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[Interview] Nicalis talks Crystal Crisis – inspiration, choosing the roster, and more

Posted on March 10, 2019 by (@NE_Brian) in Interviews, Switch

Crystal Crisis

It was nearly a year ago that we first found out about Crystal Crisis, a new puzzle-based fighting game from Nicalis. The game is currently on track to launch on May 28. Ahead of its release, we spoke with Nicalis president Tyrone Rodriguez to learn a bit more about what fans can look forward to.

In our interview, Rodriguez spoke about where the inspiration for Crystal Crisis came from, how characters were decided, teased the story more, and commented on trying to appeal to both casual and competitive players. You can read our full discussion below and check out some brand new screenshots.

It’s clear that traditional puzzle games – including match-threes – are stronger than ever. Did this resurgence make you want to create your own, or was it just a fun idea from the start?

I personally love good puzzle games, more than I should, probably. And everyone on the team likes puzzle games and versus puzzlers, too. With Crystal Crisis, it was about creating something really fun and memorable that we’d be proud to develop and enjoy playing ourselves.

Where did the team get the inspiration to have a mashup of so many well-known characters?

The idea of a crossover is kind of inherently silly, isn’t it? But it’s also super fun. We all love crossovers like The Avengers and Super Smash Bros., so it became, “Why can’t we do it, too?” After announcing Crystal Crisis, some people asked me if Blade Strangers spurred the idea for Crystal Crisis. But it was the other way around – the crossover element of Crystal Crisis is sort of what inspired us to add crossover characters to Blade Strangers.

I’ve always liked the idea of featuring characters in a game that might be a little more obscure to some players. For example, fans of The Binding of Isaac may not know characters like Black Jack and Astro Boy, and vice versa.

Having this wacky crossover cast made the game’s story a challenge, but in the end, it was super fun to put together. The team is happy with how it all turned out and how each character retained their own unique look and personality traits in the game. That was something we really wanted to maintain, from the look of the character to how they animate and attack, as well as what their stage looks like. You have to be able to instantly identify your favorite character.

How did you decide which characters would and wouldn’t be on the roster?

We started with the the games and developers we’re closest to. From there, we went a little wider to look at what kind of characters would make sense or be fun to see on the same screen.

Some of the characters make a lot of sense – like Quote, Aban and Isaac – but in other cases, we thought we would have fun with the development. Like Johnny Turbo, for example – he’s based on a real-life person in the video game industry who became this pseudo-superhero/corporate sales guy for the TurboGrafx-16. I love the TurboGrafx and the ads were terrible and hilarious.

Atom and Black Jack from Tezuka Productions seem like fairly unexpected inclusions. How did their representation in the game come about?

For as long as I can remember, I loved the Astro Boy and Black Jack characters. They are probably the most incredible and unexpected of the special guests that we were able to include. I had read the original manga and watched some of the older anime series, but I was watching the 2015 anime, Young Black Jack, and really enjoyed the alternate take on Black Jack in his younger years. That was actually the catalyst to have the courage to approach Tezuka Productions about the game… which also led to the soundtrack by Umikuun and Toshiro, the former whom had written and performed the opening theme for Young Black Jack.

After speaking with the Tezuka Productions about the game and expressing how much we love these characters, they were interested the game and wanted to be part of it. These characters add a lot to the game because they’re so classic and beloved. I hope that fans will will like how we’ve recreated these characters in Crystal Crisis.

What was the process like in creating brand new characters?

We’re lucky to have access to some very talented artists within our staff. It’s a collaboration between the work of our art director, Etsuko, as well as 1001 Spikes designer Samu Wosada and the rest of the team iterating until we get both a story for a character and a visual style we can fall in love with. That’s how we have characters like Ninja (whose real name isn’t Ninja!), Elise, Hunter and Helen (who also appears in Blade Strangers). They were all created with the idea of an ever-expanding universe of games and stories.

In other cases, we have guest characters like Knight (from Buster’s Hydra Castle Labyrinth) and the eponymous Akuji the Demon. These require a careful approach, as they’re existing characters that we’ve been entrusted to bring into 3D and a whole new game. There’s a gallery in Crystal Crisis and we’ve put as much as can fit on a tiny, tasty little Switch cartridge so you’ll be able to see some of the concept art and iterations each of character.

Will there be any sort of story mode that creates a backdrop in explaining how all of these characters came together?

Yes! I don’t want to spoil anything, but the story revolves around the Red Crystal from Cave Story and how these characters have came together. From there, the story _____ a few _______ ______ and _____ that you’ll ____ to ______ __ ______.

Fighting games and puzzle games have always had this weird symbiosis that’s complemented each other for years. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat come to mind when thinking of high-profile fighters that have also had puzzle spinoffs and minigames. Is it the competitive nature of the two when it comes to skill and point attainment that makes them marry? Will it also be accessible to those that may also not be so good at games like this?

It really comes down to personal preference. Fighting and puzzle games attract a similar player: one who prefers one-on-one competition as opposed to larger-scale multiplayer battles. One of the biggest differences between the two genres is probably the learning curve for each. Most fighting games are highly technical from the outset and require a lot of practice in order to get good enough to compete at tournament level—heck, even at a basic level.

With puzzle games, the learning curve is typically lower, which makes them more accessible and welcoming to new players. Even so, they still have very nuanced intricacies when it comes to high-level play.

In Crystal Crisis, we’ve taken great measures to ensure that anyone can play the game and understand the basic gameplay mechanics immediately. We even enlisted the help of Justin Wong, who is a very successful competitive player.

There’s a great tutorial (which, upon completion, unlocks a character in the game) and practice mode in the game for new players. Beyond the basic play, there’s still a lot of strategy and depth to uncover—in that regard it can be similar to a fighting game because the characters aren’t just superficial, each has a different drop pattern, and offensive and defensive attacks.

With as many colors that the game implements, was having a color-blind mode based off of a personal request or simply because this should be a standard?

There’s a statistic that says something like 1 in every 22 people has some form of color blindness. As a developer, it’s not difficult to add features like colorblind modes or subtitles to accomodate more players. Why would we leave anyone out who wants to play the game? Aside from the Color Blind setting, there are a bunch of other crystal color themed options, too.

Crystal Crisis looks like it has plenty of fantastic characters to choose from, but as is with any crossover title, are there plans to introduce new characters and/or game modes to it in future updates?

20 characters, 20 stages and over 10 gameplay modes ready at launch – that’s a good amount of content for us. I think the team could use a break to enjoy what we’ve made together.

What’s one aspect about Crystal Crisis that fans may not be aware of?

There’s actually a lot. We’ve tried to communicate as much to players as possible, but I’m hopeful they’ll still be surprised by the amount of content, gameplay, secrets and modes we’ve put in the game. In addition to the 20 characters, each with their own stage, there are a ton of gameplay modes for all different types of players.

We have the obligatory Arcade, Story and Versus modes, but there’s also Tag Team where you can choose two characters vs two other characters. It’s neat because you can switch and effectively combine any drop pattern with any offensive or defensive skill. That mode really changes a lot of the strategy to the game. Then there’s Survival, Inline, Memory, Tutorial, Practice and more! Oh, and online modes, too.


Nintendo Everything would like to thank Tyrone Rodriguez for taking the time to answer our questions.

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