You've probably heard a lot of people saying that Crimson Tears is an anime beat-'em-up version of Diablo.
Those people are unwise. Maybe it's just that anything with randomized dungeons gets the Diablo comparison, but the games aren't that much alike. Instead, this is more like River City Ransom or Streets of Rage with RPG elements and randomized stages, or Fighting Force with actual reasons to play it. Crimson Tears is many things, but one of them is not, sadly, an unequivocally positive experience.
Set in 2046 Tokyo, Crimson Tears begins in the aftermath of an accident involving the interdimensional pocket spaces known as Dungeons. Part of the city has been blocked off from the rest; there's about three-square blocks of Tokyo where it'll always be midnight, and no one can escape.
(A handy hint for you scientists out there: if there is any chance that your latest experiment could be destroyed in such a way as to cripple or obliterate the city surrounding it, do not conduct this experiment in Tokyo. If you do, you're really just asking for it.)
At the same time, the Dungeons, which were used for a variety of industrial purposes, have all merged into a single, constantly mutating environment: the Dimension Maze.
Among the captives are three Mutanoids: bioengineered weapons that look and even act human.
Asuka Amber is their leader, who's handy with dual blades, while Kaede Kadie prefers a sword and Tokio uses gun fu.
The Mutanoids, as well as everyone else in the game, are well-animated and subtly cel-shaded. The effect is to make them look distinct and drawn without appearing cartoony, like well-done computer graphics in anime.
When the game starts, the Mutanoids have a thousand G in cash, a hideout, and a mission: venture into the Dimension Maze beneath Tokyo, which is only accessible via teleporter, and get through the forty stages to be found within it. One of the unfortunate complications of the Maze, however, is that only one of the Mutanoids can go in at a time.
Each level of the Maze is a randomly generated multi-room background for an ongoing beat-'em-up. All the Mutanoids have the same basic moveslist at the start of the game, with subtle stylistic differences (the girls kick more than Tokio does).
You've got two kinds of unarmed attack, a special wakeup move that knocks down enemies within a certain range of you, and a quick dodge that gets you out of the way of incoming attack. To change your moves and broaden your character's offensive capabilities, you can also equip a variety of weapons, such as knives, claws, guns, bombs, swords, and gloves.
One complicating factor here is that using your dodge move and firing guns will both generate heat. If your character starts to overheat, they'll flip out, gaining a lot of hit power but constantly losing health. One of the tricks to winning in Crimson Tears is picking a good time to overheat.
You earn money and experience points by defeating enemies, and they may sometimes drop weapon parts, blueprints, raw materials, or equipment for you. You can leave the Dimension Maze by using a special Returner item, or by defeating the current stage's boss; if you do teleport out ahead of time, you'll have to run back through the four levels leading up to the boss.
So far, so good. Crimson Tears has an unusually robust combat system for a game of this type, and enough variety in both the environments and the enemies to keep things a bit more interesting than you'd think they'd be. For instance, every stage after the first requires you to find a keycard before you can teleport to the next level, and each stage has its own unique environmental hazards and enemies (gouts of poison and angry zombies in the first stage, deadfall traps and large robots in the second...).
One problem I have with all of this, really, is the randomization factor. Building the better weapons requires you to go hunting in each of the stages for the parts you'll need, each level will change its layout each time you enter, and money's routinely scarce unless you put in some serious crunch time.
Even if you put in the cash and time you'll need to build an impressive superweapon, the damn thing's probably going to break in three hits once a boss starts in on you... which is another problem I have with the game.
The bosses are straight out of a mid-nineties arcade quarter-muncher, with identifiable patterns but, frequently, no real way for a character to safely get in to melee range. After four levels of fun, relatively engaging brawling, the boss of a stage often requires a completely different set of strategic reflexes, which screws with my head.
If you lose a boss fight, and odds are good that at some point you will, you'll get stuck back at the Mutanoids' warehouse with one of your remaining characters. You can teleport right back to the boss fight, but you can't use items or change weapons, and if you lose a second time, you'll lose all the items in your current inventory. This is rather aggressively stupid.
Granted, if you start losing a fight with a boss, you can usually teleport out. By the same token, however, if the boss uncorks something big on you and kills you in one hit, I don't see why your second character should be forced to go in at a serious disadvantage. Unless you power-level like mad, it's nearly impossible to beat any boss in the game without using items. It's bad enough that you'll usually be doing it bare-handed.
If Crimson Tears's boss fights were as engaging as the ordinary levels, I'd like it a lot more. A good brawler should usually have some degree of flow to it, which Crimson Tears has right up until the end of a stage. That and its bizarre way of handling character death--a last-ditch timed rescue mission with a severe handicap and massive penalties--knock it down a few pegs.
With those things in mind, if you're looking for a long brawler/dungeon crawler, Crimson Tears is a decent one. It's nothing special, but it's got enough variety and style to warrant a rental. If you're a fan of the crawlers that run on the Snowblind engine (i.e. Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath), then Crimson Tears might be right up your alley.