|Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers|
|MtAMinutes to Action||2|
|Keep Playing?||I guess so|
|Buy from Amazon|
It's almost expected these days that a Final Fantasy game will be announced long before it ever hits store shelves. 2010's Final Fantasy XIII was first made public nearly four years before anybody outside of Japan got their hands on the final discs, and its companion titles revealed the same day aren't even locked for release yet. I know hype builds over time, but when a game passes the four year mark since announcement , I tend to forget about it completely.
Square Enix's teasing ways aren't exclusive to the main HD-platform Final Fantasy games either, as the absurdly-titled Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers was let out of the bag a year before its HD cousins, but saw release only months prior. There were multiple rumors of cancellation, rumblings of drastic changes mid-development, and over two-thousand days between announcement and release, but FFCC:TCB did eventually see the light of day.
I remember the first teaser footage and a full trailer released some time later, which featured the protagonist in some pretty exciting situations and plenty of lighthearted flair. As time went on, I forgot about the title completely when it saw release last Christmas, but picked it up on the cheap a few seasons after its launch. Did all those years in the oven leave Crystal Bearers well-done or burnt to a crisp?
00 - An enormous airship soars through the sky. It's a cruise airship! A smaller airship travels alongside it, piloted by Keiss. He has red hair and enjoys the dullness of this escort mission. Layle, sitting outside the cockpit with his cornflower hair and goggles, does not. He has a crystal on his cheek.
01 - Dragons appear! They're flying about, ruining the cruise! More are teleporting in through wormholes. Keiss says they can't handle this many, but Layle has an enormous machine-gun and disagrees. He jumps off his ship with the gun, free-falling downward.
02 - "Aim at the beasts and push B." It's a shooter! Shootin' up some dragons. The screen is very shaky. Heroic music plays.
03 - The gun gets away from Layle! He pulls it back, using his telekinesis powers. He's firing the gun away from his body as well, using telekinesis to aim and pull the trigger.
04 - There's a red, crystalline mass on part of the ship's deck. A big, scary guy asks where the escort craft is. Some red-haired girl takes a picture of him. She's a photographer, but apparently none were invited on this flight. As the big guy approaches her, Layle lands between the two.
05 - A hand emerges from one of the monster portals, and Layle tele-pulls it out. It's a tall, skinny, armor person! Apparently it's one of the Yuke tribe. It has a green emerald, apparently called a Crystal Idol.
06 - Rock riffs play as Layle and the Yuke fight. Layle tosses objects with his telekinesis, while the Yuke can apparently create portals to keep herself from being hit. Layle wants to keep fighting, but "Goldenrod" jumps away on a dragon and flies off.
07 - The scary guy is mad at Layle for not catching the Yuke. Layle got the green crystal idol, though. The ship is losing altitude, fast! The crystal reactor's been hit, and the ship is going down!
08 - The scary guy is High Commander Jegran. He wants Keiss to pick him up and escape, leaving the rest of the cruise-enjoying passengers to crash. Layle says he can fly the ship with his Crystal powers.
09 - He concentrates, and suddenly the engine lights have powered on again! I'm in control, steering the ship through a canyon. The ship is enormous, so its turns are slow and heavy. I scrape across the canyon walls plenty, and the photographer girl is in hysterics.
10 - Still flying. Keiss destroyed a house in the canyon in front of me, blocking the ship's path. Hope nobody was living there...
11 - We're out of the canyon, on a crash course for the town ahead. Layle "applies the breaks" by slamming the ship into the ground. It scrapes right up to the entrance of the town.
12 - The green emerald apparently absorbed all the crystals on the Alexis. Layle wants to pursue the Yuke who attacked the Alexis, though he seems more concerned with finishing their fight than delivering justice.
13 - Keiss is sucking up to the High Commander, trying to get paid for the job and more work. Jegran offers 30 million gil to catch the hostile, but Keiss wants something else...he tells Layle to wait over by the fountain while he finds work.
14 - And I'm in control. Use the control stick to move. Use the Wii remote to point at people and objects. Press and hold B to lock on. These tutorial messages keep coming up and disappearing really fast...I grab onto a banner in front of the gate and pull it up to reveal...a welcome banner, featuring the game's humorously-long title.
15 - I'm at the Capital Gate Hall. Press 1 to open the menu. My current objective, in the mission menu, says to use the shuttle to travel to Fountain Park.
16 - I lock onto a Royal Guard and swing the Wii remote to toss him. I try talking to people, but there's no prompt to do so. Guess the only option here is to be a jerk and toss people around. I gladly do. They seem flustered, but aren't retaliating.
17 - I got knocked over by a running guard! I have to press the A button to get up. And I've grabbed a big boulder! I can throw it with B. Swinging the remote left or right tosses people and objects in that direction, swinging up pulls them in and swinging down tosses them away. Larger people and objects take longer to lock onto.
18 - This place looks more modern than I expected. There's a "Crystalvision" showing a moogle, I guess this is the local news? There's a news ticker at the bottom of my HUD...it offers tips and details on the current location. It moves very slowly.
19 - I jump behind a desk and open a treasure chest. Oddly enough, this feels more like theft than it usually does in RPGs thanks to the lively townspeople...and yet I am not punished in any way for this. People do get upset when I run past them, though. One "Lilty Officer" even attacked me and knocked some of my money loose, but I got it back.
20 - Lots of these Lilty people around. They have fancy clothes and strange hair. It sort of looks like yellow rocks. I can't seem to talk to anybody. I guess tossing them is more fun anyway.
21 - I've found a big blue crystal, and it's a save point! A cutscene: it's that photographer girl from earlier, and she snuck through a gate that was closing. A text bubble appears above somebody...finally, someone to talk to, and it's a moogle! He says the giant clock here is broken.
22 - All the gates have been closed because the clock isn't working. Seems like a huge infrastructure problem to me. Anyway, I guess I have to fix the clock. I use my crystal powers to pull myself to the clock and give it a good smack. It works, just like with all my old CRT TVs when the picture fades away.
23 - Stiltzkin, the moogle who talked to me earlier, is impressed with my handiwork. I check out the Mission screen to find a map to help me go where I need to, but there is none. Anyway, I head through a gate and head to the shuttle Central Platform.
24 - "Old Lilty Woman," "Young Clavat Woman," and "Lilty Noblewoman" all run up to me with hearts above their heads. Guess they saw my superpowered handyman skills with the clock. Anyway, I head in the shuttle and go to Fountain Park Avenue.
25 - The shuttle takes off and the people packed inside slowly get antsy and start running around, knocking each other all over the place. This is already kind of ridiculous, so I just start tossing people around for kicks.
26 - And we've arrived. I guess I'm supposed to meet Keiss around here somewhere. There's a wanted poster on the wall, with that photographer girl's picture on it.
27 - A Mail Moogle approaches me! It's absolutely adorable and I want to hug it. Anyway, it's holding a letter. I snag it, not even sure it's mine, though it ends up being directions from Keiss, telling me where to meet. I start heading towards the destination.
28 - A little ferret is running around the concourse. Cutscene: a Lilty girl seems to be this ferret's owner, and is looking for it. The little critter crawls onto my face and steals my green emerald! Objective: catch the ferret. I try to target the critter but it runs out of my range quickly. I catch up and toss it around, but it gets away and climbs somewhere high.
29 - It's kind of annoying looking around for this furball with the D-pad, which does not serve as a very good camera. The Lilty girl is scrambling about, trying to catch it as well. I chase it from a fire hydrant to a window to another window...but eventually I snag it.
30 - "Her name is Mia, she's my pet ferret. Thanks for catching her for me!" Layle is not amused. People are talking about Layle behind his back, calling him a "crystal bearer" in a derisive tone.
31 - The girl offers to buy Layle some tea, and refuses to take "no" for an answer, pulling him along. She scolds the ferret for escaping, then Layle for using his bearer powers inside town. Apparently everyone believes crystal bearers are abominations.
32 - The photographer girl from earlier is running away from some guards. Layle tosses one aside, and the guards turn on him as well. Layle pulls the girl along and jumps out the window! Chocobo knights follow them outside, and the red-haired photographer jumps on a chocobo carriage and tries to escape alone. Layle pulls her back and hops on as well, much to her dismay.
33 - I'm in the back of the carriage, and I get to toss the pursuing chocobo knights around. I pulled down some columns to stop them as well. They're a bit hard to lock onto because they keep moving around, as does the camera.
34 - One caught up to me, and tries to cleave me with a sword. Layle blocks it and I shake him off with some Wiimote waggle. I collapse a bridge behind us, and pull hard on a rock wall to make a swift turn.
35 - Some knights have arrows, and they're making a pincushion out of me. A Crystal Bike is approaching as well, it's some kind of bulky motorcycle/cannon hybrid. It does pretty good damage to Layle.
36 - Wait a minute, the sequence just started over! Did I lose too much health? Anyway, here we go again.
37 - Knock over the pillar, collapse the bridge, make the turn...
38 - That cannon bike again...this time I manage to knock it aside after tugging it a few times. Guess I made it this time.
39 - Cutscene: one of the knights smacks the girl on the back of the head, and knocks her out. The soldiers slow down, and a cliff is ahead! Layle, the photographer, and the chocobo all fall off. Layle softens the landing for the other two, but smacks the ground himself.
40 - Layle wakes up to find the girl picking his pockets. She's shocked to find he's not dead, and tries to imply that he's only alive because she stole his wallet. Unamused, Layle lifts the chocobo into a cave, and it runs inside. No squawks of agony are heard, so apparently it's safe in there. Layle heads inside himself, but eventually changes his mind and takes the girl with him, taking the green emerald back that she stole.
41 - Her name is Belle. Belle is whiny. I do not like Belle. Apparently she is a "Selkie." I'm not sure what that means.
42 - I'm back in control and head further into the cave. I can climb up short ledges to reach treasure chests. This one has a Nut in it. That one has money.
43 - Cutscene: the duo is at the bottom of a big room in the cave. Some kind of monsters are being summoned in. They're goblins! I'm back in control, guess I have to fight these guys. A radar appears in the bottom corner, and rock music starts to play. I toss the goblins around just like the people in town. I can telekinetically throw stones at them as well. After beating all the goblins, I have to close the miasma stream from which they emerged to stop them from spawning.
44 - I got a life upgrade from clearing out the goblins and continue further into the cave. The news ticker at the bottom of the screen tells me about these Subterranean Ruins...very slowly. Whatever, I'm not here to learn about the ruins, I'm here to toss things around.
45 - There are man-made ruins ahead. Cutscene: Belle smells treasure here and scampers ahead. Symbols on the ground light up as Layle approaches them. "In the beginning, there were four crystals, and together they formed one principle. Thus the world was created. The four crystals next created humanity in their own image and presided over their destinies. Thus the four tribes were born, Lilty, Clavat, Selkie, and we..."
46 - The message disappears, and parts of the ground fall out from under Belle. Layle manages to keep her afloat, and makes a remark that she's too heavy. She takes offense to this.
47 - Despite almost dying, Belle is still excited to plunder some ruins. She keeps whining as well. I do not like Belle.
48 - I pull myself up long heights, though Belle seems to be able to get there just fine without any powers at all...she says the treasure chests ahead are empty as she passes by them. I am sure this is a lie, thanks to her sing-songy tone.
49 - I'm still pulling myself up impossible heights, Belle keeps staying ahead of me somehow. She runs faster than me, that I can understand, but how is she making these jumps?
50 - Cutscene: the floor falls out from under Belle, again. Layle heads down the trap as well. Some kind of giant guardian skeletons are in the wall. They're pretty big, so I guess I'll run away.
51 - I fall into a new room, the Crystal Chamber. Cutscene: a wall slides aside. There's a huge crystal shard in here. Belle wonders aloud how much it's worth.
52 - The Yuke that attacked the airship earlier is here, too. She talks about the Crystal Principle and how it governs the world. She wants my green emerald, but Layle tries dropping a column on her instead. She escaped and jumps down to attack Layle.
54 - She is apparently attempting "The Resurrection." I think this requires the green emeralds, and apparently there are two more of them to find. The Yuke escapes through a portal, and lights all around the room glow as the chamber begins to quake. Some blocks float up, allowing for an escape for someone with crystal powers.
55 - New Objective: escape the Crystal Chamber with Belle. Jumping from block to block is automatic. I fell off the edge of one, but Layle pulls himself back onto it automatically. The camera controls are still bad. Some treasure chests along the way have money.
56 - Still jumping up these floating blocks.
57 - I catch up to Belle, pick her up, and keep jumping along. We've made it to the wall now.
58 - We head out of the cave and arrive at the Old Lett Aqueduct. Belle has the green emerald from earlier. She wants Layle to pull that giant crystal in the cave out so they can pawn it. Layle doesn't really care.
59 - Belle goes off on her own. Layle shows some concern that she's a wanted criminal, but lets her go. Good move, buddy, we don't need her.
60 - It's the Mail Moogle again! It is still adorable. Anyway, it has a letter from somebody named Cid, who needs my help with some cool new invention. Guess I'll have to check that out next time.
First Hour Summary
Minutes to Action: 2
What I liked: The NPCs in town seemed much more lively than most RPG extras. They were walking around, interacting with each other, and even frolicking at times. I couldn't talk to any of them, but it actually felt like an organic community instead of a city full of sign-posts shaped like humans. Tossing people around caused some enjoyable mayhem, and Layle's telekinesis powers were pretty enjoyable in battle as well, if a bit simple thus far.
What I didn't like: At the end of this first hour, I'm not really sure where the game's focus is. I spent as much time shooting dragons in the sky, steering a falling airship, and fending off foes from the back of a chocobo wagon as I did running around the town and tossing things about. Also, there aren't a lot of tutorials going on, and while I normally appreciate that, Crystal Bearers seems like a very unique game and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to approach things in it. The news ticker at the bottom of the screen might have some tips, but it scrolls so slowly and never stops, even when I'm fighting.
Video: Character models are detailed and stylish enough, and the environments are adequate at worst. The visual effects from the magical elements in the game look great, as do the exciting cutscenes. Framerate can dip during battle and when things get hectic in town.
Audio: Crystal Bearers' mix of folksy bluegrass, country rock, and the occasional rousing orchestra are certainly estranged from the Final Fantasy stock, but it fits the setting and tone very well. The quality of voice acting wavers with every line, a good bit of it passing the pain threshold.
Story: I'm enjoying the lighthearted, adventurous mood of things so far, but none of the characters or conflicts I've been introduced to so far are compelling me to keep playing.
Gameplay: I'm pretty sure the focus of the game is using Layle's telekinetic powers, but I spent all of a minute using them in battle through this first hour. The minigame-scenarios I played weren't bad, but I'm wondering when they take a backseat to tossing boulders at goblins.
Challenge: I failed one of the minigames. I'm not entirely sure why. Otherwise, Crystal Bearers seems to have plenty of fail-safes in place, like how Layle will automatically bring himself to the last platform when you miss a jump and fall into the abyss.
Pacing: The first hour seemed to be equal parts scripted minigame scenarios and watching cutscenes, with a bit of town exploration, goblin-hurling, and snap-to-target platforming thrown in as well.
Fun Factor: From shooting dragons while falling out of the sky to platforming through a giant underground cavern of moving cubes, Crystal Bearers' sixty-minute opening had some particularly stirring set-pieces, even if the gameplay shifted around a bit too much.
Would I keep playing? I guess so. I'm intrigued enough by the possibilities of Layle's powers and the constantly-changing gameplay, even if the story doesn't really lure me in.
Words from beyond the First Hour: I've since finished FFCCTCB's 10 hour story and played for another few hours. I'm left feeling rather disappointed in Square-Enix. They made a fun, unique combat system, and then buried it underneath a story progression that amounts to a long fetch quest full of minigames and a throng of poor design decisions. There's an enjoyable experience in Crystal Bearers, but it's only worth playing for a certain type of patient gamer who is willing to stray from the beaten path and frequently get lost. I'll have to elaborate on that some other time.