Developer: Souvenir Circ.
Publisher/Localisation: Nyu Media
Now that more Japanese games are being localised for Western audiences than ever before, we're getting to play some of the biggest hits from the Land Of The Rising Sun without having to import them. However, we're also able to enjoy some of the smallest indie productions courtesy of localisation specialists like Nyu Media. Their strong first wave of oft-overlooked Doujin titles (indie games created by a team or 'circle' of developers on a shoestring budget) brought us the likes of Eryi's Action and Fairy Bloom Freesia, both of which catered to their niche audiences brilliantly.
Croixleur is their first effort of 2013, a time-attack brawler from the Souvenir Circle starring... you guessed it... a cute anime girl of indeterminate age. As always.
This time around, the cute anime girl of indeterminate age happens to be a sword-sorcerer called Lucrezia Visconti, whose mission is to ascend a monster-infested tower in as short a time as possible with a selection of magical swords. Her reasons for doing so are both overly simplistic and obnoxiously obtuse (she's basically pursuing yet another cute anime girl of indeterminate age), while her one-dimensional character is barely fleshed out beyond borderline lesbian tendencies in the text introduction. If you're expecting deep character interactions and sweeping story arcs, you've likely come to the wrong place. Or perhaps, as I often like to say, the wrong genre.
None of that really matters, because like Fairy Bloom Freesia, we're here for the arcade action. Sadly Croixleur is nowhere near as good.
Gameplay boils down to hacking away at an incredibly limited selection of enemies in small circular arenas, with portals to new areas unlocking as you clear each stage. With fifteen minutes on the clock, it's up to players to chip away at the tower throughout multiple playthroughs, experiencing a handful of different endings and persistently unlocking a selection of ten new swords. Though an Endless and Score Attack mode are on offer, the experience never evolves beyond clearing out a room before being given the option of entering two practically identical chambers, full of practically identical foes.
There's nothing wrong with this idea in theory. After all, it's essentially a take on Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, which is always good for some cathartic fun. Croixleur is similarly enjoyable in small doses, but sadly, it's hamstrung by a combat system that tries to punch well above its weight. Lucrezia has deploy a basic three-hit combo accessible by mashing the attack button, and can persistently acquire ten different weapons that provide a unique special ability. You can map a sword to all four controller face buttons before starting a playthrough, which might sound grand, but means that you only have access to a maximum of five attacks at any one time. Though a responsive evade dash move grants Lucrezia a great deal of flexibility when both attacking and defending, slow movement speed and the dearth of interesting combos makes combat feel purely functional at best and cumbersome at worst.
Your sole motivation for continually assaulting Croixleur's tower stems from self-improvement. Each attempt will doubtlessly see you making your way further and further into the tower, and unlocking new in-game achievements or weapons. It's admittedly fun in approached in short doses, especially as later levels massively increase the number of foes per stage, but rather loses its sheen in once all ten swords are tucked under your belt.
You'll need to plug in a gamepad to make the most of Croixleur, though I was disappointed to report that it only recognised my wired Xbox 360 controller's left thumbstick by default. Remapping buttons requires me to quit the game in favour of the standalone settings tool, at which point it quickly became apparent that the 8-way controls come with enormous dead zones that can stop your thumbstick movements from registering (unless you hold it at strict 45 degree angles). Take my advice and map movement to the D-Pad from the get-go.
Graphically, Croixleur is reasonably solid for a £3.49 doujin game, but rarely impresses beyond its gorgeous high-resolution character portraits. However, unlike several of Nyu's previous efforts, it runs at a range of resolutions at an unimpeachable 60FPS (note that I encountered some unsightly screen tearing in fullscreen mode from time to time, though). Luckily the catchy if repetitive music helps to create a sense of fun and atmosphere that otherwise would have been sadly absent.
Beyond its somewhat simplistic mechanics and presentation, Croixleur ends up crippled by a shocking lack of variety. You'll only encounter a pitful number of enemies throughout the entire game, with palette swaps only increasing the number of hits they can take. As you can see from the screenshots, melee goblins, magic users and flying beholder-esque bats all crop up time and time again; the same foes with the same attacks and animations, just sporting different colours. The stages are similarly bereft of variation or imagination, seeing as they're all big grey circles that tend to have identical backgrounds. A small selection of bosses, some of whom are genuinely enormous, arrive too infrequently to break up what will become monotony if you play it for more than a few minutes at a time.
Which, in fairness, is what Croixleur is designed for. If dipped into every now and again, smashing up hordes of monsters can be rather fun. Why shouldn't it be?
At the end of the day, it would be unfair to compare Croixleur to the likes of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry since it retails at a paltry £3.49. We're not expecting AAA quality here, nor an outrageous level of polish. But fellow localised Doujin brawler Fairy Bloom Freesia managed to overcome a limited stock of enemies with excellent combat mechanics, deep persistent upgrades, New Game + functionality and more than just a tickle of storyline. In contrast, though Croixleur does have its moments, it's only ever going to be a fleeting diversion.
- Straightforward brawling action
- Responsive dash mechanic and move cancelling
- Addictive self-improvement over multiple playthroughs
- Unforgiveable lack of variety in terms of gameplay, art design, enemy design and level design
- Overly simplistic combat system lacks depth
- Becomes a chore if played for too long in a single sitting
The Short Version: Croixleur delivers a bare-bones brawling experience that never manages to be more than purely functional. Cathartic fun in short does, but repetitious and unambitious to a fault. Nyu Media have localised better.