Crimson Gem Saga Review
While the iPhone is probably best known for its vast library of pick-up and play titles, that doesn’t mean the platform can’t be home to deeper, more engaging games as well. And there are few genres deeper and more engaging than the Japanese RPG. Crimson Gem Saga may not be the most original JRPG out there, but it’s charming and solid and, aside from a few control issues, is a great fit for the iPhone.
Killian is a recent graduate of Green Hill Academy, where he trained to be an elite soldier. He also seems to be eternally stuck in second place. No matter what he does or how hard he tries, he just never seems to be able to come out on top. Unfortunately, when he sets off to deliver a letter of recommendation in hopes of getting a job, this bad luck follows him. Killian eventually gets caught up in an epic search for an ancient artifact, the titular crimson gem, and along the way he’ll join up with a colorful cast of characters and face off against all types of monsters and bad guys.
The story is pretty standard fare when it comes to JRPGs, featuring a band of traditional character archetypes who join together on an epic quest. But what separates Crimson Gem Saga from the majority of similar games is its writing. The game never takes itself too seriously and the dialog is excellent, both in terms of the quality of the writing and the actual voice acting. Though they may not be entirely original, each character is likable and sports a distinct personality. It won’t take long for you to actually care what happens to them.
While the gameplay is very traditional, it also features a number of features that make it very approachable for a more casual audience. You’ll spend your time in the game travelling the world, which consists of exploring towns and dungeons, engaging in lots of turn-based battles, and talking with various non-playable characters. It’s all pretty standard stuff. But a few seemingly small features make a large difference.
Chief among them is a lack of random battles. Instead, you can actually see the enemies on screen and choose to avoid them if you want. This also adds a bit of strategy to the game, as you are given an advantage if you manage to engage with an enemy before they actually see you. This is especially important when you’re facing higher level monsters. The game also has a lovely habit of completely refilling your health and magic whenever you level up. When you’re stuck in a big dungeon with dwindling supplies, this feature can be a lifesaver. And, since it’s on a mobile device, Crimson Gem Saga also allows you to save absolutely anywhere, another nice touch.
The real trouble comes with how the game utilizes touch controls. There are virtual buttons overlayed on the screen and, as is so often the case, they don’t work very well. Moving in particular can be very frustrating and you’ll frequently find yourself accidentally running around in circles instead of going where you need to. The menus, likewise, are very clunky and require quite a bit of patience. Since nothing in the game requires precision timing these issues aren’t a deal-breaker, but they are definitely frustrating.
But considering what Crimson Gem Saga is — a fully blown, epic, traditional JRPG you can put in your pocket — it’s easy to look past these problems. The game looks, sounds, and plays great, and even has a charming cast of characters. It may be a little overly traditional, but for those looking for a solid JRPG that fits on a phone, this game really is a gem.