Video Game Rentals Delivered

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King (WiiWare)

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-05-02 05:30:46

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King (WiiWare) - Rank B

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Date: 5/12/08

The Final Fantasy brand has long since spun out of control. For those of you unfamiliar with the Crystal Chronicles offshoot series, you won't find any emo androgynous swordsmen dragging his troupe of annoying companions to the end of the world. Crystal Chronicles is instead all about the cutesier side of dungeon crawling. Case in point, see that kid in the screen shot above? That's who you play as. Curiously, since you're the king, you're far too important to risk your life dungeoneering. In Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King (phew, what a mouthful), you manage the resources of your fledgling kingdom, commissioning and equipping adventurers to go fight your battles. It's the role-playing game equivalent of a sports managerial title, where you pour over stats to properly juggle your roster. It's a refreshing change of pace from most RPGs; you manage the logistics while the characters do all of the tedious level grinding on their own.

FFCC:MLaaK (p,wam) plays like a SimCity Lite. The first order of business is to build some homes for your citizenry to live in. This provides both tax money into your coffers, and brave young souls to draft into your service. Next, you'll need shops. Bakeries help raise the morale of your people, and need to be situated near homes for optimal foot traffic. Weapon, armor, and item shops provide gear for your minions, and require steady funding to research upgrades. A gaming hall allows your adventurers to switch to the crafty Thief class, while an academy can train destructive Black Mages. And so on. Proper planning and placement is rewarded as well; adventurers from homes near the academy will receive bonuses to intelligence, while those near the temple will display higher willpower.

You never see the interior of a dungeon, just their locations on a map. You never actually see any combat, but do receive excruciatingly detailed reports on the exploits of your adventurers. If you care to examine them, their daily dossier contains several pages of character sheets, daily shopping reports, and breakdowns of the battles they waged. This game should appeal to gamers who find the management aspect of RPGs more entertaining than repeatedly pressing the X button to win hundreds of mind blurring battles. FFCC:MLaaK works best when you become attached to these vassals who venture forth to fight and bleed for you. Each of them have families waiting for them back home, and varying ties of friendship with each other and their neighbors. It's gratifying to watch them level up from untrained scrubs fumbling about alone, into parties of specialized warriors displaying teamwork to dispense your judgment against enemies of the kingdom.

Each day as king falls into a a familiar pattern: review the successes and failures of the previous day, select the targets of your warriors, build new structures, and invest in upgrades. My experience with this process began as absolutely ecstatic and subsequently waned as I progressed. The first thirty or so days of the game had me thinking that this $15 download should be given a Rank A. The scope of FFCC:MLaaK suggests that Square Enix might have gotten away with releasing it as a full price retail product. But after getting a firm grasp on the game, and unlocking the majority of the buildings, the routine grows less enthralling. The shallow lack of variety and the sense of repetition eventually give you the sensation that maybe FFCC:MLaaK is a bit of a grind after all.

But my harshest criticism of the game concerns the add-on content. There are almost twenty pieces of a la carte items, totaling a cost that exceeds the original purchase price of the core game. What makes this truly objectionable is that they are essentially just new visual skins for the game. A couple of them are simply costume changes that evoke memories of "horse armor". Other DLC includes new dungeons (you know, the ones you never actually see in this game) and "luxurious homes", one more variant of the houses you can build for your subjects. The core game only includes Clavats (humans), and you're forced to pay for the additional three races. This might be tempting, except that they are essentially just skins as well. For example, the Selkies have slightly better Thief base stats than Clavats, but a few levels in and the differences are inconsequential. It's difficult to shake the conviction that these add-ons ought to have been included with the core game, even if it meant a slightly higher price. Indulging in these bits of downloadable fluff would turn an amazing value into an exercise in price gouging.

Once you finish the FFCC:MLaaK, you can kick up a "New Game +" at higher difficulties with your existing adventurers. I'd suggest you wait until then, once you're thoroughly familiar with the game, to choose which pieces of DLC to purchase. Make sure you love the game, and know you'll be giving it a couple more playthroughs before investing in any of these purely aesthetic add-ons.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, building and nurturing your fledgling kingdom and its defenders can be utterly engrossing. The purely managerial approach is a uniquely welcome twist on the genre, and a perfect fit for the downloadable game space. On the other, My Life as a King can also become repetitive. Once you shatter the illusion of depth, it loses much of its luster. In my case, I could not stop playing it until I finished, but have no inclination to ever revisit it again. It almost, but not quite, overstayed its welcome. If my description of its core gameplay piques your interest, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is well worth the cost of entry.

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