Square Enix's latest Wii title borrows elements from Final Fantasy, Zelda, and Kingdom Hearts.
Some retailers were selling Square Enix's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers well ahead of its announced release date of December 26, and I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy. After sitting down with the game for about two hours, I've been very impressed.
First off, Crystal Bearers looks beautiful. It's far and away one of the best looking games on Wii. The environments are lovely and the characters are well-designed. Also, the accompanying music is different from anything I've experienced in a Final Fantasy game. It's jazzy in places, and is varied so far.
The gameplay, when it happens, is fun, though it could benefit from a little bit more complexity, which I hope is on its way as I work my way through the game. Right now, there are battles during which I run around and use my character's telekinesis to pick up and throw enemies, or throw items at enemies. I can see this getting crazy in later levels, but right now it's getting a bit repetitious. However, there hasn't been a large focus on it so far.
Much of the focus is on the story, which will probably appeal to fans of the Crystal Chronicles series. You play as a Clavat Crystal Bearer, who gets involved in a status quo-threatening series of events that result in crystals getting rejuvenated, and the three other Crystal Chronicles tribes are also getting involved. There's a lot of voice acting, and the story and characters are engaging enough to keep it interesting.
In addition to combat and the story, there is also a bit of exploration. It is a linear game so far, but there are a lot of side paths to wander down that reward you with treasure chests. You can also pick up materials that you can use to create new items that can be equipped on your hero to improve his stats in different ways. Occasionally you'll get thrust into a story event where the game seems to keep some sort of score, though I have no idea what effect this has on the game right now.
There are an abundance of medals that you can acquire by completing different achievements. While there doesn't seem to be a tangible reward for these, they're still fun to get. They remind me of the Super Smash Bros. Brawl challenges, especially since they're laid out on a similar grid and you'll get hints at how to unlock the medals related to the ones you have already completed.
At around the hour-and-a-half point I encountered a large boss. Since your character doesn't have any tangible weapons, you have to go around and find things to throw at the boss' weak points. The first boss wasn't anything more than a spectacular set piece, but I have a lot of faith that later bosses will feature tough puzzle-solving in order to figure out how to harm them.
The Crystal Bearers strikes me as Square Enix's attempt at a Zelda game. It's not a Zelda rip-off at all; it is still distinctly a Final Fantasy game, albeit one with no controllable party, no turn-based battles, no leveling up, etc. The boss fight reminded me a lot of some of the bigger boss fights in the Kingdom Hearts series.
The game is still somewhat enigmatic to me, and I'm interested to see where it's going. I can't yet tell if it is going to take a more Zelda-like approach, or if there will be more similarities to past Crystal Chronicles games or Kingdom Hearts. Either way, I'm hooked. The Crystal Bearers seems to be a great game that any fan of those three series, especially fans of all three, will enjoy.