The Crystal Chronicles series has generally enjoyed favorable reviews to date.From the original Gamecube title to the DS installments, Ring of Fates and Echoes of Time, the series continues to satisfy fans who enjoy an action RPG title bearing the Final Fantasy name. The Crystal Bearers is the latest entry that upholds the traditional game play of this beloved series with its real-time game play, charming music and whimsical characters.
Crystal Bearers puts you into the shoes of Layle, a young Clavat mercenary hired by the kingdom to protect the luxury airship Alexis. Layle’s right cheek is crystallized as he is imbued with the power of a crystal bearer – a magical ability shunned by the Lilty kingdom. The land is populated by three tribes: Lilty, Clavat and Selkie. Fans of previous Crystal Chronicles games will instantly recognize the tribes and their respective personalities. After Alexis is hijacked by monsters, Layle defends the airship until he is confronted by a strange Yuke, a member of a fourth tribe believed to be wiped out in the Great War between the Lilty and Yuke tribes. Along his journey, Layle teams up with other allies in his search for answers.
Similar to the earlier titles, there are real-time battles on the open field. After you wander around, vortexes known as Miasma streams appear with a bevy of visible, roaming monsters. A radar and monster gauge tells you exactly how many monsters are in the vicinity. You are rewarded for ridding an area of all monsters with the ability to save your progress. The Wiimote is used for action and battle commands with the nunchuk reserved for camera and player movement on screen. Layle will often be inflicted with status ailments from monsters that is quickly healed when you immerse yourself with water.
Battle mechanics aside, Layle can interact with the surrounding environment with his magics. Large boulders on the roadside and switches can be manipulated by locking on to them directly using Layle’s special powers. Targets are lockable in battle and objects used to solve puzzles. Layle can attack enemies by rolling into them with a shake of the Wii remote to send them airborne. Chocobos make a return as you can mount and ride them to your next destination. Be warned that a Chocobo will run away after you dismount from them.
Playable events are a definitive highlight of the game that you can partake in by shaking your Wii remote in select situations. Much like side quests, Layle can earn extra items and rewards. While some are needed to advance the story mode, others are entirely optional. Information is displayed on screen prior to asking you to shake the Wii remote; should you decide to take up the challenge.
Fans will be happy to hear that Cid has returned once again for another Final Fantasy offering. As a former lead engineer for the Lilty kingdom, he is an invaluable ally who assists Layle with technical info about devices and political knowledge. Though stubborn and somewhat eccentric, Cid is on your side and will bring a smile on your face during various events.
Players eager to explore every nook and cranny will enjoy the “Medals” in this game. Discovering a variety of reactions to Layle’s actions, whether it be tomfoolery in towns or fighting monsters, will earn you collectable medals in a separate menu screen. Not quite the “Achievements” that one might expect but a very nice touch to the game nonetheless.
The biggest flaws lie in the pacing of the game. Too much emphasis is placed on side quests and challenges. As the combat system was slowly growing on me, I had to embark on many playable events, often needed to advance the story mode. Camera angles are also a pain to control and navigate while fighting enemies inflicting tons of damage while trying to hand your butt to you. As mentioned earlier, your Chocobo will run away if you dismount, leaving you asking whether or not you should go after the treasure chest or explore the area with a map that is mediocre at best.
Visually, the game is polished on the Wii. Environments, character designs and magic spells are vibrant and highly detailed. Cut scenes are satisfying to watch as Square Enix is known for pushing the DS and Wii to its limit in terms of graphical capabilities. The soundtrack has some catchy tunes here and there but the rest is mostly forgettable. I’ll admit that I’ve already been spoiled by Square’s Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack and select tunes from that game.
Crystal Bearers is a fun game for the short time that it lasts. Though I was very excited about the game, the camera and pacing issues detract from the game’s overall appeal with little to no replay value. It’s worth a rental for fans of the series but those new to Crystal Chronicles series would feel more satisfied playing the Gamecube original and earlier DS instalments.