Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King - Staff Review  

My Kingdom for 1500 Wii Points
by Adriaan den Ouden

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Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ Surprisingly addictive.
+ Charming visual and audio style.
+ Sarcastic penguin.
- Shallow and repetitive.
- AI is extremely dimwitted.
- Some graphical issues.
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   Back in 2004, Square Enix released a poorly received spin-off title of its highly acclaimed Final Fantasy series, subtitled Crystal Chronicles. Focusing on multiplayer connectivity via the Game Boy Advance, the limited single player and the extra hardware requirements for multiplayer made it difficult for the game to be successful. However, in in the past couple of years, Square Enix has announced three new games in the series, promising to correct the mistakes of the past. The first was entitled Ring of Fates on the Nintendo DS, while The Crystal Bearers has yet to be released on the Wii. The most recent game to make its appearance, however, boasts no multiplayer at all. Instead, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a city-building game tied with some rudimentary RPG elements and is available as one of the first titles on Nintendo's WiiWare service.

   My Life as a King is, in fact, a direct sequel to the original GameCube title. Players take on the role of the young and inexperienced king who is entrusted by his kingdom's Crystal with the aptly-named power of Architek, and is tasked with rebuilding the fallen empire now that the miasma has dissipated. His father, the previous king, has since gone missing.

   However, even magic comes at a price, and the king soon finds himself unable to rebuild any further, and this is where the meat of the gameplay arrives. Being a king, it's not his place to go rushing headlong into combat, and thusly he appoints adventurers to go forth into the wild and bring back the precious elementite required to fuel his spells. In the process he discovers an ominous darkness that threatens to engulf his budding civilization.

   Unfortunately, what's described above is, by and large, the only gameplay to be found within My Life as a King. The game is broken down into days. Each day begins with a report from the king's chief advisor as to the activities of the kingdom's adventurers and of course the previous day's gains and expenditures. The king can choose to issue behests to adventurers in order to explore dungeons, defeat bosses, and collect materials for various purposes. Upon leaving the castle, the king can then choose which adventurers to send on his behests, build new structures as his elementite supply will allow, and speak with his subjects to improve their morale. Eventually the day ends and a new one begins, and this continues until the game is complete.

How can you rule a nation when you How can you rule a nation when you're that damn cute?

   Surprisingly, despite a lack of variance in the gameplay and scenery, My Life as a King is incredibly addictive, mostly due to the fluid rate of progression throughout the game. The ability to create different types of buildings are acquired by completing dungeons, which in turn improve adventurer levels, allowing more difficult dungeons to be conquered and more buildings to be unlocked. Different buildings also allow the player to improve his adventurers in many different ways. Weapon, armor, and item shops can be created to give the adventurers a place to spend their daily wages. White mage temples, black mage academies, training halls, and gaming halls can also be unlocked, granting adventurers the ability to change classes and purchase skills as a white mage, black mage, warrior, or thief respectively.

   As the game progresses, the ability to hire more adventurers and even arrange them into parties is gained, along with the acquisition of several other types of structures. The ability to create more of a particular structure can also be acquired, unlocking new upgrades in the process. My Life as a King makes sure that there is always something new to do, and that, thankfully, eases the otherwise grating repetition a great deal.

   That isn't to say that the game doesn't have its share of problems. Aside from the shallow and repetitious gameplay, several poor design choices and weak programming cause further problems. Adventurer AI is, for example, horrendously stupid. They will regularly apply for behests that are several levels too strong for them, and even if the player tells them to go gain experience elsewhere, they will often venture alone into the same dungeons and get themselves killed, gaining no experience and rendering them useless for the next day's activities.

   Getting a particular adventurer to change his class can also be a trying ordeal, particularly once large numbers of adventurers have been hired. Changing jobs is handled through the behest system rather than directly, and is thusly dependent on the adventurer applying for the behest. Unfortunately, only five adventurers can apply for any given behest, which means that other adventurers will often get there first, preventing that character from applying. There is a workaround to this, but it involves deliberately sending most of the kingdom's adventurers on suicide missions — a far from graceful, if morbidly amusing, solution.

Justice league, assemble! Justice league, assemble!

   Luckily the aforementioned suicide missions don't have a great impact on the game, as adventurers never actually die, they are simply wounded, preventing them from acting for a day. This also makes the poor AI little more than a frustrating delay, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of making the game far too easy, since there is literally no way to lose. Any strategy in this so-called strategy game is left to the wayside, as throwing adventurers willy-nilly into dungeons without regard to the consequences works just as well. This is particularly true for the final boss, whose health does not replenish from day to day, making his downfall a simple matter of butting heads with him until he's whittled down to nothing.

   Gameplay issues aside, My Life as a King has a certain je ne sais quoi that keeps one engaged for long periods of time, often without realizing it. The music is charming, the characters are adorable, and the story, though extremely simple, is amusing throughout. There are some minor technical issues with the visuals, such as framerate drops and graphical artifacts, but for the most part they are excellent, if lacking in variety.

   The game isn't too long, wrapping up at around fifteen to twenty hours, but as a downloadable title, it's actually quite lengthy. Square Enix has also provided several optional downloads, including new dungeons, new buildings, and even new costumes for the little king, ranging in price from 100 to 800 Wii Points. While technically playable without any addons, most players will find the game becomes frustratingly dull towards the end without at least the additional dungeon pack, which provides several dungeons to fill in level gaps between the final areas of the game.

   Despite its many flaws, My Life as a King manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. As a game it is little more than average at best, and yet for some reason it's difficult to put down, probably thanks to its impeccable pacing. The reliance on downloadable content in the late stages of the game are a nuisance, but most players should find themselves with a few extra Wii Points after purchasing it, which makes it a nonissue. My Life as a King is an amusing departure from the traditional roleplaying offered by Square Enix, but as enjoyable as it is, one can't help but think that it could have been much, much better.

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