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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - My Life as a King

Written by FooFan on Thursday, 19 February 20092 Comments

Written by M_the_C

With a monster title, and a rather high price tag, MLaK is a management game set in the Final Fantasy world (specifically the Crystal Chronicles storyline). I have to admit, I’ve never really played a Final Fantasy game, except for the FFVIII demo. I know the basics, randomly generated combat, tons of stats and whiny kidults. MLaK does not follow the standard FF design however, instead it has a go at city management. You play the young King *insertyourname*, along with his bodyguard and admin. officer you arrive at an old castle, having escaped from the Miasma of the previous games, and start rebuilding your town. There is a loose story, but it’s nothing to really worry about, and you don’t have to know the previous storyline as the basics are mentioned anyway.

When you first arrive, you have to go through a series of cut-scenes. These have traditional JRPG conversations, over-the-top and slightly strained; it’s not awful though, and after you pass the start you get much more time between cut-scenes. As you enter the castle grounds, you come upon a talking Crystal who gives the young King the power of architek, the ability to create buildings. At the start you can only place houses, but as you proceed through the game different types of buildings can be constructed.

As you move more and more people in, the younger members of the family offer to work for you. This is the main focus of the game. As you can’t take part in combat yourself (you are the King after all) you instead send out adventurers into the wilds to explore, defeat evil and bring back precious elementite, used for constructing buildings. Every adventurer has there own set of stats, which upgrade over time, so it still has the RPG base of previous FF games.

The basic routine of a day starts off with reading the reports from yesterday. Firstly the Adventurers reports, detailing what the adventurers did the preceding day, it goes into a lot of detail. On the front page it splits the adventurers up into the areas they were active in, two options for each adventurer, view their exploration report or their personal information. The exploration report break down what they did throughout the day into groups. If an adventurer passes through several areas it has one entry for each, with a summery of their performance, you can then go even deeper and see how individual battles played out, right down to attack rolls and hit points. This is the way a lot of things in MLaK are, simple and quick to understand on the surface, with lots of detail hidden out of the way. After the Adventurers reports, comes the Financial report. There are only two types of resources, elementite and gils (money). This page simply shows you how much went in, how much went out and what’s left at the end. After you have read the reports, you can issue bequests. You never control the adventurers directly, instead you have to instruct them on what to do. If you want them to do a specific task, such as defeat a boss monster, then you have to put a message on the bequests board. Every morning the available adventurers gather around the board waiting for you to decide who will go. You start out with only one board, I felt this really limited the amount of actions you could carry out. There are plenty of spare adventurers, but you have to wait till the following day before you can make more progress. If you don’t send an adventurer on a specific mission, you can either tell them to Rest or Gain EXP. If you tell them to train then they will go off on their own. Progress is slow at the start, but apparently you can build more boards later on.

The World Map comes up when you want to issue a bequest. Your castle is in the middle at the top, then there are dots surrounding it. These dots represent areas that your adventurers can operate in, each one a level higher than the last. Clicking on a dot shows you the missions that you can complete in that area. The first one is to explore the area, once this is completed you will know the location of the area boss, whom you can defeat for lots of resources and access to buildings\expansions. The World Map could have done with some kind of zoom. I assume later on the whole screen will be filled with dots, this means they are packed tightly together and are sometimes difficult to select.

After the morning briefing the game goes into the castle grounds. The graphics in this game are really good for a Wii game, and excellent for a downloadable title. The castle grounds are large, and the people are well detailed. The only slow down I encountered was when buildings were being built as it involved lots of whizzy effects and then only when I tried moving at the same time, the rest of the time it ran very smoothly. First stop is the bequest board I’ve already mentioned. Any adventurers who are capable of going out, if they are badly injured then they are forced to rest for a day, arrive bright and early. Each one of them has a bubble above their head, giving a rough indication of whether they have enough experience to complete the bequest. You talk to each of them in turn, deciding whether they should go on the bequest, carry out some training or rest for the day. Sometimes when they have had a lot to do, they come to the board in the morning even though they’re tired. I haven’t had the need to send someone out in this state, but I would assume they would perform fairly badly. Then they all set off either to the exit or to buildings that sell equipment. As you work through the game you obtain more buildings, the first one being the Weapon shop. You go into the shop and can pay the shopkeeper to research new weapons. This gives the adventurers a better chance of defeating enemies, armoured enemies require more advanced weapons to defeat them.

For the rest of the day you can do pretty much whatever you want. Talk to your people, recruit some new adventurers, or place buildings. The castle grounds are already set out, there are special areas marking where you can construct things, it leaves a lot of choice, without letting you accidentally block off areas. You stand near a patch of land, press the minus button or shake the wiimote (the only use of the motion controls) and along comes your administrator, Chime. She asks you what building you would like to construct, you press the movement stick to cycle through, then choose the place and direction you want the building to face. Whizz, bang, pop and the building is magically created. Early on you don’t have much elementite to build with, and most of it needs to be used on houses rather than the fun stuff, but the pace is kept up pretty well.

MLaK offers a good choice of controllers, the wiimote and nunchuk, classic controller and GC pad can all be used. Moving the King around the city seems a little on the speedy side to me, I’m sure it will come in useful when the city spreads out but at the start everything rushes past pretty quickly. The music is very good, but there are only a few different tracks, most likely due to the developers problem of squeezing what they could into a small package. Another victim of this cut-down is the sound effects, compared to the sound quality of the music, general sounds are of a very poor quality sounding flat and slightly grainy. It doesn’t detract too much, but it’s still a bit annoying.

I’ve quite enjoyed playing MLaK, the non-interaction mechanic is the main draw for me, I’d like to see more games take this approach. I feel that there is plenty of room for a game with lots of autonomy, where you guide rather than control. The only problem I can foresee with MLaK is longevity, how long will it be able to hold my attention after my town is full? Does the game end there? I will do a follow up at a later date to let you know.

It’s pretty expensive (1500 Wii Points), even by Wii Shop standards, and I have yet to see any possible benefit from the DLC. Overall though I think I would recommend it, but only to people who like stats and\or city management games. It’s laid back gameplay however, is the sort of thing people either love, or hate.

screenshots courtesy of IGN.

2 Comments »

  • biddenden_sue said:

    Excellent review, Foo! Nice one! We have this game, and my kids have absolutely loved it. They keep telling me that I’d enjoy it, but at the moment I am hopeless addicted to AC:LGTTC, so until I get that out of my system, it doesn’t stand a chance. I reitterate your words about the graphics - it’s a beautiful game to look at. The City and Castle Courtyard are extremely detailed - it’s better than many disc titles on the Wii!

    One day I’ll give it a go. Your review does tempt me.

  • FooFan (author) said:

    Should probably point out this review was written by M_the_C, I just posted it ;)

    It’s confusing I know, but a great review from M nonetheless.

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