Final Fantasy: The Crystal Chronicles – The Crystal Bearers (Wii) Review
I hate disappointment. In fact, there’s nothing worse than waiting for a game in excess of two years and then finally getting your hands on it, only to be left feeling empty. Final Fantasy: The Crystal Chronicles – The Crystal Bearers (let’s throw another “Crystal” in there for good measure) was first announced at E3 2005, and was described as a more single-player orientated game in the Crystal Chronicles series, with a more mature design to help assist in conveying the story. Now, almost ten years later, The Crystal Bearers is finally upon us and during such a long time, it really makes you wonder what Square Enix was doing the whole time.
The Crystal Bearers takes place in the “future” of the Crystal Chronicles timeline, in the same world populated by the four classic races; the Clavats, the Selkies, the Yukes and the Lilties. In the world painted by the Crystal Bearers, however, the arcane arts have been effectively bred out through outlawing, and the Yuke race has since become extinct. It’s a bit of a, well, oppressive time, but naturally there are those who still possess the arcane arts, and are referred to as Crystal Bearers. Our hero, a Clavat mercenary named Layle, is one of these Crystal Bearers.
The game opens with Layle escorting a passenger onto a brand new airship, the Alexis. However, during the ship’s maiden voyage, a horde of monsters attacks the ship, almost forcing it to crash, leading Layle to protect his charge a little bit more than he originally planned. Fast-forward through epic sky-based encounters, and Layle comes into contact with a Yuke named Amidatellion, who takes the Alexis’ crystal shards. Naturally, being the ship’s only power source, Layle must land the ship with his powers. This sets the backdrop for an epic quest that Layle embarks on to uncover a conspiracy in the Lilty kingdom initiated by this mysterious Amidatellion.
The game’s story is a little hard to discuss without giving too much away, but it does develop along quite nicely and the characters are quite likeable for the most part, too. Thankfully, the game’s actual presentation, including cutscenes and voice work all do a great job of setting the scene, which I expect nothing less of from a Square Enix title.
The greatest thing to come out of The Crystal Bearers is its graphical prowess. The environments that the game presents are beautifully crafted and feel like something you’d find in the other mainstream Final Fantasy games. Characters are beautifully detailed, animate smoothly and interact with the player in manners you would expect. Environments are vast and varied, with large open fields, small beach towns and ancient underground temples to name a few. All of these things come together and combine to create a very compelling game world, which is integral in pulling the player into the experience. On the other hand, there are a few technical hiccups here and there, particularly a lack of environmental reaction to Layle’s movements as well as some sloppy texture work here and there. All in all, however, The Crystal Bearers is one of the strong titles on the Wii, particularly from a third party.
Let’s get one thing straight though, if you were expecting a traditional Final Fantasy game from The Crystal Bearers, you should probably stop. The Crystal Bearers throws almost everything you would know about Final Fantasy out the window. There are no longer spells or different pieces of equipment to collect. There are no longer any turn-based battles of any kind. And there are no weapons to use at all. In fact, Layle’s greatest (and basically only) weapon is his Crystal Bearer power, which is essentially a telekinetic power that allows him to manipulate most things.
During normal gameplay, Layle is controlled with the Nunchuk while the Wii Remote controls a cursor on-screen, which is essentially where Layle’s powers will work. Layle can interact with anything and everything in the environment, from inanimate objects to almost any NPC (non-player character). Holding the B-button while hovering over an object picks it up, and pulling the Wii Remote towards you pulls the object above Layle, allowing him to throw said item in any direction with another tap of B. Also, waving the Wii Remote to the left or to the right straight after picking up an item throws it in that direction. Layle can use this power to pull treasure chests towards him, ransack citizens by throwing them around, as well as utilise special abilities of enemies that he attacks. For example, picking up a cow allows Layle to access the creature’s “Milk Beam” which is a high pressure milk-based projectile, or picking up an insect with a beak enables Layle to turn it into a drill-based projectile.
Admittedly, the combat system is rather superficial and doesn’t offer a whole lot of depth, and with the amount of wrist-flicking you’ll be doing to finish off enemies (as the Remote itself isn’t entirely sensitive in some cases), it’s not to be overlooked that this game may cause some damage to your wrists which might reduce the amount of fun you have. But still, it’s quite exciting to pick up a new enemy and see what effect it has – I know I was surprised to pick up a massive beetle only to see it turn into a bowling ball, allowing me to get a ‘strike’ against the remaining enemies on the screen. While the general combat is pretty substandard, the few boss battles are pretty epic (including a simple but decent battle against Bahamut himself).
Players can also create items from crafting pieces found on the field that increase the size of the Wii Remote’s reticule, increase damage dealt and other things you’d expect in an RPG. In addition, players can customise Layle’s insignia on the back of his jacket for a more personal touch. These light RPG elements act as a kind of reminder of the Final Fantasy games you’re probably itching to play while playing The Crystal Bearers, but would do a good job at introducing younger players to an RPG system.
While the combat system is superficial, as already mentioned, the gameplay itself is a rather strange combination of motion-based mini-games, some exploration, a few cutscenes and some boring monotonous battles. It’s not very noticeable as players get into the game, but halfway through it can get rather predictable. To their credit though, the mini-games in between chapters feel just like what you’d play in a typical Japanese RPG, and are quirky and fun.
However, the open-world exploration, is somewhat frustrating as your only map uses an indicator the size of an elephant’s tent to tell you where Layle is, which makes it hard to understand exactly which direction you’re going and whether or not you’re making any progress towards your goals. Combine this with boring ’GO HERE’, ’NOW COME BACK’ mission types, and you’ve got a pretty average game overall. A final gripe, the camera is controlled with the D-pad on the Wii Remote, not by moving the Remote towards either edge of the screen. Almost every game utilising a free camera does this properly, yet The Crystal Bearers does not, and it’s rather annoying to have to constantly adjust.
The Crystal Bearers soundtrack is also a rather mixed big. Some tracks are well performed and do really well at complimenting the actions going on on-screen, while some are just horrible and feel completely out of place. Think, a combination of sombre jazz music, flutes and sometimes guitars. In addition to this, the voice work can be, at times, rather uninspired. While Layle is a breath of fresh air as a HAPPY Japanese RPG character, his voice actor doesn’t put a lot of effort into his dialogue, which results in, for lack of a better a word, a dry performance.
To rub more salt in the wound, The Crystal Bearers is an incredibly short game, clocking in at less than ten hours. In addition to this, there are these achievement-like “trophy” unlockables available to players for doing normal and peculiar things, but they aren’t needed. In fact, almost everything in the game isn’t needed. Enemy encounters can essentially be swept aside, the game can be beaten without dying and all the “challenging” fights aren’t very challenging at all. This effectively slashes the game’s completion time quite a bit, and makes it a rather short outing, especially for a Final Fantasy game that’s taken over four years to produce. Dungeons, all three of them, are scarce and lack any real obstacles or puzzles for the player. It’s all just too easy.
Final Fantasy: The Crystal Chronicles – The Crystal Bearers really had the potential to be an amazing game. Combining the Wii Remote’s motion-sensing capabilities with a telekinetic gameplay mechanic sounds genius, and the initial trailers for the games showed off some pretty awesome techniques. Unfortunately, all we’ve got is a glorified tech demonstration with a lack of, well, interesting gameplay. And in a world where gameplay really is all that matters, it’s a shame that The Crystal Bearers falls so short of my (and probably most people’s) expectations. To the game’s credit though, it would be an excellent entry-level RPG for younger children, but for the seasoned Wii gamer looking for an epic RPG akin to the other Final Fantasy games, you’re looking in the wrong place. A disappointment.
An overall disappointing offering from the team at Square Enix. The Crystal Chronicles franchises final chance to get itself out of this rut has failed, and unfortunately, The Crystal Bearers does disappoint. It makes you wonder what Square Enix was doing for the four or so years that the game was in development for. Perfect for younger children, but overall a rather bland and unexciting experience.
Some really interesting environments and town designs. Unfortunately, an abundance of boring, recycled NPCs combined with some sloppy texture work brings it down. Cutscenes are well choreographed but beg the question as to why Layle cant perform said actions in actual gameplay.
A combination of fun mini-games with boring battles and frustrating exploration sequences. The Crystal Bearers just barely classes as acceptable gameplay standards due to some perplexing design choices, including making all the battles optional.
Once again, another perplexing mix of random beats. Some of them are touching and really fit with the game, others are just totally out of place. Voice work is below average and really detracts from the character performances.
Despite being a short game, its still a fairly lengthy adventure game, clocking in at about ten hours if you play it properly. Most will probably get bored and just blaze through it in a short amount of time though.
I enjoyed The Crystal Bearers when I first started playing but a few hours in, the gameplays flaws started to rear their ugly heads and really put me off the game. Its definitely one for those who are a little more lenient with their games.