Inside Pulse 12

Review: Crystal Defenders R1 (Nintendo Wii)

Crystal Defenders R1
Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre: Defense Simulation
Release Date: 04/20/09

Defending.

Defending is probably my least favorite thing to do in a video game. I just want to get that out of the way. Saving hostages, keeping gangsters from fire-bombing a store, rescuing the neighbors in Zombies Ate My Neighbors: I don”Ëœt want to do those things. I just want to stab things and cause mayhem. Perhaps I was scarred as a young man by Defender: Stargate.

Or maybe I just hate protecting the helpless. What I’m trying to say is: I’m a jerk.

I feel you should know this thing before reading my review of Crystal Defenders R1.

1. Story/ Modes
In Crystal Defenders R1 you are. . . I”Ëœm not really sure. Somebody, I guess. Somebody else, I’m also not sure who, put you in charge of defending ten crystals from some monsters. You are given some money called “gil”. You can use it to buy soldiers or mages. Gil can also be used to level up these soldiers or mages. (If you don”Ëœt speak Role Playing Game, this means you can make them more powerful.) You can buy as many fighters as you can afford- slash- as many as can fit on the screen. I guess your overlord appreciates frugality, though, because you get some bonus points for not spending all your gil.

But for me, when it comes to defending crystals, gil is no object.

I don’t know why the various creatures want these crystals. Perhaps these crystals are magical or maybe the beasties want to use them as currency. I like to think that they want to use the crystals to make earrings for their respective monster wives. “These are beautiful! You have made me the happiest flying type creature resistant to magical attacks in all the world!”

The monsters do seem to be quite civilized. They are very organized, and only “attack” with one species at a time (save for rare occasions when a few giant versions of that species mix in with the norms). They tell you which breed is coming ahead of time and share their strengths and weaknesses. The monsters actually wait until you are ready to attack. The monsters don”Ëœt even fight back. They walk along a poorly designed preset path, because they are apparently afraid to step on grass.

If a monster makes it to the end of the path, passively resisting brutal assault upon brutal assault, fireball upon fireball, he gets to keep a crystal or two.

He’s earned it.

Each monster you slay gives you more gil. So after slaying one wave of monsters, you have a lot more gil. Thus, you can make more fighters and increase the stats of those you already have. After you have everybody set up where you like, you call on the next wave of monsters to attack. Wash, rinse, repeat.

crystal-1If you have crystals left after facing all the monsters, you move on to the next level, which looks exactly like the first level. You start from scratch again, with ten crystals and no soldiers. The monsters will be slightly harder to slaughter. If you have any crystals left after that, you move on to a new board. You play each board twice and each time start from scratch. As you progress, you gain other types of fighters in addition to the soldiers and mages. Monks fight like soldiers, but are only about half as powerful. They can hit multiple enemies with single attacks, but are generally not powerful enough to be useful. Archers are pretty much necessary for attacking enemies in the air, especially those that are resistant or immune to magic. Time mages cost a lot of gil, and don’t do much damage. They’re supposed to slow down quick moving enemies, but they pretty much suck. In most levels it seems more effective to replace them with their weight in soldiers, and just try to kill faster rather than slow the baddies down. Thieves collect extra gil if they are near a monster when it is slain; I can’t be bothered to use them. Dragoons have ultra powerful attacks and good range, but they cost a lot, and are super slow, and only attack one enemy at a time, and their mothers dress them funny.

So, all in all, in terms of game story, there isn’t one. There is no plot, no characterization, and no continuity from one round to the next. Basically Crystal Defenders has the story of a game made in 1981: defend crystals from monsters who follow strange rules.

In terms of game modes, well, that’s it. The game is only one player. It is wi-fi compatible, but only for comparing high scores: so, you can see how terrible you are at Tower Defense compared to a guy who played too much Rampart in the early nineties. This electronic genitalia waving contest isn’t even applicable to most of the games stages. Only the last few levels have this option.

Story/Modes: Dreadful


2. Graphics
Graphically, this game looks like a SNES era game and not a very impressive one. It’s very simplistic by today’s standards even were it on the DS instead of being television sized on my Wii. Some of the monster designs are nice, but most characters are 2d sprites with few frames of movement. It’s hard to get a sense of what the different characters look like from the tiny versions of them in the game. I’ve mistaken a soldier for a monk more than once. It’s almost as if this game were meant to be played on a cell phone or something.

Oh, wait. It is.

Graphics: Below Average


3. Sound/ Music
The music is pleasant. It suits the game and encourages humming along. None of the songs are quite so catchy as to drill a hole in my ear and make me sing them when I’m not playing the game.

There isn’t much of interest in terms of other sounds. There is no dialogue or speech or even grunts. The sound effects in Crystal Defenders seem like they are from a level in Captain America and the Avengers. Perhaps Data East sold off “pchuu pchuu” noises to Square before declaring bankruptcy.

I would’ve bought some had I known this sale had occurred.

Sound: Mediocre


4. Control / Gameplay
crystal-2I covered a lot of this in the “story” section, since there wasn’t any story to cover. We’ll cover the rest now. To play this game you hold the Wii-mote sideways, classic NES style. To me, it would make sense to use the whole “pointing at the screen” ability of the Wii-mote in order to place my troops on the map, but what do I know?

Why point at something when you can scroll with a d-pad?

The game controls fine, but with this style it would be hard not to.
1. You set up your troops.
2. You tell the first wave of monsters you’re ready.
3. You passively watch as your troops mercilessly slaughter whatever comes walking down that level’s odd path.
4. You set up your troops again.
5. You tell the second wave of monsters that you’re ready.
6. Repeat ad nauseam.

The controls work and are simple enough to use, but the gameplay never actually feels like a game. It feels more like watching your friend play a video game and telling him what to do before each round. Maybe this isn’t so much a fault of the game as my own problem with the Tower Defense sub-genre of strategy games.

No it is the game’s fault. It’s never my fault.

Never.

Control/Gameplay: Mediocre


5. Replayabilty
There are about a half dozen screens upon which to play and two levels for each screen. So, after playing through the dozen levels you can:

a.) Try to beat your high score.

b.) Compare some (but not most) of your high scores online with some random GemCraft junkie who still lives in his parents’ basement.

or

c.) Wait for Square Enix to release Crystal Defenders R2 with NEW JOBS and DAZZLING NEW LEVELS!

There is really no reason for this game to be so threadbare. This is a game simplistic enough that it could easily afford to have 100 levels and not eat up much more memory. There is no reason why there can’t be user created maps that you could share online.

As it stands, this game will only be enjoyed by fans of the Tower Defense genre. Those guys will be able to do all this game has to offer in five hours, tops.

Replayability: Poor


crystal-36. Balance
Having not played a Tower Defense game in recent memory, I managed to pass the first eleven levels without trying. I got “Perfect” bonuses on 8 of them, and never lost more than three crystals. Most waves of monsters didn’t even make it around the first corner.

On the next level, I died on wave 26 about six times. Beating most of the stages is about as hard as sitting down on a sofa. But right at the end, the game decides to hit you in the junk with a golf club.

I never felt as though I had gotten better at this game or learned any of its secrets or tricks of the trade. I just don’t understand the learning curve here. The first eleven stages have the difficulty of walking 30 feet to the base of Washington monument, and the last ones say “now climb it.”

Balance: Poor


7. Originality
This is a version of a game previously released on iPhones and the like. It is a spin-off of the Final Fantasy Tactics series, which itself is a spin-off of the Final Fantasy series.

Id est: it is about as original as masturbating in the shower, and not nearly as refreshing.

Originality: Awful


8. Addictiveness
This game isn’t the sort of thing I feel compelled to play. I will say that it is easy to keep on playing once started. I have a strange fascination with watching my troops attack defenseless monsters. It is a bit like watching the cards fly across the screen after winning solitaire. It is not terribly satisfying or fun, but it can quickly kill an hour.

The hour dies easy.

This quality is good if you are waiting for a train. Yet, it is hard to play the Wii while standing on a subway platform. Perhaps this game is better suited to its cell phone roots.

Addictiveness: Mediocre


9. Appeal Factor
People like Final Fantasy, but this game doesn’t put “Final Fantasy” in the title.

And it doesn’t have the pretty graphics that people like.

And it lacks the emo characters that inspire slash-fiction.

So, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

Appeal: Decent


10. Miscellaneous
Crystal Defenders could do so much, but does so little. It has few levels, one mode, pointless wi-fi options and no personality.

This game costs 800 Wii points. There are worse ways to spend 800 Wii points (read as: Boogerman), but I’d recommend spending them on something like Shining Force, Sword of Vermillion, or Phantasy Star II if you are in the mood for killing some mythical monsters.

Plus, this map looks like a penis.
crystal-penis
Right?

Miscellaneous: Dreadful


The Scores:
Story/Modes: Dreadful
Graphics: Below Average
Sound: Mediocre
Control/Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Awful
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Dreadful
Final Score: Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Crystal Defenders R1 does nothing to make me anxious for Crystal Defenders R2. It doesn’t manage to do anything exciting or new or interesting or worthwhile or memorable or fun. It is better suited as a mobile phone game (its origins) wherein its ability to kill an hour can best be used (e.g. waiting for a bus, waiting in the doctor’s office, sitting on a bench whilst your special lady shops).

On the Wii, it is basically a waste of time.