Oh man, it's the start of another week, and you're chained back to your obligations instead of running around enjoying yourself. Guess there's nothing left to do but suck it up, right? Wrong! Why give up when there's still salvation in the form of the solid, entertaining Crystal Story, an RPG by Emmanuel Salva Cruz? Play as the lovable cast of Mercenary, Inc. as they do their best to defeat the evil witch, Rita, down the depths of the Evil Cave. They don't do this for the glory but for the money (they are mercenaries after all) provided by the gallant yet lazy Hiro the hero. Gotta love a pun!
The controls of Crystal Story should be familiar to regular players of RPGs. Use your mouse to navigate the various menus, and while in dungeon mode, which is an overhead view of the party, click the mouse over the area where you'd like them to go. This could involve running into an enemy to enter the combat screen, hitting a treasure chest to collect its contents or entering an opening in the wall to go to the next area of the level. Combat is one of the few times there are keyboard shortcuts available,  -  represents the different actions available to your characters, though you still have to click the target of your actions to execute them. At most times, [ESC] can be used to access the main menu. Hey, the fewer keyboard shortcuts, the less likely you are to play the game two-handed, great for when you're feeling lazy. But don't be too lazy about exploring the levels. They're randomly generated, and the only way to save a particular layout is to completely explore it. Great for when you need to go back to a level or load a game after a gaming break for that thing people call 'sleep'.
While dungeon crawling, you'll encounter warp points which can transport you back to the town where you can restore your stats in the inn, sell your loot at the aptly named shop and take on sidequests at the tavern. The sidequests take several forms from the match-3 zombie defense mini-game to the tamagotchi style pet slime that will spew a treasure once it's feed meter is filled. Eat up these bones, little slimey. Mama needs a new Wind Slasher! Also at the tavern is a Wanted List with most of the mini bosses listed. That's right, when you've defeated each of the ten underlings (not mandatory as combat can mostly be evaded when you want) you get a cash prize and complimentary equipment. Yay!
Analysis: As with all RPGs, the combat plays a big role and being able to pick what class of magic each character can put their ability points into is a nice way of stepping back from the restrictions of picking a specific class that's usually encountered. On the other hand, not having your characters have a specialization can cause some combat confusion. Attack with melee, attack with magic? It's up in the air, because they're balanced and neither is stronger in a given character. The back and forth between the town and dungeon occupies most of the gameplay, but the well balanced combat doesn't drone on as every few levels you'll get a funny cut scene to keep you motivated to continue descending. The sidequests keep it fun too; you can't help but laugh at Reuben's efforts to woo Miss Bubbles.
There is a minor bug when healing your party in the skill or inventory submenu as the changes are not reflected in the main menu stats (though they do still occur). Crystal Story isn't innovative, but it is a good RPG. It has anime style graphics that fit right in with the humor, epic music by Morgan King that will take you back to when you played Final Fantasy (the number depending on your age) and a storyline to put a smile on your face. It's a lazy few hours of gaming that await you, so put on some comfy clothes and grab a bag of snacks. You'll be glad you did.