Despite some missteps and mixed reviews, the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles spin-off series has spawned several games over the years. From the multiplayer-friendly Echoes of Time, to the story-centric Ring of Fates, there have been plenty of new ideas that have been tried using the Chrystal Chronicles platform. However, though the subseries prides itself on its unique elements, The Crystal Bearers is the biggest departure I have ever seen from the Final Fantasy core formula. Although this departure works in some respects, I can’t say that all of these changes have been made for the better.
There are two things that the Final Fantasy name implies: excellent story and tactical combat. On the first of these, The Crystal Bearers delivers. The main character, Layle, is one of an elite class of magic users known as Crystal Bearers. Although these Crystal Bearers are capable of great things, their powers have made them social outcasts. Regular people fear and despise them, and no one knows this better than our hero. However, when Layle discovers a member of the long-forgotten Yuke race, he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens The Crystal Bearers as well as the world.
The story itself is of note here, as it focuses almost exclusively on Layle. Other characters come and go, but the main character really is the driving force behind all the events of the story. There’s no real permanent party members (actually there is no party system at all, but we’ll get to that in a second) and while there are meaningful relationships established throughout the story, Layle always seems like a lone wolf. This storytelling mechanic works really well in The Crystal Bearers, and I can’t remember a singular character in the Final Fantasy mythos that was developed as extensively as Layle. If you are looking for a good story, The Crystal Bearers will satisfy your needs.
However, if you want more than that, you may have some issues. The second component of a good Final Fantasy game, combat, just isn’t here. Since the game is only focused on one character, you can pretty much throw any notion of tactical- or team-based combat out the window immediately. However, the real issue with the combat doesn’t revolve around this omission, but with something bigger: the mechanics themselves.
While other Final Fantasy games give you a roster of attacks and spells you can use against enemies, Layle’s attacks basically revolve around one aspect: the force push. While the attack isn’t called the force push, it uses the same mechanic. You select things by pointing the Wii-mote at the screen, and then you shake the Wii Remote to either hurtle them to the side or pick them up (to throw them at something else). While you can create some interesting attacks by hurtling elemental baddies into one another, the overall mechanic is less than satisfying.
This issue is further compounded by the fact that there aren’t really many battles in the game. Sure, you will encounter areas where you have to fight a few baddies to continue, and there is the occasional boss battle, but if you are expecting long hours of grinding or persistent battle encounters, think again. Most of the gameplay revolves around running though the game’s expansive world and solving environment-based puzzles, which generally involve throwing switches or navigating through maze-like areas with traps and dead-ends.
While there is plenty to do in The Crystal Bearers, the combat is really an afterthought, which makes the experience unlike any other Final Fantasy game (and I don’t mean that in a positive way). While I want to applaud the developers for doing something different with the IP, the chances that they took with the lackluster combat just make the experience feel hollow rather than satisfying.