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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - The Crystal Bearers (Wii) artwork

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - The Crystal Bearers (Wii) review


"The magic is gone. It vanished over a thousand years ago, when the Yuke Tribe lost the war and was wiped off the face of the planet. With no one around to cast spells or summon monsters, technology took center stage. Civilization has progressed from a bunch of warring factions into bustling cities and decadent kingdoms. Swords are nothing more than relics; even the lowliest of soldiers carries a rifle. Even the chocobos, those iconic beasts of the Final Fantasy universe, are outpaced by a..."



The magic is gone. It vanished over a thousand years ago, when the Yuke Tribe lost the war and was wiped off the face of the planet. With no one around to cast spells or summon monsters, technology took center stage. Civilization has progressed from a bunch of warring factions into bustling cities and decadent kingdoms. Swords are nothing more than relics; even the lowliest of soldiers carries a rifle. Even the chocobos, those iconic beasts of the Final Fantasy universe, are outpaced by airships, trains, and hovercraft. Itís impressive, considering the humble origins of the Crystal Chronicles series. But this age of enlightenment comes with a price: No one knows about magic. Theyíve completely forgotten its importance. In fact, itís illegal. Everyone thinks itís an abomination, an evil the likes of which nothing else can be compared. The Crystal Bearers - the few born with magical abilities - are seen as freaks of nature and shunned accordingly.

Itís little wonder why Layle is so jaded. Despite being a Bearer, heís already established himself as a heroic mercenaryÖbut no one trusts him. Not his employers, let alone the people he saves. Even his only friend expresses his disdain and contempt for him at every opportunity. Everyone judges him not on his character, but on their fear of the magic he wields. Though it could have provided an interesting look at stereotyping and discrimination, the plot devolves into something far more generic. Layle gets wrapped up in a conspiracy that not only jeopardizes the kingdom, but might usher in a new era of magic as well. The story had potential, but itís ridiculously cliched and predictable. Itís mainly due to the characters being utterly one-dimensional. Everyone in the game, from the dark and imposing antagonist to the independent female lead, fulfills their roles with little development. It makes for fast pacing, but little else. Youíll figure out the plot twists long before they happen, and be left dissatisfied with a rather cheesy ending.

The adventure itself isnít much better. Itís not so much of an epic, kingdom-saving quest as it is a glorified series of mini-games. Itís a cycle of traveling to a location, completing some kind of challenge, and triggering a cutscene to learn your next destination. Rinse and repeat enough times, and youíll have the story finished in about eight hours. Some of the mini-games - piloting the Alexis airship and saving the Selkie Tribe come to mind - are woven well into the progression of the story. Others seem to be tacked on just for the sake having something to do with the motion controls. You canít just walk up to a princess; you have to waltz through a crowded ballroom by moving the WiiMote to onscreen cues. Nor can you progress things until youíve helped the heroine win an inane beach party contest for absolutely no reason (aside from fanservice) whatsoever. That kind of stuff sticks out like a sore thumb; if the game has to revolve around mini-games, at least try to make them relevant.

The combat fares slightly better. Layleís Crystal Bearer abilities give him telekinesis, which allow him to pick up random objects and throw them across the battlefield. That comes in handy, given the amount of enemies thatíll appear. If you dawdle anywhere between towns long enough, the skies will blacken and a mob of trolls, flans, and other generic Final Fantasy monsters will infest the area. Since you donít have any conventional weaponry, youíll have to nab whateverís around - benches, rocks, even other enemies - and use them as projectiles. You point the WiiMoteís onscreen reticule to a desired target, press a button to haul it up, use the controller to highlight the nearest victim, and do a throwing motion. Itís a simple, but badly flawed process. The battles take place in real-time, which means youíre constantly having to change Layleís position, retarget the reticule, and adjust the camera. The game occasionally misreads your movements, which can lead to you tossing your weapon harmlessly in the wrong direction or locking onto the wrong thing. This makes a potentially fun concept needlessly tedious. Combative telekinesis is a great idea, but itís awkwardly implemented.

The most surprising thing is how little effort went into developing Layleís powers. His only method of attack is picking up and throwing stuff. Thatís it. No force fields, no manipulating the air around him, nothing aside from a little trick he uses for only one battle. Thatís pretty sad, considering he can go all Force Unleashed in the cutscenes. Couldnít they have at least given him the ability to hold more than one object at once? It doesnít really matter, given the ease of the game. Aside from the story battles, you can literally walk away from any fight. You should, too; thereís no incentive to battle. Oh sure, you get money, wannabe trophy achievements, and materials to create your equipmentÖbut youíll never need them. The AI is pathetic; itís entirely possible to beat the game without dying. There are only a handful of boss battles, and only one of them is remotely challenging. Itís disappointing, considering all the creative ways Layleís powers could have been used.

That goes for the dungeons, too. Or rather, the lack thereof. Youíll explore the forgotten halls of an ancient temple, brave an icy cave, and fight your way into a floating prison. Unfortunately, these segments are ridiculously short and uninspired. The paths are linear and nearly devoid of any kind of puzzle or obstacle. The extent of the exploration involves using Layleís powers to swing across bottomless pits (heíll just float back up to the ledge if you screw up) and more straightforward platforming segments. The kid has telekinesis; youíd think the designers wouldíve come up with something better than that. Longer, too. Getting through most of the areas shouldnít take you more than ten minutes. Instead, youíll be doing a lot of backtracking on the overworld. The kingdom is small and interconnected via different paths and train stations. However, the map isnít detailed enough to give you decent bearings; it just highlights your general area without giving a layout of routes between destinations. Until youíve memorized enough of the landscape, you might spend an extra hour or two wandering in the wrong direction. It gets better once you gain access to the chocobo riding, but even that has a downside: Your trusty steed will disappear once you get off. Since you canít open treasure chests without dismounting, you run the risk of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere all for the sake of some spare cash. Itís the closest thing the game has to overworld exploration, and it punishes you for doing so.

As youíre grumpily stomping back to the nearest chocobo spawning area, you can at least take solace in the beautiful scenery. The Crystal Bearers takes place in a world ruled by technology, and it shows. Youíll see it the first time you walk into the main train station; the bustling mobs of citizens, the glowing lights, and the flickering television screens. Whenever you travel in the subway hovercraft, a quick glance through the windows offers a glimpse of a sprawling city. The best parts are in the countryside, though. The Selkie Tribeís base might be nothing more than a small pirate ship, but the sunset ambience and upbeat music make up for it. The high point of the graphics comes at a mountain pass, where you wander through a forest of reddened trees and watch the leaves drift slowly down around you. Itís just a shame that these areas werenít fleshed out; the gameís longevity would have benefited from more areas to explore and paths to uncover. The only entertaining aspect is how you can mess with the NPCs. Tossing guards and furniture around is fun, especially when you see how the other characters react. If anything, mugging Moogles is a guilty pleasure.

Itís not enough, though. Nowhere near enough. The Crystal Bearers reeks of wasted potential. The plot has a few interesting themes, but plays it safe with a predictable but well-paced save-the-kingdom story. The game would have been far more engaging had it focused more on the combat as opposed to the tacky mini-games for the WiiMote. The combat itself is unreliable; with inconsistent controls and awkward camera, battles become a tedious affair. Itís not like youíll need to fight anyway. The difficulty level is almost non-existent, AI is laughable, and thereís little creativity involved with the development of Layleís powers or the places he explores. Not to mention the headache-inducing backtracking youíll have to endure. Itís sad, considering how gorgeous some of parts of this game are. Layle might have the best powers of any Final Fantasy protagonist, but it means nothing when the rest of the game does poorly.

Rating: 3/10

disco's avatar
Community review by disco (January 23, 2010)

Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.

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zippdementia posted January 24, 2010:

Your review was painful to read, not for its words, but for the game it describes. I played the first Crystal Chronicles and thought that was pretty bad... I haven't had much hope for the growth of that series since.

AND YET IT CONTINUES TO HAVE SEQUELS. MY. GOD.

At least they have a good art department.
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disco posted January 24, 2010:

Yeah, I know. The series has gotten worse with each passing game. The sad thing is how so many other review sites gave this an above-average rating. If this is what passes for above-average gaming, I weep for the future.
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espiga posted January 24, 2010:

The only thing that made FF: Crystal Chronicles a bearable series was the fact that Kumi Tanioka (whom I've met IRL and is an absolute angel) composed the music, and it was lovely.

But in Crystal Bearers, she's been replaced with some generic douchebags that can't compose nearly as well.
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Ben posted January 24, 2010:

I've not played any of its sequels, but I liked Crystal Chronicles. I've seen gameplay footage of Crystal Bearers, though, and it doesn't look all that great.
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aschultz posted January 25, 2010:

RotW viewing comments--this review was motoring along til after "Everyone judges him not on his character, but on their fear of the magic he wields."

"Unfortunately, the conspiracy that wraps Layle up, which jeopardizes the kingdom and heralds a new magic age, goes for the predictable xxx instead of looking at stereotypes."

A few stock phrases too--"rinse and repeat" and "sore thumb" feel like writing by inertia, and when you try for a story-review, these things are more noticeable, especially since the beach party and ballroom examples are funny, as is "mugging moogles" later--though there, the tossing furniture around bit should go with combat. Unless it's noncombat--in which case I think you have a trump card that noncombat recklessness is more fun than combat.

Some paragraphs are also a bit chunky, with the combat descriptions being hit into the ground a bit (and you might do well to link weak combat with too many mini-games more explicitly, earlier,) and I also think the graphics could be moved up. If people know the plot gets in the way of enjoying all this, it's a good thing.

The beginning and ending work very well, and I think you have a good idea of what you wanted to do. I have to wonder, though, given the timing of the review and how some sentences don't go together, if you weren't just trying to sneak it in before week's end, especially if you have a review queued for next week. It's still an enjoyable review, if not all it could be.
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disco posted January 25, 2010:

Actually, I forgot about the weekend deadline until the last minute and didn't have time for any editing. >_< Thanks for the critique, though!

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