Crimson Tears

Dream Factory gets the fighting RPG formula right


The Lowdown

Pros: Excellent use of cel shading, easy to get into, randomized dungeons
Cons: No multiplayer support, some repetition

Purchase at Play-Asia
Crimson Tears is made by two companies that know fighting games. Capcom is well known for Street Fighter, Final Fight and their Vs. series games. Dream Factory is a little less known outside of Japan, but you probably heard of Tobal No.1 and the Bouncer. Originally, Dream Factory worked along side of Squaresoft when they made the Tobal series, which was critically acclaimed as one of the best fighting series on the original Playstation. The Bouncer was Dream Factory's concept of a fighting RPG, which was mixed with Squaresoft's cinematic approach. The game didn't work out, but they continued to work on the idea of a fighting RPG. With the help of Capcom Crimson Tears was born and Dream Factory has made a hit.

In 2049 genetic research leads to the creation of three biological super humans: Asuka, Kaede and Tokio (in English Asuka was changed to Amber and Kaede to Kaide). These super weapons are created by A.R.M.A., a weapons manufacturer, in hopes of destroying a set of biological weapons that reside in a dimensional maze within Tokyo. All three characters can do basic punch and kick attacks by pressing square and X. Pressing triangle will make your character use their finishing move, which can kill off normal enemies instantly. To counterbalance for button mashing and over use of the instant kill move each character has a heat meter. Every time you attack, even if you don't hit an enemy points are added to the heat meter. Stronger attacks like the instant kill move add more points to the heat meter than a basic punch. When it's full your character can deal extra damage, but will rapidly lose life until they die. This is an excellent gameplay mechanic, which forces players to fight efficiently. Unlike standard beat-em up games where you can mash the attack button all night long. Dream Factory has added a number of "cool down" items that can lower your heat meter. These items can be found in the levels or you can purchase them at one of the stores before entering a stage. 

Before you go into a level you'll have a chance to pick one of three characters. Each of the three characters have their own set of equipment, which causes them to handle a little differently. Asuka wields two blades, Kaede has the ability to throw bombs and Tokio can hold two guns at once like he's from a John Woo movie. Switching off and playing with each character is a good idea since they each have their own level. Like any other RPG game your characters get stronger in the form of leveling up when they defeat enemies. One interesting note on the three characters is that if one of them loses all their HP in the maze one of the other characters has to go in and rescue them. To make matters worse they have to find the other character with a limited amount of time and no access to items. If they don't find the other character and time runs out that character is gone. No continue, no phoenix down, no extra life, nothing. So, you have to use at least two characters or prepare for a lot of resetting of the game.

The main maze, which is appropriately called the "dungeon" is randomly made for each of the levels. Dream Factory made a good move by having short randomly generated dungeons rather than lengthy levels. The randomized dungeons ensure that players always have to explore rather than memorize the location of where to go. Each of the levels are broken into three parts. You'll need to find a teleporter to delve deeper into the dungeon where eventually you'll fight a boss monster. Dream Factory has added a few more elements to separate Crimson Tears from the standard beat-em up gameplay. First their is item collecting, an important part of an RPG, possibly even more important in Crimson Tears. Enemies drop items and at the very least gold. This gold can be used to buy new weapons or rebuild the town. Rebuilding the town means the development of more shops, hence better items. There are also a number of side quests that the townsfolk will have you do, which normally entail finding a rare item.

Crimson Tears really shines in the graphics department. It has a clever use of cel shading that gives it the style of a living anime. To top it off all of the characters have a large set of attacks that are streamed flawlessly when combos are performed. Some of the monsters look really cool too like the first boss monster which looks like a living pool of water. The boss has a good set of reflective qualities and a transparent effect. Speaking of the monsters they're pretty well designed and quite diverse. You get a giant green mutated tiger on one screen then a light blue sloth like zombie on the next. The backgrounds look good, but there could be a little more variation. I mean how many sewers do you have to walk through? Overall, though Crimson Tears is one of the better looking games on the PS2.

Crimson Tears is a lot of fun to play since it is so easy to learn and to get into. One thing question that remains is why Dream Factory didn't add a two player mode in the game. Most beat-em up games are better enjoyed with a friend and it is such a simple thing to add that would add a lot of replay value to the game. Crimson Tears can get a little repetitive, which is more a fault of the beat-em up genre than the game itself. Part of its addictive qualities are rooted in repetition such as searching for the best items. In conclusion, Crimson Tears remains an entertaining game and does a great job of making a niche genre.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4

More import friendly than most RPGs because you can figure out how to play by trial and error. However, since all of the text is in Japanese along with the voice acting you'll miss out on the story. You'll also have some difficulty doing side quests without any Japanese knowledge.

US Bound?

Crimson Tears has been announced for a US release, but no set date is given yet.

Overall

Crimson Tears is an excellent blend of a beat-em up game with an RPG. Fans of both genres will agree.