Other than the quick demo at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, we haven't had a chance to really spend any quality time with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers to see how the game actually plays. The Crystal Bearers takes place 1,000 years after the original FFCC, and this time, the gameplay focuses more on the single-player story-driven experience than on a multiplayer dungeon-crawling experience. We received a preview build and were able to start the game from scratch to get a better idea of what this Wii-exclusive action role-playing game will offer.
The story follows young Layle, a suave and cocky Clavat mercenary who has been hired by the Lilty Kingdom to escort a luxurious passenger airship. For those who aren't familiar with the FFCC world, there are four races: Lilty, Clavat, Selkie and Yuke. After the Great War, the Yuke tribe was apparently annihilated and the ruling tribe became the Lilty, who have a knack for science and technology. Another group emerged known as "crystal bearers" or beings that have been infused with rare magical powers and are feared by the public. Layle is one of them and can't seem to keep his powers in check. You'll come to rely heavily on his special skills to get around. During his escort mission at the beginning of the game, a hostile creature and minions attacked the ship, but even with Layle's talents, the enemy managed to get away. Layle was determined to find out the meaning behind the attack and get more information regarding the small green crystal he managed to snatch from his foe.
The Crystal Bearers is unlike any of the other FFCC games, except for the fact that it's set in the same world with references to the same races. The focus from what we've played seems to be on the story, which revolved around frequent cutscenes and constant interaction among the main characters. Everything felt bigger as well, with larger areas and a variety of environments to explore. Built specifically for the Wii, The Crystal Bearers is unique in terms of how it is played as an action RPG. Layle has incredible powers that can be controlled via the remote as you can point, hold the B button to lock on, wait for a lock-on gauge to fill, and then toss anyone or anything around. There are plenty of items and sheep to latch on to in your environment, and you can even shake the townsfolk around so that they drop some gil. Shaking a giant sheep around may cause it to lay a steaming patty, but there are also benefits to shaking such things as treasure chests.
Fighting enemies does not utilize the old-fashioned hack-and-slash routine; instead, Layle picks up enemies with his powers and throws them around. Or he can pick up large objects and chuck them at his enemies. In areas where there are monsters milling about, a dark vortex--known as the miasma stream--needs to be sealed to prevent more monsters from appearing. After clearing the area, you can lock on and use your powers to shut it. A helpful radar appears at the bottom of the screen when hostile creatures are in the area to let you know where they are in relation to you. This is the only time some sort of guidance onscreen will appear because when traveling from one area to the next, you need to rely more on signposts and moogles for directions. There is a ticker at the bottom of the screen that acts like a news update, giving you random information about enemies or current events. Another nice feature is that the game will autosave as you go, so you're not always forced to try to track down a save crystal.
As you progress through the story, playable events will appear that trigger on-rails shooter-type sequences, which we had a chance to see at E3. It's unique and different, which is a welcome change after watching cutscenes or wandering through dungeons. These sections are fast paced, and you're graded with a score at the end. Even though the game is primarily a single-player experience, a second player can join with a Wii Remote but only to lend a hand in select areas.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a good-looking game, with expansive environments to explore and frequent cutscenes to keep you up to date. With all the motion controls in the game, it deviates away from the traditional hack-and-slash style and keeps you on your toes in terms of what kind of gameplay is coming up next. Look for our full review when the game is released on December 26.