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Crymachina (PS5)

Crymachina (PS5) - Review

by Thomas Froehlicher , posted on 26 October 2023 / 5,831 Views

Since The Caligula Effect, which was a revolution in the JRPG genre, I've always kept an eye on whatever Furyu was preparing. The niche Japanese publisher has always tried to innovate, but you can't revolutionize a genre every year. With Crymachina, however, I can say I came close to the amazement I first felt playing The Caligula Effect.

First, both games are similar in that they each exhibit a unique and complex universe, with a compelling story within those respective universes. Crymachina has a fairly captivating take on the post-apocalyptic genre. Leben, the 17-year-old heroine of the game, wakes up in Eden, a giant base in outerspace, long after humanity has been decimated by a lethal disease. Having been killed by this plague, Leben is one of the few to get her human data transferred to Eden, a cradle intended to restore humanity. 

The second very clear aspect that Crymachina shares with The Caligula Effect is experimental art direction. Like its predecessor, not only does Crymachina showcase a totally new art style, but it pushes one that's much darker compared to your usual anime style. By employing the illustrator Rolua as main designer, Furyu's newest release clearly stands out. And the truth is that Rolua's somehow bleak and esoteric drawing style is a perfect match for Crymachina's cold and desolate world. Humanity is long lost, Leben herself is half machine, and her design is a fascinating mix of human and non-human.

Eden isn't graphically impressive, but many parts show off an eerie atmosphere and grim architecture, and the main antagonists have a mystical or devilish aura just in line with the biblical metaphor of the narrative. The least I can say is that Crymachina is massively carried by the coherent and complex design of its unique universe. Even the official website alone is a gigantic masterpiece of art.

But, of course, it doesn't stop there. There also much to enjoy in Crymachina's story. Eden is run by eight Jinki (literally Deux Ex Machina), AI programs each working on either the functions of the base or the various aspects of restoring humanity. As you might expect, Eden's workflow derails at some point and everything heads in the wrong direction. Propator, the first Jinki and the one that commands all of the others, suddenly stops working, leaving the other seven to work against each other. Leben ends up with Enoa, the eighth Jinki, who collects all of the human mind data. Even though there are lighter elements in the game (Enoa, for example, is represented as a little blonde girl), Crymachina features harsh scenes, very unexpected turns of events, and sudden changes in atmosphere.

The relationships within Leben's party are deep and humane enough to build a strong sense of friendship in their exchanges throughout the whole adventure. The kind of genuine, deeply felt friendship that separates average JRPG from great JRPG. It's also notable that the game manages to maintain a great balance between the humorous talk and the more serious stuff; the capacity to make you feel different types of emotions without one being too dominant is the mark of a great JRPG. The story is remarkable and memorable, just like The Caligula Effect's narrative was.

The gameplay was my main concern when starting Crymachina. Unlike The Caligula Effect, which was turn-based, Crymachina is an action-RPG and Furyu failed in the transition to the action-RPG genre when releasing Crystar five years ago. Fortunately, the publisher has made dramatic improvements since the first game in the "Cry" series. There are a wider range of battle actions in this title, including: a gun, charged attacks, aerial combos, and finishing moves, so it immediately plays better than Crystar. You also use support units behind your character that can attack independently via the controller's triggers, a bit like NieR: Automata's pod. It's a nice array of possibilities, and you can find rear units with different roles and shapes.

Crymachina's gameplay is much faster than most action-RPGs I know of, and the game is surprisingly hard. Enemies' critical hits kill you in one blow, boss battles are incredibly brutal, and healing is strikingly limited. Enoa can upgrade Leben's abilities, but it costs a lot of skills points (called EGO) to unlock them. They include increased speed, higher experience gain, the ability to heal yourself, and the "Awakening" skill, which makes you invincible for a short time.

Yet even nearing end-game, I only had two healing counts per mission and only one Awakening. You have to be very nimble, precise, and perceptive to the opponent's moves in order to win. I was hitting the evade button at such an astonishing rate that my hand was aching after nearly every boss fight. It's very challenging, but equally thrilling. The game includes two more playable heroines aside from Leben. They happen to have quite different gear, play styles, and combat behavior, especially the third heroine who is the total opposite of Leben. The diversity of the cast was a rather pleasant surprise.

Another great surprise is the perfect photo mode that's been built for Crymachina: you simply have to press both sticks at the same time to freeze the current action. It's simple, intuitive, and very efficient. I remember The Caligula Effect having a particularly good photo mode in its original PS Vita release - that's probably not a coincidence. Last but not least is another common point between to two: Crymachina's soundtrack is amazing, featuring many enticing melodies with equally beautiful lyrics. The boss battles in particular are a treat.

Undoubtedly great up to this point, Crymachina ultimately finds some limits with its AA game status. The levels are short direct paths leading to the local boss, so there's no real exploration. In fact, nothing between the base and the boss is particularly elaborate, and the basic fighting is pretty bland. Each stage is accessible via numbered coordinates; Enoa inputs the coordinates for story stages, but you may find extra coordinates here and there. You can also discover totally unexpected challenges by changing one or two numbers from the known coordinates. That's pretty cool on paper, but a lot of those stages are almost identical, as are most of the basic enemies.

Another thing I didn't like was that the game decides which character you'll use for each story mission. Apart from denying you the freedom to focus on your favorite character, this also forces you to level up each of the three at regular intervals, which I think artificially extends the time needed to progress the narrative. 

An outstanding achievement in terms narrative, sound, world, and character design, Crymachina is a fitting representative of "video games as art". Yet Furyu's recent creation also excels in gameplay thanks to a very fast-paced control scheme, and the right level of challenge that makes it deliciously addictive. It's still an AA game, so it does have its shortcomings and limitations, but I can now finally say I've found the new gem I've been craving since the original The Caligula Effect.

After graduating from a French business school, Thomas felt an irresistible force drawing him to study Japanese, which eventually led him to Japanese Profeciency Test level 1 in 2012. During the day, Thomas is a normal account manager. But at night he becomes Ryuzaki57, an extreme otaku gamer hungry for Japanese games (preferably with pretty girls in the main role). His knowledge now allows him to import games at Japanese release for unthinkable prices, and then tell everyone about them. You may also find him on French video games media. Feel free to contact on twitter at @Ryuz4ki57

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a retail copy of Crymachina for the PS5

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