boundaries won’t find it here, but it’s still worth a look.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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