"Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles" on the Wii has had a long road. First announced by President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, in 2005 as an online title, it has since undergone a serious revision into a single player adventure. Rather then play like any previous "Crystal Chronicle" title, "The Crystal Bearers" blazes its own new trail for both the series and Square Enix.
If there is one thing Square Enix knows how to do, it is match art direction with technical prowess. "The Crystal Bearers" is not any different. The title features an abundance of color, detailed character models, as well as the usual effects and touches common throughout all factions of the series. "The Crystal Bearers" is a bit different in regards that it is both an entirely 3D world, but also features full camera control. This is a welcome addition as it really helps solidify the title as a true adventure game, and not a linear experience with carefully orchestrated set pieces. To be fair, not every area of the game looks great. However, even the less impressive locations at least look passable.
"The Crystal Bearers" has the most diverse soundtrack of any Square Enix game to date. Throughout the course of the title the music will range from the usual ambient tracks to country, rock, tropical, and even big band music reminiscent of the 1920's and 30's. For some this might be a bit jarring, as it being so spread out might make it seem inconsistent. Personally I enjoyed the diversity as it really fits well with the more energetic and spirited tone of the game.
At its core, "The Crystal Bearers" is an action-adventure game where you assume the role of a super hero for hire with the power of telekinesis. Almost everything you do in the game is done in some relation to the use of your super powers. A lot of situations are unique events very similar in style to the Nintendo title "Disaster: Day of Crisis". There has been a lot of labeling these events as mini games, when in truth that is a bit misleading. They are story driven parts of the game that are more like an expanded quick time event. Imagine the snowboarding sequence from "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" and you should have a better idea. Both the beginning and end of the game are within a unique event. When your not involved in a action sequence, your free to roam around the games open world environment. Most of the entire land is inner-connected meaning you could realistically travel on foot across the whole map. There is a train you can take, as well as Chocobos to ride. Despite being an action-adventure, very little of the game outside of context sensitive action scenes is devoted to actual combat. The game is built around the idea of experimenting with your super powers rather then slaying everything in your path. In each major open area of the world there is a group of enemies. Similar to a day and night cycle, the enemies will vanish or reappear out of miasma streams in the sky. If you defeat all enemies in a given area before day cycle changes, you can close the stream for good. Combat is entirely focused on your ability to grab and throw objects like a fantasy styled Jedi. To do this you point at an object until you have locked onto it with the remote and then yank it in one of four directions. The most preferable option is to pull the object up and have it hover over your head, once you have done that you can simply point at anything else and throw with a press of the B trigger. A good example of how this can work is to grab a classic Final Fantasy enemy called a "bomb" and then throw it at a pack of goblins and watch the ensuing explosion. Much of the game is built around this concept of experimenting with enemies and objects and how they react with each other. Take the head of a skeleton warrior and throw it to a pack of wolves which will then keep both enemy types scrambling away from you. Throw water on a Cactuar and watch it grow uncontrollably. If you enter into the game with a desire to explore and really mess around with the game world then your going have a great experience.
Obviously most of the appeal of "Final Fantasy" is the story. Previous games in the "Crystal Chronicles" series have had their stories as more of a background rather then a focus point. "The Crystal Bearers" is the most story heavy game to date. This is obviously more easily accomplished being a single player adventure, but it is still nice to see more attention paid to the overall Crystal Chronicles universe. The title takes place long after the first title on Gamecube, the Lilties have somehow become the dominant tribe of the world and have driven the Yukes to extinction, The Clavet and Selkie tribes are doing reasonably well, but fall far behind the Lilty in wealth and power. Magic has been outlawed and is a forgotten art. Those that can wield magic are called Crystal Bearers and are considered cursed. The plot is highly reminiscent of "X-men" in its nature. Each Crystal Bearer has a unique superpower, while most of the world fears and mistrusts them. Naturally you play as a Crystal Bearer with the powers of Telekinesis, which makes most of the world somewhat fearful of you. Rather then fall into their endless cycle of emotionally scarred angst ridden youths, The main character Layle is a complete departure. He is brash, cocky, and has a devil-may-care attitude about mostly everything he comes across. He is instantly likable, as is most of the supporting cast, though a certain Selkie girl is a bit of a bitch. The English dub is adequate, but if you watch many animes dubbed, your going to be real familiar with the voice cast. The story itself is told well, and in a very streamlined fashion. Because of the nature of the title all the grinding and padding is stripped away, leaving you to experience the main story as fast or as slow as you want. If you do want to just rush through the game, don't expect to much time till the end credits. The main story takes less then ten hours to go through. Don't let that be to much of a discouragement, as there is a lot of other content to the title. One of the greatest strengths of the game is how its not afraid to have fun with itself. You may be randomly walking up a hill to see an avalanche of oversized pumpkins falling down with a girl rapidly trying to stay on top of one. Lifting a cow over your shoulder results in a shoulder mounted milk machine gun shooting from its udders. It definitely has its heavy moments, but for once Square Enix put some honest to goodness humor in a game. The cocky optimism of the main character, combined with its energetic soundtrack and mostly lighter tone really help to give the game a soul in comparison to the overly dramatic soap opera mannequins of many other games. While the waggle mechanics are not always perfect, and you probably will still wish you could do more then just grab and throw, this is still one of the best new Square Enix games in a long time. This is a direction Square Enix needs to go in, it would be a real shame if this title ends up being the last of its kind.