Croixleur Review

Game: Croixleur

Developer: souvenir circ

Publisher: Nyu Media

Available on: PC only

My bio here on Godisageek once read that I hated anime and JRPGS. It was an opinion I held from the time I was 12, and thoroughly exhausted by clichés, until the time I was assigned a wealth of compelling indie games from Japan via Nyu Media. Croixleur, developed by souvenir circ., proved to be another example of great indie design among the current wave of excellent Nyu Media titles. Before I get into the meat of the gameplay, I’ll address the Story Mode, such as it is.

“Speaking of nonsense… just what is the point of this Adjuvant Trial?” mutters Sword Maiden and protagonist, Lucrezia Visconti.

In retrospect, I’m inclined to wonder along with her. In fact, if I had to assign a function to the game’s “Story Mode,” it would be something more akin to a tutorial; a hard sell in the role of Croixleur’s primary mode. What the narrative essentially boils down to is an unnecessary justification of the game’s hack-and-slash gauntlet of enemies.

“Why am I killing all these dudes?” the player might ask.

While, “simply because,” might be considered a suitable answer, Croixleur responds with something more traditional and arbitrary. Essentially, “Luc the Vermillion Vortex” is the top student from her academy. As the top elect for representative, she must participate in the Adjuvant Trial, an unnecessarily violent tower-climb of blood-thirsty foes. The narrative never explains why this is. Climbing the tower opposite her is her childhood friend, Fran, or more colloquially, “Princess.”

Being that there are only two characters in the whole mode, and more often than not, Luc is alone, the dialogue is condemned to exposition hell, save the moments when it’s revolving around a cheap, Lesbian Lolita bath-time back-and-forth. In terms of percentage, this kind of talk is actually pretty common. I’d estimate that such content comfortably consumes around a quarter of the game’s dialogue.

“Don’t reminisce about me without my permission!” shouts Fran.

Yes. Please don’t.

So, suffice it to say I’m not a huge fan of the story. But, then again, I don’t have to be. Naturally, there will be an audience for whom the narrative is crafted and I’m sure it’ll hit home with them. And that’s perfectly fine with me. Besides, the last time I checked, the Story Mode doesn’t have to be a title’s strong point.

Let me quickly change tones here and say that I am absolutely in love with Croixleur’s gameplay, particularly in Endless Mode. On your controller, aside from camera buttons and movement, you have 4 basic moves at your command. At your disposal you have attack, dash, a “bomb”, and the eponymous “jump.” Rounding out the roster, you have a special button. Holding down this key toggles the function of the other 4 buttons to specials. These specials change depending on the weapons you have equipped. Weapons are randomly dropped throughout the game’s modes, and you can equip up to four.

Can you see how this is adding up? We’re slowly approaching a skill-based game in which you can heavily customize the style of gameplay to suit your preference. In many ways, this seemingly hack-and-slash title approaches the depth of the fighter genre, minus the competitive culture of that scene. Most fighter-esque of all, Croixleur adds the ability to cancel moves. Anything can be cancelled into anything, allowing players to stream endless combos, even if that means being airborne for the rest of eternity.

Adding another layer of complexity is the MP bar. Specials and dashing consume MP, which has to remain untouched for a few seconds before it automatically replenishes to full. And the kicker? The only way to block is with a carefully timed dash. The result is a constant battle of resource management. A full on assault will leave you vulnerable, unable to escape the fray or block attackers for a few seconds. It’s a very addicting system that kept me in the endless mode for more time than I care to admit.

There’s not much to look at in this game but what is present is very pretty. Characters are brightly cel-shaded and pop off the backgrounds, which are beautiful in their own right. Unfortunately, said backgrounds are limited to primarily blue platforms floating in a tower, which is decorated by what I am deeming “neo-cyber-runes,” for a lack of a better, or in fact real, term. Boss floors change up the pace by having red platforms instead of blue ones. Try to contain your enthusiasm.

The sound track is fun, simple, and certainly not a detriment to the game in anyway. Also, to the game’s credit, the dialogue isn’t marred by cringe-worthy translation or subpar voice-work.

VERDICT: I’m delighted with the selection of games Nyu Media has provided so far. They’re a slice of last-generation gameplay mixed with this generation’s visual appeal. Slather on a healthy helping of Japanese bubblegum culture and you have a recipe that is so sweet, diabetics are cautioned to keep their distance.

Happily, Croixleur is no exception and, while there are elements that are unfavourable to me, there is a demographic that will absolutely eat this game up. And for everyone else, there’s a solid game underneath the cel-shaded coating that’s worth looking into. I promise.

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