A thousand years after the original Crystal Chronicles the world has changed. The four races are three, with the now dominant plant-like Lilties having defeated the Yuke tribe of machine people in the great war. Swords and spells have given way to guns and ammo, with magic outlawed and the few remaining practitioners – the Crystal Bearers – feared by normal society. Players take on the role of one such Crystal Bearer, the hero-for-hire Layle, as he embarks on a journey that will something something something fate of the world.
It’s Final Fantasy. There’s always an epic quest that involves the fate of the world. This time there’s telekinesis. How’d that work out this time around? Read on.
A Grand Adventure: At the core of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a compelling story that managed to keep my attention despite all of distractions Square Enix threw in my way in the form of mini-games and side quests. The characters are entertaining, even if the voice acting is sub-par and some of them have serious character flaws (the main character, Layle, is a bit of a jerk). My only issue with the story is that just as it was getting really good, the game ended. I’d say around 10 hours of my 18-hour play time was spent completing the story, which seems a little short to me, but could just be an indicator of how much I enjoyed it and hated to see it go.
Everything Is Beautiful: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a very pretty game. The environments are lush and colourful, the characters attractive and expressive, and your enemies are varied and unique, while still maintaining a bit of that Final Fantasy flavour. It’s a little rough around the edges, but if you can look past some jaggies you’ll see one of the most gorgeous games the Wii has to offer.
That’s Telekinesis, Holmes: Layle’s Crystal Bearer power is telekinesis, and I’ve not spent this much time picking things up and throwing them about since Konami released Elebits back in the early days of the Wii. You’ll open doors, catch fish, pull up plants, control trains and fight with your telekinesis, and aside from some control issues, it’s a great deal of fun. Plus, if you get frustrated, you can always pick up an innocent civilian and fling them off a cliff. If you’re looking for a Wii title that makes good use of the Wii remote, then look no further.
The Power To Movie Enemies: At first I was less than thrilled with the combat system in The Crystal Bearers. Picking up enemies and throwing them seemed a simplistic way to handle fighting in a game. It wasn’t until an encounter with a pair of beetles that I began to understand the true potential of the system. By stunning one beetle and throwing it at the second, the two monsters connected into a ball, which I could then fling about the battlefield, doing damage to everything in its path. Ah, now I see. To get the most out of combat in The Crystal Bearers you need to experiment with the enemies and objects scattered about the battlefield. Some enemies grant you special attacks when held, while some items will kill enemies faster than others. It’s a learning process, and with patience you’ll find there’s a great deal more to combat than simply picking things up and tossing them about.
The Joy Of Discovery: Exploration is a major aspect of The Crystal Bearers. Every location is riddled with little nooks and crannies, filled with treasure chests, new challenges, and small details that help add character to the lovely world you’re playing in. One could spend hours simply running about discovering new things without advancing the story whatsoever.
It’s The Little Things: The game is filled with little side quests and mini-games that can substantially increase the amount of time you spend playing the game. Activities like garden building and the always welcome chocobo races help keep the game from becoming too monotonous, while an extensive awards system will keep you exploring both the world and your options in combat, rewarding you with kudos for everything from catching certain fish to finding interesting new ways to dispatch your enemies.
There’s Never Enough Time: While the game’s battle system eventually grew on me, I never quite got used to the timed battles. Enemies appear in some areas during specific times of the day only, giving you a limited amount of time to dispatch your foes and earn the rewards for doing so before transitioning back to a more peaceful setting. Not only does it limit the amount of time you have to fool around with the telekinesis-powered combat system, it adds an element of frustration to the mix. Far too many times I found myself one enemy short of clearing an area, only to have the time shift occur, leaving me to either wait until the next shift or wander off to do other things.
Control Issues: The Crystal Bearers relies heavily on the Wii remote for just about everything you do, so when the Wii and your hand don’t agree on which way you just flicked your wrist, the game suffers accordingly. This issue was particularly prevalent when the Wii remote was being flicked up or down, with a good three out of 10 strokes registering incorrectly. I also encountered some problems when trying to target enemies while holding a monster that shoots some sort of beam (fire, electricity, etc). At times it seemed as if I was shooting behind character instead of in front of him. Square Enix does include options to adjust the sensitivity of the Wii remote, but I didn’t notice much of a difference on any setting.
We Got Lost: A fair amount of my exploration was due to one simple fact – I was lost. There really isn’t a map function, other than a word map where you’re represented by a dot, and when your land and cityscapes are littered with those little nooks and crannies that make exploring so much fun, it’s quite easy to get turned around.
While I enjoyed the various side quests and activities that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers provided, I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of it is padding for a main adventure that isn’t quite complete. This mainly stems from the fact that nearly 50 per cent of the time I spent playing the game didn’t involve the actual storyline. The feeling is deepened by the strange appearance of CGI cut scenes later in the game. The majority of the story is told using the in-game engine, but then suddenly there are two or three CGI scenes dropped in, giving me the impression that something was missing. Odd.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers comes off as more as a Final Fantasy activity book with a story running through it than a fully realised FF title, but the sights are lovely, the activities entertaining, and as long as you know what you’re getting into you should have a good time.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers was developed and published by Square Enix for the Wii on December 26. Retails for $US49.99/$AU79.95. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the story mode once.
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