Crystal Warriors was the first strategy game made for the Sega Game Gear.
When the game begins, a messenger tells the player that Emperor Grym of the Jynn empire has declared war on the Arliel kingdom. Grym’s forces are scouring the land for the four crystals of Arliel in hopes to use their power to gain control of all of the Tyramus continent. Grym has found three of them, but he cannot find the fourth because it is safely in the hands of Princess Iris, who has started a resistance movement. Iris must now get the crystals back from Grym’s generals and send him back to Jynn.
Other than the opening and ending messages, the story of Crystal Warriors stays the same throughout. Since there isn’t any character interaction, none of the characters have real personalities, and the story feels pretty simple as a result. The only real story input during the game is the information and comments from the townspeople.
Crystal Warriors is strategy RPG, but it has its own unique changes to the rules. On your turn, you can move your characters in any order, and if it’s possible, they can attack or use magic. When all of your characters complete their actions, the enemies will have their turn and carry out their actions. When a character initiates an attack, a duel
begins. In a duel, both of the characters involved make two moves, with the aggressor going first. Duels can end before both characters have made two moves if one of the participants either dies or retreats. The concept of duels adds to the complexity of the strategy in Crystal Warriors. You must keep in mind that you will incur some damage when choosing to attack, but on the flip side, you will get to inflict some damage during the enemies’ turn as well. When a character uses a spell on their turn, a magic duel occurs. A magic duel usually only involves the Mage using his attack spell, but there are exceptions: If the Mage cast the spell from a block adjacent to the defending character, that character can attack the Mage once. The other exception is that if the defending character is another Mage, that Mage can cast a spell back at the aggressor.
Before the battle beigns, you can choose up to 9 of your available warriors to participate, or, if you have less than 9 warriors, all of them will participate. A battle ends when all of the enemies have fallen, or in some cases, when the boss enemy has been defeated. If Iris is killed in battle, the game ends and returns to the title screen. When any other ally is killed in battle, they are gone permanently, so it’s important to keep powerful characters healthy.
The strategy of Crystal Warriors revolves around the four elements. All characters and spells have elements associated with them. Wind, Water and Fire characters are all fighters with no magic, whereas Mages, Healers, and Iris are Earth characters. The standard rules are: Fire beats Wind, Wind beats Water, Water beats Fire, and Earth is neutral. For example, Tyris, a Wind character, will inflict extra damage on Water opponents and have increased defense against water spells and attacks from water characters, but he will not be able to damage Fire characters as well as he can others, and he will take more damage than normal when attacked by Fire characters or hit with Fire-based magic.
In addition to the soldiers of the Jynn empire, you team will be attacked by neutral monsters as well. When one of your characters defeats a neutral monster, the monster becomes tamed. A tamed monster can be used in a duel. When a monster is called, it will attack the opponent, then receive an attack from the opponent, then retreat. Neutral monsters usually can’t attack for as much damage as your characters, but they are still quite helpful for both building experience and absorbing hits for your allies.
Characters in Crystal Warriors only gain experience when they kill an enemy or a neutral monster. Kills are worth 4 stars. A character gains a level when they have 10 stars, and extra stars will carry over toward the next level. The maximum level is 9. Since killing enemies is the only way to gain stars, it can be difficult for healers to gain levels unless you either put them against weak neutral monsters or let them get the killing shot against a few of the enemies. However, making your Healers stronger, as well as your other characters, is very well worth it.
Crystal Warriors is a fairly difficult game. The enemy is programmed to be familiar with the terrain and knows who to attack and when. Experienced players will be able to catch on to most of the enemies’ strategies, but even when the strategy is apparent, beating that strategy usually requires taking a few risks. Also, the enemy is usually more powerful than your team. Enemy characters will be using powerful weapons and spells before Iris and her friends have a chance to buy them.
In addition to the one-player adventure, Crystal Warriors features a two-player battle feature. Using the Game Gear’s link cable, two players can have a 9-on-9 battle taking place on any stage from the game. Each player is given an “equal and opposite” list of selectable characters from which 9 warriors are chosen. The goal is to eliminate
the opponent’s leader. Matching up against another person is significantly harder than playing against the computer.
The graphics in Crystal Warriors are limited by the size of the Game Gear’s screen. On the main battle screen, the heroes and enemies are very small sprites, and are sometimes hard to notice. The graphics for duels are pretty good. The duels feature super-deformed characters and animation for when characters assault each other with swords and claws, or use spells to attack their opponents with lightning, fire, or ice. Finally, the artwork in characters’ profiles is very colorful and detailed.
The audio in Crystal Warriors was decent, but I didn’t find most of the songs or sound effects to be particularly enjoyable to listen to. Most of the songs for battles, duels, towns, and shops are simple and repetitive tunes. Sound effects for spells and attacks were fitting, and I especially like the sound effects used for when one of the big bosses attacks. It had a louder, more intense sound to it that reflected the high attack power of the boss. On the whole, I didn’t find the music and sound as captivating and thrilling as that of most other RPGs.
Crystal Warriors is fairly good pickup. While it may not be as entertaining as many other strategy games, the portability is a plus, as portable strategy games are rare. It provides good solid entertainment for all of your away-from-the-TV situations.