Grin and Bear It.
All screenshots by SuperPhillip.
To this point in time, the Crystal Chronicles line of Final Fantasy games has been a Nintendo-exclusive venture. We've seen the original Gamecube Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, the two DS games (Ring of Fates and Echoes of Time), and two WiiWare installments. Now the series has entered current-gen consoles with the Nintendo Wii and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers. It's a long name that seems to roll off the tongue. Is the Crystal Bearers a game whose appeal is as clear as crystal?
The world of Crystal Chronicles has changed since we last visited in Echoes of Time. The Yuke clan has been eviscerated from the world as they know it in a great war between them and a rival clan, the Lilty. A young, brash crystal bearer named Layle is about to caught in the middle of the resurrection of the Yuke clan, the kingdom's military, and a quest to save all four kingdoms from destruction. In the world of Crystal Chronicles, crystal bearers-- magic users-- are despised by the public, so Layle does what he can to get money. The first job we see him in is assisting the transport of a military ship, the Alexis. Suddenly, a Yuke summoner, long since thought to be extinct attacks the airship. The assailant leaves, but not before Layle pickpockets a mysterious green crystal idol. As the airship begins to descend into the earth below, Layle takes the controls and saves everyone from an untimely doom.
The story of the Crystal Bearers is quite interesting to follow, but there is a problem with not being able to skip the otherwise beautiful cut-scenes. This makes a second play-through via the title's New Game+ option a serious pain in the butt. The only character that really ground my gears was the Selkie named Belle. Her voice is just awfully annoying and has that valley girl sound. She also does a lot of stupid things throughout the duration of the game to make her an unlikable character. Alas, she doesn't ruin the game which is a sigh of relief.
Take everything you think you know about The Crystal Bearers and cast it aside. Keep your expectations fresh. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is not an RPG. In fact, the entire story revolves around mini-games with occasional exploration excursions. There's a lot of different types of gameplay here to keep things fresh. You'll be navigating an airship through a narrow gorge, assisting a girl named Belle fend off her Chocobo-riding pursuers by tossing them away with Layle's bearer powers, chasing down a wily summoner while on the back of a Chocobo, helping Belle cheat her way to a victory in a beach-themed mini-game, and much more. By the end of the game you'll be able to revisit and replay mini-games completed for higher scores and better rewards.
The actual battling takes place as you travel from destination to destination. There's no real map so overworld navigation can be difficult at first, not knowing where each path leads. After a play-through of the game, the locations will be down pat and you'll know where to go without much trouble. In certain zones of the overworld map which is more akin to a Zelda overworld than a traditional Final Fantasy walking a world map overworld, a timer will signal when the next miasma stream will open. When it opens, a horde of monsters comes out and is ready to attack. The stream opens and closes every five minutes, so you're timed in exploring freely and facing off against the monstrous beasts the game throws at you. This is quite annoying almost having a whole group of monsters defeated only for the time limit to expire. If you don't feel like making war, these encounters can be skipped entirely, but the rare items dropped from the monsters is enough of an incentive to face off with and vanquish them.
The Wii remote is used in conjunction with the B button to grab and pick up monsters, enemies, townspeople, and whatever else is lying unsuspectingly on the ground. Combat is incredibly simple if your plan is to just injure monsters, pick them up, and slam them up against a wall a couple of dozen times. However, the real point of combat is to experiment. For instance, fiery bomb monsters hate water, so dousing them with a bucket of water will take them down a few notches. It's experimenting with the environment, the various monsters, and your own crystal bearer powers that makes the fighting in this edition of Crystal Chronicles enjoyable. Then again you may very much enjoy taking on foes by slamming them against walls over and over again. No harm in that as long as you're having fun, right? Play the game how you want.
Layle doesn't gain experience from battling monsters, but the materials dropped by monsters is more than enough to want to fight them. Materials are used to make accessories for Layle to wear. These can be made at one of many workshops run by the ever-lovable moogles. There's three types of accessories: wards, rings, and earrings. What-- a brother crystal bearer can't wear an earring or two? The rarer materials create stronger accessories. Equipping these accessories increases Layle's offense, defense, focus, range, and luck in battle. By vanquishing all monsters in a given area, Layle will earn an item that boosts his life by one bar.
The Crystal Bearers will take an ordinary player anywhere from 10-15 hours to complete the first time around. As stated before, a New Game+ option then opens allowing Layle to keep all his accessories, health, and money. There's also medals to earn. Three-hundred and thirty of them in total. These are achievement-like goals that are hidden away for the player to discover such as experimenting with enemies in battle, finishing mini-games with a record time or score, and exploring the land of the game. Exploring the world is fun. There's numerous secrets to find and treasure chests to uncover.
The Crystal Bearers is indeed one of the more impressive Wii games with a high presentation budget and razzle dazzle effects to make you rethink what console you're playing the game on. If it's an epic you want, it's an epic you'll get with the Crystal Bearers. The lands are detailed, the characters are animated well, and the soundtrack is superb. If the game hadn't released so late in the year, it would have been my soundtrack of 2009. It's full of familiar tunes, hummable tracks, and pleasant-sounding songs. Again, aside from Belle, the voice acting is quite good and pleasing to listen to.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a fascinating and welcomed installment to the fantastic Crystal Chronicles line of Final Fantasy games. It's definitely not for everyone given how quirky combat is, but if you give the game a chance and with an open-mind, there's plenty to explore, cherish, and love in the world of the Crystal Bearers. Those who don't mind an action-adventure with a generous helping of mini-games should definitely check out Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]