Traditionally, the Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles games have been a good match for Nintendo consoles. From the original Crystal Chronicles on the GameCube to the DS and WiiWare titles of only a few years past, the role-playing games have kept things cute with sprites and snappy with varied types of gameplay from action to tower defense.
Crystal Bearers shakes things up for the series by replacing the cute 2D sprites with realistic, 3D characters and returning the combat to its real-time roots. The game also makes motion controls a main attraction as players steer the third person action adventure entirely with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. But before you can mutter “waggle fest,” you’ll find Crystal Bearers is just too pretty to tear your eyes from even long enough to roll them. That and it’s pretty fun, too.
Players take the role of Layle – a Crystal Bearer who hires himself out as an escort to various airship parties. At the beginning of the story, he and his friend Keiss have a run-in with a bizarre creature that looks like a metal rooster with a cape. Within the first three hours of exposition and tutorials, we learn that the four races on the planet are in peril unless Layle can find all three pieces of a missing crystal and avoid the clutches of a treacherous military man. Along for the ride are Keiss, the metal rooster, an annoying thief and a princess with pinkish hair.
Layle’s status as a Crystal Bearer gives him telekinetic abilities and a weird splotch on his face that looks a little bit too much like semen. While moving him around the broad, rich world map either on foot, Chocobo, train or warp point using the analog stick on the Nunchuk, you can aim a targeting reticule at just about anything using the Wii Remote. With a simple button press, Layle can grab items, enemies or non-playable characters. With a well-timed flick of the remote, he can fling them, shake them or bring them toward himself to throw or set down. Layle can also deflect projectiles and dodge using variations on the grab-and-flick controls.
All in all, the motion controls work well for the game. They let you explore the environment, cause all kinds of civil unrest on public transit and lend themselves well to a series of minigames like cherry-picking and Chocobo racing. The biggest challenge is mastering advanced combat – because grabbing enemies and bouncing them around doesn’t do quite as much damage as one might hope. Instead, you’ve got to master the art of snapping into third person while holding an object overhead so that Layle can target and throw – that’ll make combat a snap.
The only glaring problem with the controls is the camera. You can take control of it to pan around or snap it directly behind Layle with a button hold or press. However, you can’t really spare your fingers during jumping puzzles or minigames – so if the camera defaults to an awkward perspective that makes it impossible for you to see the next jump point or the goal in a minigame, you’re pretty much screwed unless you grow a sixth and seventh finger on each hand.
The gameplay in Crystal Bearers is easily upstaged by its visuals. Aside from being just plain beautiful between sweeping vistas and intricate backgrounds, the art direction creates appealing character and environmental designs that suck you into the story even if you don’t quite understand the plot or resent the fact that some areas are more linear than your average RPG. You’ll stare at costumes with elaborate jewelry and realistic-looking chainmail, examine the patterns on everything from grapevines to lampposts and get a real kick out of staring at the capital city as you whiz by on an air trolley with picture windows.
Sightseeing becomes a problem only once you’ve opened up more than a third of the world map. This happens well before you gain the ability to use warp points, so you’ve got to go everywhere either on foot or by riding a Chocobo. There are street signs posted throughout the world at every convenient angle – but it’s just so hard to know where you’re going sometimes that you’ll find yourself checking and re-checking the map and desperately looking for the one Moogle who seems to know where everything is.
The absolute best part of the game is all of the stuff you can do besides the main plot. Not that the main plot isn’t fun – it’s just that the minigames are limited to chases, jumping puzzles and the occasional weirdness like ballroom dancing. There’s so much more to do besides that, like fishing and grape-gathering and endless quests for treasure chests and synthesis materials. Stopping the main plot to synthesis grind is definitely worth your while in Crystal Bearers; you can increase Layle’s typical stats as well as buff cool stuff like the range of his telekinesis.
The one thing that will ruin Crystal Bearers for you is if you can’t take the waggle. The game isn’t asking you to throw your rotator cuff out to complete it – but the temptation to grab-and-fling everything that isn’t nailed down is pretty strong. So maybe you should invest in some Icy Hot if you think you can’t resist.
P.S. Cutest. Moogles. Evar.
Dev 18, 2009