As good as Kingdom Hearts? No...but close. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles The Crystal Bearers (referenced as FFCC:CB from here on out due to an excessively long title.) is by no means a game that was worth full retail price when it first was released. Furthermore, it might not appeal to anyone but the most hardcore Final Fantasy fan. However, if you are one of those hardcore Final Fantasy fans and if you ever wanted to see what Zelda Twilight Princess would have been like if it were a Final Fantasy game then this is the game for you. The only set back for hardcore fans is that it is on the Wii (in case you don't have one) and that the story is set in the Crystal Chronicles universe, which for some reason or another has had a poorer welcome by fans than that of the Ivalice Alliance. Without further adieu lets get into the meat of this game with my review break down.
First I will warn you, the rating for the graphics has been adjusted due to the console. Given the hardware of the Wii this is a rather beautiful game. If this were on a PS3 I would probably have given it a 7.5 and if it were on a PS2 I would have left it the same, and that is where the overall graphics stand. However, what makes this game shine is the detail of the world. Everything is vast and although it's broken up into small digestible sections, the world feels like a giant playground of Final Fantasy with much of the exploration open at the beginning, and boy is there a lot of exploration, but more on that later. The graphics to me are one of the bigger draws of this game. The large sprawling capital city may not be completely explorable, but what you can see from the hover shuttle rides and cut scenes makes you feel like your really in a grand Final Fantasy city. One of my favorite scenes from the game is in a giant ice cavern, where ruins of an old temple and civilization hang frozen, suspended within the ice above you. It's a beauty to take in, especially given the hardware's limitations. The world itself is much more like that of Final Fantasy X or VI than that of past Crystal Chronicles game, as there is technology, but it's run through magical crystal generators. There are glowing lights and holographic TVs that show the news, plus there's armor much like that of the Magitek from FFVI. If you are a fan of steampunk this is one game world you don’t want to miss. The main character's goggles say it all.
Though it's not only the beautiful world that makes this game's graphics enjoyable there is also the detailed character design. Everyone's unique costumes and designs brought life to the game. The size of the giant Behemoths walking cross the ruined landscape was just breathtaking.
However, I suppose you have to take the cons with the pros and due to that this game loses 1.5 points. Graphics were beautiful, but the camera wasn't my best friend. There were more than a few battles which I lost due to the camera painfully showing me the ground or sky instead of the fiend in front of me. Further more there were a few small texturing issues, for instance the Gil that is dropped by enemies and picked up from chests looks like it was straight out of a Sega Saturn game. Also, settings of darkness were not presented with proper gradients, meaning when it was dark, it was pitch-black in some dungeons. Other than that, FFCC: CB has probably the most amazing graphics for nearly any Wii game I have played.
Oops did I forget to mention there's a lot of T&A?
You might notice that there is a steady decrease when comparing my rating for the graphics and that of the sound. As you could expect, there is 1.5 points lost for the voice acting. That is not to say that all the voice acting is terrible, it's just two of the main characters are such a mixed grab bag of cheese and badass voice writing that the actors didn't have much to go with. That being said, despite the few terrible cheese filled lines there were more than a few times that the dialogue mixed with awesome action cut scenes rivaled that of some of my favorite movies. Sadly the music is a grab bag as well, with some compelling songs that really get you into the action combined with beautiful chilling melodies that grip your heart at the right time (such as the death of one or two characters). However, besides these more epic moments the actual soundtrack for the towns, dungeons and overworld are limited to about one or two memorable tracks with the rest being passable, but ultimately forgettable. The soundtrack to this game is decent, but not one which you will want to seek out and purchase, much less find yourself humming throughout the day. (Of course that is except the track of Bridge Town in front of Cid's shop. It will hijack your brain and not let go.)
A warning before you read further into my evaluation of this games gameplay. I'm not a giant fan of the Wii. I didn't buy Twilight Princess on the Wii, so when I compare FF CC: CB to Twilight Princess my basis for this is only due to my own experience with Zelda in general. The gameplay breaks down to three modes, exploration, which contains a lot of platforming, shopping and finally battle. The exploration in this game is extremely fun. In fact most of the points I am awarding the gameplay are due to the quality of exploration. This game has a very open world like mechanic which gives a rise to a proper system for exploration. Add this with a beautiful world with rich lore filled ruins and towns to explore then you have a great combination. FF CC: CB allows you to swim, I'll repeat it again, it allows you to swim. You can leap of ledges, climb, grapple platform and swim. The game's explorations is on par with that of Zelda and possibly even better than that of Zelda. The battles however, are not up to Zelda's Standards. Besides scripted battles and a flying punch attack the main character (Layle) has no other innate abilities for battle. This is because the battles boil down to a gimmick, and this gimmick is the Wii. Movement, camera angles and interactions are all done via buttons and therefore the gameplay is tolerable. However to interact with the world, perform platforming feats, and use various items and enemy’s own skills to your advantage, you have to aim the Wii mote like a gun to wield Layle's crystal power of telekinesis and levitation. While this is loads of fun when it comes to exploring, opening up treasure chests, and interacting with the environment, having no other option in battle but to lift other enemies and throw them at one another with furious and often ineffective flails of the Wii mote isn't much fun, though it does lead to a good arm workout. The truly sad thing is that no matter how frustrating the battles may get I couldn't stop myself from plunging into them as the enemies were extremely detailed and fun to watch. I couldn't help feeling a yearning to seek out new enemies just to see how they were rendered in this art style when compared to other Final Fantasy games. I have to say when I encountered the likes of fan favorites such as Behemoths, Tonberry and a few infamous summons, I leaped up like a little schoolgirl flapping my arms in glee. All of that aside, one cannot talk about the gameplay of an RPG of any sort without talking about the many mechanics that make up the game, for some of us it's part of why we play RPGs. Being that the main character lacks the ability to use weapons of his own, there are none to be found, made or equipped in the game. This doesn't stop the game from having an deep alchemy style synthesis system which takes the many items found around the world and bought in various moogle run shops to create equipment that enhance Layle's states and abilities. This system doesn't stand up to the synthesis in games such as Tales of Vesperia or Final Fantasy IX, however it does have something that the others do not. That is Layle's jacket, which has designs that can be bought and forged with any items of your choice. This allows you to give your character awesome decals and make him stronger in whatever stat you wish. The synthesizing and various minigames do make up for quite a bit of the gameplay as the story itself isn't very long (I finished it within 14 hours and that was with a bunch of exploration and side quests). The side quests and minigames are where this game gathers length. Could it be in attempt to make up for Final Fantasy XIII's lack of minigames and fun side quests? There are plenty of side quests and minibosses also, which if attention is paid, will reveal much of the worlds deep lore.
The reason I stress the lore that can be found in the sidequests is the fact that the story itself ignores much of the beautiful world and deep lore available and instead focuses on a streamlined and quick paced action filled story line. The story is compelling as I found myself sad at the death of a few characters (which is a plus, that this game doesn't pull any punches on killing off characters) and wondering about the mysteries around the plot and its advancement. As I have said before, the voice acting isn't too great, but sometimes the writing really threw me off guard as there were a few lines of dialogue that were both extremely intellectual and well written, but also crude and to the point enough to give the characters (especially Layle) a more mature feeling. It's hard to break down the story of a game without spoiling it, however there is one thing about the story that I feel needs to be said. If your chose to play this game or experience it through someone else's play through, do watch this game. If you liked the battle scenes in Advent Children then this game has more than a few moments for you. I dont say this lightly, I am a huge Advent Children fan, mostly for the action, and there were more than a few times when I was performing the mudra of Rock on!!
In the end, I enjoyed this game, it was worth playing, had memorable locations and characters, a passable soundtrack and awesome cut scenes with a scifi/steampunk style world that I haven't gotten to experience since Final Fantasy VII or Arc the Lad. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers maybe be a short game, but if you're like me, I have so many long, hardcore RPGs, to have one that is a quick romp and is actually beatable in the small amount of time that you have after school and or work is a good thing. It may not be something I will play through again, but it is something I am glad to have experienced and am proud to put with my Final Fantasy collection.