It’s an interesting thing to see CAPCOM trying to create a new dynamic franchise. As we know, the company’s in a state where it can’t even afford to port Street Fighter IV to PS4/Xbone. They don’t even have the money to make a new fighting game. However, Gaist Crusher seems to be one of CAPCOM’s last chances to gain money. It should have everything that a kid would want; attractive and colourful designs with collectables. But the franchise won’t have much staying power if its key component, the game, would be a failure. Gaist Crusher’s demo was released on the Japanese Nintendo 3DS eShop this week, and so I cautiously jumped on it to see whether or not it was worth anything. To my surprise, it’s not all that bad at all.
To describe Gaist Crusher’s gameplay isn’t too difficult if you have a history with games; it’s a combination of limited area third person brawler with light elements of Monster Hunter and few nodges from Mega Man. However, Gaist Crusher manages to keep its own identity just fine and doesn’t succumb under the pressure it has, as most of these elements are intentionally there. For example, the game consists of missions where the player’s goal is to reach to the end of the relatively short stage through enemies, until he faces off with boss Gaist. Upon defeat, these boss type Gaists will leave some Gaimetal behind them, and a successful destruction of the metal will yield a new armour to use. The demo has limited forms, but you can broaden the amount of forms by defeating the Gaists in it and Crushing the Gaimetal they leave behind. Or at least you can gain two of three possible forms, I’ve been unable to gain the Gaimetal from Mission 2. Still, it’s a really neat touch.
The Gaist Gears comes in two flavours of balanced and offense, the Mail Form and the Weapon Form. The best thing is that you can change between these forms on the fly, so you’re not stuck with one Form. Mail Form is where the player character goes Kenshiro and uses his fists and legs to deliver blows on enemies with variety of attacks and effects. Weapon Form on the other hand is like playing Monster Hunter Lite, where the equipped armour pops off to form a weapon, eg. a giant sword or a hammer. These weapons are very similar to what Monster Hunter’s larger weapons are, like Broad Sword or Hammer, but attack faster and hit harder than the balanced form. To balance the newfound offense, the defense takes a hit. This is reflected also in the function of Guard and Boost, as only the Mail Form can Guard with a dome shaped burst, that dazzles lesser enemies to boot. By charging the Guard, the dome will expand farther. Weapon Form Boosts, which is a very fast directional dash that covers decent distance. Both of these are bound to a small four-step meter below the player’s health. Using Guard of Boost will expend one part of the four slots, but the meter recovers in a decent pace. Thus, you are essentially allowed to Guard or Boost four times in a row before you need to wait up. Both are equally usable depending on your playstyle.
Next to these forms, there is also the Extreme Form, which allows the player character to invoke the shape, form and power of the boss Gaists. Essentially this means that the boss you defeat, the boss you also get to be. The Extreme Form lasts for only as long as you have energy for it, and the player life meter becomes the form’s energy meter, which drains itself in a decent pace whether or not the player takes any damage. That said, all Forms and Weapons have their advantages in their own fields.
Unlike with Monster Hunter, where if you failed the hunt you were taken back to the camp, the player has indicators next to his character portrait. In the demo there’s two, and these indicators work as Lives. Upon reaching the end of your energy, the player character is revived on the spot at the cost of one indicator. Demo had two indicators, thus allowing three lives.
The weapons in Gaist Crusher are Blade, Gun, Hammer, Scythe and lance and they are strong against each other in that order. There are elemental affinities in play as well; Fire, Ice, Earth, Lighting and Wind. They are strong against each other in that order too. The weapons is selected according to the Gaist Gear you choose to equip, as is the element. CAPCOM has promised 100 different Gaists to collect and equip, I’m pretty damn sure all different kinds of tactics, Weapon and Element combinations will be explored. Gaist selection also changes how the player character looks, and the same weapon with different Gaist doesn’t work the exact same way either. So in the end, it all falls into the player finding the weapon and element he likes the most alongside how the Gaist functions on the field.
Gaist Gears also gain levels, thou the demo seemed to have this functionality locked down. All Gaist Gears were at Level 10, and I’m sure levelling your favourite one up will increase its stats, so there’s character building through grinding included. A step away from Monster Hunter fare, but I’d assume it’s possible to damage any Gaist with any level Gear.
You can also gain new Gears by attaching Gaiphone addon to your 3DS and attack a Gaimetal toy unto it, and then use the Search Mode to gain new things in-game. This kind of mixing and matching toys and games is nothing new, but it also plays with how the character in the animation series gain their armours via Gaist On, ie. putting piece of Gaimetal on top of the Gaiphone and having the standard Super Sentai transformation sequence. Using a Gaimetal that you already in-game, like Flame Fenrir’s, the Gaist Gear gets a boost of strength. However, I’ve yet to test this in action, as I lack Gaimetals themselves.
Gaist Crusher demo runs smoothly and I experienced no framedrops even when the 3D was on maximum, which is pretty important as the game is pretty fast paced. Actually, if CAPCOM was in better shape, I could see them doing an arcade game that could link up with the 3DS via WiFi. The game would have a lot of potential as a straight up coin muncher if it was possible nowadays. Nevertheless, it seems that CAPCOM is acknowledging the similarities between the hi-speed brawler and Monster Hunter as they have announced a combining event within Gaist Crusher and Monster Hunter 4, where you are able to fight against a Gaist Rioreus (Rathalos) and gain a Gaimetal from it. Sengoku Basara 4 is also getting its fair share of Crusher action. This is an interesting tactics, as CAPCOM hopes to export players of Gaist Crusher to other CAPCOM games. The problem here is that the series and the franchised collectables need to be successful so that main target audience will want to get the games. This is essential, thou more difficult than what it was with either Pokémon or Mega Man Battle Network due to the current state of the world economy. Still, as I have mentioned previously, Gaist Crusher has all the right elements to become a success, but can it be success at this day and age? For CAPCOM, I hope that it will.
It also should be noted that Treasure worked on this game, and their flair does show up in how the game feels. The world design, and designs in general, are colourful and range from nicely flat to very busy. There are some very cool looking desings, like the Skull Barghest or Tekkou Ryujin. Of course, some Gaist designs are not really all that interesting, like the tapir based Dream Back or the aforementioned Arnmi Akamezame’s Mail Form However, in true collectable fashion, everyone is sure to find their favourite from the hundred Gaists.
Overall, how the game plays and feels is pretty good. It’s a standard fare in the most positive way and there’s bits that could use polish here and there. What I mean by that is that we were promised somewhat basic 3D brawler with explosive action and low-level customization with collecting, and we’re getting exactly that in a well thought way. CAPCOM has usually worked upwards with their sequels, fixing and improving elements that do not really work, like the movement sliding in Mega Man 1 & 2 and adding actual Sliding in Mega Man 3, so Gaist Crusher 2 will be better if this succeeds.
Now, the engine is a modified Mega Man Legends 3 engine, and it shows. There are movements, camera angles and overall control feeling that says that Gaist Crusher is build on what was left of Legends 3. Comparing the footage we have seen of Legends 3, I can say that Gaist Crusher manages to stand apart from what Legends 3 would have been, even if some of the attacks sound and look like the Kicks of Legends 3. It is sad to know that Legends 3 will not be made, but Gaist Crusher will most likely be the more profitable one of the two.
It’s notable that if you check the original trailer and the latest one, you can see changes in the HUD and other small details here and there.
I’ve decided to purchase the game itself, thou gaining additional Gaists will be difficult if I don’t start exporting the toys too, but I’m eager to see if the actual game will end up being just as entertaining, or will the missions end up being a drag. Seeing how I enjoyed Monster Hunter when I actively played it, I doubt that.