Thursday, July 24, 2008

Raenius Recommends IV:
A Game Fit for a King

This week's recommendation:
Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King for Nintendo WiiWare

Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Released: May 12th, 2008 (US)
MSRP: $15.00
Multiplayer: No
WiFi Enabled: Pay & Play Downloadable Content

Nowadays, Final Fantasy titles are hit or miss (with more on the side of the latter). The DS and PSP has seen some pretty decent releases (original and remakes) and it'll be quite a while before we'll be able to see how bad they screwed up FF XIII. Fortunately, Square Enix has breathed new life into their struggling franchise. It's already a hit in Japan, so it's no wonder why it was also featured in Nintendo's launch line-up for WiiWare here in the states. My Life as a King weighs in as the largest (287 blocks without any DLC) and most expensive title, but don't let that discourage you from checking out this city-building simulator.

Our story takes place sometime after the original Crystal Chronicles ended in a world created by the Crystal Caravans. You play as a young king who has lost everyone and everything to the Miasma (go ahead, look it up. I'll wait...) as you now try to revive and rebuild your kingdom using your new and mysterious power called Architek. Your lovely assistant, Chime, will help you throughout your adventures with tutorials, tips and reports. Everything is explained really well in a timely manner and within 30 minutes or so of playing, you'll be on your own. This game requires a lot of reading which may discourage some players who enjoy more of a visual experience.

Speaking of which, My Life as a King actually looks better than most 3rd party games that you'd find in the stores. It's graphical style can be compared to the recent Final Fantasy titles found on the DS. Everything is bright and cheery and all the people look like little kids. Chime and Sir Hugh Yurg (your personal cook slash knight slash trainer -- an odd combo) are full of details, spunk and personality. The city itself starts out empty, but will take shape from however you build it. After a while, the streets are alive with your loyal roaming citizens. Due to a lack of character models, however, after a while everyone will kind of look alike. Overall this is the best looking WiiWare game from the current launch line-up.

Day to day life for a king will involve assigning behests to your adventurers. You'll pick and choose what their profession is and then what dungeons they'll explore. Conquering certain areas will allow you build additional shops and houses or acquire upgrades. More houses equals more money from daily income you'll use to reward your hired muscle and invest in weapon, armor, magic and item upgrades. A "day" in the game lasts about five minutes which you'll mainly use running around your town talking to the locals and raising moral after all the adventurers have left. I do wish there was more to do during the day, but it is a building-sim after all. Occasionally you'll want to kick back and announce a holiday and let your people take a hard earned break. Although it's very repetitive, you'll find yourself wanting to just play "one more day" for about 10 days.

Your game will be as long as you make it. Which is great. Depending on how you work it out, your first play-through could take 100 days, 200 days or more. You can play through again, if you'd like, and keep your beefed up adventurers but sacrifice your upgrades. Downloadable content will also keep you coming back for more if you feel like shelling out more dough on Wii Points. The Pay & Play content is pretty quality for the most part and varies from dungeons and additional races to new costumes.

I can't tell you that I was waiting for this game to come out. I almost didn't buy it due to the price, but I'm glad I did. It's well worth the money, which is hard to find these days. My Life as a King is a fun title and a great introduction to a wonderful service that will, no doubt, bring us many more fantastic games to come!

Breakin' it downtown!

Presentation: Everything is text and menu driven. So if you're not a fan of reading, you might not dig what Square is trying to sell you. Daily reports are well laid out, fully detailed and descriptive.

Visuals: Sharing the same vein as recent DS titles, this one fails to disappoint in the graphics department. Your kingdom will be the one that never grows up as you watch child-like citizens walking around. A few more characters models would have been nice to break up the monotony.

Audio: A few catchy tunes but nothing special. Music is more background noise than anything else. There's no voice acting, either.

Gameplay: You can use any controller configuration you want (even GameCube) for this one and they all work fine. The whole game is controlled with a couple buttons as everything is menu driven. There's some camera problems when going around corners or between buildings and some slow down when there's a lot of people on screen, but it doesn't matter too much in a sim game.

Multiplayer: None. It would've been nice to be able to visit other people's towns a la Animal Crossing.

Wi-Fi Functionality: Nintendo's first U.S. Pay & Play title has DLC that ranges from 100 to 800 Wii Points with more on the way. Most will become active as soon as it's downloaded and some require a reboot.

Replay: It's all in how you make it. With a flexible story mode and DLC, this title could consume a week of your time or even a few months.

Overall: Don't let the recent downslide in the Final Fantasy world fool you. This is a highly addictive game that challenges you to delegate your limited time and money. It's a pick up and play title that's a welcome change from the usual turn-based RPGs we've been oversaturated with through the years.



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