Twinkle ☆ Crusaders

Naked transformations galore.

Twinkle ☆ Crusaders (KuruKuru for short) is a 2008 game by Lillian, subsidary of Pencil (as is Pajamas Soft). It was followed by the Miracle Disc the same year, a PSP port with added routes (Twinkle ☆ Crusaders GoGo!) in 2010, and a sequel/fandisc, Passion Star Stream, in 2012.

vndb EGS

Story

Sakura Synn has just become the student council president of the mission school Ryuusei Academy, position he went for because he wanted to make real his dream of a glittering student life and of free meals. Soon enough he discovers the later is not possible, so he focus in the former. However, the student council has another, secret, side: its members are also the Ryuusei Crusaders, who fight against the mazoku that invade their town of Ryuusei when the falling stars (which give name to the town) are most numerous. Turns out there’s a periodical phenomenon, the Re-creer, during which the falling stars grow in number, and mazoku have it easier to come to the human world from their home in Makai. The Ryuusei Crusaders job is, then, to defend the town of them. For that, they borrow the power of the angels residing in the rosaries they got together with their post, which allow them to do a (naked) transformation sequence and obtain magical powers and such. And though lately things were peaceful, the last Re-creer being 25 years ago, this one seems to be particularly strong…

The student council

Synn partners in the student council and as Ryuusei Crusaders, and heroines, are (link for pics):

  • His osananajimi Yuugiri Nanaka, who so very obviously has a crush on him; her specialty is making soba, and she’s also the president of the Sweets Association, and (unilateral) sworn enemy of Misasagi Akane, president of the Wagashi Kurabu (and friend of Ria);
  • Certainly not an angel Lolotte Rosenkreuz, clumsy and pure ojou-sama who doesn’t know much about the world, taking most of her knowledge from a shady guidebook. Goes everywhere with Tontoro, a piggy bank;
  • Tsundere and eternal (losing) rival of Synn Misa Brigitta Cristelis, another ojou-sama (actually, is mostly childs from rich families who attend Ryuusei Academy; Synn and Nanaka are exceptions);
  • Gentle and impossibly cute senpai Kujou Ria, little sister of Herena, the board chairwoman; she was the previous student council president, and wold have retired but stayed in the council as the newly created councilor post. She’s the one who explains the rest about the rosaries’ power, the mazoku, and the Re-creer.

There’s also Azel, mysterious and unfriendly transfer student, who’s not on the council but is nevertheless a main heroine.

But Synn is not only the student council president, or a Crusader: he’s also the Maou! The very night he has his first encounter with a mazoku, a package arrives to his house, containing the Great Sage Paqy.

The Great Sage Paqy

The one who sent him was Synn’s father, the previous generation Maou, to inform him that, from now on, he’s the current one.

Kyo Mara Maoh!

So their wakuwaku dokidoki student council romantic comedy begins.

Review

Structurally, KuruKuru can be divided into two trunk and the heroine routes, with a map movement system to see the scenes. The first trunk is very fun. I had a stupid grin while reading it more times than I’d be willing to admit. After that it branches into two different second trunks, each leading to two heroines routes (Azel branches after the first trunk and is completely linear). Now the plot becomes thicker, and there start to appear scenes that lead to the romantic development with the heroine. However, since this trunk is shared there’s not much progress in this department.

Finally, the routes are completely linear (except for a couple of H scenes that give the choice of clothed or not). This is probably the weakest link. The plot becomes very grand, but after the initial silliness is a little hard to take seriously. It also varies considerably in quality from route to route. Nanaka’s is the best one to play first, presenting all allied and opposing characters in appropriate succession, and mixing well the personal drama with the plot. That personal drama, however, takes a while to go anywhere, and Nanaka herself can become very irritating. Though it’s not nearly as bad as Misa’s, which drama drags entirely too long, and which plot is somewhat of a letdown. Ria and Lolotte are somewhere between. And after finishing any route you can enter Azel, which is on the good side, and is in my opinion the best route.

Greetings, Herena style

If I recommend Nanaka’s first because of its better presentation, it’s because the plot is basically the same in every route. After finishing anyone there are basically no mysteries left, and the final battles are very similar between the routes (with two major variations). And I said that Misa’s drags; elsewhere it’s not a big problem, but it’s true that this game is very long (I don’t know the exact size of the script, but it mustn’t be much far off of, say, Clannad).

So as a plot centered game KuruKuru is not very impressive. If considered a character centered game, however, then it gets a lot of extra points. The heroines are all cute, charming, and fun, when interacting with the MC or between them (I think though that Misa works better as a support character than as a romantic interest). And there are a lot of side characters, everyone with personality, and not falling behind the main heroines at all. In fact, it can even become a letdown that they don’t have more developed routes; every side character has an ending associated, but except for two they’re a single (short) scene, and even those exceptions are no longer than 10 or so minutes. All of this is supported by an excellent voice acting.

That brings another point: there’s a lot of content in KuruKuru. Especially in the second trunk, in the map movement segment you can see many of the side characters, and if added together these side scenes must have a total text rivaling any one route.

H content, however, is not one the strong points. The scenes are forced, too long, and not very good. The game could be better off just disposing of them (which GoGo! does, indeed becoming better off).

It’s a pretty game also, though kinda stingy in CGs.

One interesting additional gimmick is the trophies. When fulfilling certain conditions, you get a trophy; when you have enough you unlock a special H scene. Some conditions are trivial, and you will fulfill them just by going through the routes. Others require seeing some, or many, of the side scenes; and others can become genuinely hard.

Trohpy section (a.k.a. me presuming)

But one of the main attractions, that I hadn’t still mentioned, is the gameplay, which is based in and improves on the gameplay from Princess Witches (review here). Since a video is worth a thousand words, here is a gameplay demo.

Basically, the characters move across the timeline, and when they reach the Act! part, they act. Possible actions are attack, chant (becoming defensless to do a more powerful attack later) or unison (waiting for the next character to do a combined attack). Later you can also do Extra Attacks, which are the real strength of the characters, and the key to victory.

A reason to play the battles

The gameplay is not very balanced. There are three difficulty levels (easy, normal and hard), and just winning even in normal is not very difficult (with a few exceptions). But getting a good rank, or in hard winning at all, relies too heavily in the initial position, which is random (only to a certain extent, but that’s enough to make some positions all but unwinnable). In hard it even seems like everything is set against you. However range inducing it can become, though, once you get the hang of it you do play a lot better, and also know when just to retry (having a PC good enough so loading times are not in minutes can considerably help). I have wasted a lot of hours into getting a good rank, so evidently there’s something here that works.

One thing that could be said against the gameplay is that is somewhat sparse; it could be a lot more frequent, but as it stands, is more of a gimmick than a reason you’d have for playing this.

All in all, this is a good time waster. The plot cold be stronger, but the characters are very endearing, and you don’t tire of seeing them. On the gameplay department, it can be very addicting if you feel like so, or easily skipped if you are not interested.

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