Under Your Radar: Croixleur
When knight defenders hold the day,
The sword and scarlet sun array.
When High-born Lords are rulers sworn,
The pale blue moon our flag adorns.
The sun and moon will ne’er ally,
The scarlet and blue do forever vie.
As one ascends, one must abate:
Foundation of our glorious State.
Proud blade and flag do both convene
For naught but serve our gracious Queen.
Today’s Under Your Radar is a rather special one. You see, yesterday I was graced with an e-mail I did not foresee, containing a review code for Nyu Media’s new release, Croixleur. The game’s English release is actually supposed to be tomorrow, and this blog isn’t at all notable to most people, yet this is the only place where I do any serious reviewing, yet I received one anyway. I have my suspicions as to why I received one (protip: examine my Twitter followers and subscriptions and see what overlaps), but I decided that I may as well put out a pre-release review anyway. It seems that I received the release build, so what I got is probably what everyone else will get, I simply got it early.
Croixleur is a hack-and-slash arcade-style action game, developed by souvenir circ. (“circ.” being short for “circle”, which is basically a group of people who like the same thing – most indie developers in Japan are circles). Nyu Media, who handled two other titles I’ve covered, Fairy Bloom Freesia and Cherry Tree High Comedy Club, localized the game and are publishing it in English.
The story of the game is about two childhood friends who ended up in opposite factions of the political world in the realm of Ilance. They’re both selected for a ritual called the Adjuvant Trial that determines which faction will control the country until the next one is held. You play as Luc, the top student and student body president of the Aristocrat academy of Besier. Despite her position, she isn’t one for formality. The only other human in the game is Fran, the top student of the Knight academy, Scelta. Funnily enough, she’s extremely formal and is hard on Luc for not being so.
The ritual is basically racing to the top of a tower, fighting summoned monsters on the way up. Depending on how you do, the little story the game has can change a bit, with promo screenshots and achievements teasing a fight between the two friends, and other promotional material hints at an ending where tradition is cast aside, but I got an ending where you get to the end long before your friend does and wonder how she’ll react when she gets to you. Upon replaying, I couldn’t manage to beat the game again, but I got different scenes where Fran is basically forced to help you out for a bit.
While the story isn’t front and center, I was a bit annoyed when I accidentally pressed the Dash button on reflex right after beating the last enemy. Why, you ask? Well, it jumps right into the story screens after the last enemy on a major floor is taken out, and the Dash button skips through that stuff. The end result of that was obvious.
The game’s gameplay is rather simple. It’s basically pure hack-and-slash action. Your controls are basically just movement, attacking, dashing (which makes you temporarily immune to attacks), a jump button, a spinning attack that hits lots of times and a special attack button that does different things depending on which of the previous four buttons I mentioned is pressed while holding it, and further determined by which weapon you have in that slot.
In the game’s Story mode, you play through 20 identical-looking floors with a 15-minute overall time limit. On each floor, you beat around 20 enemies and proceed to the next one, sometimes getting to pick between two options, facing bosses on every fifth floor. Endless mode tosses a bunch of enemies at you until you die. Score Attack mode (which is featured in the demo) basically asks you to score as many points as you can in three minutes.
You obtain weapons, ten in all, by simply playing through the game, and they each have unique special attacks and look different, but all of them play exactly the same aside from the special attack. This is despite some of the weapons looking as if they should attack slower, would be two handed, etc. All of them are, gameplay-wise, one-handed swords, even the hammer and lance that I got. You can equip four weapons before starting, and Luc uses some ridiculous hammerspace ability to switch between them seamlessly as you use different special attacks, even though there’s no way to tell that you’re carrying four weapons and it doesn’t look like she’s switching to another one.
Enemy variety is low, with only three types of enemies aside from recolours and the three boss enemies. It’s basically just one that does melee attacks, one that flies and one that uses magic, the only functional differences between the recolours being the amount of hits they take and the amount of coins they drop. They might give more experience to let you level up faster, too, but there’s no visible experience bar or indication of what happens when you level up, simply a level on the screen, so I’m not sure. That said, as can probably be ascertained from the time limits I mentioned earlier, it would be a waste to add any more enemy types to the game. I was actually more surprised that they bothered to let you kill enemies by knocking them into each other.
Defeated monsters drop coins, which are collected to be able to use the multi-hit spinning attack I mentioned earlier. You start with three uses, every 100 coins adding one more, but only five uses can be held at a time. The attack itself is rather mundane, but is the most powerful thing you have to take down bosses. I faced a large red dragon at the top of the tower when playing on Normal, with a sliver of health left and four of those attacks stored up. I used three of them to get the boss down to a sliver itself before it finally killed me.
The game is suitably difficult, with three difficulty levels for Story mode if you want to adjust it. I’ll be honest, I have enough trouble on Normal to not want to try it on Hard for now. Let’s not mince words, this game will kick your ass. It’s a given that, on later floors, you’ll be overwhelmed by enemies and cannot find an opening to charge your special attacks, cannot use the spinning attack because you ran out of uses from fighting off similar situations or bosses, and are out of MP (which may as well just be a cooldown bar, given how the game handles MP) so you can’t dash away. As soon as you get used to being a certain distance away from enemies before charging your special attacks, you’ll reach a new floor and realize that enemies all move faster now. It’s no pushover, is what I’m trying to say.
It’s most certainly fun to play, but I ended up with a few complaints I haven’t pointed out yet, most of which are minor. Firstly, while the game recommends you use a controller, you have to re-map all of the controls yourself in order to do so. As such, people who put their controller in after seeing the message will need to quit the game and then configure the game to make it work. Secondly, and I know for a fact that this isn’t a problem with my controller, the game seems to occasionally fight my movement inputs, simply ignoring them at random moments for no apparent reason. I have no idea why, and it’s aggravating. Thirdly, and this is probably not the game’s fault, I got so into it that playing made my hands start to hurt on multiple occasions. Very few games manage to pull that off.
The English release of the game includes HD resolution options that weren’t present in the original release. This is a good thing, but the game lagged significantly on my laptop until I turned off visual effects, after which the speed and smoothness of the game’s gameplay was made apparent (in fact, it felt completely different), so don’t go crazy and be sure to set it to something your computer can handle.
Aside from the movement issue, none my complaints can even be called significant strikes against the game. Unlike some other Nyu Media titles that left me on the fence, this one actually felt worth its standard price tag (in this case, $4.99). As you may recall, I bashed CTHCC yesterday for most certainly not being worth the $7.99 admission fee.
The game will be available tomorrow on GamersGate and Desura, as well as for direct download, for $4.99. The game is also currently on Steam Greenlight, so be sure to lend it your support if you like it. If the game is successfully greenlit, Nyu Media will give Steam keys to everyone who already purchased it elsewhere.
Simple. Fast. Smooth. These are three words that define Croixleur. While the movement and dash-skips-story issues prevent it from being Nyu Media’s best release yet (I’m afraid Fairy Bloom Fressia still holds that honour), this is still good, clean fun. I would have had no complaints if I had to pay for it on release day like everyone else. Be sure to check it out, or at least try the demo.