Review – CRYMACHINA
I’ve never been the biggest fan of sci-fi, preferring fantasy due to the fantastical elements. It’s odd for me to say since, out of my four perfect scores, two belong to Nier. I was, and still am, hugely smitten by that pair, especially those characters. Speaking of, those found in CRYMACHINA may invoke familiarity for players, as they’re female Androids.
Comparing these titles is fair, and I’ve already seen other reviews doing so, but that’s also doing this title an injustice. Sure, once you get down to brass tacks, the similarities shouldn’t be ignored, but this is neither Replicant nor Automata – a ton of differences contribute to contrasting experiences.
From the first press release, I couldn’t get it out of my head that CRYMACHINA had a relation to CRYSTAR, even if just loosely. I was convinced, though my belief did entirely hinge on the naming conventions. After a good chunk of hours, however, I began to see that it wasn’t exactly the successor I thought. It’s simply strongly inspired, looking like a direct evolution of that formula, which I’m chuffed as nuts about.
My coverage for CRYSTAR was quite positive, and to know the gameplay has been improved upon has me hyped. The anime opening here alone excites me, but is my dopamine supply destined to drop?
While the aesthetics scream Nier, the writing is nothing like it, but don’t let that deter you. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, especially thanks to the structure. It has this innate ability to subvert expectations. During my session, I accepted many beats as the finale, only for a sudden twist to slap me across the face.
CRYMACHINA does a superb job building upon itself, progressing the narrative in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It’s organic, and because of the constant turns, I happily strapped in for the ride. I was enthralled in how threads unraveled, curious to see how it came full circle. It’s an interesting premise, and while it doesn’t elicit a potent emotional connection, I did somewhat sympathize. The entertainment factor is there – it also helps that the banter between the four Protagonists is mint.
The dialogue is well done, with a sprinkling of pop culture references – a few are from older movies, too. It’s enough to garner sporadic grins, but what managed to attract a full-blown smile on many occasions are the interactions, specifically when it involved Mikoto – her personality is snarky, making her the best.
Then there’s Leben and her sass. I can see her being the most relatable for us cynics. She hates humanity, swearing against them, and as the narrative unfolds, we learn her reasoning. Watching as everyone’s camaraderie grows is fascinating, but if that doesn’t suffice, there’s also development thrown into this sea of quips. It’s minor in the grand scheme, but that doesn’t negate how heartwarming it is.
My lollipops and rainbows critique comes to a head with the relationships between the girls, but it’s slight. My only actual qualm is how instantaneous one of them is. They’re immediately close, which, given the events transpiring, is understandable, I guess, but I can’t shake how rushed it feels.
Thankfully, it’s a minuscule gripe, only affecting the initial hour. Usually, I wouldn’t address something of this size. However, I worry that the quick pacing may act as a repellent. I also recognize my patience is higher than the average person’s when it comes to waiting for the gravy train of a game to kick in. Otherwise, once it does, it resumes a realistic affair with a believable tinge, which deserves props.
Where the influence of CRYSTAR is truly noticeable is in facets of the story. I won’t get into much detail, but trauma is a central piece. The explanations to particular points are also quite subtle. I had instances when I’d be reading text, puzzled by what was being said by the enemy. I assumed it was condescending nicknames, which I wrote off as them being villainy. It seemed like stupid fluff, but then I would continue forward, and those opinions shifted.
Suddenly, a new context fell into my lap, and everything I pushed aside gained another meaning. I was pleasantly surprised, my mouth agape as I swore, impressed by the execution of the revelation. None are earth-shattering but it’s impossible not to admire and applaud how riveting they are.
I’m sure the golden question is if cringe is present, and yes, there’s a decent amount. If a smidge of romance isn’t to your liking either, then maybe CRYMACHINA isn’t for you. I must commend the LGBTQ+ connotations, as well. It’s never highlighted in an obnoxious way to signal virtue; instead, it’s just an organic part of the experience. All the various types of romancing can get a bit sappy throughout the game, but I didn’t feel like gagging.
In fact, it’s cute as hell, and when I wasn’t smiling from how humorous the banter can be, it was the sweet whispers being said. Again, nothing about it had me rolling my eyes or groaning. It’s adorable, and seeing their bonds flourish further after every area always felt like a treat.
The combat system is the second reason CRYMACHINA may garner a likening to the Nier franchise. It’s fast and fluid, requiring players to stay on high alert. It’s nearly perfect, too, and just a blast to weave around bullets and melee strikes. The frenetic speed of it all is invigorating, but it does amplify an issue that’s a headache to deal with.
The dodging function isn’t snappy. Evading can only trigger if I’m not currently attacking. It’s bothersome because it was tough to be cognizant of my button presses. Even if I made an effort to be acutely aware, there still remains a pesky delay. I can’t begin to articulate how this mishap led to many inadvertent deaths and, subsequently, the game over screen.
Bluntly, it’s the cause of immense frustration, but luckily, it’s only a couple of tiny blunders that help cement how annoying it is. For starters, the tell that signifies when an offensive hit is incoming isn’t always evident. It’s supposed to be a bright purple cross, but there were moments that I misinterpreted it – I didn’t know if it would be lethal or an ability.
Secondly, instances pitting the girls against two bosses might as well be a write-off. I couldn’t nail the timing, forcing me to feverishly tap away after a one-two swipe in hopes of avoiding a possible retaliation. Sure, it kept me engaged, but it also introduced mindlessness as there was no strategy. As a silver lining, the henchman leading to the penultimate confrontation are cakewalks.
Even then, dying felt less like a lack of skill and more due to poor design. At least meeting the Grim Reaper doesn’t teleport me to the beginning of an area. I can restart from my last resting place. If terrible judgment was the catalyst to welcoming the sweet embrace of eternal darkness, I get a redo. I don’t need to dredge through entire levels for a second chance.
In that regard, it mitigates any aggravation by being obscenely forgiving. I’m a fan of this implementation because I often recognize the mistake in my tactics the minute I perish. To continue my momentum and jump right back into action is great. Of course, the solution won’t be strategic, but I should be more incessant with button smashing and have better finger dexterity.
As a human, I wear my kindness on my sleeve, whereas CRYMACHINA wears grinding. It’s going to be rampant but never egregious. You see, whenever I plop into an area, it takes a mere few minutes to reach the end – the average length chimes in at roughly four. Running the gauntlet and defeating my enemies is a breeze. It’s also pretty damn therapeutic, but I could see tedium being a problem for some.
The leveling method isn’t traditional, in that I must invest the XP I earn to secure an uptick manually. When it hits double digits, though, the cost skyrockets. It’s here that monotony may creep into the picture since, due to how expensive it gets, I’m now committing the duration of a pair of songs to build the tally as opposed to one.
Granted, none of that sounds abhorrent, and if we were to boil it down to the nitty-gritty, it’s still quick. What I reckon will be grating is the repetition. Tracing the same stretch of land over and over would deter most, but I wasn’t particularly fussed. I threw on my earbuds and went on my merry way, massacring endless waves of mechanicalized monsters. I’m apparently easy to please, but I couldn’t help but wonder if rebalancing the distribution of XP would have a positive effect. If that occurred in combination with the adrenaline combat produces, my session would probably be more delightful – it would also serve to streamline this aspect, making it more inviting for the general audience as opposed to just its niche.
It isn’t only boosting my strength that incentivizes me to grind. There’s also a looting system, and as an obsessive freak for titles like Borderlands, I was ecstatic, but then I played. I’m pretty disappointed that after a kill, there isn’t a chance of a drop. Most items are interspersed throughout, waiting to be picked up. There’s also a merchant that sells things.
However, it’s only certain areas with either, meaning I would prioritize those to maximize rewards. That brings me to a real pain in the ass: some are hidden behind platforming, and forgive me for being harsh, but they’re garbage. There’s wonky detection that causes plenty of mistimed jumps. It’s single-handedly responsible for the feelings of nuisance I felt, being the definition of an irritant.
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room because, as my screenshots have shown, the resolution is dreadful. It has that washed-out fidelity that FuRyu games are known for, like with Monark. That said, character portraits fare better, sporting a unique styling that I absolutely dig – they also do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to exhibiting emotion through animation.
Despite the anime aesthetic, features like eyes have a realistic look, while their 3D models are clearly sporting exaggerated long legs. The CG cutscenes are rather sublime, though, and really pop when viewed portably on my OLED. The colors are bright and vibrant, but if you pay close attention, you notice a few discrepancies, but nothing that detracts from how beautiful everything is.
There’s zero dub, but there’s English voice acting, and I find those snippets charming. It acts as a personality quirk and is done sparingly so as not milk it dry. I will say I’m bummed the localization doesn’t extend to the audio because some of the quips are outrageous. It would have been hilarious to hear how specific lines are delivered.
Still, the Japanese voices are serviceable, but due to the language barrier, I had difficulty discerning the cadence. The soundtrack has a healthy bit of bangers, composed of synthetic electrónica. As a European, I felt right at home. I highly recommend connecting the Nintendo Switch to speakers and cranking the bass – it’s how to do the music proper justice. Then, as the beats thump, you can murder in a steady 30FPS.
CRYMACHINA is a sufficiently entertaining romp that’s worth a go. Sure, combat may not be comparable to other polished ARPGs, but it’s still so damn satisfying. I also eventually adapted to the poor dodging mechanic, though a patch or two would help to elevate it. The characters are the stars of the show, with a premise that I was eating right up. Despite the Sci-Fi nature, it spoke to me, endearing itself.
I couldn’t keep from being enthralled with the mystery and wanting to know what would happen next. What helps is the gameplay structure and how it’s perfect for a pick-up-and-play approach. I do wish it conveyed a few features more concisely, like a single piece of equipment able to be worn by all three girls. Regardless, this game is easy to suggest, and with a stellar performance on the hybrid, get it anywhere.
The CG cutscenes are beautiful and I enjoyed the drawn character portrait. However, the environments aren’t inspired by any stretch of the imagination. As for the resolution, well, it suffers pretty noticeably.
Everything that CRYMACHINA does, it does pretty damn well. There are little hiccups, like with the dodge feature, but I was able to adapt. It would have been cool if it was more calculated and less mindless, but here’s hoping a patch addresses it. Otherwise, I didn’t mind the gameplay loop.
Voice acting is great, but it only being Japanese means the magic of cadence is lost on me. That barrier makes it hard for me to wrap my head around it. That said, there is English, and it’s probably one of the most charming bits of CRYMACHINA. The music is just straight up fire. I love it.
For as simple as it is, I had fun. The frustration caused by the delay in evading strikes subsided fairly fast, thanks to my ability to adapt. What also helps is after dying, you can immediately resume a boss fight instead of having to retread the whole level again.
Final Verdict: 8.0
CRYMACHINA is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of CRYMACHINA was provided by the publisher.