Square Enix’s long-delayed Wii game is fun, but very different.
This isn't your average Final Fantasy game. Hell, this isn't even your average Crystal Chronicles game. Square Enix's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a game of a different breed. First off, it's not a role-playing game. You won't find yourself leveling up or participating in turn-based battles. Instead, you'll use the Wii Remote's pointer to throw objects and characters around while you explore a beautiful world and watch an interesting story.
The Crystal Bearers stars, unsurprisingly, a crystal bearer named Layle. In this world, set in the far future of the same universe as the other Crystal Chronicles games, magic use has become rare; the outcast crystal bearers are the only people who can use it. Layle is a mean-spirited gun-for-hire who begins to chase after a mysterious character who is a member of the supposedly extinct Yuke tribe. The story is presented nicely, the cut scenes are well-directed, and it's engaging enough to keep you interested throughout. The worst part about the presentation is the voice-acting, which is rather bland throughout the 10-hour story.
The gameplay complements the story well, and the two are often interwoven seamlessly. You control Layle via a third-person viewpoint. His magic ability allows you to use telekinesis, and you can use the ability to interact with almost everything in the game; all it takes is a simple point-and-click action to pick an object or person up and throw them around. You can pick up a character, throw him down and pick up the loose change that falls out of his pocket, or you can go over to the lovable mail moogle and yank the latest letter from him. It allows for a lot of experimentation, and that's where the game's exploration is derived from.
The idea of exploration also comes into play in the game's battles, which occur less often than you might expect. Battles are generally arena-style fights where you use your telekinetic powers to throw objects at enemies, or pick up enemies and throw them at other enemies or objects. You can even use your powers to make different things happen to enemies. For example, if you throw a beetle at another beetle, you can turn the two creatures into a ball that can be thrown at another enemy for a good deal of damage. You can also combat skeletal opponents by yanking off their head and replacing it with a dog bone that you find on the ground.
The combat is a lot of fun, but it is severely hampered by the camera. Camera control is a huge issue in this game; you have control over the camera, but you have to constantly tap the D-pad to make sure it stays in a position that lets you can see the world well. The camera seems to always get in the way, and even with the few tweaks that you can make in the options menu, it is still an annoyance throughout the entire game.
There are tons of medals to collect, which are nothing more than Xbox 360-esque achievements that unlock nothing new in the game. These tasks range from uncovering an item for the first time to toying with an enemy in a specific way. It's unfortunate that there is no reward for completing these, but it's still fun to have some interesting tasks to attempt to complete.
A lot of these medals can be found all over the game's expansive world, but you'd better have a good memory of where everything is, as the in-game map is barely useable. The map is more akin to something you'd find on a placemat at a diner than anything that should be aiding your travel in a video game. As you progress through the story you will get a good grasp on where things are, but you might find yourself scared to explore in fear of losing your way and getting lost.
The Crystal Bearers plays more like an interactive movie, as most of the best scenes in the game don't involve you doing anything other than watching. The total number of boss fights in the game isn't more than five, which is even more unfortunate because the large and epic boss fights (which seem reminiscent of some of the boss battles from the Kingdom Hearts series) are some of the highlights of the game. There are some parts - primarily in the beginning - that play like interactive cut scenes, which are very fun. The game starts grandly, with a cut scene that involves Layle falling to the ground out of an airship while shooting at enemies with a machine gun.
This isn't the Final Fantasy title that RPG-starved Wii owners are looking for, but Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is still a good game in its own right. However, it's likely very different from what most players will probably expect. It's a fun adventure game with an interesting Wii-specific gameplay mechanic that is regrettably hampered by a bad camera and a lack of a decent map. If you're looking for an entertaining ride through the Crystal Chronicles world this is the game for you, but if you're looking for an RPG, look elsewhere.