"Considering the scant advertising and minimal hype that accompanied the release of Crimson Tears, I think it's safe to say that Capcom determined the project's chances of succeeding to have been dubious at best. But let's suppose for a moment that the corporation's head honchos turned their attention from Viewtiful Joe ports and Resident Evil rehashes, and decided to give this little beat 'em up a bit of support. Their efforts likely would have focused on the gorgeous cel-shaded visuals that T..."
Considering the scant advertising and minimal hype that accompanied the release of Crimson Tears, I think it's safe to say that Capcom determined the project's chances of succeeding to have been dubious at best. But let's suppose for a moment that the corporation's head honchos turned their attention from Viewtiful Joe ports and Resident Evil rehashes, and decided to give this little beat 'em up a bit of support. Their efforts likely would have focused on the gorgeous cel-shaded visuals that Tears sports, with blurbs promising ''randomly generated dungeons'' and ''infinite replayability'' sitting alongside every pretty screenshot. The last thing they'd think of mentioning is the unarguable fact that Tears takes its cue from simple, old-school brawlers that abided by the now-obsolete archetype of ''endless thrashing 'til the boss goes down.'' Basically, they wouldn't have let you in on the best part.
Eschewing the Koei-initiated tradition of packing 3D kill-'em-all affairs with as many enemies as possible, Tears does things the 16-bit way by only asking you to maim three or four goons at any given time. Slashing and shooting your way through stages that typically consist of four or five small labyrinths and culminate in the usual boss showdowns is the primary objective here. There will be no escort missions, no stealth-required subquests, no ridiculous demands to find the ring that the mayor's wife somehow lost in the monster-infested ruins. Killing is your main concern.
Thankfully, the mazes themselves are far from the rudimentary block-based affairs that one might associate with ancient action-RPGs, and the oddball army of monsters and machines that you're up against would easily obliterate the legions of simpletons that roam the foggy realms of Dynasty Warriors. Upbeat guitar riffs reminiscent of Chaos Legion's Goth-rock masterpieces galvanize a nighttime jaunt through a golden city, where lightsaber-wielding assassins circle you in unison before launching their attacks. Flutish harmonies the ilk of Blazing Lazers' beautiful outpost tune will do little to allay your fears when grotesque beings suddenly rise from the turf and attempt to shatter your blades. Merciless droids unleash storms of spread shots to thwart your charge across a vast, open freeway.
Crimson Tears succeeds in creating an atmosphere of desperation through its chaotic environments. As you pound away on a solitary pathetic grunt, you'll hear dogs barking, soldiers yelling, and cannons maneuvering in for the kill. None of this will drown out the sounds of the powerful blows you deliver as you proceed with systematic annihilation, but it will make you constantly consider what your next set of moves will be.
Partaking in the destruction are three "androids"--two super-hot girls... and one dude who predictably went unplayed during my thirty hours with the game. The bitter brunette who stands prominently at the center of the game's cover art acts as the leader of these world-saving misfits; and while she enjoys the rush of ravaging her opponents with dual katanas, her blonde partner in crime prefers to crush skulls with gargantuan Berserk-style blades. (For those interested, it's my understanding that the guy likes guns.) Whomever you choose to use, you'll eventually put together an incredible arsenal that includes claws, daggers, grenade launchers and other such handy devastators--some of which will be handmade, as defeated enemies often conveniently drop materials that can augment your standard armaments.
Indeed, while foes typically cough up health restorers and spare change, the serendipitous discoveries of rare materials and weapons make for some of the most enjoyable moments Tears has to offer. The ''waiting'' for such drops to occur is anything but irritating, as the game is so sound in matters of both playability and aesthetics, allowing you to enter a comfortable zone where beating people up offers instant contentment. But finally spotting a glowing Mars Stone that had eluded you through so many previous ventures is enough to elicit joyous fist-pumping from even the most stoic warrior.
Unfortunately, impeccable fundamentals and occasional thrills will do little to satisfy the Devil May Cry veteran who looks for depth in his 3D action games, and the fact of the matter is that Tears will not be a worthwhile purchase for players who seek anything more than solid surface-level action. Simple environmental hazards like clouds of poisonous gas, falling debris, and roads littered with explosives will only serve to irritate those with fond memories of unabated wars waged in Chaos Legion and Drakengard. Your androids can overheat after prolonged combat (temporarily causing them to become super-quick killing machines at the cost of huge chunks of health), and your weapons can be permanently destroyed if you fail to bring them into a shop for the occasional checkup, but these elements hardly require much attention. Not helping matters any is a shallow, incoherent story that does nothing to develop the three characters and leaves us hanging with a hastily concocted ''conclusion.''
Those who are willing to live with the lack of depth will find little else to complain about, though there is one other extremely irritating element worth noting. The penultimate dungeon is loaded with enemies that are capable of stealing your weapons, resulting in a lot of restarting and plenty of frustration. There is simply nothing enjoyable about valiantly plowing through nine floors of difficult foes only for a kleptomaniacal mutt to run up and grab the blade that you've been powering up for hours on end.
Still, Crimson Tears remains a good brawler thanks to the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously, making for a refreshing change from the hellish worlds that beat 'em up fans survived in angst-ridden adventures like Drakengard. It's entertaining to watch Little Miss Jailbait drag around swords ten times larger than she is, challenging giant robots that turn red with rage before charging straight ahead (and even running over their own allies) in goofy attempts to bring our hero down. Stick-in-the-muds can have their ''depth''; I'll take this endearing brawler and beat the living crap out of its cel-shaded goons until I've found every rare item in the book.
But keep those mutts away from me.
Featured community review by darkfact (September 06, 2004)
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