Once a PC niche subgenre, tower defense strategy games have been rapidly expanding into the realm of consoles and handhelds lately. Almost all of them are downloadable titles on arcade channels - like PlayStation Network or WiiWare - or iPhone Apps. Square Enix's recent entry into the increasingly crowded marketplace, Crystal Defenders, premiered on the iPhone and has now brought its tasteful RTS simplicity to Xbox Live Arcade.
There’s no story to speak of in CD; all you need to know is that monsters are coming, and you’d better stop them. Despite not having Final Fantasy in its name, the title borrows heavily from its lore; the units include Dragoons and Time Mages, and the enemies are straight out of the FF realm. Even traditional summons like Ramuh and Ifrit are featured. We’re a little curious why it doesn’t just have Final Fantasy in the title; it wouldn’t have hurt the sales.
The gameplay is like all tower defense titles: monsters walk along a path, and if they reach the end of the path, your town takes damage. To stop them, you’ll need to line the path with your units, who will automatically attack and hopefully kill them. Your attackers can only fight enemies from a short range, so the real strategy comes from their placement and how you choose to level them up. It’s pretty straightforward and repetitive, but it can get challenging, and has an addictiveness that fits the genre.
Defenders is held back by some annoying balance issues, as some units – Dragoons and White Monks, for example – were fairly useless compared to others that were basically required. Plus, all of the maps are essentially the same, though the availability of different units on different maps mixes things up a little. Crystal Defenders doesn’t do much that’s new or revolutionary, but with very slim tower defense competition on the 360, it’s an addictive distraction.
Apr 2, 2009