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Review: Crimson Gem Saga

June 20, 2009

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Crimson Gem Saga, developed by South Korean IRONNOS, and published by Atlus was released for PSP May 26.

Crimson Gem Saga is sure to receive mixed reception, as it is very old school, and to some degree cliche for an RPG. In some minds, that is a bad thing, but as far as I am concerned it worked well. The game is highly polished, and well presented, which certainly helps the case for it. Additionally, the majority of the dialogue is brilliant with such lines as ” ‘My parents are looking down on me from above’ ‘Oh, sorry to hear they died’ ‘What?! They’re on an airship’ ‘Oh… gotta run’ ” or pop culture references like (paraphrased slightly) “Scruffy dun want to be a clown any more, when Scruffy gets reincarnated he wants to be something else, maybe a janitor.” Also some of the lines make jokes about cliches in RPGs as evidenced here:

To further add to the humor, in the next chapter you have to go on a fetch quest to retrieve medicine for a sick innkeeper. The game indulges in cliche, yet acknowledges and jokes about using it.

The plot again is somewhat on the cliche side. The main character, Killian von Rochoff has just graduated second in his class, and is disappointed in himself as he always ends up second best at everything. He meets a female treasure hunter and is thrust into an adventure to recover some ancient artifacts. He meets several unique characters along the way, and learns that someone is (GASP!) trying to revive an ancient evil and he must stop it. So yes a bit cliche, but the polish and dialogue really help offset that, and give it a sort of charm, like when two longtime rivals meet, one remarks “I was expecting some sort of epic fight to the death, glad that didn’t happen.” There are a few other twists along the way, but ultimately nothing amazing, just decent.

Gameplay in Crimson Gem Saga hearkens back to older titles, it is a simple turn based affair, albeit with a few tweaks. Characters can do basic attacks, use items, use skills, escape, etc. The tweaks are in the skills. First, each battle earns EXP towards leveling characters, and SP which goes into a common pool, and is used to unlock different skills on the Skill tree.  Some of the skills that can be unlocked are combination skills requiring the two or more characters with said skill to have consecutive turns in battle. Most of the skill animations are great, even when seeing them for the umpteenth time. A couple minor issues I had with the gameplay is that first, two characters have an area-of-effect attack, that for some inexplicable, and presumably glitched reason, gives them vast amounts of experience and leaves the rest of the party behind, levelwise. Secondly, there is a dungeon in the game that is not mandatory until chapter four, but can be visited as early as chapter two, and the battles there distribute around four times as much SP as normal ones, which led to most of my skill trees being complete (or as complete as I wanted them) by the midpoint of the game. While certainly not a bad thing, the fact that I could just spam a really powerful attack to get through basic encounters felt a tad broken. Also, there are no random encounters, enemies are visible on the screen, and you can ambush them for extra damage by approaching from behind.

Crimson Gem Saga proves, in my mind, that the old school turn based RPG is far from dead. When presented well, and with charm, as is the case here, it can feel fresh and fun. My only qualm with the game is how short it is. I cannot say for sure, since the clock continues to run when the PSP is in sleep mode (which is a bit irksome), but I would guess I put around 25 hours into it. Let’s hope that if they make a sequel (and the ending is open enough for one) that it is considerably longer. That being said I wholly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of RPGs, whether you rent it, and marathon through it, or purchase it.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Celes Leonhart permalink
    June 20, 2009 7:02 pm

    Hey Big Man!

    First off – great review, the gameplay especially. I have no literary qualms other than the second paragraph repeating “Additionally” and just to let you know there’s a typo in the fourth paragraph: “abd” rather than “bad”. Otherwise, really loved the writing!

    In terms of what can be improved, I’d personally like to see more detail on the following things if the game allows it:
    – Character development and design
    – The soundtrack
    – Graphics (is it all 2D, are there FMVs, are the effects (spell animations etc) modernised or just simple 2D designs?)
    – And maybe the quality of narrative

    Maybe some more images would do the game justice as well, but that’s obviously not much to do with your review.

    Otherwise that’s it – good review! So much so that following reading it I went online to see how much it’d cost me, and then remembered that if Atlus’s titles are published by Square-Enix in Europe now now (Persona 4), then a game where they are only publisher might leave me out of luck. Seems I was correct: Wikipedia doesn’t mention a EU release date or anything of the sort. Shame, I was quite interested in then; I haven’t played a good traditional turn-based RPG since Lost Odyssey.

    • June 20, 2009 8:01 pm

      opening press start screen is an animeish movie, otherwise its 2d, but clean and with nice character portraits. Soundtrack is fairly meh. not bad, but nothing amazing. Character development I can’t really get into a whole lot due to spoilers, but there’s some, especially in Killian. Narrative itself like I said is kind of cliche, collect evil objects, avert catastrophe, etc. but is presented in a fun and charming way.

      • Celes Leonhart permalink
        June 20, 2009 8:17 pm

        Okay, thanks!

  2. Masonvrocks permalink
    June 21, 2009 4:42 am

    How similar is this to say like ff’s 1-6?

    I personally don’t think 25 hours is to short for a PSP game, CC took me about that long and I felt satisfied by it, although I am rather depressed by the length of modern console games. =/

    • June 21, 2009 12:19 pm

      Similar in what way? Gameplay is standard turn based affair, story shares some thematic elements albeit gems not crystals, you do your fair share of fetch quests, there are a couple optional bosses to unlock the ultimate weapon/armor, stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong 20-25 hours isn’t bad, well worth the price, but I guess since it was so enjoyable it left me wanting more from it.

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