Even though it has the Final Fantasy moniker, The Crystal Bearers plays more like a brawler than an RPG. There's no leveling or magic in this iteration of the series. The most important misconception? The Crystal Bearers is less akin to a videogame than a movie with a lot of interruptions.
- Non-whiny main character
- Some clever applications of the mechanics
- No real challenge
- Terrible map
- Gameplay is not meaningful
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Square Enix’s newest title, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers. First off unlike the GameCube title, you do not have to carry a bucket around to attack. Crystal Bearers shares many of the same elements (different races, real-time combat, crystals), but you will not need to tote around a pail to hold back the miasma. Even though it has the Final Fantasy moniker, The Crystal Bearers plays more like a brawler than an RPG. There’s no leveling or magic in this iteration of the series. And finally and probably the most important misconception, The Crystal Bearers is less akin to a videogame than a movie with a lot of interruptions.
More Wiggle, Less Whine
Crystal Bearers takes place in a world where each of the four races that inhabit the land possesses their own crystal. During one battle many years ago between the Yuke (a race of armor inhabited by souls) and the Lilty (a military plant race), one of the crystals shatters, wiping out the Yuke population. Beyond these giant crystals, there are also the crystal bearers who wield a variety of powers. Some can control fires. Other can manipulate crystals. Our hero, Layle, can manipulate objects with his telekinetic powers. So when a Yuke appears with powers like his own, Layle takes it upon himself to investigate what caused a Yuke to reappear after so many years and why is he after the crystals.
Because of his powers and his lone wolf tendencies, Layle comes off as a refreshingly assertive character (ie: not whiny). It’s unfortunate; however, that the voice actor sounds likes he couldn’t care less about the words dribbling out of his mouth. The rest of the cast is filled with your typical Final Fantasy fare: your foe-turned-friend, your friend-turned-foe, the dumb lug with a heart of gold, and a semi-unattainable love interest that seems to be only there for the panty shots. As cookie-cutter as it all may seem, Crystal Bearers works better than most in the series since it focuses on a single storyline. Above-average cutscene graphics as well as some interesting designs really go a long way to develop the world. A game, however, cannot rest on its cutscenes alone.
It Don’t Mean a Thing…
Pick and flick (besides being subtitle to the Boogerman game), these actions perfectly demonstrate the mechanics behind Crystal Bearers. With the Wii remote, you pick up any variety of objects (enemies, NPC’s, bits of scenery) and toss them at other objects in the world. You can even carry objects by holding them above your head. Certain objects behave differently when held over your head or tossed at enemies. Arrows will always point towards their destination. Wolves become as friendly as pups when you have a bone. Beetles join to form a giant ball when you throw them at each other.
Not everything, however, has a clever little twist to them. Most items and enemies will require a toss just to get rid of them. Alternately, you could just walk past them. These demon infested areas never require you to dispatch all the enemies in the area before proceeding and will not stop you from moving on. Wait long enough and the area changes back to its original monster-free form. This also works against you as there’s no timer for when the areas revert back to their original form. You could be on your last blob just as the great chime in the sky tells you that time is up. It’s a lot of work for nothing, but Crystal Bearers seems to believe that nothing is its own reward.
What do you get for defeating all the enemies in an area? A sliver of health and the knowledge that in about five minutes, they’ll be coming back. For most challenges, health is rarely an issue. For the majority of this eight-to-ten hour romp, the game presents very few instances where you need to pass a task or defeat an enemy without being able to continue. The Crystal Bearers even rewards the player medals for simple tasks. Take as many virtual rewards you like. They don’t make the game any easier or more fun to play.
The Non-Game Game
In one of the minigames, I scored 880 points. There was no chart or board to show where that ranks with the computer. There’s no indication if that was a low or high number for the game. The game continued without any acknowledgment of my effort as though playing was reward enough. Most gamers will pass through The Crystal Bearers with little resistance. Often, your biggest obstacle will be just finding where the next plot point takes place. Add to that the fact that the only map resembles an IHOP placemat, and you’ll spend most of your time searching instead of playing the game.
When something is required of you, the game often doesn’t explain what you need to do to continue. Take for example the butt-bumping game at the beach. Swing the moogle judge. Keep Belle on the platform and… it’s hard to tell what the next move is at this point. None of the characters give any indication that your actions are helping or hindering the situation. There are many instances of Crystal Bearers wanting the player to do something to continue, but never offering any indication how the player is to accomplish it. Instead of guiding the player along, these obstacles completely stop the flow of action.
More Than I can Bear…er
When the last scene rolls and you get the big “Thanks for Playing” on the screen, you have to wonder what you’ve really accomplished. After three boss fights, a little dancing, and more time spent lost than I care to admit; Crystal Bearers pushes players from point to point without establishing any real connection with anything outside of the cutscenes. The gameplay falls flat without creating any meaningful results. The only way to really win at Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is to not play it and just watch.