Title: Crimson Gem Saga
Release Date: April 26, 2008
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (IronNos)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
Pros: Looks beautiful, can be played for long periods or short bursts, offers a decent challenge and has hilarious writing.
Cons: It can be difficult to catch enemies off guard, level grinding is pretty much mandatory and the skills are a chore to unlock.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 90/100, A-, * * * * out of 5
Crimson Gem Saga is one of those cases where you can’t judge the game by it’s cover art. I mean look at the cover image at the right. It’s pretty and all, but it makes Crimson Gem Saga look like your ordinary, every day RPG. You’d never guess that a box like that could hold a UMD containing a funny and challenging game with an atypical story. That looks like the box of a game where a handful of young, optimistic, fortunate, teenage heroes save the world.
Crimson Gem Saga isn’t that kind of game. Yes, it’s an RPG where the world might get saved by heroic individuals, but it’s primarily the story of some motley adventurers who encounter some seriously bad times and band together to try and make the best of things.
Bad fortune leads to big adventures.
Most men become heroes and save the world because they’re extraordinarily talented and lucky. That doesn’t happen to our hero, Killian. Nope. Poor Killian’s a target for bad luck, and I don’t think there are enough four leaf clovers in the world to save him. I would even go so far as to say that everything’s all pretty much Killian’s fault – his bad luck’s infectious.
It starts out when he graduates school. His rival Herbert gets the valedictorian spot, and Killian’s salutatorian. Killian manages to get a letter of recommendation from his principal for a job, but has his wallet stolen on his way to the possible job. Once he acquires said job with the Excelsior Force, the whole force is wiped out by two villainous characters while going to reclaim a Wicked Stone. Spinel, the woman who stole his wallet earlier, saves his life. He then gets caught up in her treasure-hunting affairs.
Things only get worse for Killian, and more interesting for the player, from there.
Grinding to glory.
There are two things you need to know about Crimson Gem Saga before you start playing. First, level grinding isn’t optional. Early on, when you’re first journeying with Killian, Spinel, Henson and Getz, you’ll think it’s optional. The enemies aren’t terribly difficult, and the four characters won’t have too much trouble dispatching them. After Lahduk joins your party, you’ll see it’s a crucial requirement.
See, I spent a decent amount of time level grinding before Lahduk joined. I thought I was ahead of the game, since all of my characters were between levels 24 and 27. Then Lahduk joined. His level was 32. And, when I stepped outside of the city where he joined, two archers and a big thug mauled my party. Don’t be naive like me.
Second, skill points are a precious commodity. Early battles will usually give you 5 SP. Later on, the number will grow as the enemies get tougher. It would seems like that would be a generous amount. Except, you will need at least 50 SP to reveal skills in the Skill Trees, and then at least 70 SP to make the characters learn those skills. As you progress through the Skill Tree, you need more SP required to reveal and master skills. It’s diabolical. However, if you actually take the time to level grind, you’ll have a healthy pool of SP that you can distribute among characters at your leisure.
Thankfully, you can save anywhere. So you can pick it up for an hour or so, level up your characters, then come back later. It seems less forced and overwhelming that way, and makes it much easier to enjoy the game.
Crimson Gem Saga‘s filled with hidden gems.
Don’t you love it when a game has little secrets and easter eggs scattered all around, waiting for a patient and dedicated player to discover them all? I do, and Crimson Gem Saga comes through. All of the characters, both major and minor, have hilarious quips or asides. My personal favorite comes from Yggdra, a Yoga practicing NPC in Habsburg, that proclaims, “…I can feel it… I feel the Cosmos…!”
It’s also worth exploring every nook and cranny. Sometimes normal areas will result in unexpected character commentary, sounds or items. For example, mailboxes may be home to MP-depleting chickens, and Killian likes playing Ding-Dong-Ditch.
A red hot addition to the PSP’s RPG collection.
Crimson Gem Saga should be on every PSP-owning RPG fans’ radar. However, it may not be for everyone. You need to have patience and dedication if you want to get the most out of this game. If the very thought of level grinding makes you shudder, try looking elsewhere.
If you are willing to invest time in it, then really go all out. Spend whole evenings or afternoons playing. Explore everywhere, battle countless enemies and see everything. Trust me, it’s worth it.