Of course, each of these problems will go by the wayside the moment you realize that you don't have a functional map. It's not that the game doesn't give you a map, it does. When you pause the game you can see a large overview of the entire land. This overview map will even show you where you're supposed to be going. So what's the problem? The game is laid out in such a way where you never actually know how to get there. For the first half of the game you'll constantly be going to new areas, often warping through portals or zipping through the landscape in a cinema. Where things fall apart is when you try to get back to the main town. Collectively I spent a good three or four hours just wandering around completely lost, and without a workable map I didn't have a clue how to get from "A" to "B". Actually, I didn't even know where "A" was; let alone how to get to "B". It's such a mess that it manages to suck much of the fun out of what is otherwise a fairly interesting idea.
Moving beyond the awful camera, repetitive gameplay and complete lack of a map, I was impressed with how diverse this Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was. From the very get-go you are forced to pilot an out of control flying boat through a serious of mountains and valleys. From that moment on I knew that this was not going to be your typical RPG, and I was pleased to discover that you are tasked with doing a great deal of fun mini-games throughout the somewhat brief adventure. Like anything, you have to take the bad mini-games with the good. I had a lot of fun with the mini-games that had me playing what was essentially an on-rails shooter, while at the same time I wasn't as excited about trying to help Belle butt-bump a girl off of a tiny ledge. The game really runs the gamete from deadly serious to cheesy whimsy.
The problem I had with these mini-games is that some of them feel a little under-developed. Take, for example, a scene where you have to escape a train without being detected by the armed guards. This portion of the game sets up what should have been a cool stealth-action sequence, similar to something like Metal Gear Solid or Assassin's Creed. But don't get too excited, because you are barely controlling the action. Instead of moving your character around, your job is to watch the enemies and then waggle your motion control in the way it shows. Once you've shaken the control about, Layle will move on his own and find the next hiding spot. You have almost no control over Layle's actions in this sequence, reducing your input to little more than a bunch of quick time events. This sequence could have been one of the most gripping moments in the game, but instead it's turned into another lame mini-game where all you do is waggle the control around.
When you see the game's world, you'll know exactly why these mini-games feel under-developed. The world and characters look spectacular. The Crystal Bearers is definitely one of the Wii's better looking games, even if it doesn't even come close to matching the beauty of the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII. The locations are diverse and full of detail, the enemies are menacing and the bosses will blow you away. What's more, the game manages to look even better the further in you get, complete with a few stunning cinemas that are so good looking that they felt a little out of place in a Wii game. With a few tweaks here and there, this really could have been one of the Wii's very best games. Instead it's just a great looking game that is marred by a few questionable design decisions.
In fact, the game is so beautiful that I almost forgot about the terrible, no good, very bad voice acting. If you can't hire actors that genuinely want to be reading these lines, then maybe it would be better to go back to an era where there's no voice acting at all. I have recently been going through Final Fantasy VIII again (thanks to the PSN and my PSP), and I have no problem with the idea of reading the text instead of hearing it poorly read aloud. Every time somebody opened their mouths to say something I immediately wanted to skip the cinema. But you can't, for whatever reason the game's cinemas can't be skipped.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is not a game that I can recommend, however I do feel like Square Enix is on the right track with this game. With a little more depth to the combat, I can see this being an incredible action/adventure game. It lays down the groundwork for a phenomenal adventure, it just falls way short of the potential. If you can get over some of the game's glaring problems you will find an interesting story told using great graphics. Square Enix is on to something here; hopefully they go back to the drawing board and turn the unique idea into something that can get the bad taste of The Crystal Bearers out of my mouth.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is full of fantastic ideas, unfortunately it's marred by repetitive gameplay, questionable gameplay decisions, terrible voice acting and unlikeable characters. If you can get over those problems you'll find a good looking game with a decent story!
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