PC gaming used to be, for the most part, a largely Western domain, dominated by strategy games, first-person shooters and flight sims. The times are a-changing, however; one of my own personal favorite developments in the modern PC sector is the number of Japanese games we’re starting to get properly localized and brought to Western audiences. Japanese games used to be the exclusive preserve of console owners but over the last few years we’ve had a diverse array of titles that show the Eastern indie (“doujin”) scene is just as diverse, chaotic, creative and active as the Western independent sector — Recettear, Fortune Summoners, Gundemonium Recollection, Cherry Tree High Comedy Club; the list goes on and on.
There are still relatively few companies who dedicate themselves to localizing entertainment from the Far East, however. One such outfit is Nyu Media. To date, they’ve brought us the fun beat ‘em up Fairy Bloom Freesia, spectacular shoot ‘em up Ether Vapor Remaster, the aforementioned Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and the gloriously-named bullet hell shooter eXceed 3rd – Jade Penetrate Black Package, among others. Now there’s a new title in their lineup, and wouldn’t you know it — it’s rather fun.
Croixleur, which was developed by Japanese doujin circle Souvenir.circ and sports possibly the least-pronounceable name in gaming history, casts you in the role of a twintailed young girl aiming to best her rival and childhood friend by battling her way up a monster-infested tower as quickly as possible. The plot is fairly throwaway, to be honest, but it does at least set the scene and establish the player character as an actual person rather than a nondescript avatar. It quickly becomes apparent shortly after starting to play that Croixleur is not about in-depth characterization or JRPG-style melodrama, however; it’s about repeatedly hitting monsters in the face and testicles with a variety of sharp implements.
Croixleur is best described as an arena-based hack-and-slash game — Robotron with swords, if you will. Basic controls are simple — you run around, you attack. Repeatedly tapping the attack button allows several slashes to be chained together, and you can jump and perform combos in mid-air. Another button allows you to slide at high speed to avoid attacks or close the distance between you and an enemy, and another still lets you unleash a “bomb” — a devastating special attack which you only have in limited quantities. You can also “cancel” moves into each other, allowing carefully-timed button presses to start impressive-looking combo strings that slice through everything in their path. Moving around and attacking is a joy thanks to the slick frame rate and responsive, easy to learn controls.
As you progress through the game, you’ll collect various weapons which can be used in subsequent replays. Each of these has its own unique special attack achieved by holding the L button on a controller and pressing one of the other four face buttons. This will also switch the weapon in your hand to that one, and different weapons have various different capabilities. Your character will also level up and become stronger as you hack and slash your way through your enemies, and you’ll recover bombs by collecting a hundred of the coins that shower from fallen enemies. You can also recover lost health by taking down stronger boss-like enemies.
This might all sound a bit action-RPGish and you’d be right to think that — only the whole thing is done and dusted in less than 20 minutes. Yes, this is very much an arcade game with a few RPG trappings; the story mode is largely there for you to collect weapons and work through a non-linear path of levels, but players who have seen their fill of the story will doubtless find themselves gravitating towards the “Score Attack” and “Endless” modes. These task players with scoring as many points as possible before either time or their life runs out… and are both extremely addictive.
Croixleur isn’t the deepest or most complex game you’ll ever play. Its environments are samey, its enemies are mostly palette-swaps of the same few models and the gameplay itself is rather repetitive after a while. And yet somewhere, somehow, these simplistic elements combine to create a game that is a lot of fun, surprisingly addictive and ideal to dip into when you have a few moments free. It’s probably not the kind of game you’ll play for hours at a time and it’s not really designed to be, either; instead, it’s been built from the start to be a simple, fun, quick-hit arcade like experience that fifteen years ago we’d have been happy to pump quarter after quarter into. Today, it’s nice to have something that you can just fire up for a few minutes, beat up some monsters and still feel like you’ve had an enjoyable experience.
Be warned, though; playing without a gamepad is likely to be an exercise in frustration and the game does not carry standard Xbox controller support — presumably due to the Xbox’s less prominent position in Japan — so you’ll have to assign all your buttons yourself using the provided configuration tool. It’s easy enough to put together a setup that works, however — it’s just a little annoying that the in-game button prompts don’t correspond to the colors or letters of the Xbox controller like most Western gamers are used to seeing by now.
On the whole, though, flaws aside — and it’s worth remembering when weighing up said flaws that the game is only $5 in the first place — Croixleur is an enjoyable experience that I defy anyone to not have at least a bit of fun with. It’s not over-the-top about its “Japaneseness,” for those who are bothered by colorful moe characters and overblown melodrama, either — it’s simply an enjoyable game that happens to hail from our friends in the East and star a pair of cute girls with swords. If you’re looking for a fun, arcadey diversion to while away some time with, you could certainly do far worse than this.
Croixleur is available direct from its official website as well as Gamersgate and Desura. The game is also currently running a Greenlight campaign to get it on Steam; if this should prove successful, the team at Nyu Media will implement online leaderboards and Steam achievements, which will both be a great addition to the already-solid arcade-style gameplay.
The review copy of this game was provided to Games Are Evil by the publisher.