- Game: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
- Platform: Wii
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Game Designer’s Studio
- ESRB: Teen
- Genre: Interactive Fantasy Movie
- Players: 1
- What’s Hot: Gorgeously detailed graphics, great characters, riveting story, chocobos
- What’s Not: Uneventful minigames, gimmicky and tiresome battles, little content, a monkey could play it
Pretend you’re watching a movie at home. It has an inspiring story, beautiful visuals, and a cast of characters that you could watch for hours on end. But every time an action scene starts, you have to pick up your remote control and wave it around a bunch for the movie to continue. This is pretty much how the newest installment of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles feels.
As one of the best looking games on the Wii, The Crystal Bearers tells a deep, riveting tale that rivals even the best J-RPGs. But a handful of uninspiring minigames and bizarre semi-optional fights interrupt the game more than contributes to it. Even worse, the story and these little interruptions are about all this title has to offer.
The game centers on Layle, a teenage boy and one of the very few Crystal Bearers in existence. As a Bearer, he possesses telekinetic-like powers, a gift that, while very cool, makes him an outcast. Through a series of haphazard events, Layle is tasked with finding the Crystal Idols, powerful containers of energy that could either lead to the end of the world or unite the world’s four tribes. Of course, about 17 (three, to be exact) people are after the Idols as well, making Layle’s duty a little hard.
Better than the story may be the relationships Layle develops, almost all of the half-friend, half-enemy variety. Each has a very distinct, consistent personality that you’ll come to love as much as you hate. Surprisingly, Layle’s many acquaintances are also voiced exceptionally well, although it’s getting a tad hard to hear Michael McConnohie pop up in every video game (most notably, the Agency in Crackdown and the Commander in Red Faction).
For housing four tribes, the world or at least the part of it that you see is actually quite small. In fact, on top of a chocobo (a classic Final Fantasy mount that you’ve most definitely seen before), it can take about five minutes to race around the entire map. But although the world is tiny, you’ll venture through various types of areas, from forests spotted with cherry blossoms to sunny open plains. These areas, excluding the cities, act as battle arenas, filled with monsters and random objects. With your telekinetic powers, you have to clear the arena within a certain amount of time. To do this, you point at the screen with the Wiimote, press the trigger and flick your wrist, tossing your quarry whichever direction you please. You can also pick up an item or monster and throw it at the enemy.
Pointing and flicking again and again grows very tiresome, especially on the wrist. Thankfully, you can choose to do diddly squat, and the field will eventually clear itself. When time runs out, the area returns to normal, whether you’ve successfully cleared the area or not. The sky turns blue, farmers and skipping girls randomly appear and everything is merry. Of course, if you choose to avoid battle, you’ll collect less loot and money to purchase accessories that boost your stats. Then again, you don’t really need the accessories if you’re not fighting. Without stat-boosts and experience, the boss battles are still a piece of cake. Besides, there’s very little allure to collecting loot when you can only create accessories.
Battling (if you choose to do it) and traveling to and from each area counts for roughly half the gameplay. The other half lies in the various minigames. Of the few NPCs that actually talk, some provide optional games, like catching sheep or collecting mushrooms. Although you get a score at the end of each game, your level of success doesn’t usually matter. One mushroom or thirty, you’ll still get the prize. Others minigames, like out-running a behemoth or pulling the hoods off of pilgrims, are pivotal to the story. Again, it doesn’t matter how well you do. As long as you don’t die, the game continues. If, by chance, you perish, you have the option to try again without losing any progress.
And that’s it: some minigames you don’t have to win, a whole lot of walking around, optional arena battles, and a couple boss fights. But even with so little content, this is one of the most well-executed Wii games to date. The graphics are stunning, the minigames function correctly, and the Wiimote never gets unbearably obnoxious, even if it causes a little wrist pain. Besides, none of the Crystal Chronicles have ever been your typical Final Fantasy. Nintendo-exclusive and generally kid-friendly, the series is most known for its co-operative play. It’s unfortunate that this title doesn’t include it, if only because we won’t get a Final Fantasy multiplayer this year.
The game’s worst offense is that it never requires that you exert effort. Without side quests, challenging battles and grueling dungeons, the game almost plays itself. And yet, since the story and characters are so enchanting, it pays to at least go through the motions to see the adventure unfold. If only there were more “game” here.