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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii) Review

Review for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

One of the earliest games announced as being in development for Wii, first shown in a pre-rendered teaser video in 2006, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is noteworthy for being one of the very few JRPGs available on Nintendo's home console. With a troubled development period of over three years, with little communication about the title in the meantime, rumours started to float around that the game had been quietly cancelled, forcing Square Enix to acknowledge in 2008 that the game was still being worked on -- though they didn’t let slip any new details. Finally, the game came out in late 2009 in Japan and North America, with a release in January 2010 in Europe. As the biggest project for Wii thus far from the developer to whom we owe the likes of Dragon Quest and the main Final Fantasy series, The Crystal Bearers was a relatively highly anticipated title -- but was it worth all the hype?

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers’ early trailers had some gamers very skeptical over the game’s visual presentation -- and for good reason, considering it had supposedly been in development for such a long time. As soon as screenshots of the final build became available on the world wide web, however, everyone was reassured that the game would be up to scratch in the graphics department, within the limits of the Wii hardware. Everything looks incredibly detailed, especially the non-playable characters, who can be approached and examined in first person view up-close without revealing any major blurry texture issues. The animation, while not quite benefiting from the same near-perfect treatment, is also good. The trade-off for all this is that the environments look a bit empty sometimes.

One of the defining aspects of The Crystal Bearers’ universe is how lively it is, in contrast to this. NPCs can be seen seemingly going about their own lives, though it’s not quite on the same level as The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, where every single movement was scripted and predetermined. The game world is credible enough to make it look life-like, be it in the actions of the simple villagers or even the enemies -- wolves chase skeletons that pass by to take a bite at their bones, and so on...

A great emphasis was put on this aspect when the game was shown in trailers prior to its release, inviting players to experiment and interact with the environments and the living things that inhabit them. Even better, you can take your own screenshots of the game at any moment during gameplay or cinematic sequences, since the screenshot tool built into the game engine -- used by Square Enix themselves to show the graphical prowess of their engine -- is still accessible at any time at the press of a button. Pictures are saved to the SD card, transferable to a computer later on to put online and share with the world. It truly is funny to see and take pictures of the reactions of the NPCs to your own actions. You will only encounter a select few NPCs who you can speak to though, as you explore the game world as Layle, the Crystal Bearer.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Layle, of the Clavat tribe, is first seen accompanying Keiss the Selkie. Both work as mercenaries, taking up any job that is thrown their way. One day they get involved with the Lilty army during one mission and Layle gets to meet, in battle, a strange character of the supposedly eradicated Yuke tribe. Quickly nicknaming it Goldenrod, Layle decides to track it down due to its use of powers that are similar to those of a Crystal Bearer. Layle steals a peculiar green crystal from Goldenrod which has some unusual properties, such as the ability to absorb the energy from other crystals. Unveiling the mystery surrounding that crystal is the first goal, but it also opens up a whole new world of mysteries as you progress. The story in this Crystal Chronicles game is easily the most interesting and compelling about it, putting a lot more emphasis on character development than any of its predecessors, though there aren't that many main characters to begin with. It is comparable in tone to the more serious episodes of the main Final Fantasy series, though it is nowhere as deep or as long.

The setting of this particular installment of the Crystal Chronicles sub-series is unlike any of the other episodes. The world of Crystal Bearers has a more futuristic theme than the others, and reminds of Final Fantasy XII in some aspects. You will meet some familiar faces along the way, as usual. This Final Fantasy has its very own incarnations of Cid and Stiltzkin from Final Fantasy IX, and other Crystal Chronicles characters, such as the little king from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, also make brief cameos.

Crystal Bearers are beings who can belong to any of the tribes from the classic Crystal Chronicles universe: Clavats, Lilties, Yukes and Selkies. Only a few Bearers are shown in the game’s story, though. As their name suggests, they are infused with a crystal that is encrusted into their skin, which gives them incredible powers -- the main one of which is telekinesis. That allows them to make their own body float in the air, plus grab and throw things around with the power of thought alone. Only the latter skill can be controlled by users at will. Crystal Bearers uses the hurling of objects as a central mechanic, battling by lobbing enemies or items, making it more of an action RPG. With characters aside Layle being pretty much devoid of any statistics, though, it could be said that The Crystal Bearers is more of an adventure game with RPG elements to it than anything.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

That's where trouble comes in. The mechanic of grabbing things and attracting them to you isn't perfect (despite throwing posing no problems whatsoever). It is performed by pointing at an object, NPC or enemy to lock onto it, then flicking the Wii Remote upward to attract your target towards you. The issue is that rough movements don't always register properly. Working out the exact force needed so that the game detects and performs the action desired isn't an easy thing to begin with and requires some getting used to. Imagine, then, how this must be when you're in the middle of a boss fight that requires you to act quickly... This is a source of unnecessary frustration, but only in a few certain cases along the way. Indeed, that mechanic works well usually, since those occasions when you really need to be swift are few and far between.

However, another problem arises in that every single interaction with your surroundings in the game requires that same movement. This quickly gets repetitive. A few elements are thrown in to help vary things a bit, namely the variety of tactics to defeat an enemy -- using the different objects lying around cleverly, for example. A Bomb is attacking you? Find something water-based, like a full bucket or barrel, grab it and throw it at the enemy! There are plenty of similar examples throughout the game. Mini-games are also there to distract you from the main adventure; some very fun, others rather dull. Yet still, everything uses that same mechanic of grabbing and throwing. Thankfully the gorgeous graphics, compelling plot and more are good incentives to push players through to continuing Layle’s adventure.

Layle only has a few stats -- Attack, Defence, Focus (which affects the grabbing abilities), Range (again, of telekinetic capabilities), Luck -- that can be improved through the wearing of earrings, rings and amulets. These useful accessories can either be bought or crafted from objects found or purchased throughout. They can also yield some bonus effects such as, for example, increasing the -- limited -- time that objects or enemy can be grasped, or the damage dealt by whatever you throw at enemies, or improve health recovery. Speaking of the health bar, it is pretty much a copy and paste of what can be found in any episode of the Legend of Zelda series. You collect heart containers by battling enemies.

Outdoor areas can either be clear of any monsters, or under an enemy-encouraging miasma stream. Miasma streams either disappear on their own over time, or can be shut down with Layle’s telekinetic skills after fighting through hordes of foes: either way clears the area of enemies, but the latter awards additional heart containers. Certain areas may have a second, harder set of enemies to defeat later in the game, offering the possibility to collect a second heart container from the same area. Keeping track of which hearts have already been collected is easy thanks to the list of medals found in the pause menu.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Indeed, The Crystal Bearers has a ton of things to do to unlock over 300 achievement medals. Some are very simple to acquire, such as visiting every single area in the game, beating a certain enemy in a very specific way, or gathering the heart container of a certain area. Others are a bit more obscure, leaving you wondering what you have to do. The objectives can be compared to those of the achievement wall in Super Smash Bros. Brawl; the presentation, in the form of a huge array, is actually very similar.

The number of objectives is enormous and can last potentially tens of hours. The main game isn't very long, however. Completing the story, while collecting most of the major upgrades like heart containers, takes around 20 hours, which is in line with the DS iterations of the Crystal Chronicles franchise. The objectives are what will truly keep players coming back...if they can withstand the repetitive mechanic after the environments and plots have been completely discovered.

The soundtrack is probably the last big incentive to return to The Crystal Bearers after its story is beaten and the element of exploration is gone. Crystal Bearers is indeed a masterpiece of gaming music. Series veteran Kumi Tanioka takes a backseat this time, only composing a couple tracks. The majority of the music is composed by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki. It blends lots of different genres across the different tracks, all beautifully orchestrated and making up one of the best overall soundtracks Wii has seen, full stop. The sound effects are crystal clear too, further helping the game to shine brightly in the graphics department. The voice acting is the only thing tarnishing the luster of the sound package; some characters' voices are okay, but the general effort is poor. This might be a matter of taste, but the option to choose the Japanese voices, as seen recently in Xenoblade Chronicles, would have been most welcome.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The main faults of Crystal Bearers are in the gameplay. It works well 90% of the time, but the repetitiveness of the catching / throwing actions is likely to make many gamers shy away from this title, despite the diversity of the situations partially making up for that shortcoming.

Graphics

Easily one of the best looking Wii titles, even now that time has passed since its release. The characters are all gorgeously detailed and the environments are delightfully crafted. Animation is nothing short of amazing either, and the cutscenes are some of the most wowing moments of real-time graphics you will ever see running on Wii.

Sound

The game also shines in the sound department. It has one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, and the sound effects all contribute to make the overall look and sound of the game all the more appealing. The English voice cast is a bit hit and miss, though.

Value

The story is rather short for a RPG and clocks in at around 20 hours. However, with so many optional objectives to fulfill in the game, it's unlikely that the game will be completed totally quickly. On the other hand, some players might get bored with the repetitive action before they get all the gold medals...

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

If anything, this is proof that graphics alone don't make a triple-A game: the gameplay needs to be top-notch as well. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers shines in almost all artistic regards. It is a beautiful game, with a compelling story and a gorgeous world to explore and play around in, all while listening to one of the most likeable and diverse soundtracks you'll ever hear on any current-gen console. The gameplay, though, just isn't good enough to deserve the near-perfect score it might have received had more thought been put into it, and the core experience of the main story falls too short for a modern console RPG. Moreover, it is insane to think that a game that was in development from 2006 to 2009 ended up with such a lacklustre, love-it-or-hate-it combat system. Depending on your capacity to bear with the mechanics, you may or may not like the whole game. Thankfully the other elements in the game, save the bad voice acting, are enough to keep players hooked, though if it’s only battling you’re interested in you might want to stay away from The Crystal Bearers. Now that time has passed since its release, the game can be found for a reduced price in many place, so it is still well worth a purchase for any Wii owners that are fans of the Crystal Chronicles and Final Fantasy universes. This holds even more true given the current situation the Wii is in, with so few new games left on the way for the console...

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14.12.2011

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Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Jay (guest) 15.12.2011 00:29#1

Everything is great but the gameplay, music and world fantastic. The gameplay is just anti-fun.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Rudy, if ever there was a review to re-convince me to play this game through after I stopped, it's this right here. I think perhaps the repetitiveness did have a slight affect on that, but also coupled with having so many games to play too, so it did drop down the pecking order.

However, I'm a huge fan of the original Crystal Chronicles on GC, so I want to experience this one properly. I'm happy if the story is quite short - right now that suits me well, so I should be able to fit it into my schedule sometime. And of course, I adore the soundtrack too. You were the one who re-introduced me to some of the gems on that too!

Excellent review.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery

I don't think I could ever go back to this. I enjoyed the opening sequence but then hated everything that came after. Tis the only Final Fantasy game I've traded in as it just wasn't for me. Smilie

Ifrit XXII said:
I don't think I could ever go back to this. I enjoyed the opening sequence but then hated everything that came after.

Agreed. Loved the first couple of hours, then totally lost interest...

Anybody else wish we could get a modernised version of the GC game with 3DS connectivity?

Never gonna happen though Smilie

Add me on anything. I'm always looking for new friends/opponents/town visitors/chances to appear more popular than I actually am.
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Lynk said:
Anybody else wish we could get a modernised version of the GC game with 3DS connectivity?

Never gonna happen though Smilie


Erm, hell yes. I adore the GC version. It's severely underrated.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I personally lost interest beyond the main game, but enjoyed to bits the story and some of the events. Collecting all the energy containers was fun as well. Beyond that, I don't feel like going back to it, especially when I already have so many other games on Wii left to beat Smilie.

That being said, I'm sure there still some fun to be had in this game for those who never tried it.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Good review! I always wanted to pick this up since news broke on it, but didn't get round to due to the mixed reviews. May just give it a go sometime - I think I saw it for £6 down CEX!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
Elrinth (guest) 19.12.2011 10:33#9

I finished the game, I thought it was okay. But yeah, VERY repeative.

I SERIOUSLY regreted buying this garbage, this was more of a 4 out of 10 your rating is far to generous man.

What Nintendo needs is classic style gameplay like what we were graced with in FF6 & 8. I don't like this game because of the CC tie in, I LOOOOOOVED the FFCC on GameCube (Selkie's RUUUULE!!!!) but this was far too watered down, made little to NO SENSE (even by FF standards) & the voice acting was sub par at BEST some times.

So Nintendo needs, as I stated earlier, FF6/FF8 gameplay & system mechanics....or even better get Final Fantasy Versus 13 on the Wii U WOOOOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422

I enjoyed the game. HAd a good atmosphere. But yeah, it was repetitive gameplay wise.. But the story, exploring, music, graphics and all that made up for it. I might try it out once again just for that...

But it's not a Xenoblade!

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