Another Crusade


Review by · March 16, 2024

One of the best things about indie RPGs is that they often revisit genre classic formulas with a new lens. The best indie homages update the core mechanics for modern sensibilities or place familiar mechanics in new and unique worlds with endearing characters, free from the restrictions of massive publishers who are overprotective and less experimental with their IP. Examples of this approach working well are 24 Killers, Bug Fables, and Chained Echoes, all great games that take heavy inspiration from classic RPGs while putting their spin on the concept. However, this is a fine line to walk, and it’s just as likely to result in a lackluster facsimile of your inspiration. Unfortunately, such is the case for Another Crusade, the debut title from independent developer Dragon Vein Studios. In seeking to create a modern take on Super Mario RPG, Another Crusade delivers a mostly decent replica of the gameplay mechanics yet fails to capture the spark and personality that made it so special. 

Another Crusade begins rather abruptly, with protagonist Rai Reysend sitting by himself on a hilltop at night. Suddenly, a shower of brightly colored meteors rain down from the sky, with a bright red one landing at his feet. All across the world, large domes of brightly colored light have imprisoned the various towns and villages, and monsters are attacking in droves. Rai sets out to discover what’s causing the calamity and protect his home from the monster attacks. It’s a very cliche setup, and although the game does delve into the mystery behind this occurrence in the journey’s later hours, most of the game feels like a contrived hunt for magical McGuffins without much motivation. 

Party on the map screen at the starting town in Another Crusade.
A foreboding energy surrounds the major towns, and it’s up to Rai to save them.

As he frees the various towns and villages across the land from their magical imprisonment, Rai meets up with various companions who join the party. They mostly fit into the typical RPG stereotypes, like Niro the mage and Varenna the alchemist, though the final two party members (a Castlevania-inspired demon hunter named Vincent and the Dragon King Zhion) are more interesting both in concept and due to their relationship to Rai and his organization, the Light Order. Unlike Super Mario RPG, the companions lack personality. Rai is a silent protagonist and has limited interaction with the other party members, and conversations between the cast are sparse, giving them little time to develop as characters.

To the game’s detriment, the most talkative party member is Niro, who is frequently employed in ham-handed attempts at comic relief. He has a habit of engaging in fourth-wall-breaking humor that falls flat. Most of the jokes poke fun at standard RPG cliches, but it’s hard to find the humor in them when the game does very little to immerse you in its world or endear you to the characters beforehand. I’m fine with humor in games, but because the premise is so bog-standard and the game’s tone barely takes itself seriously, most of the time I was left wondering why I should care about what was happening in the narrative.

Rai fights alongside the mage Niro against an Eagle enemy.
Niro is useful in battle, but his endless quips and jokes grate on you after a while.

Thankfully, Another Crusade does have quite a few positives in its favor. The low-poly, wooden puppet aesthetic of the characters and enemies is distinct and charming, and the animations feel appropriately jerky and stilted, as if being manipulated on invisible strings. These labored animations also make it easier to understand the timing for the action commands in combat, which are executed nearly flawlessly. The action commands adhere closely to the template set by Super Mario RPG, with a button press at the right time during the attack dealing increased damage and a perfectly timed block avoiding damage from enemies. Damage from enemies is high if you fail to block, and special skills require precise inputs and timing to pull off successfully. Each character has a wide variety of support and offensive skills, all with unique action commands that may require rotating the stick, mashing a button quickly, or inputting a series of button prompts within a short window. Overall it’s a satisfying evolution of the combat system introduced in Super Mario RPG, just tuned to be significantly more challenging to heighten the sense of risk and reward in battles. 

One significant alteration Another Crusade makes to the formula is the SP system. Each character has a certain number of SP gems, and activating skills will drain these gems, while physical attacks against enemies will slowly refill them. The additional layer of resource management is a good idea on paper, but magic users have such weak physical attacks that it’s more advantageous to spend a turn fully restoring their SP with an item rather than attacking repeatedly. Since using an item carries no chance of failure, this method bypasses the risk/reward of the action commands and causes the SP system to feel slightly sloppy.

On the other hand, Another Crusade carries over the isometric platforming from Super Mario RPG to a frustrating effect. Jumping feels stiff, and the dungeons include long platforming gauntlets where you need to jump across many excruciatingly small platforms in quick succession with no checkpoints far too often. It made sense to have platforming sections in Super Mario RPG since that game was an RPG adaptation of a platformer series, but they make little sense in the world of Another Crusade and only serve to aggravate the player and pad the game’s length. The dungeon design can be a tad too labyrinthine at times, but I appreciated some of the dungeon puzzle designs that broke up the monotony of repeated enemy encounters quite nicely. 

Rai and the party battle snakes in a dungeon.
The combat mechanics are tight and satisfying, demanding mastery that exceeds the game’s inspirations.

The character progression mechanics are satisfying, as you can assign bonus points to a range of stats upon level-up, tailoring the characters to specific roles. Another Crusade rewards thorough exploration by chests filled with powerful loot, as well as hidden crystals that permanently increase characters’ stats. One nice touch is that weapons appear on the character model, and each weapon has unique animations and timings for its action commands, ensuring that executing basic attacks stays varied throughout the game and new weapons feel valuable every time you find one. 

I came away from Another Crusade with the impression that the developers fundamentally misunderstood what makes Super Mario RPG such an enjoyable game. The action commands and platforming sections arose out of a desire to convey the feeling of playing Mario within the genre conventions of an RPG, and the story and characters are a clever subversion of the familiar Mushroom Kingdom. Creating a battle system that required precise timing was so revolutionary because it felt like playing a Mario game, and fighting alongside Bowser in your party was so mind-blowing because it was something Nintendo would never have done on their own.

When divorced from that context, the mechanics of Super Mario RPG just aren’t engaging enough on their own to carry an entire game. If Another Crusade had the creative worldbuilding and lovable characters of a game like Bug Fables, it could get away with copying familiar gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, Another Crusade‘s world is bland and the characters don’t have enough time to shine amidst all the hackneyed attempts at humor that undercut any opportunity for narrative intrigue or personal pathos. There is a solid foundation here to build a truly great RPG, but Another Crusade fails to realize that potential.


The puppet aesthetic is cute, refines the action command combat system, significantly more challenging than its inspiration.


Story is cliche and characters are bland, attempts at humor fall flat, platforming is ill-considered and frustrating.

Bottom Line

Improving slightly upon the combat system from Super Mario RPG isn't enough to make Another Crusade worth playing, especially when the story and characters are flat.

Overall Score 60
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Ben Love

Ben Love

Ben is a features and reviews writer for RPGFan. When he's not 50 floors deep in a dungeon or commanding armies on a digital battlefield, he can be found curled up with his cat Mochi and a good book. Ben has a passion for the development history and legacy of RPG-focused studios. He's also a proud Falcom aficionado and a (mostly) shameless Fire Emblem fan.