Crystal Monsters may be just another monster trainer game, but it's surprisingly good for the $5 price tag.

User Rating: 8 | Crystal Monsters DS
Crystal Monsters is the latest game available on Nintendo's DSiware service, but is it worth the $5?

My answer is absolutely, yes.

***Story: 6/10***

"As a Neo-Seed who has just discovered his ability, it's your time to set off on an amazing journey to collect over 160 monsters and become the greatest Monster Breeder!"
That's basically the entirety of the story, but who actually plays these games for the story anyway.

***Gameplay: 8/10***

Now this is where Crystal Monsters gets interesting. It adds a few new mechanics to the monster trainer genre. First of all, the battle system is the standard turn based combat with a couple unique twists, chain attacks and blocking. The game also adds repeatable side quests/missions that require collecting, capturing, or defeating boss monsters in dungeons.

Chain Attacks:
Chain attacks are all in the timing, requiring the player to press A or touch the screen when an arrow aligns with a highlighted section on the screen. By successfully aligning the arrow, you immediately do another attack. The arrow moves significantly faster and the highlighted section gets increasingly smaller as the chains increase, but the chain damage increases as well.

Blocking:
You can greatly reduce damage from attacks by pressing a highlighted direction within a time limit before the enemy attacks. I believe the actual time limit is calculated by your speed vs. enemy speed.

Evolution/Monster system:
Crystal Monsters borrows a lot from Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker or Shin Megami Tensei in this aspect. Basically, it's all about combining monsters to create new ones or strengthen existing monsters. The only evolution available is by using evolution stones at level 10-20 that unlock a new attack and change the color of your existing monster.

Side Quests/Missions:
I've only tried a few types, but these really add a lot of value to the game. Basically, you accept a mission to collect, capture, or defeat some kind of monster and get teleported to a secret area/dungeon with plenty of treasure chests and powerful enemies.

***Graphics: 7/10***
The graphics are actually really appealing, but they aren't without some flaws. First of all, the actual monster sprites are easily on par with Pokemon, if not better. The word sprites look pretty good too, but I did notice one problem: NPC movement is glitchy. It's almost like they skipped a frame or sped up the sprite too fast, because the NPC movement doesn't look very smooth at all. The graphics would easily be an 8/10 or higher if it wasn't for this issue.

***Sound: 6/10***
I haven't been amazed by any of the music, but it's not annoying and that's always a bonus.

***Overall: 8/10***
Crystal Monsters is a welcome addition to the monster trainer genre that could be improved, but it's a great game for $5 and worth every penny. I've only played the game for around 8-10 hours, but I think it will easily be a 30+ hour game minimum. It would be nice to see more games like Crystal Monsters available on Nintendo's DSiware service.