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Square Enix has had plenty of time to experiment with the Final Fantasy franchise. Spin-offs, re-imaginings, and tactical games have been explored at great lengths, and now, in the form of The Crystal Bearers, we’re offered something completely different.

Crystal Bearers places you in the shoes of Layle, a hotshot telekinetic sorcerer of sorts, whom harnesses the intense power of said crystals. For your everyday anime fan, this actually sounds like a pretty cool story, but does it prove to be more than your typical fare?

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers takes a short departure from the formulatic JRPG formula, instead, taking on on the identity of a pure adventure game, similar to the the recent Gamecube and Wii Legend of Zelda iterations. Like many Eastern projects, the world is wacky, mysterious, and over-the-top.

You’ll find bikini-clad women everywhere, along with some of the strangest creatures with high pitched voices you’ll ever find in a video game; unsurprisingly most of those creatures aren’t particularly fond of crystal bearers like yourself, up  to the point of extreme prejudice.

That basic principle of crystal bearer hatred really sets up the rest of the game. Layle is charged with protecting a giant airship and the powerful crystal shards it contains. After an unknown enemy attacks the ship and lifts the crystals, Layle blames himself, and engages in a cycle of self-depreciating, cavalier behavior, while attempting to uncover the identity of the assailant.

While the story is serviceable, the gameplay department takes a big hit, and, to be blunt, Crystal Bearers controls are easily the worst part of the game. Movement is controlled by the nunchuk’s analog, but the IR pointer is also required for any interaction whatsoever (including combat). So, that means that every time you want to talk to someone, attack an enemy, or interact with an object, you have to “find it” and whip your wrist around. As previously mentioned, Layle uses his rather cool-looking telekinetic powers to utilize a psychic “whip” of sorts, and manipulate objects and enemies for fun and profit.

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It seems like a cool concept, but you’ll inevitably become bored of the inaccurate “point, grab enemy, whip, repeat” formula. The camera is also extremely unresponsive, and, to make matters worse, you have to take your fingers off the main input keys and use the d-pad to constantly fix it. Anyone familiar with a Wiimote will immediately groan and yearn for an alternate scheme.

Hardcore action fans will be sorely disappointed, but some gamers will most likely find some fun to be had in the limited sandbox world. Imagine a Final Fantasy game that has more extraneous, goofy activities to do than actual epic encounters: well, that’s pretty much what you’re getting with Crystal Bearers. In fact, the game shares more in common with off the wall titles such as No More Heroes than an actual Final Fantasy game. It almost feels like Way of the Samurai 3, the way that the extra and main missions kind of just blend together – which isn’t really a bad thing given that this isn’t a main series title by any means, it just lacks the polish of a typical Final Fantasy title.

The best part of the game is easily the on-rails lightgun sections, which send you free-falling through the air, fighting demons with a giant gun. Impossible to lose, these sections really just give you the opportunity to let loose with Layle’s true power, without the shackles of a shoddy “whip and repeat” combat system. I honestly wish there were more fun activities like Chocobo Racing and Freefalling (that I truly did enjoy), but instead you’ll get a lot of shallow games, such as “bikini gladiators”, double waggle ballroom dancing, and a very un-fun waggle-stealth game.

As a result of the focus on the hit-or-miss mini-games, the entire game feels like one entropic misadventure. Additionally, the dialogue itself is either poorly translated, or just poorly written. A lot of characters in the game speak in broken sentences, and the voice acting is equally poor. A few of the characters sound annoying to the point of madness, and this is coming from a huge anime fan, fine tuned to withstanding low quality English dub tracks.

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There’s also a bunch of poor design choices that detract from the overall fun factor of the game. For instance, you’ll feel like chucking the controller when you get off your Chocobo mount for one second to pick up a chest, only to have it run off immediately. The map system is also pretty poor, giving you only a general sense of the part of the world you’re in, with no proper names of cities or locations of objectives.

Crystal Bearers took me around 17 hours to complete, and, if you’re aiming for 100% completion, you can bump that up to 25 hours. If you were so inclined, Crystal Bearers has a really cool screenshot snapshot option, in the same vein as Shenmue II, that lets you take a picture at any time. There’s also a small multiplayer component, but it isn’t really a selling point.

The game also has it’s own achievement system, complete with 330 tasks for you to complete. While some of them are simple things like “craft ‘x’ item for the first time”, you’ll find a bunch of interesting ones, such as whipping and combining certain monsters together. If achievements are your thing, you might get some added enjoyment out of it.

All in all, Crystal Bearers was an extremely mixed bag, and I’m not sure what target group would truly enjoy it. The exaggerated anime style is too alienating for most of the older generation; hardcore Final Fantasy fans wouldn’t enjoy the over-simplified gameplay, and fans of the original Crystal Chronicles on the Gamecube are sure to be disappointed with the lack of the classic hack-and-slash formula. If an over-the-top mini-game RPG sounds like fun, then maybe you should give it a try, but this one is truly hard to recommend.

Rating Category
6.0 Presentation
There's nothing really unique about The Crystal Bearers. The translation and camera are also poor.
How does our scoring system work?
6.0 Gameplay
Crystal Bearers attempts some pretty neat things, but ultimately dragging an IR pointer around isn't fun.
5.0 Sound
The voice work is a train wreck, and the soundtrack doesn't really have an identity.
8.0 Longevity
The game clocks in at around 25 hours at 100% completion, which is kind of nifty, but whether or not you want to actually finish everything is another story.
6.5 Overall
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers ends up taking it's place on the figurative shelf of failed experiments. It deviates too far from the classic adventure genre (in a negative way), and piles on some extra problems.

  1. Oh Chris, I was looking for an excuse to buy this. Seems it may not be worth it though. :(

  2. I borrowed this from a friend a couple days ago, and promptly returned it to him a couple hours afterwards. The combat felt boring and drawn out after just 15 minutes.

  3. The Wii controls have let us all down once again.

  4. What can we really expect from a FF spin-off?

  5. avatar KingStarscream

    All of you, I am disappoint.

    I greatly enjoyed the game beginning to end, mainly because I didn’t come in with any expectations. It is true that the controls and gameplay are less innovative than the other Crystal Chronicles games, but it also takes some of the guess work out. Charged attacks and magic were a bit of a liability, and while fun, could lead to frustration in later levels.

    One thing that was left out of this review is that while battles involve mostly point-and-grab attacks, there is a bit of stategy behind it. Yes, you can beat the monsters by just throwing them back and forth until they die. But many times, they either have a weak-point that must be targeted (usually a large one), or can be taken control of to attack. An early example (to avoid spoilers) is in the Forgotten Woods, where Roller Bugs can be smashed together to form balls that can be used as weapons. Also, attempting to waggle Flans to death only results in them splitting apart, and they reform quickly. Other strategies have to be used to defeat a lot of monsters in time besides the grab-and-toss method.

    This is admittedly not a game for everyone, but I would suggest at least renting it long enough to get a feel of it. And the 25 hour 100% completion may be a bit too quick of an estimate. Maybe if you know where everything is (all the medals, items, etc.), but most monster encounters have two campaigns – one with more basic monsters, and another with a Boss thrown in.

    Not at all ligh a main series Final Fantasy, for sure, but to me that’s part of the appeal.

  6. avatar jon

    is there an option to yurn down the volume on the voices?

  7. avatar jon

    apologies.. turn down! not yurn down…

  8. avatar Shaer

    This is a really shoddy review that doesn’t do this game justice. People see “Final Fantasy” and immediately get all these expectations. The Crystal Bearers is a game in it’s own right that should NOT be compared to any other Final Fantasy’s, let alone the other Crystal Chronicle games. I’ll bet any sum of money that if more than half the people who are “afraid” to buy, or even rent to try it out, and play through the story, they’ll love it. Reviews like this rob games of their opportunity to be played and experienced.

    Don’t listen to this snob, or any other snobs for that matter; give this game a chance (for more than 15 minutes), through the story. You won’t be disappointed.

  9. avatar Shaer

    And for the record, the game has a GREAT soundtrack. Like any other game, you have to play for more than 15 minutes to experience the vast array of songs it has.

    Also for the record…the reason this game gets shat on so heavily is BECAUSE of how unique it is…it doesn’t meet people’s standards of platform adventures or RPG’s….and if you bother to equip Layle with some better gear, his “inaccurate” powers actually do become more accurate, and grueling battles will go by much faster (especially if you experiment as the game encourages and find ways to exploit hidden enemy weaknesses).

    The Wii controls are great; they just demand mastering. This game requires that you get as familiar as possible with every aspect the Wii-mote and Nunchuck have to offer. After getting used to the ambidextrous controls, manipulating the camera while pointing at a target, holding the B button, and running around with the nunchuck and using the Z button there to also manipulate the camera, all in a fast paced battle environment, becomes an intuitive challenging joy.

    Clearly whoever wrote this review simply played the game for the sake of having something to write a review for, and did not approach this game with an open mind…pegging the music and voice acting like that was definitely unnecessary. The review also managed to neglect the fact that this game sports some of the best graphics the wii’s ever seen to date.

    And the characters do NOT speak poorly or in broken sentences…it’s much better than what you’ll find in most anime translations and dubs, that’s for sure. I’d say it’s definitely better than the voice acting job done in FFX.

    If you enjoyed any post N64 and beyond Zelda games and the intrigue and rush of Sonic Adventure, you’ll love this, bottom-line.

    And here’s some of that “unmemorable” music – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4WdYTlC-Dg

  10. avatar Dawn

    I loved this game! I’m planning to set a world record for it… Yeah it has weird dubbing, but so what? My friend stopped playing it just bcuz of that! I dont know what some people have against this game! I totally agree with you Shaer! And I too LOVE the soundtrack!

  11. avatar Dawn

    Oh & all you people who say this is a terrible game who have only played it for like 15 mins? Play it longer cause it is one of my most fav games ever!

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