Back in 2006, Square Enix announced the sequel to its only GameCube Final Fantasy title, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. In a few weeks, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers will finally make its way stateside on the Wii. This entry into the series takes place 1000 years after the original in a land vastly different from its predecessor. An epic war took place between the two games in which the Lilty race not only won, but also destroyed the Yuke crystal...an act which pushed the Yukes into extinction. Crystal Bearers picks up in a time where the Lilty-controlled government has outlawed the arcane arts, magic has taken a back seat to science, and the Yuke race has begun to make a mysterious return to the world.
"The visuals and music are good enough to at least take the edge off of the very short story."
While crystals are thought to be a thing of the past in this game, Crystal Bearers introduces a new subset of the population that is afflicted by a new, rare condition. These people, from all tribes, literally bear crystals on their bodies. The cause of the condition remains unknown, but it has a huge effect on the Crystal Bearer's abilities. Those who bear the stigma of the crystal are granted arcane powers as a consequence, making them both uniquely suited for certain tasks and feared by the population in general. The main character, a Clavat named Layle, is one such bearer.
Veterans of the original Crystal Chronicles might be expecting an experience similar to that on the GameCube, which offered players a choice of race and the option to play any part of the game cooperatively with friends, who could also make characters of their own choosing. Crystal Bearers removes most of these features from the game. Players no longer have options open to them for the playable character and multiplayer is severely limited. Gameplay revolves around a concentrated storyline which has players traveling around the world performing a variety of tasks. While the requisite battles are present, they contain some unconventional mechanics. Battles in Crystal Bearers revolve just as much, if not more, upon using Layle's telekinetic powers as it does upon conventional weapons. Players will often find themselves using telekinesis to attack opponents with their own weapons or environmental objects. And yes, players will be able to pick up innocent NPCs and toss them through the air.
Not all of the action between story segments will be battle-oriented. Crystal Bearers includes many quests which can best be described as mini-games. These combat-replacing tasks vary considerably and can be anything from shooter sequences to platforming to dancing. In addition to all of the side quests, players will also be able to collect materials to craft a variety of different items. For the completionist, Crystal Bearers introduces a new Medal system which will award medals when the player performs certain tasks. Players are also able to interact with towns-folk much in the same way that they did in My Life as a King. Citizens of the various towns will show their feelings towards the player by way of various icons over their heads and sound effects. Telekinetically abusing them will most likely result in hurting their feelings, while assisting them with tasks will improve their disposition towards you.
Visually, Crystal Bearers' gameplay looks great and the cinematic sequences look even better. Fans of the music from the original Crystal Chronicles will be glad to know that Hidenori Iwasaki is back for this entry as composer. Cutscenes also include the all-but-required voiceovers. The visuals and music are good enough to at least take the edge off of the very short story. A playthrough of the main storyline will take about 8-10 hours, while a more thorough player will probably be able to stretch this out to 15-20.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers looks like it will be a fun, if very different, entry into the Crystal Chronicles series. While it won't offer players the same experience as the original, Crystal Bearers should offer Wii owners a decent, if short, RPG to occupy their time. Look for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers when it releases on December 26.