Some games will tell an epic, sweeping story of an inner struggle that an ancient, medieval-like society faces. Two factions must have their best, and brightest student take part in a ritual to see who gets political and military power. What happens when two childhood friends are pitted against each other in battle? Where did this ritual come from? Other games though, will briefly mention this lore only to throw you head first into the combat, and Croixleur is one of those games. While the lack of story may disappoint, the combat is highly addictive.
Croixleur tells a very simple story- you play as Lucrezia, who represents the Aristocrats, as she participates in the Adjuvant Trial in order to give her faction military and political control, as well as the esteemed responsibility to protect the Queen. However, the Adjuvant Trial is a competition, and Lucrezia will be going against Francesca Storaro (and that is just the short version of her name), who represents the Knights and was Lucrezia’s childhood friend. While there are multiple endings based on your performance during the 15 minute trial, the story is bare bones. Most of the background information is left to the player’s imagination, which is not necessarily a bad thing per say, it is just that souvenir circ. managed to create a very solid foundation for the lore of Illance.
Being an arcade-style hack ‘n slash game, it is not surprising to see that the story took a backseat to the gameplay. Croixleur features some fast-paced action, and a decent amount of depth to boot. There are a total of 10 weapons to unlock, and they each have a special attack attached to them. At first, you will have your basic sword and a fireball attack, but your repertoire will expand to include a thrust, anti-air attacks, and a shock wave type area attack. These specials can be used to cancel your basic 3-slash combo, at the expense of MP (magic points) to extend you combos and to dish out massive damage to stronger enemies.
While you can go on a full-frontal assault, you will not last very long if you do not play a little defense, which is were dashing comes into play. Not only is dashing used to cover large areas while on the ground or in the air, but it offers a few frames of invincibility to Lucrezia. This is invaluable when surrounded or when avoiding potential damage from a larger enemy. Moves can also be canceled by dashing, so you have no fear of being stuck in animation, or you can use this to setup some more combos.
It is recommended that you play Croixleur with a controller, in fact all of the in-game instructions assume that you are using a controller. However, I was able to play the game with a standard keyboard with hardly any trouble. If you have a controller laying around, such as an Xbox 360 one, you should use it though, combos are much easier to pull of that way.
Souvenir circ. managed to keep Croixleur running at 60 frames per second, and for the most part, consistently so. There is some slow down here and there, especially when enemies start to flood the screen, or you do too many special abilities in a short period of time. Other than that, souvenir circ. did a great job keeping the action fast paced.
Graphically, Croixleur looks fairly nice, especially keeping in mind its humble origins. Lucrezia and Fran look excellent, and the battle effects have a nice flare to them. Enemies look good, but their designs are repetitive due to the reliance on pallet swaps. Naturally, the darker the color, the stronger the enemy will be. The same can be said for the backgrounds, besides a change in color you would think your are fighting in the same area. Bosses, on the other hand, do look impressive in regards to design and scale and do well to break up the sense of sameness. When it is all said and done though, Croixleur does look nice in spite of the repetition.
Croixleur does not feature extensive voice overs, which is understandable considering that it is a doujin (Japanese indie) title. What voice over is available is used on battle cries and grunts, with the small amount of narrative taking the form of text. Notwithstanding, the soundtrack is very catchy. In fact, I have not doubt that the music will be stuck in your head shortly after you begin the game. More importantly, the battle sound effects are rather nice. Not once did Lucrezia’s slashes sound weak, and the effects for some of the abilities are really well done.
There are three gameplay modes to explore in Croixleur. First is the story, which has you trying to complete the Adjuvant Trial in a 15 minute time limit. There are branching paths, 10 weapons to unlock, multiple endings, and a few different scenarios to see, all depending on your performance. Seeing as how each go through will take you at most 15 minutes, most of the things will be unlocked in no time, which is were the other two modes come into play. Survival mode is self-explanatory- you will be tasked with downing waves of enemies until you meet your doom; and then there is time attack- you have 3 minutes to defeat as many waves as possible. All of this is wrapped up with 20 achievements to unlock, and an offline high score system.
For $4.99, Croixleur is easy to recommend to anyone that is a fan of arcade games, hack ‘n slash games, or both. It does not revolutionize the genre, but when combat is so fun that it almost puts you in a trance-like state, then the developers were doing something right. While Lucrezia’s adventure is on the short side, it is needless to say that I am looking forward to see what souvenir circ. will develop next.
This review was based on a final version of the game provided by Nyu Media