After I finished the main game of Crymachina, I had to do some research to see how I activated some of the game’s postgame content. A general web search inevitably resulted in me finding some less than favorable reviews from “professional” (see what I did there) websites. I didn’t bother reading them in their entirety. I got the gist based on the snippets provided. Still, it’s interesting to think that a game I found so enjoyable from start to end somehow ended up scoring so poorly across the board. Crymachina isn’t perfect. However, it’s probably my top pick for sleeper hit of the year. For those that managed to get through Crystar, Crymachina will seem like a complete 180 in terms of quality and polish. And for those that didn’t get to try Crystar, you can hop right into Crymachina since they’re not related except in name.
Before getting into nitty-gritty, I think it’s important to talk about the things that bring the score down. The first is that there are dialogues going on in the top, left corner. This includes during the game’s boss battles. I’ll talk about the combat later in the review, but the fast pace and Dynasty Warriors-level of intensity means that you’ll be missing these dialogues while trying to avoid damage. It’s an annoying trend I’ve seen in other action games (namely Azure Striker Gunvolt) that I wish would go away. Either let the dialogue play out before or after the boss, or don’t include it. The game is fully voiced in Japanese so you can’t actively listen to what everyone is saying unless you’re fluent in the language and adjust the sound appropriately. The next issue is the postgame grind. It takes a lot of experience to be able to tackle the final challenges, which means about a few hours of extra grinding on standard difficulty. Also, figuring out how to get everything going relies on an enemy drop. It doesn’t take long to get, but it’s still worth noting. The game is also unclear on what most of the character’s stats are/do. The rule of thumb I used was to just make sure the strength and dexterity stats would get higher when I acquired new gear. And finally, I have no clue how auxiliaries, sub-weapons that have various attacks and perks, would activate said attacks and perks on their EX branches. Typing that last sentence was likely as awkward as you reading it. All this to say that some extra guidance would have been appreciated.
Crymachina takes place in the far future. Leben Distel was lying on her deathbed suffering from the deadly Centrifugal Syndrome. With her last breaths, cursing humanity, she closes her eyes…only to find herself up and about in a strange, dark, mechanical world in outer space. Wearing metallic combat gear and armed with a powerful spear that can morph into a gun, Leben meets Enoa: the eight Deis ex Machina in charge of reconstructing the human psyche. Enoa manages a virtual world to reproduce human souls in the form of Personality Data. Since Leben’s awakening, humanity has gone extinct. The first seven Deis ex Machina tasked with helping in humanity’s restoration have been causing issues in virtual space. Leben is The Chosen One and takes on the duty as an EVE. Along other hand selected EVEs Mikoto Sengiku and Ami Shido, Leben is tasked with restoring humanity. This story is one for the ages. I’ve played a lot of RPGs in my gaming life and yet Crymachina managed to floor me with its narrative and big reveals. I really felt like I got to know Leben and the other characters since you can hold tea parties with them. The girls will talk about all manners of things during these parties. The conversations felt organic and helped shed light on their past lives.
The base of operations in Crymachina is the Imitation Garden. Other than enjoying conversations with the girls, your time here is spent powering up Leben, Mikoto and Ami. One way is with equipment that you find from the various stages. Another is with add-ons for your auxiliaries. I was never able to figure out an “optimal” setup for these, but the ones I messed around with (swords, spears, chakrams) always worked in combat. There are also EGO points that can be used to power up individual stats, increase the level capacity for equipment that can be equipped, and improving the support functionality that Enoa provides in combat. The final but most important way is with experience point. Unlike most RPGs, in Crymachina the experience from enemies pools together. You’ll use it to boost the team’s levels up to a certain maximum. As the story continues, the level cap will continue to increase.
The Imitation Garden has a lot more to do, but I won’t cover that. Instead, I want to talk about the awesome combat that gives games like Bayonetta a run for their money. The square button performs regular attacks that is used to weaken enemies. Once they’ve been weakened, they can be launched with the triangle button and the assault can continue with an air combo. Upon landing, you can perform a powerful finishing move has a visceral feel to it. There are also perfect counters, perfect dodges, sub-weapons, charge attacks, and a lot more that make each encounter equal parts fast and fun. Leben, Mikoto, and Ami wield unique weapons but their fighting styles are different. The biggest takeaway is that, unlike Crystar, Crymachina is fun from start to finish. As enemies grow in power, so do the girls. Bosses always bring something new to the table. The multitude of stages never outstay their welcome, and yet there is always something unique about them. While any challenge can be overcome by ensuring your levels are topped off, as well as a Casual mode that can be turned on/off anytime, witnessing the flurry of strikes, launches and combos is constantly entertaining. From start to finish, I never grew tired of the combat.
One argument I’ve seen is that every stage looks the same as the last. The areas lack anything distinct. Well, for one, the game takes place in outer space. There isn’t much there. And for two, every new area has some sort of feature that separates it from the last. You’ll be heading through a subzero level during one mission, and then go somewhere in which the heat was cranked to 1,000. You’ll be doing this while fighting creatively designed enemies that are fun to smash into little pieces. The real stars of the graphics are the character designs and the cornucopia of cosmetic equipment options. Seeing these leggy ladies kick ass in the highest of platform shoes will make both your eyes and heart melt. The music hits, and it hits hard at all times except while you’re chilling in the Imitation Garden. During those punctuated moments, the music is soft and soothing.
After doing everything that I needed to see the last of the trophies and secrets, I logged a solid 35 hours into Crymachina. Speed runners can skip all story scenes if they’re just wanting to get to the action. But, in doing so, you’ll miss a fascinating tale told by fascinating characters. Similar to Crystar, one of the best things going for Crymachina is the story. Unlike Crystar, however, Crymachina is an absolute delight to play from start to end. Tedious, repetitive combat is nowhere to be found. While Crymachina is destined to be a sleeper hit due to its niche vibes, a part of me hopes that more people can play it.
Overall, 9/10: Adorn steel, get gold stars, and discover what it truly means to be human in Crymachina.