We all know that handheld game systems are especially good for the addictive puzzle games, but when it comes to the hardcore role-playing game that's when things seem to break down. Even today's handhelds lack the great RPGs of the console, even if companies like Square Enix are doing their best to support the Nintendo DS and PSP. Unfortunately this portable role-playing problem isn't a new phenomenon, this is the same problem the Game Boy and Game Gear were having fifteen years ago.
Crystal Warriors is Sega's attempt at a "real" role-playing game. Unlike the majority of action-oriented Legend of Zelda clones that pass as RPGs in the world of video games, Crystal Warriors raises the traditional overhead-view adventure game to a new level of structured game play. Your part of six characters takes turns moving across the countryside, battling enemies and casting spells under the same set of rules you would encounter in a Dungeons and Dragons session.
Most importantly, Crystal Warriors manages to enforce the conventions of a true RPG without losing itself in a quagmire of paperwork and dice-rolling. The colorful graphics and "exploding" windows are functional, yet stylish, and the player interface is smooth and natural enough to make you forget the mechanics of entering commands, fully involving you in the search for Arliel's magic crystals.
For all of the game's wonderful features and flawless execution, it's rather disappointing to learn that Crystal Warriors is much more linear than any such game has a right to be. All you need to do is progress from one castle to the next - there's no decision-making involved in moving around on the map.
The unfortunate thing is that Sega was so unbelievably close to the perfect RPG. Sadly this isn't the first Sega adventure game that has missed the mark, many will remember Ax Battler, a game that just missed the mark. If somebody would just sit down and combine Ax Battler's storyline with the control scheme and RPG rule book of Crystal Warriors ... man, we'd be in for a real treat. Until that happens, consider Crystal Warriors to be a giant step in the right direction.