If you’re looking for something to waste the time between now and March until Final Fantasy XIII comes out, The Crystal Bearers will waste at least some of that time. Unlike it’s predecessors in the Crystal Chronicles Nintendo-exclusive Final Fantasy series, Crystal Bearers plays more like your normal FF game, with a story and everything! You assume the role of Layle, a crystal bearer (someone who was born with magic powers via a crystal embedded somewhere in their body). In Layle’s case, his crystal is in his cheek and his power is telekinesis.
The story is the basic save-the-world plot of every Final Fantasy game. There were first four tribes: the Lillty (who now rule the world), the Clavat (which Layle is a part of), the Selkie (who mostly have red hair and seem to be troublemakers), and the Yuke. The Yuke tribe has long since been destroyed by the Lillty in a war and were thought to be extinct, but one of them comes back and starts stealing crystals, which power pretty much everything. You chase her down and eventually learn that she isn’t the bad guy; turns out the guy that looks like a bad guy from the start IS the bad guy.
Truth be told, the story is kind of compelling to play through once you get into it. It can get very cliche at times (one of your friends joins up with the military to spy on the government, for example), but that’s to be expected with any FF game. That doesn’t make it any less interesting to play through. The characters are fun and interesting, for the most part, and the interaction with Belle and Layle or Layle and the princess (again, very cliche) is what make the game worth finishing.
CB plays a lot like a Zelda game. You don’t get the traditional Final Fantasy party to help with combat, it’s all up to Layle. The 3rd person perspective combat isn’t unique to Final Fantasy (see FFXII), but the single combatant is. It’s something different and combat definitely takes some getting used to. Attacking consists of picking up objects to throw at enemies or telekinetically grabbing enemies, shaking them off balance, and picking them up to throw at other enemies. Shaking the Wii remote will throw an enemy or object in the direction you shake (left, right, up or down) and will cause you to do a roll when you don’t have anything in your telekinetic grasp. Some enemies will shoot magic at whatever you point them at, or, in the case of the Tonberry, stab whatever you point them at.
Defeating all the enemies in an area (and closing the Miasma stream that spawned them) gives you another pip of health. There are a few enemies who, even at the end of the game, are tough to kill if you don’t have the right set of items boosting your attack and defense. Usually, those enemies have a trick to them that allows you to beat them even without the attack power, like pulling a lever to make them explode or using another enemy to shoot them with energy or something. It can be frustrating at times, but the extra life seems to be worth it.
Drops in the world are mostly items used for crafting. You can craft three different kinds of accessory to boost your attributes or you can dump a ton of items into crafting a new symbol for the back of your jacket. The symbols are purely for looks; dumping more powerful items into one doesn’t give it any special abilities or boost your stats. This was a very disappointing aspect of the game. The other accessories had the potential to become rare items if you crafted them in the right way, but the symbol on your jacket does nothing at all, no matter how much you put into it. It makes crafting a symbol completely unsatisfying and it feels like a waste of time and effort.
Music tends to make or break a game for me, and CB only disappointed me once, but it’s a big once. The combat music is very happy and upbeat, which isn’t exactly what combat music should be like. Upbeat, yes. Happy, no. Since you spend a lot of time in combat in games like this, the music is important. It didn’t make me want to keep fighting. Most of the time I’d find myself ignoring the music in combat.
The music outside of combat was good, however. In the city you have a song that will get stuck in your head and just outside the city the music is reminiscent of the movie Hook. There’s even an interactive part during the castle ball. Layle breaks into the castle and has to dance his way to the princess through a series of waltzes and tangos with you shaking the Wii remote in time to the notes on screen.
The biggest aspect of this game is that it is more of a series of mini-games than a real Final Fantasy game. That point is made right off the bat when the first two things you do are scored, first shooting down enemies and then piloting a ship through a canyon for time. All throughout the world there are people that challenge you to games to gather items, or go fishing, or play hide and seek, or just to race against the clock. It gets old by the end of the game which, luckily, is pretty short. I managed to finish the game in less than 17 hours with A LOT of messing around. Figure the game will take between 10 and 12 hours, maybe less, if you just fly right through the story with no side trips.
Crystal Bearers isn’t a waste of time, when all is said and done. There is a fun aspect to it that makes it playable, albeit a little too cute for its own good at times (the moogles audibly say “kupo” all the time and it’s very cute). It’s a good way to pass the time between now and March when FFXIII is released, just don’t expect it to wow you like Final Fantasy has done in the past. If you were a fan of the original Crystal Bearers for the Gamecube, like I was, you’ll already be thinking about this game (if not have it already). If you’re one of those, go pick it up. If you like the gameplay of Twilight Princess and want something in that same line of dungeon crawling adventure, go pick it up. If you are a die-hard, hardcore Final Fantasy fan, taking your FF games very seriously, you probably want to stay away from this one.