Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a new live action role playing game on the Wii. Square Enix is also bringing the series to a new perspective with a single player only, story driven campaign. Taking a turn from the previous titles' roots while continuing the same story is an interesting twist for the series, but will having only one player chronicling this adventure be a rewarding experience?
The Crystal Bearers follows the story line of the Crystal Chronicles series and takes place a thousand years after the events of the original Gamecube title. The story follows the path of Layle, a Crystal Bearer who has the ability to move things at his will, kind of like the force. Layle is sent on a mission to recover crystal shards for the military of his race and discovers that there are others out to retrieve the same shards. There are other characters that help Layle in his quest, but also twist between good and evil. The story twists and turns throughout, but does eventually take a big dip into traditional territory with a group of rag-tag youths preventing the destruction of their world from an evil empire. Admittedly there isn't too much in the way of story to anyone picking up this title as a first in the series, but it does stick to a set story path from the original title that may hold more value for long time fans of the series.
Beyond the events of the game, everything is conveyed with rather impressive visuals, especially for that of a standard definition game. Character designs are well done, and the world is colourful and well varied, which helps keep the player thoroughly immersed as the game progresses. The animations of characters are also very nice and detail is especially heavy on main characters. Unfortunately some of the textures of minor characters take a hit, but it's really just a minor gripe considering the amount of detail that went into this Wii title. With visuals this impressive, The Crystal Bearers is easily one of the best looking third party titles available on the Wii, up in the ranks of games like Dead Space: Extraction.
The visuals are also backed up with a nice instrumental soundtrack featuring songs that are very melodic and fit the mood of most environments they're used in. The only real downside to the music is that there can be times where it gets repetitive in areas that take a long time to clear. The audio is also very hit and miss when it comes to voice acting. Sometimes the parts come through very authentically and other times they come off as very bland and poorly delivered.
As far as the core gameplay goes, it's a very narrow path as well. There is only one way to fight in combat, and it's done by grabbing either the enemies or object with the Wii remote and flicking it in multiple directions. It can get fun when facing multiple enemies and evading between them to hit one another, but the camera gets so clunky with positioning that fast moving battles can become rather bothersome. Another factor in the frustration is that pointing the remote at the screen and flicking it around for prolonged periods of time is very tiring. One benefit is that there are a lot of mini-games spliced between the main combat areas to keep things interesting, the only problem with these games is only about half of them are any good. There are some shooting gallery sort of segments that are a lot of fun, but then there's certain ones that need to be beat to advance the game that are terrible. For example, in one there is a game where two characters are trying to knock each other off platforms and there are no instructions on how to play it, so this boring mini-game takes far too long to beat and needs to be done to go anywhere.
One other thing that seems a little off with the game is the economy. There is money to be had in the game, but not much to be spent on. There are no levels to go up in The Crystal Bearers, just a few slots for equipment that can usually be made by finding items rather than buying them anyway. The boosts given to Layle aren't really crucial, with the game keeping at a fairly average difficulty level throughout no matter what. There are little things that can be purchased like designs Layle can wear on his shirt, but it's rather pointless and doesn't do anything but throw away money. In terms of replayability, there aren't any side missions other than a few mini-games that can be played with two players, but they aren't really all that worth going back to. There's also a new game plus option, but it doesn't really add any real incentive to play through again.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a great experience on the Wii for visuals and makes a great first impression. The big downside is that there isn't any proficient gameplay to back up its great visuals and music score. A lot of what warrants playing Crystal Bearers comes down to having played the previous titles and wanting more out of the story, but for people jumping into the series for the first time it may leave a bit of a sour taste.