Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is about building a city (around the prerequisite FF crystal). When you start playing all four walls of the city are in place, which is all the play area you're ever going to need. After all, it's the job of the king to stay home and build his kingdom - not go out and adventure. But to acquire the resources to fuel your building, you'll need to send your teenage adventurers out to fight in your place. They'll battle monsters and explore the land collecting resources and discovering new structures for you to create. They'll pretty much be doing the kind of adventuring that most FF games have the player doing, but they'll do it off-screen, while you do the kingdom planning. Each day you'll have a chance to build a little more and send your adventurers off to do a few more jobs. It's fun placing buildings, watching our little adventurers get tougher and being a tiny little kingly kingdom planner.
The very first day, the vacant city looks like an empty coloring book, with flat sections of land splotched around your kingdom waiting for you to fill it with houses, armories, taverns, parks, emporiums, temples and other buildings. Building a small house adds to your tax revenues and increases the population. A white mage temple lets you research white magic and train white mages. There are also merchants, in areas such as armor shops, who sell equipment to your adventurers. Every day your adventurers get stronger and can explore a little more of the world outside the town, as long as you're sending them out to train and quest.
You see exploration through adventure reports and the world map each morning. Then the little warriors and wizards will come out of their houses, unless they need the day to recover, and go check what jobs you've posted on the bulletin boards. Although you choose the jobs that are posted, they pick which one they want to do. They also pick the weapons, armor and skills they buy from merchants and trainers, but it's up to you to give them the go-ahead before attempting each job. You might have to say, "Sorry Wolfgang, you're only lvl. 3 and shouldn't be fighting Ice Goblins. You should just gain experience today."
The little guys handle decision making on their own, and they do a pretty good job purchasing equipment, although the jobs they try to sign up for seem more random than based on their strength. Some players might be turned off by the hands-off approach, and occasionally we wanted to see what was happening on the battlefield. The message "So-and-so fought four battles with such foes as a Mu" isn't too descriptive. What exactly is a Mu? And why did it keep sending our black mages back in shambles? We wanted to know.
The battle reports tell how many fights they got into and what the result was, but they don't explain how it all went down. We never figured out what a Mu is (the link doesn't help), but eventually we triumphed because the game is pretty forgiving. Although you can lose fights, it's pretty tough to lose the war (there's not really a war, but you'll discover a story by talking to your citizens). As long as you keep playing, you'll keep making progress, and the game is designed to dole out building plans in the order it wants you to build them. Placement is important since you'll want to maximize the limited building tiles you have. Hardcore strategists will pay attention to details, like how adventurers will have higher intelligence if they live next to a black mage academy.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King sticks with the trend of being a fun to play, but not too challenging Wii game. Our biggest complaint is that sometimes if feels like you're just filling in the blanks and it's only a matter of time before the game finishes playing out the way it's supposed to. On the other hand, the fast daily routine and quick rewards, like a new building or job class, make it easy to get sucked into playing for "just one more day" more than we'd like to admit. It's well worth downloading for light-hearted strategy fans, role-playing fantasy gamers and definitely for fans of the Crystal Chronicles universe.
May 15, 2008