Feb 022010

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, or the Crystal Bearers for short, is the next game in the Crystal Chronicles series that started on the GameCube. This Wii title was originally planned to release with the console, but experienced many delays until an eventual Dec 26th release in 2009. Through the first few hours of the game, has the Crystal Bearers benefited from its many delays, or is it a sub-par offering from RPG giant Square Enix?

When you first start up the Crystal Bearers you’ll be greeted by incredibly epic and mood setting music in the main menu. It honestly caught me off guard; I was expecting the usual classic Final Fantasy menu theme used in many of the other games. The game starts off in particularly epic fashion, too.

I’ll say it right now: the Crystal Bearers possesses some of the most finely polished visuals on the Wii. The environments are large and look simply beautiful, character models are well done, and animations are fluid. The only time the framerate takes any sort of dip at all is when the protagonist, Layle, performs a roll.

Back to the start of the game — an airship that Layle is protecting is attacked by large bird creatures, and then a member of the almost extinct Yuke tribe shows up and attempts to steal a Crystal Shard. The beginning of the game revolves around chasing the Yuke and gaining more information as to what’s going on.

The big difference with the Crystal Bearers and other Final Fantasy games is that it is more of an action-RPG, and the player doesn’t use actual weapons to attack enemies or gain experience and level up. Combat in the Crystal Bearers is done with Layle’s telekinetic powers — players can grab basically any object in sight and fling it at enemies, and even fling an enemy at another. The general complaint is that too much emphasis on swinging the Wii Remote is present in the Crystal Bearers, and that it isn’t accurate enough. Contrary to this, however, a sensitivity setting in the Options menu can be used to change how wild your gestures have to be. In my experiences, subtle wrist movements have got the job done — this isn’t Wii Sports Baseball.

So far, there are only three problems with the Crystal Bearers. First off, the voice acting can be pretty cheesy at times. Often other characters refer to Layle as “Crystal Bearer” and one character in particular likes to shout “Crystal Bearer!” whenever Layle is around. The other complaint is pretty big, actually: the camera is horrid. The camera view in the Crystal Bearers is set in a fixed position behind Layle, but it doesn’t turn whenever Layle turns. Players can use the D-Pad to automatically move the camera around, but it’s difficult to do so while in the heat of battle. Last but certainly not least, is another relatively big problem with the Crystal Bearers: it’s very easy to get lost in the huge overworld. For some strange reason, Square Enix decided to not include a mini map on the game’s HUD. The only map to use is the world map found in the start menu, but that map only displays a general “You’re somewhere around here” indicator.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers shows promise early on, albeit there are a few faults with the game. However, it’s clear the Square Enix attempted to bring a cinematic Final Fantasy experience to the Wii — with very polished visuals, fluid animations, nice cut-scenes, and an exciting first boss fight with an ancient dragon.