Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo may be long gone but it's not forgotten, especially by the fine folks who developed Crystal Crisis.
Admittedly, I'm reviewing Crystal Crisis rather late but I only recently got a physical copy of this competitive puzzle game throwback so I wanted to share my thoughts on it. For starters, it's basically the exact same game as Capcom's 1996 classic puzzler Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo yet it does have some unique qualities. For the unfamiliar, the core gameplay involves dropping blocks that consist of 2 tiles. Once you place a Spark Crystal on the same colour of tile, that tile shatters along with all of the same colour tiles that are touching. Meanwhile, Poly Crystals destroy all of the colour that it lands on from your entire playfield. The more tiles you erase, especially clusters of at least 2-by-2 tiles, the more Countdown Crystals appear in your opponent's playfield which makes things trickier for them.
There are a couple of original ideas implemented in Crystal Crisis, too. First, you can wrap blocks around the playfield so you can have one tile land on the far right column while the attached tile lands on the far left column. There's also a Burst system where you fill a gauge as you play. Once it's at certain thresholds, you can deploy character-specific Defense or Attack Bursts. These can turn the tide of battle, especially if you use your character's abilities strategically. Thankfully, you can check the Burst ability specifics in the pause menu.
Speaking of characters, there are a ton of chums to choose from such as Johnny Turbo, Astro Boy, Kawase Umihara, Quote and Curly from Cave Story, Aban and Tina Hawkins from 1001 Spikes, Isaac from The Binding of Isaac, and Solange from Code of Princess. The chibi 3D models are appealing and well-animated which goes with the energetic soundtrack complete with catchy tunes that are either original or from the cast's respective games. However, the puzzle tiles and playfields are surprisingly generic and bland.
Crystal Crisis features a decent amount of modes. The single player Story Mode is fun to play through although it doesn't take long and once you finish it; you're forced to start it all over again which is annoying. Anyway, there are a handful of Arcade Mode variations including a Standard mode, Survival, Tag Team matches, and a couple of extra variants in the form of Inline and Memory. All of these variations can be played via the local multiplayer Versus mode except for Survival and you can enjoy online multiplayer as well. Finally, there's a helpful tutorial hosted by Johnny Turbo and a cool Extras menu with artwork and music that you can browse through.
Obviously, the best way to play Crystal Crisis is against other players either locally or online as the matches can be rather exciting. However, I wish more was done to distinguish Crystal Crisis from Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Sure, there are supplementary mechanics but it still ends up feeling like a shameless Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo copycat. Also, no matter which mode you choose, the core gameplay remains virtually the same so I wish that more was done to create variety. For example, Puyo Puyo Champions from earlier this year featured 2 core gameplay styles to help mix things up. The closest thing here is Inline mode which makes Crystal Crisis play like a match 3 puzzler but it's nowhere near as fun as the main mode. After all is said and done, Crystal Crisis is still a solid competitive puzzler.
Crystal Crisis is definitely a step up from Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo although that step is a rather small one so it ends up feeling more like a retro copycat than a new and exciting puzzler. That being said, playing it is still a ton of fun, especially in multiplayer.
- + Tight and familiar puzzle gameplay with some nifty new mechanics
- + Lively characters and music
- + Exciting multiplayer matches
- - Doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
- - Core gameplay could use more variations
- - Generic playfield visuals