Crescent Pale Mist

A game by ClassiC Shikoukairo and Rockin' Android for PC and PS3, originally released in Japan in 2006, and released in the US in 2011.
Rockin’ Android is a company that specializes in bringing Japanese doujin (indie) games to Western markets. They have brought numerous games to the PC, including Qlione, Flying Red Barrel, the 3-game GUNDEMONIUM Collection, and another 3-game collection in SUGURI Perfect Edition. You can read some short profiles of each of these games in our previous feature here.

In addition to PC releases, Rockin’ Android has also signed a deal to bring some of these games over to the PS3, including GUNDEMONIUM ReCollection, the Qlione games and Acceleration of SUGURI.

Crescent Pale Mist is a game that was originally developed by ClassiC Shikoukairo for PC in Japan in 2006. Since then, it has received an English fan translation patch, and now it has been released on PSN.

Like many of the games that Rockin’ Android chooses to publish, Crescent Pale Mist has a heavily anime-style influence, with a young female cast dressed in dark Victorian-inspired outfits. However, unlike their previously-published titles, this game is not a straightforward shooter, but rather a sidescrolling action-adventure game.

In this game, you take control of a witch named Yonou, who must travel to another dimension to investigate the origin of a magical and poisonous mist that is spreading into the human realm. Yonou herself has access to this pale mist, which acts as a magical power source that allows her to unleash special moves. This is essentially a magic meter, which she can replenish by defeating enemies and collecting the orbs of mist they leave behind. In addition, she has some of the more standard action-platforming moves: running, jumping, double-jumping, wall-jumping, dashing, slashing enemies with her sword, and firing off projectile attacks.

The minute-to-minute gameplay is very fast paced. Yonou’s movement speed is quite high, and her running animation has her barely touching the ground as she dashes around the environment, laying waste to numerous fantasy-style enemies.

Combat is very flashy, even when dealing with lower level enemies. Yonou can slash enemies with her sword, fling them into the air, unload a barrage of short-range laser fire, and unleash huge magic-based special moves. All the while, the screen fills with flashes of color, defeated enemies explode in huge bursts of light, and a combo counter ticks away in the lower corner.

Even the enemies in the first few levels take a fair amount of damage before exploding into oblivion, so you won’t just be bringing these guys down with a couple of hits and moving on. You’ll need to use the weapons and combos at your disposal to work their health bars down.

But while they often take some time to kill, the battles themselves are very fast-paced and will generally find you jumping, dashing, and switching rapidly between attack types. In this respect, the game plays out more like a beat-em-up.

You are probably used to seeing enemy life bars in various beat-em-ups, which let you know how close you are to knocking out/killing your enemy. This is also the case here, but now that life bar extends all the way across the bottom of the screen, along with the enemy’s hit points. When attacking enemies, you’ll not only see their energy bar depleting and your combo increasing, but you’ll see the actual number of hit points that you drained from them, just as you would after an attack in an RPG.

Now, the game wouldn’t be much of an adventure if players were simply scrolling from left to right through linear fighting environments. So, while the core gameplay is all done through sidescrolling environments, the player has the ability to move between foreground and background layers, accessing new paths. This adds a slightly maze-like structure to the environments, as players will need to search through the levels thoroughly to uncover secrets and to locate the area boss. Sadly, the game’s backgrounds are created with a somewhat rudimentary 3D engine with low resolution textures and without a great deal of variety from one section to the next. As such, it’s somewhat easy to get lost or find yourself accidentally backtracking through a previous area, particularly since there are few major landmarks.

Additional adventure elements include story progression via cutscenes. These take place between detailed static character portraits, and text boxes beneath. These scenes reveal story elements, and allow for a bit of posturing on the part of your enemy prior to boss encounters.

There are 2 major types of boss battles: those that occur against other characters who are roughly the size of your own, and those that occur against towering monsters. During the 1:1 encounters, the characters will soar up into the air to duke it out in free-flight battles very reminiscent of those in Acceleration of SUGURI. The fight takes place in a fixed area with the characters locked onto one another, circling around as if they were connected via a tether. These battles are mostly projectile-based, but melee attacks are possible as well, and they are once again punctuated by bright flashes and graphical effects.

But even more interesting than these battles are those that take place against hulking monstrosities that extend beyond the boundaries of the screen. These creatures are extremely detailed and feature multiple attack points, and the battles take place in a shmup-style setting, where you can move freely around the environment, moving in to attack and pulling back to dodge.

The game showcases these battles by zooming the camera in and out based on your proximity to the boss, and pulling it back to set up huge telegraphs before special attacks. The intensity of these battles increases as the boss moves through its multiple attack phases, becoming more and more dangerous as it absorbs more damage. Even though some of these bosses have obvious weak points, it’s not simply a matter of avoiding their 2-3 attack repertoire and shooting the core. Rather, bosses have incredibly large life bars, and these battles can last several minutes as you slowly whittle down their health by hitting them with general attacks, or moderately whittle it down with attacks to their weak points.

In addition to avoiding these major attacks, bosses are often capable of unleashing a barrage of projectiles – sometimes hundreds of them at once – that are difficult, and sometimes impossible to avoid. Now, longtime shooter game fans will tend to cry foul a the notion of unavoidable hits, but this is actually integrated into the design of the boss battles.

The reason this works is that these projectiles simply don’t hurt you that much, and you have a fairly sizeable life bar of your own (which can be increased as you build your stats). The shmup-style boss encounters may set you mind to dodging every bullet that you see on the screen, but this is madness. If you’re playing the game from the standpoint of a beat-em-up or an RPG, however, you know that it’s OK to absorb a bit of damage, as long as you’re exploiting your enemy’s weaknesses and keeping yourself away from its major attacks.

And this is how the anticipation and intensity of these long battles are maintained. You can avoid all the big attacks you want, but your life bar will be slowly diminishing as you succumb to the boss’ minor attacks. So you can’t just stand still and wait for the perfect opportunity to strike; you need to stay in there and keep working the boss down, even if you’re just causing a little bit of damage while waiting to go in for a big strike.

This design pervades not only the boss battles, but even to fights against lower-level enemies in the preceding areas. So, there again, while the pace of the battles themselves is high, the long life bars and constant barrage of enemy attacks make these battles last a while and put you in constant danger. This isn’t necessarily a fault in itself, but given the large size of the levels and the lack of remarkable landscapes, it can make things drag a bit. Still, these expanses are broken up with snappy platforming and some very well presented boss battles, so there’s a bit of a tradeoff there.

Rockin’ Android is a publisher, not a developer. However, they seem to have generated a number of productive relationships with Japanese doujin game-makers, and it is their mission statement to bring interesting properties to the west that might otherwise never be known. They seem to have an eye for visually and aurally interesting games, and their President, Enrique Galvez, has a love for 2D games and has stated that his favorite game console was the Sega Saturn.

While they continue to publish on PC, Rockin’ Android’s deal to publish games via PSN should garner more exposure for the company, possibly pushing them into the direction of an Atlus for the doujin scene.