Developer: Souvenir Circ.
Publisher/Localisation: Nyu Media
Publishers can get away with shovelling all manner of atrocious crap onto Steam these days, but Nyu Media are made of sterner stuff. The localisation maestros could have easily pushed doujin brawler Croixleur straight onto the store following a successful Greenlight campaign, but decided to port over a brand new edition stuffed with big improvements, more features and extra content instead. They even pulled an all-nighter fixing an oversight I tweeted about, because they're lovely like that.
Which is a good thing too, because the original Croixleur was a load of old cobblers. Cheap and cheerful fun for a few minutes, but quickly becoming crushingly tedious thanks to a tiny variety of enemies, it never matched up to the likes of Fairy Bloom Freesia, Alltynex, Gigantic Army and all the rest of Nyu's localised lineup.
Everything is noticeably tweaked up and polished now, and there's more of it too, from a whole new character with a unique storyline to crunchy new music, challenges and more. Unfortunately Souvenir Circ wasn't able add more enemies, the biggest flaw that dragged down the original in the first place. So the million Yen question is whether Croixleur Sigma can distract us from its half-dozen palette-swapped foes with all the new bells and whistles.
Well... yes, it can. At least for long enough to earn its £5.99 if you're a fan of hacking, slashing and Japanese indie gaming.
Our original review is still on-site for your viewing pleasure, so let's blitz through the details before getting on to the new stuff. We play as an attractive anime lass with implied lesbian tendencies, because creating unique and interesting characters is hard and Souvenir didn't feel like it. Thankfully the doujin circle spent their extra time crafting a simple yet tight and engaging combat system to enjoy while racing our rival -- the golden-haired Francesca Storaro -- up a tower populated by ravenous beasties against the clock.
Taking its inspiration from Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, Croixleur Sigma is a time and score-attack game that involves slaying a set number of increasingly tough monsters in circular arenas as fast as possible, before ascending to the next floor with the aim of killing the final boss. Doing so will take less than fifteen minutes in a single run without continues, but your route and time limit affects the ending you get, weapons you receive and story events along the way. As such, it's all about constantly improving, honing your strategies and becoming more efficient each time you play, a perfect drop-in-and-play distraction that can easily hoover up longer than you'd expect.
All hinges on the combat, then, and things appear basic from the start. Lucrezia Visconti (for that is her name) initially appears to be light on tactical options, possessing only a 1-2-3 sword combo, dashes and jumps, but experience brings a deeper understanding of the mechanics. The dash, for example, can be curved around behind enemies to brutalise them from behind while dodging attacks, while move cancellation and attack nullification rewards decisive timing. Better yet, though, you'll unlock weapons with unique special attacks from AoE ground pounds to lunges, drives, raves and projectiles, allowing you to pack a versatile selection of four abilities in each attempt. What sounds undernourished on paper is efficient in practice, appropriate since honing your runs to be as time-efficient as possible is key to high scores and leaderboard placement.
Streamlined yet satisfying and more nuanced than many give it credit for, Croixleur Sigma's combat is more than fit for task.
The original Croixleur stopped there, offering repetition for the sheer sake of it after killing the frankly underpowered boss dragon (or... erm, that'd be telling), and I had to bring the hammer down. Luckily Croixleur Sigma begins after your first run comes to the close.
Unlocking Francesca Storaro by clocking in a seriously competitive time (trust me, it'll take you a while - that's why the review is late!) grants access to a whole new campaign with new weapons and extra dialogue, which gives you a reason to keep on crushing and presents a much more interesting character than Lucrezia ever was. Well, relatively at least. We've also got local co-op, a new multi-level challenge mode, achievements, online leaderboards and Steam Trading Cards to boot. There's plenty of reasons to keep throwing yourself back in for another run, and markedly improved value as a single package.
Visually, things have been smartened up to a noticeable degree, thanks to new HD resolution options and anti-aliasing. The lighting can feel over-exposed and screen tearing is rife on higher resolutions (I'd suggest playing on a lower windowed resolution), but the action is buttery-smooth and runs at an unimpeachable 60FPS. Unless you unlock the frame rate and punch things up to a frankly hilarious 300, which presents a unique and maddening challenge of its own. Don't expect a graphical powerhouse, but considering the game's humble doujin origins, it's still pleasingly colourful and performance is what we really look for from the genre. Plus, the crunchy rock soundtrack is outstanding, and makes a lovely change from all the frigging dubstep we've become accustomed to lately. So despite being slightly more expensive than its predecessor, Croixleur Sigma offers better Punch for your Pound [bang for your buck? - Ed] and sweeping improvements that I'd sorely love to factor into the score.
But can I?
Sadly, the sins of the father must be visited on the son, because Sigma still suffers from a massive Achilles Heel. Enemy variety. There are effectively only six enemies in the entire game -- three if you don't count rare bosses --- just a melee goblin, ranged lightning goblin and flying foe with several palette-swapped variations. This isn't really acceptable in a game built around repetition and recursion, since no matter what route we take and how many times we attempt to run the gauntlet, we'll still run into the same old faces over and over again.
But take heart, because this time I feel that Croixleur Sigma does enough. Its expanded content gives us more drive to return to the fray, while the real star of the show is the combat, not the foes themselves, who are effectively obstacles in your way. When approached little and often, interspersed with bigger and more involved games, Croixleur Sigma gives us hack and slash satisfaction.
And perhaps more to the point, it's great to see Nyu Media offering Steam gamers more for their money: delivering the best edition they can with the source material they have. Long may that continue.
- Enjoyably efficient combat and addictive time attack gameplay
- Meaningful new content, character and modes
- Awesome crunchy, riffy soundtrack
- Enemy variety is still aggravatingly limited
- Rife screen tearing at HD fullscreen resolutions
- Tedium will set in if overplayed - dip into little and often
The Short Version: This bite-sized brawler delivers addictive time attack gameplay and satisfying combat for an appropriate price. Though you'll want to engage in short doses to make the most of its limited enemy types, Croixleur Sigma is perfect for pick-up-and-play action and delivers significantly superior value for money than its predecessor.