Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers review

April 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Game Review, Wii Review | Leave a comment
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I loved the original FFCC on the GameCube The beautiful graphics, soothing soundtrack and co-op gameplay really struck a chord with me. I picked up this single-player only spin-off with very little hope, but ended up pleasantly surprised!

Title: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

Format: Wii

Developed by: Square-Enix

Published by: Square-Enix

Genre: Adventure

After Nintendo patched up a long-running feud with Japanese giants Square-Enix, Nintendo fans were hopeful that it would signal the return of the Final Fantasy series to a Ninty console. The series did return, but not quite in the guise many were hoping for. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was released for the GameCube in 2003, with a heavy focus on co-operative multiplayer adventuring and a unique control method (a Game Boy Advance could be linked to the GameCube to control your character and keep track of in-game stats). It received a mixed response, mainly because some reviewers and gamers chose to focus on what it wasn’t (a full-fledged FF title) rather than what it was. Admittedly the cost of playing the game as intended was quite high, and few managed to get together four gamers each with their own GBA. The title still garnered a following, though thanks to some wonderful graphics, music and the unique co-op gameplay.

It was obviously popular enough for Square-Enix, as there have been a further four titles bearing the Crystal Chronicles tag, including the DS title Ring of Fates and two excellent WiiWare spin-offs. The sixth game in the series, Crystal Bearers is now out on Wii and is possibly the best one yet.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers to give it its full title has had a long and difficult development cycle. After appearing in the very first Wii software showreel way back in 2006, it subsequently vanished without a trace and Square-Enix seemed reluctant to update fans on its progress. The end result loses any trace of its multiplayer roots, instead offering a single-player, story-driven adventure. The Crystal Chronicles series has always given Square-Enix the chance to experiment with different gameplay ideas that wouldn’t naturally fit in the main FF titles, and Crystal Bearers is no different.

The title is essentially an adventure game at heart, with more in common with Zelda than its Final Fantasy namesakes, but with a stream of short action sequences that break up the regular gameplay. In the first hour alone, the game has you shooting down flying enemies, piloting a giant airship and surfing along an underground river. This flurry of mini-games might not sound too appealing to some gamers but they’re actually pretty fun to play through and as most of them score your performance they provide some extra replay value. Some of them are also used to drive the story along, which as you’d expect from Square-Enix, is a deep and compelling tale.

It’s set a thousand years after the first Crystal Chronicles and a lot has happened in that time. The poisonous miasma fog that once covered the world has cleared, but after many years of peace a great war broke out between two of the ruling tribes, resulting in large-scale devastation and the banishment of the magic-wielding Yuke tribe. Back in the present day, the Lilty kingdom now rules over the world, which has seen huge technological advances thanks to the use of crystals. Arcane arts have been outlawed, although some magic-users (the crystal bearers of the title) do still exist. The main protagonist, a mercenary named Layle, is one such crystal bearer. Early in the game he encounters a formidable crystal-bearing Yuke, named Amitedalion who is trying to resurrect her lost tribe, and could threaten the future of the entire Lilty race. The Lilties hire Layle and his band of mercenaries to capture Amitedalion, but he soon realises everyone’s motives aren’t quite so clear-cut.

In addition to the gripping story and well-rounded characters, Crystal Bearers has a pretty good combat system too. Based around Layle’s telekinetic powers, and using the Wii remote’s motion-sensing capabilities, players can grab hold of enemies or environmental objects and throw them around to cause damage. There is a pretty robust combat AI system in place which triggers different reactions from enemies depending on how you try to defeat them. For example, skeleton warriors fall apart when attacked allowing you to use their dusty bones to distract any nearby wolf enemies. The game rewards experimentation via an in-game achievement system; the sheer number of reactions you can get out of enemies (or the world as a whole) is very impressive.

As expected from a Square-Enix title, Crystal Bearers is incredibly beautiful to look at. Character models and texture work are superb and when you factor in the scale and detail of the surrounding world you have one of the best looking titles yet to grace the console. The soundtrack is one of the most varied and diverse of recent years, continuing the series’ excellent track record in the sound department. The cut-scenes, voice-overs and dialogue round off this hugely engrossing adventure. The only downside would have to be the length of the main story, which can be finished off in under twelve hours. To be honest it is worth playing through a second time as it’s easy to miss some of the finer points of the story first-time round. There are also a tonne of side quests to complete which could easily take another 25 plus hours to finish off.

Overall, Crystal Bearers is an essential title for any self-respecting Wii owner looking for a deep, satisfying adventure game. It’s also one of the most enjoyable games Square-Enix has produced for a long time. The game clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for it.

8.5/10

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