Crystal Story II, which came out for free earlier this month, is a turn-based RPG designed by Emmanuel Salva Cruz with the help of a team of artists and musicians. What it lacks in innovation it makes up for with an entertaining story that makes fun of the game’s own genre, sound gameplay mechanics that never leave you guessing, and a large world.
Your main character is a “dragon” who only looks different from a human because he has a tail and red scales on his neck. He starts the game by crashing from the sky into Small Forest like a meteor. After meeting a thief, your second party member, and making your way through Medium Forest to Small Town, you head off to Evil Cave to try to find the Oracle. Sound silly? This string of accurately descriptive names is just one way the game pokes gentle fun at common tropes of the RPG genre. Other jokes about common RPG tropes share space with ones about programming sprinkled throughout the dialogue.
Mechanically speaking, the game doesn’t offer much of anything new. It does have a fantastic turn order indicator in battle, which makes it easy to decide which monsters to focus on first and helps you play risky if you want to, hoping to get in that last attack before the enemy kills your character. The menus are easy to navigate. Leveling is straightforward, and though it seems mostly linear at first, you have some choice about which areas to specialize in once you reach the end of a character’s first job track.
The keyboard controls are excellent where they exist, though they aren’t available sometimes and can’t be changed. Anything you can do in battle can be done with the keyboard, as can movement in dungeons and on maps, but the out-of-battle menu and town menus can’t be navigated by keyboard. Still, though, the keyboard controls are improved over those of the first Crystal Story game, which only had any keyboard controls in battle… and very limited ones, at that.
Crystal Story II is better than the first game in almost all areas, though that isn’t to say that the first game is bad. The first Crystal Story is basically a procedurally generated dungeon crawl with a turn-based RPG style battle system. It’s good for what it is, but for the sequel Cruz and his team have filled out the world, written more and better narrative, and tweaked the battle system for clarity and balance. Overall it feels a lot more like what you’d expect from an RPG while retaining the flippant humor of the first game. It’s clear that a lot of work went into improving on the existing game.
Nitpicky players might find fault with a few things in Crystal Story II, like the minimap resetting every time you leave a dungeon or the aforementioned matter of the keyboard controls only being available in some places. None of the game’s flaws are major, though, and if you consider how much you’re getting for the price, the flaws fade even further into the background. If you’re interested you can play Crystal Story II on Kongregate, where registered users can save their progress. If you want an extra laugh, though, check out the beginning of the first Crystal Story before you try its sequel.