Before I actually begin this review I think I should make it clear that I really didn’t like Crystal Chronicles. As a fan of the more “traditional” Final Fantasy games, I found Crystal Chronicles to be extremely lacking, just a half-assed attempt to put a “Final Fantasy” title on the Gamecube. So, when I heard about Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King and saw all the screen shots, which made the game look very similar to it’s Gamecube predecessor, I was instantly turned off. However, after hearing more about it, I realized My Life as a King is a completely different game and decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised and my prejudice against the Crystal Chronicles name was quickly washed away. My Life as a King is a unique game play experience that combines two different game genres (RPG’s and city-building games such as Simcity) to create something truly memorable.
You control a young King Leo who is tasked with rebuilding a kingdom that was left to you by your father, King Epitav. The Miasma from the previous Crystal Chronicles had destroyed the kingdom, but now that it is gone (thank god) and everything is more or less back to normal, it’s time to rebuild. Leo is also accompanied by Chime, your uh, female “assistant”, and Hugh Yurg, a knight and a cook.
The game starts with Leo, Chime, and Hugh Yurg finding the city they are to rebuild, in the center of which is a giant crystal that gives Leo the power of “Architek”, which is basically the ability to build buildings, like being an architect but with a lot less going to school and doing math. Leo just thinks about what building he wants to make and it becomes reality.
There are, of course, limits to building. To use architek you need elementite, and different buildings cost different amounts to build. To get elementite you need to recruit warriors to go out and explore the dungeons in the surrounding countryside. This is an important facet of the game that I believe makes or breaks My Life as a King for the individual: you never actually participate in any battles, you never see the monsters that are being fought, as the king you can only tell other people to go out and do the fighting for you. To me it’s an interesting concept but I think for many people this might not be what they wanted in a Final Fantasy game.
My Life as a King is broken up into days, with every day only lasting so long before you have to go to bed. It follows a pretty simple cycle every day:
- Wake up, read two reports. The first report tells you what your kingdom’s adventures did the previous day. The second just lists income and expenses (the two “currencies” in the game are elementite and gold). Elementite is obtained by adventures in dungeons and spent on buildings, gold is obtained by taxing citizens and spent on posting bequests (missions for adventurers), recruiting new adventurers, and various upgrades.
- Post a bequest (mission) for adventurers. Only one mission can be posted per message board and each costs some gold to post.
- Leave the castle, go to the area where you posted the bequests and choose which adventurers you want to go. Adventures with happy faces want to go, those without are too low level or too high level, you can tell them to go gain exp. in lieu of going on the main bequest.
- Build any buildings you want with the elementite you have. Housing brings more citizens, which bring both more tax money and more possible adventurers. There are also armor and weapon stores you can build to equip your adventurers more fully, or various entertainment buildings to keep citizens happy.
- Recruit new adventurers in town or spend your gold on various other projects (spend money of weapons research to get better weapons for adventurers, for example).
There is more to it then that, but the above is your basic day. I really like the adventurer report you receive every day, the amount of detail in it I found to be astounding. You can see exactly what every adventurer did the previous day in whichever dungeon they were in. You can see what they fought, when they took a break for lunch, if they got lost, or if they had to run from the battle. It’s really interesting, I think, that you have to view the happenings on a report and imagine what was happening while you’re back in your castle, like a real king. Even more so, you can view, per turn, what every person did, so you can see that adventurer John hit killer bee for 15 damage, then dodged killer bee’s attack. I think, if there ever was a sequel, it would be cool to be able to view a video of the battles, so you could still see what was actually happening in the field.
Adventurers also gain gold from battles, but they don’t give that money to you when they return (I’m sure if we tried to take it they’d start hiding gold in every possible orifice and swearing that Wee Worms don’t even use any sort of currency so why would they get any gold from them). Instead, they spend their own money on upgrading themselves at the weapons and armor shops. I thought this was very interesting as well, you don’t have to pay for their gear, I just research improvements and then they can buy it on their own if they have the money.
At the start of the game all adventurers go out on their own and are of the same class. So, if you post a bequest to kill a boss of a certain dungeon, and every adventurer wants to do it, you can send them all, but only one person will actually complete the task. The following day you get to award that adventurer with a medal which increases their stats in a certain area, so you can some what customize your warriors. Later on, you can organize adventurers into parties and change the classes of warriors. The whole system is really very cool and has these little RPG elements without having you, the king, actually involved in any of the fighting.
New buildings can be unlocked by completing certain dungeons sometimes or other times different citizens request a certain building type. For instance, in the first few days one of my warriors wanted a park, he said so he could talk to Chime, which is not cool since she is my assistant, but whatever. Now, since I was a king before, I apparently had never been to a park in my whole life, so I didn’t know what they looked like. I can’t Architek if I don’t know what the building looks like, but luckily I have a Moogle friend (Mogtillo) who can provide me a sketch, so long as I fulfill certain requirements.
For example, with the park I had to find a certain flower to have him sketch the park for me. So, I post a bequest to find the flower, and adventurers take the job. The following day I read the report and you can see what the adventurers did, running around town asking people about the flower (one person even went somewhere, opened a drawer, found a potion, and took it in traditional RPG style) and one of the found out the particular flower needed grew in a certain dungeon. This lead to the next bequest to find the flower in the dungeon, and once the flower was brought back I could finally make the park.
Graphically, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is nothing to write home about. The art direction is similar to it’s Gamecube predecessor and the graphics aren’t much of an improvement, either. While the graphics don’t really add anything to the title, I don’t think they detract from it, either. This one’s not about pushing the graphical limits of the Wii, but that really never bothered me in any way. The sound is in the same boat, it’s not great, but it’s not annoying either. It’s just there and you forget about it after five minutes.
Overall I’m very impressed with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King. I think that a big point that people don’t like is you do not participate in any combat, but if you can accept that you don’t and take the game for what it is, I think you’ll see that My Life as a King is really a very different and rewarding game. It will set you back 1500 points ($15), making it the most expensive Wii Ware game currently, and I think it’s worth the cost.