Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord

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Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: July 20, 2009

System: Wii

ESRB Rating: E-10+

Official Web site

0:00 I tend to like tower defense games, and I've heard a lot of praise for this one, so away we go!

0:01 You hold the Remote horizontally. That surprises me. I figured they'd use the pointer for more accurate placement. The title appears on a starry background with cutesy, standard Square music. Reminds me of the Final Fantasy VII Chocobo Racing music. My options are "New Game" and "Purchase Add-On Content." Er, I'm pretty sure I want the former... On to the Tutorial Stage!

0:02 "In a world free of miasma ... the monsters of the land, finding themselves in a dire state, holed themselves up inside their Darklord's massive Tower. Craydall, the Darklord, was kind and handsome, but then he offered his life to protect the castle from the do-gooders. He's sealed inside a crystal and his daughter Mira was crowned on her 16th birthday.

0:03 Mira is introduced with over-the-top spotlights and drum rolls: "The Messenger from the Inferno! The Great Cursed Sorceress! The Devious Demon of Death. Or perhaps ... The Diabolical Hideous Princess of Doom." Heh. Someone did a good job on the translation.

My Life as a Darklord

0:04 Mira wears a hideous half-black, half-pink bustier/dress combo. "Cower in fear, adventurers! From this day forward, I am the new ruler of darkness." Sorry, if you want people to cower, you need a better outfit...

0:05 "Chapter 1: The War Begins." The tower is a small thing with a huge metallic heart atop. "Tonberries! Teach me how to do all this stuff!" says Mira. The little green robed guys rush in to do just that. So CUTE!

0:06 The screen fills with overlapping word balloons from the Tonberries. She knocks them over. "This is too haarrrd!" That's what she said! "All this busywork is so boring! I wanna go beat up some people already." That's what I'm talking about! But a Tonberry with a bow (named Tonbetty. CUTE) tells me I can't just rush in ... I need to learn how to defend my castle. Phoo.

0:07 And away we go. A countdown clock precedes a lone soldier appearing and running into my castle. As the tutorial suggests, I bring up the menu and "Build Floor" using my 50 of my 500 "Negative Power" (NP). The floor comes preloaded with an Iron Ball artifact that trades attacks with the soldier. Then he climbs up to the next floor. If he reaches the top, I lose, so I build four more floors to stop him. He dies on Floor 4 with a cute little scream.

0:12 More soldiers march in, all destroyed on Floor 4 in the exact same way. They manage to take out a few of the Iron Balls, but I rebuild them with my NP. This is WAY too slow paced for me. GET ON WITH IT!

0:13 Victory! I acquired a Goblin, somehow. Earned 45 "Karma" for my trouble, too. The cheapest Goblin upgrade costs 300 Karma, though. Oh well.

0:15 Now I can summon up to three Goblins per floor for 50 NP each. Instead of just trading single blows, they battle the soldiers for a set amount of time before letting them move on. Most of my time is just watching their battle timers fill up, then watching their attacks. Nice and boring. At least the interface makes it easy to tell what's going on at a glance.

0:19 Three Goblins on the first floor seems like enough to keep off even the more powerful level 2 soldiers that are attacking now. The soldiers do some damage to the Goblins, but it heals back slowly when they aren't battling. I win without a single dead Goblin. Still way too easy and dull. Hurry up, game!

0:23 Level 3 is shaping up to be an almost exact replay of Level 2, with the Goblins taking on all comers easily. The big new introduction: two soldiers at once. If a floor is occupied, the other soldier goes one floor up. An interesting twist, but not enough to warrant a whole tutorial level... Man oh man, do I wish there was a fast-forward button or something.

0:24 I can spend 100 karma on an upgrade that lets me have a maximum of 10 floors instead of five. I decide to save up for a Goblin upgrade instead...

0:26 Level 4 starts out just like Level 3! I really don't understand the purpose of all these levels that are practically identical. How many times do they expect me to watch a trio of Goblins totally manhandle the invading soldiers before I get bored? Give me something INTERESTING to do already!

My Life as a Darklord

0:27 I guess someone was listening, as the Black Mages now shuffling into my castle are much more interesting. For one, they're more powerful and can take a hit pretty well. For another they can hurt all the Goblins on a floor, not just one. They move pretty quickly too. My first dead Goblins disappear in a puff of smoke. Finally, some action!

0:30 Wow ... that went from "way too easy" to "failure" very quickly. The Black Mages eventually wore down my Goblins faster than I could replace them. Maybe replacing them was the problem ... should I have instead added more near the top of the tower? Hmmm...

0:34 I spent the last four minutes watching more boring soldier-slaughter. I guess this is my penalty for failure... My kingdom for a fast-forward button!

0:36 Yeah, seems like it was replacing the Goblins that was the problem. This time I just stack the upper floors with new Goblins and just barely hold off the last Mage. I've earned a "Dark Dresser" floor. OPTIONS! HUZZAH!

0:41 So the new Dark Dresser can't attack like the Iron Ball, but it can protect my Goblins. On the downside it takes up more space, so I can only have two Goblins on that floor. Anyway, I'm watching a bunch of scrub soldiers go down easy ... again. Sigh.

0:45 By the time the Black Mages come, the weakness of the Dark Dressers is painfully apparent. Sure, they protect from damage so I don't have to replace my Goblins as much, but having two Goblins attacking means the mages stick around longer and climb higher. Eventually a group of four Mages leapfrog each other to get to the top of my Dresser-filled tower. Sigh.

0:46 I still don't have enough karma to upgrade my Goblins. If I bought the 10-floor upgrade, I know I could win this round easily, but I'm gonna try to hold off anyway.

0:49 It's a bit frustrating that there's no way to destroy floors/Goblins that have outlived their usefulness. This is a standard feature of most tower defense games. Anyway, I'm figuring out that putting your strongest floors down at the bottom is key.

0:53 This time I put Iron Balls on every floor but the second. That second floor is the weak point, allowing Mages to stick around waaaay too long and leading to a close defeat for the bad guy (i.e., me). Why'd they give me this Dresser if it was gonna be so useless? Huh?

My Life as a Darklord

0:54 I finally have enough karma to upgrade my Goblins. I guess I should've given in and bought the castle extension earlier. Oh well.

1:00 The level 2 Goblins are a tad more expensive, but their extra power and stamina prove to be the difference I need. It feels a bit like cheating to win by using a power-up, though. Still, the cumulative effect of slight changes is pretty interesting. Also, they survive a bit longer.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.


Why? It's been pretty slow and dull so far, but I'm pretty confident the defense options are about to open up a bit, and that's something I'd definitely like to see on top of this solid design.

This column is based on a downloadable copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.

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