E3 2009: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers hands-on
If we gave out awards for the most absurdly long game title at E3, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers would likely win. Unfortunately, we don’t have that category (at least not yet), so the game will have to have something else going for it. Even as a grumpy veteran of the series, this somewhat childish outing had me thoroughly interested throughout the 30 minute demo.
Unlike other entries in the Crystal Chronicles, this one is a solo adventure that is storyline driven. A cocky blonde protagonist, Layle (obviously a Square-Enix staple), is supposed to be guarding a luxury airship, but is instead zoning out on his attack ship from boredom. A bunch of dragon/bird-like creatures attack, and right from the start it’s obvious that this isn’t a typical Final Fantasy.
The hero leaps off the ship with a massive gun and the Wiimote is put to use as he shoots down the birds while plummeting to the ground. Instead of holding the weapon in his hands, he’s controlling it with some sort of Force-like power. Like a piloting game, the amount of enemies taken down and shown at the top of the screen. At the end of the exciting introduction, a score is assigned based on how many were killed.
Once things quiet down, Layle lands on the deck and one of the many cut scenes ensues. The voice acting is above average, and the cut scenes themselves already show lots of polish. One bad-ass fight sequence even featured some heavy guitar riffs. Although the game is obviously not as “mature” as the main entries in the series, it doesn’t appear to be fluff either.
Layle’s powers come from being a crystal bearer, and judging from the reactions of the people around him, this is a bad thing. He’s met with fear and ignorance over his magical talents. Judging from the beginning of the game, it appears that there’s going to be some political intrigue as well. The good thing is that there likely won’t be as much as there was in Final Fantasy XII.
There were two rail-shooting segments in the demo, and another interesting segment where Layle had to pilot a massive ship through a narrow canyon. With segments like these interspersed throughout the game, it looks like things will be linear, but at least they appeared to be very well-designed. The second of these rail-shooting elements was a high-speed chase involving chocobos. Instead of using a gun, Layle would grab onto enemies with his powers and throw them in the air with a flick of the Wiimote.
One segment of the game had Layle wandering through a large city. He could pick up hapless bystanders, whether they be fat ladies or adoring teen girls, and throw them around in order to acquire some money. Even the guards didn’t seem to mind too much. There were many citizens around, but none could really be chatted with. Since random people usually provide plenty of back story, so it will be interesting to see how deep the storyline is when the game ships next year.
I think most hardcore Final Fantasy nuts have had difficulty getting involved in the Crystal Chronicles because of their simplicity, and I don’t think this installment will change that. However, the presence of a sweeping storyline and some fun, unpretentious gameplay could change that. After all, where else could you experience a high-speed chocobo chase through the countryside?