Verdict: Final Fantasy meets Sim City meets the Sims, but without the Final Fantasy, Sim City, or Sims.
So I managed to get my hands on the WiiWare game, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King (whew…what a long title!) and despite what I’d thought would be a borefest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that I was both right and wrong, but for all the wrong reasons on both counts. Allegedly, FFCC:MLaaK (jeez, even an acronym it’s long!) is a sequel to a prior Crystal Chronicles game, but having never played Crystal Chronicles before, I found myself unfamiliar with the setting. “No matter,” I thought. “I’ll learn as I go along.”
In a nutshell, the game is a building and city management sim which puts you in the role of the young king of a new city. Well, when I say city, I mean a boundary wall and a castle. At the center of this empty space is a giant crystal that helps the new king build new structures using a magic call “architek”. Together with new advisor Chime and ex-guard Hugh Yurg, you start rebuilding the kingdom, building by building. What’s nice about the whole experience is that once you’ve decided that you want to build something, and where, and that you actually have the right amount of raw material (and there’s only one kind of raw material here), the building happens almost instantaneously, so no waiting however long for the building to be ready.
Once you have a few houses ready, career adventurers start knocking at the castle door, demanding to be employed, and here’s where the game becomes a lot more fun–despite the fact that you’re pretty much confined to the city walls (“a king can’t go out and do the fighting himself, you know!”), you can send bands of adventurers out on errands for you in return for pay. In fact, it’s imperative that you send them out, because they’ll hunt down the magical raw materials for you. There’s a fairly decent number of locations on the map, so you’ll be sending out parties of adventurers out for a long time. Some new locations also provide you with different buildings that you can create, enabling your adventurers to learns skills, change jobs, etc. Fun. In a weird, vicarious way. At the beginning of each day, Chime gives you a breakdown of what each adventurer did the previous day, and then the daily budget sheet, after which you can create behests—missions for the rest of you—for your adventurers to complete for their liege’s pleasure.
While your adventurers are off having all the fun (and pretty much the best part of any RPG, really), you’re pretty much confined to either building the city or chatting to the random inhabitants that show up with each house that you build. Chatting to the city residents builds “morale”, and you can eventually use the morale to develop the place—don’t ask me, I’m not sure how you use morale to develop. In my experience, it’s always taken money. Wadges of it, too.
In any event, this is where the whole thing becomes a bit boring; until you have enough in the way of money, building blueprints, or raw materials, you end up chatting to a few of the locals and then advancing the day just so you can get to the interesting bit again.
I know that the Wii’s internal memory is a huge limitation to what can sensibly be done with Wiiware games, so I don’t blame the game too much.
And yet…despite all this, the game is strangely addictive. Although each day takes ten minutes to get over with (give or take), those ten minute segments pass with surprising quickness, and you end up playing for long stretches at a time without realizing it.
And I suppose this is where the game is a winner, because despite everything, it’s very charming in its look and feel, and I’ll still recommend it rather highly.