Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Review: Croixleur Σ (PC)

Its not often that Japanese Indie titles will see a release on Steam, so when one does get Greenlit - Its worth taking a look. When Croixleur was Greenlit, Nyu Media could've just rested on their laurels, but instead work was undertaken with the developer, Souvenir Circ, to enhance the game & free upgrades were offered by the publisher to those already owning Croixleur for what has become Croixleur Σ. Was the extra effort & expense to create a feature rich Steam release worth it? Lets take a look.

Review Copy Provided by Nyu Media

The game focuses on what is known as 'The Adjuvant Trail', a ritual that decides which faction (Aristocrat or Knight) will hold political & military authority and in turn, protect the Queen. Lucrezia Visconti & Francesca Storaro are both childhood friends that have unfortunately become the prodigy's of the opposite factions and must put aside their friendship to try and win the trial. Only Lucrezia is available at the start, as Francesca is locked to begin with. The 15 minute time limit imposed by the trial does leave the story a little flat and lacking in depth. The narrative focuses entirely on the protagonists relationship, with barely anything mentioned of the world & ethos your partaking in. Its not all bad though, as Francesca Story does change your perception of her as she comes across differently than when seen during Lucrezia story. Wait. 15 minute time limit for the story mode? Indeed. Thankfully there are multiple routes to take through the tower which can also lead onto the multiple endings offered by the game depending on how you perform. Things would seem a tad disappointing if that's all the game offered, but thankfully there are other modes to change things up a little. A score Attack mode gives you 3 minutes to score as highly as possible, so choosing the best weapons & being as efficient as possible is key. he Survival mode ditches the efficiency as you focus entirely on survival, even running away if needs be! The games challenge mode is exactly that - challenging. It features numerous different challenges and is only worth attempting when you are comfortable with the game. That's not all, as a 2-player co-op mode has been added for this release that is unlocked once you have Francesca. Dramatic Battle mode, as its labelled, allows you to tackle the Score Attack & Survival modes together. There's even a Bonus Mode to unlock as well! The addition of Steam achievements for those interested in digital trinkets will please with Steam cards and Steam leaderboards ensuring your deeds don't go unnoticed on that platform either. Its a shame the story wasn't fleshed out a little more, but thankfully the frenetic pace of the other game modes ensures the games gameplay can shine. The amount of content packed into the games slender file size & $7.99 price tag sure is surprising. It will probably only take you about 6-8 hours to unlock almost everything the game has to offer and give it a run-through, but the gameplay on offer may have you returning for short burst of enjoyment more often than not.

The game plays out similar to the Devil May Cry series' Bloody Palace mode. Your tasked with making your way up a tower to defeat the final boss that has been summoned and complete the Adjuvant Trail. What is instantly apparent is that the games 'no frills' approach to its combat system is a superb choice.  On the games Steam page a controller is recommended to play, and while a keyboard should work OK, we'd have to agree with Nyu Media's recommendation. The game supports almost any controller you have as it will ask you to key-bind your controls upon first boot. Once that's done, its time to enter the fray. While the games system is simple, mastering the technique needed to be as efficient as possible takes some time. A simple chain hit forms the basis of your attacks, no MP is used and it does enough damage & can break up enemy attacks to be of use. Its not till you start to make use of abilities that use MP things become interesting. You can carry 4 swords into battle that each has its own special ability and these can also level up, increasing damage & decreasing the amount of MP used. There is no guard function to slow things down. In keeping the game frenetic, your 'Dash' makes you invulnerable while your dashing, but too much use of it can drain your MP bar. Again, levelling up your character (you reset back to level one after each session) can decrease how much is lost with each dash. As you can see, managing your MP efficiently is the key to the games combat system. Efficient use allows you to string together long combo's packed with strikes, dashes, aerial attacks & multiple special moves if enough time is left to allow it to recharge. Boss-type encounters show this more than any other part of the game as they hit hard and can soak up a bit of damage. An 'invulnerable' attack you can access that sees your character spin on the spot (You can move whilst doing this) that your are not able to take damage while doing helps get you out of tight spots, but this can only be done a certain amount of times each time. The usual fodder also spawn during these skirmishes to keep you on your toes. These come in 3 types - melee troops, magic users & ariel creatures. All enemies become gradually more powerful & attack in greater numbers the further you get up the tower. Its when you get to these moments that you truly apprecia\te the games rock-solid controller response & no-frills combat system that focuses on efficiency & speed above the usual 'style' that we find in modern Hack & Slash titles.

Graphically, the game is surprisingly pleasing. With obviously targeting a fast framerate over eye-bleeding graphical techniques, even on lesser machines, the game isn't going to win any awards but it manages to do what it does well. There is very little that can be changed within the configurator though aside from resolution, AA, locking framerate etc as the main assets for the game will no doubt remain constant. Texture quality or character modelling isn't the best, but its suitably bright & nicely designed to make it easier on the eyes. Its all done to ensure the game hits its 60FPS target, which it manages with aplomb at 1080p on my low-end PC. Not even when the game starts throwing around SFX during special moves does the framrate drop. No doubt those with beefier hardware will be able to hit huge framerates (I've seen one user Tweet 300+ FPS) A nice touch is the character portrait in the corner is animated and pulls faces/changes expression depending on how the skirmish is going. The game goes for a Moe styling with its character cutouts during dialogue, which are animated well enough and look great, with the game sporting the surprising addition of full voice acting for these segments. The actresses put in a nice amount of effort and these parts of the game are voiced well, with a further worthy note for the games soundtrack. Those with a penchant for action games in the 90's will adore the BGM of this game, with each track perfectly complimenting the on-screen action and the differing arrangements for each floor ensure they won't tire you out. As stated before, the game isn't going to win any awards for its visuals - buts its pleasing on the eye none-the-less with its Moe stylings & the controller response/performance being at the fore of the games design is a sound choice.

The games lack of a fleshed out & longer narrative in its 'Story Mode' does hurt the title somewhat and means the game is more suited to short bursts, With the games numerous other game modes picking up much of the slack to give the title its longevity. Thankfully, Croixleur Σ streamlined & no-frills approach to its combat system ensures it shines exactly where it needs to. Frantic & fast paced gameplay will keep you on your toes and the developers choosing Performance over fidelity means the games refined mechanics are never bogged down. Whilst it wont set the world alight, Croixleur Σ is worth a look for those seeking something a little different in a Hack & Slash title.


Who Should Buy This?
  • Those looking for some no-frills, streamlined action
  • Wanting something to play in short bursts
  • Your the type of gamer that prefers performance above fidelity
  • teh Moe
Who Sould Avoid?
  • Those looking for an epic yarn
  • You prefer tactical combat styles
  • A game not making your monster rig sweat isn't worth the money
[Store Link: Steam]

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