We weren't sure what to expect when we went hands-on with The Crystal Bearers at Square Enix's booth. After all, it's been years since the game was first announced, with nary a whisper heard from it since, which makes its presence on the show floor a welcome surprise. And yet, even after going hands-on with it, we're still not sure quite sure what to make of it. But we do know this: It left us hungry for more.
In a stark contrast to most Square games, The Crystal Bearers immediately launches into an action-packed sequence just after the game's protagonist, Layle, bails from his aircraft and skydives toward another...while still being attacked in free-fall! Thankfully, being one of the "crystal bearers," he's fully equipped to blast the attacking enemies right out of the sky. It's basically an on-rails shooter at this point, but a visually distinct one. It lasts for only a minute or two before Layle successfully touches down on an airship below. An unskippable (and far too long) cutscene sets the stage for the next action sequence: piloting the now-nearly-out-of-control airship through a canyon to safety. Doing so was as simple as tilting the control stick left or right, yet despite the simple controls, the visuals combined with the constant chatter of our teammates made the sequence surprisingly engaging.
Having piloted the airship to safety, we finally gained full control of the character as we explored the local town. It was here that we were really able to see the extent of Layle's powers. As we ventured through town, we were able to grab almost any character or object by pointing at it and pressing B, at which point we could then toss with a quick flick of the Wii Remote in the desired direction. Although this action isn't completely unique to The Crystal Bearers, it's the first time that we've seen it respond with such accuracy, which makes it pleasantly fun to simply toss objects around (with special apologies to the poor child we tossed down a flight of stairs...repeatedly).
Unfortunately, our travels were cut short when we had to hop aboard a Chocobo as we tried to escape a group of enemies riding similar feathered fiends. Once again, the game reverted to an on-rails shooter, although now we also had full use of Layle's powers, which let us perform some pretty nifty attacks, such as throwing enemies at one another, or tearing down local monuments to crush our foes.
After we defeated our attackers, the demo came to a close. What we saw excited us, but it also makes us question how much it represents the final game. The demo gives the impression that The Crystal Bearers is primarily an on-rails shooter, whereas we're pretty sure the final product will offer a much more balanced experience between on-foot exploration and shooter segments. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more on The Crystal Bearers as its release approaches.