Crimson Gem Saga Review
Crimson Gem Saga box art
System: PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: Matrix Software 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Atlus 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: May 26, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Turn-Based Basics!
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

As the video game medium increases in age, it seems that more and more people are beginning to appreciate the value of retro-inspired titles. Last year’s Mega Man 9 was definitely proof of this, and it’s easy to see why these older-stylized games are popular. They were more difficult, generally much longer, and had a deeper focus on gameplay over visuals. Of course, that’s not to say that modern games are all bad, but playing these retro-inspired games definitely gives you a different gameplay experience. Crimson Gem Saga is a title that is a throwback to the old days of RPG gaming, and your enjoyment of this title will definitely depend on how much you appreciate its classic value.

Crimson Gem Saga screenshot

While series like Star Ocean, Final Fantasy, and even Shin Megami Tensei have opted to include active battle elements in their recent releases, Crimson Gem Saga takes the most strict turn-based approach possible. You won’t even see a hint of an active battle or quick-time event here. The battle system works by presenting you with a menu, where you can choose to engage in a regular attack or a special attack. You can also opt to defend or use an item. Once you choose your action, it will be time for another player or an enemy to take their turn (as indicated by a turn bar at the top of the screen). Although this may sound like an oversimplification, trust me; it’s not. The most complex facet of the battle system is the presence of combo attacks, which allow you to double up on your character’s attacks by combining it with others. Aside from that, the gameplay is amazingly straightforward and extremely easy to pick up and play.

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As a seasoned RPG gamer myself, I really appreciated this throwback to old-school RPG gaming. The approach reminded me of a time when RPGs were about long-range strategy instead of button mashing. But, even though I was totally thrilled with this game’s approach, I have to say that it’s not for everyone. I’m sure that any seasoned gamer is familiar with the concept of grinding, and in Crimson Gem Saga, grinding is a complete bore.

Crimson Gem Saga screenshot

Simply going through the motions of a regular battle, pressing the attack command a few times, and collecting experience points over and over again can definitely drive you a little crazy after awhile, especially if you are used to more active battle systems. But, if you can deal with the repetitive grinding as well as the rigid battle system, then there is plenty of fun to be had with Crimson Gem Saga.

The story is not especially memorable by itself, and revolves around some powerful rocks which have the power to change the world. These rocks, known as Wicked Stones, are being hunted down by several different factions, including a race of demons and a slightly suspicious do-gooder effort known as the “Order of Light.” You play as a group of rag-tag misfits, including a treasure hunter, a stalwart warrior (who was actually let go from the Order of Light), a lazy magician, and a recent academy graduate with a chip on his shoulder.

Crimson Gem Saga screenshot

After a singularly successful mission (and a brief stint in the slammer), these four characters join forces with the Order of Light to go and save the world from the six remaining Wicked Stones. Each stone seems conveniently placed behind a dungeon with a boss to guard it, but again, this is all part of the game’s nostalgic charm.

Screenshots / Images
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