Last Level Press

Review: Crimson Shroud

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

If there has to be one thing that my friend Mr. Black knows, it’s that I am a horribly amoral person when it comes to playing Dungeons & Dragons, which is perfect because people will tell me that my alignment is Neutral Good in real life. I bring this up because for my first time playing D&D I was a pyromaniac loremaster who summoned rats, sold my friends into an underground monster tournament, and then we promptly killed all the monsters so we could take their gold. Thankfully for all of us, and perhaps you, Crimson Shroud is nothing like that D&D campaign.

“That just means I’ve got work to do…”

Crimson Shroud is, however, the best sort of love letter to the old-fashioned tabletop RPGs that inspired both Japan and the West in their development of their respective video game RPG genres. Much in the same tradition of your typical J-RPG, there is no real character creation, but rather character modification, and its focus is more on the story of your campaign. Set in a world where magic has become commonplace and thought to be a gift from the gods, you follow the exploits of a trio who go deep into an ancient ruin to search for the titular Crimson Shroud, a legendary item considered to be the first gift to men that was imbued with magic.

And speaking of “gifts to men…”

Visually, the game is pretty low scale. There is very little animation, and what animation there is present is jerky and wooden…mostly because your characters and enemies all look like miniature figures. It’s actually a really nice look, since whenever it’s a character’s turn to attack, its figure will simply bob side to side and any attacks done will be a jerking forward motion. And whenever an enemy or character is defeated, the figurine simply topples over, and reveals the Level-5 logo on the bottom. There’s no fancy attack animations, no flashy theatrics, and it works for the game. The environments you exist in can be relatively low-key, but the art stills you will occasionally see will be detailed and look like it’s out of some dusty old tome or be official artwork found in a Forgotten Realms book. What it lacks in flash and flair it makes up for charm and aesthetic.

It really does.

The game has no voice acting of any kind. At all. However, the music helps to make up for it. Composed by the talented Hitoshi Sakimoto, whose prior work includes such games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, and Valkyria Chronicles, the music really helps to set the tone for not only the adventure but also the experience you’ll have. The main theme alone sounds playful, mysterious, and then suddenly erupts into a bombastic cavalcade of sound that is upbeat and screams, “let’s go treasure hunting!” and then drops back down to the calm and mysterious feeling. Mr. Sakimoto is no stranger to composing for RPGs or tactical strategy games, but he brings a sort of spirited and imaginative feeling with his soundtrack, like this would be the music playing in the back of your mind during a traditional campaign with a group of friends on a Friday night.

The controls are about as basic as you can get, since the only movement you ever do is during the battle to select commands. Mechanically, it’s not much different. You can do your basic attacks and item use, build up combos when using elemental skills or magic, and that’s all easy enough to figure out. The thing is, this is based on tabletop RPGs; your dice are the key. A big selling point for the combat is that any attack or skill is based on dice rolls. Want to attack an enemy? Dice roll to see the attack damage. Want to heal your party? Dice roll to see how much they get healed. Want to increase your strength, your accuracy, or even inflict a status condition on the enemy? Roll them dice, buddy. You can also use expendable dice to increase your attack, your accuracy of an attack, or even how much loot you can pick up after a battle. You gain dice through building combos or by getting them through mere chance, and will range from your basic d4 to your classic and iconic d20. However, combat is not the reason to play this game, since it’s pretty forgettable. Instead, you have got to play this for the story.

Pictured: The results of rolling a 1 on a diplomacy check.  

(Citation needed)

The designer of the game, Yasumi Matsuno, created many classics like Final Fantasy Tactics, the Ogre Battle series, and Vagrant Story, and the man loves himself some strategy games and deep, rich storylines that are filled with twists. Crimson Shroud excels in the latter as you slowly learn the history of this world, how magic came to be, and even get a feel for the political atmosphere through the lens of the characters. In fact, Mr. Matsuno himself likened the game more to a short story, and sees it as a relaxing sort of venture where you sit down and experience it while playing. All of the history and lore is optional, but I feel to simply ignore the time and effort that was put into building this world, the area of the game that truly shines the brightest, is an insult not only to its Japanese authors but also the translators who brought the gravitas and luring words to life in English. Combining the rich lore that’s heavy on text, the music to build atmosphere, and the tabletop aesthetic is what makes this game worth playing.

This game is the very definition of a niche title: this is not a game for everyone, and it’s not an ideal gateway title to start enjoying something you might be interested in. If you love tabletop RPGs, rich stories, and reading a lot, Crimson Shroud is definitely right up your alley. If you like RPGs in general, and want a departure from the norm, this game is worth checking out. However, if you’re more interested in playing a game more for its combat or to make the best character ever, then Crimson Shroud is definitely not your game. It’s definitely one of the more interesting, maybe even mature, downloadable titles you can get for your Nintendo 3DS, and it is occasionally on sale, so if you ever spot it, snatch it up and sit a spell, and see the history of a world unfurl.

Rating: 7.4

Visuals: 7
Audio: 9
Controls & Mechanics: 5
Atmosphere & Experience: 9
Entertainment Value: 7

Final Verdict:


Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.  Links | Legal Notices

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  Consoles: Nintendo 3DS

  Developer: Level-5,

                      Nex Entertainment

  Publisher: Nintendo

  Release Date (U.S.): Dec 13, 2012

  Release Date (U.K.): Dec 13, 2012

  Release Date (JP): Nov 28,2012