When it comes right down to it, beating the hell out of a ton of enemies feels really, really good. There’s a reason things like brawlers and arena fighters continue to work, and there’s a damn good reason why games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta succeeded so wildly in the gaming field. Having the potential to facedown an absurd number of enemies coming at you, at the same time, and being able to fend them all off with poise and skill is incredibly satisfying. So it only makes sense that there’s a cross-section of gamers who would enjoy the experience even MORE if you’re doing the fighting with a bunch of cute anime girls whom you can stick in various outfits and laden with accessories. This is the working thesis that supports Croixleur Sigma, an interesting, if short, wave battler from souvenir circ. To be honest, it succeeds pretty solidly, with the only caveat being, well, that’s the game.
The story is a good, solid fantasy tale that’s wrapped up in appropriate anime tropes. There is the kingdom of Illance, which is ruled by a Queen instead of a king, and everything is about the female representatives of the two houses: the Knights and the Aristocrats. Tonight there is a challenge contest, a trial if you will, to show the power of each house’s representatives, and to prove that Illance still boasts some of the best warriors in the world. Lucrezia is our main protagonist, a pink haired Aristocrat who is blissfully ignorant as to what her status quo allows for her to do, because she’s more interested in just being herself and having great friends. In this case, she’s thinking of Francesca, top Knight student, who was her best friend growing up but now they’ve been busy being Knights and Aristocrats, and Luc doesn’t totally get it. Her biggest determination is to finish the challenge so that she can Fran can take a bath again together, like they did when they were kids, much to Fran’s embarrassment (but not rebuffed). There’s also a second, third and fourth story that spawn from successfully completing Luc’s run (and unlock additional characters Katerina and Sara-Annika), but we’ll get there when we get there.
The core gameplay of Croixleur Sigma is deceptively simple. You have an overall time limit for the journey, and you need to clear multiple rooms of spawning monsters in order to advance. Defeat all the baddies, unlock a pathway to the next room, and continue until there’s nothing left to hit. Every four rooms or so, you’ll get a “challenge room” that introduces bigger and badder dudes, including boss fights, if you can really call them that. You only have one button to do straight attacks, and then there’s an additional button to dash, one to jump, one to perform a default special attack, and a button to activate a massive, room-clearing powermove that can make or break your entire run. Get points multipliers for defeating so many enemies in a row without getting hit, unlock achievements for beating things fast and being a badass, and generally see how all the warriors’ stories and pathways unlock. That’s story mode, in a nutshell, and most players are going to spend a majority of their time here.
Story mode, thankfully, has a ton going for it, which is why it’s not boring to be repetitive. Not only are the different facets of the game viewable from all angles depending on whose story you embark upon (Fran and Luc have VERY different perspectives, as do Katerina and Sara-Annika), but their base fighting styles are different. Katerina seems to attack significantly faster than the other girls, whereas Francesca hits harder (with Sara being an absolute beast on all levels). Additionally, Katerina’s storyline (which has Sara-Annika as auto assist) is also hampered by the possibility of your weapon breaking, a cool mechanic that keeps you from being too reliant on one weapon. The simplistic attack styles totally lower your defenses for how brutal the game can honestly be. Green mobs are simple enough to dispatch, but blues and then reds take an enormous number of hits to lay low. Flying mobs are super annoying, but wizard mobs can seriously fry you in a second if you don’t keep dashing and moving constantly. The big baddies (headless suits of armor and massive troll beings) will squash you BUT are honestly less dangerous than a swarm of red grunts heading your way. The way that damage can suddenly just compound and knock you out can be astonishing: I watched close to half my hit points disappear in a single assault without being able to do anything because of how closely timed and coordinated the strikes were. Croixleur: learn the true meaning of gang violence.
What I do enjoy, truly, about Croixleur Sigma is the dedication to customization and performance. You end up collecting a massive number of weapons throughout the game through defeating waves of enemies (not sure if there’s a particular “trigger” mechanic or it’s just luck), and each weapon has its own advantages in special attacks and reach/speed. Additionally, each weapon acts differently depending on who’s hands it rests with. One sword, which might normally deliver a circular swing attack, instead summons a cloud of lighting with another heroine. You learn to coordinate the arsenal of each girl based on how you best fight, either getting into the thick of things and doing massive, area attacks, or sticking to the outside and picking off mobs one by one. Since dash and special attacks use the same MP gauge, you have to calculate and time things carefully so you don’t end up totally depleted and then get your ass licked. Thankfully, the game truly does deliver 60fps or consistent, rampant action that looks good from all angles and even in handheld. The game also wisely uses moments of mini boss and boss defeat to deliver a deliberate pause while gold coins erupt to both impress the importance of the victory and (I think) allow the game a moment to breathe before going back into the madness.
Also, the accessories and outfits are more than just cute: they’re incredibly utilitarian. You might not enjoy the aesthetic of the brown glasses as much as, say, the party hat, but one gives you extended dash invincibility and the other drops more coins, how are you going into this battle? The coins that drop from enemies are plentiful, with the silver coins propagating everywhere, the golds only coming from the aforementioned bosses, and both being needed if you want those massive cat paws or the cute character charms hanging from your belt. There are, as mentioned, some crossover outfits that are available from the very beginning, and they’re worthwhile if you’re a fan of the publisher’s (Playism) other works. Speaking as someone who adores Japanese absurdity, being able to put Fran in a very unironic Ace of Seafood t-shirt and skirt combination might be my favorite thing I’ve done in a game in the last few months. But don’t stop there, make sure you have as much of the game gathered and ready by the end of your time as possible. Get all the accessories , accomplish all the achievements, activate and succeed in all the modes and show that you can do single as well as co-op with the best of them.
The downside, if you can really call it that, to Croixleur Sigma is that the whole game is wrapped up in the singular presentation and idea of what you see in the first five minutes of the story mode. There are a ton of additional modes, including important Training missions, Challenges to see if you’re up to completing tasks, and a fantastic Extra Mode that gives more story to Luc and Fran in a sort of epilogue/fight side story. Yet it all comes back to the central idea of “hack and slash the ever-loving life out of everything before time runs out.” If you’re not on board with this initial idea, you will not find unexpected joy out of doing the same thing but this time in Dungeon Mode. However, in the same vein, if you really enjoy what you’re doing in story mode (and I love the fact that you can bang out a full run in under 25 minutes), then you’ll adore doing a lot of the modes with the exception of the very fan-based and confusing Communication Mode. Sorry, but there were no English subtitles and my Japanese was a bit rusty, so I think I made some good answers? There’s probably a patch in the works. In any case, it was an odd break from the fighting, but I’m sure enjoyable for a lot of the fans.
Speaking as a long time player of Croixleur, it’s to be said, with confidence, that the Switch version is the definitive version. In fact, and I don’t want to get on some kind of terrible podium for this, but players might do well to go and play the original PC version (available on Steam) just to see how far the game has come over the different iterations. While the performance has never lagged, the massive content increase from PC to the PS4 version was unbelievable, and now the additional modes and costumes for the Switch add another layer to the entity entirely. It’s honestly impressive, and makes me happy to swipe the card again to pick up the game for a third time, because it’s just like starting over.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Croixleur Sigma Review
User Review( votes)
Face paced, strategically hectic and versatile combat partnered with adorable and enjoyable characters make Croixleur a hack and slash to remember fondly.