Review: Crystal Defenders (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Crystal Defenders (360)
Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: 03/11/09

Ever have to paint a house? After applying a coat of paint did you sit there and stare at the wall, watching as the paint slowly dried and waiting in excited anticipation for the moment you could throw on a second coat of paint and start all over again? Did you think that was fun?

Because if so have I got the game for you.

Crystal Defenders in one of the latest games to hit Xbox Live Arcade and is a Final Fantasy themed tower defense game. Not familiar with Tower Defense games? They all have a similar pattern, you generally choose different themed “Ëœtowers’ and spread them out on a map. Enemies enter the map, and depending on the placement of the towers will be defeated or pass through the defenses. When done well there is a lot of strategy to mess around with.

However as with most games of this type there is no real story. Perhaps it’s the fact that the game uses assets from other Final Fantasy games but it is odd that a series where the story is generally a strong element that it is completely absent in Crystal Defenders. Enemies for no reason just pour in from one side of the map, and if they get to the other they steal your crystals. If you had to make up some sort of story you could imagine that you are playing a fantasy tycoon who has amassed a large storage of crystals but the new king doesn’t think it’s fair for you to own all of the crystals and sends tax collectors to take them from you.

Or not.

What the game boils down to is that enemies wander in waves from the left side of the screen and wander through a predetermined path to the other side of the screen. During the game you get a set amount of coins to spend on buying different classes, like soldiers, mages, archers, etc. Each of these classes has different strengths and weaknesses. Soldiers can only attack one target at a time but do more damage. Monks can do less damage but can attack multiple opponents. Mages can do more damage to multiple opponents but have a longer downtime in between attacks, archers can attack flying targets and so on.

Defeating enemies earns more coins and those coins can be used to buy more troops or to upgrade existing ones, which is crucial because the waves get stronger as the game goes on.

There are three different modes to the game. W1 is the most basic, you can go through the different maps exactly as I described above, and it’s fairly easy to figure out what you need to do to stop the oncoming waves. W2 adds some more strategy with the inclusion of power crystals that have bonus attributes that can effect the abilities of troops that are placed around them. W3 is essentially the Hard mode of the game, which offers the most challenge.

Graphically the game reuses sprites from Final Fantasy Tactics, only the monsters or sprites for the different troops look very good. It’s Super Nintendo level of sprites. Even the FF Tactics sprites on the GBA looked better. The background visuals for the maps suffer the same problem; they’re flat and boring. It’s like something from a children’s coloring book instead of a video game.

The background music and sound effects have the same problem. It sounds low rent. The music and sound effects sound like cheap samples from some generic 16-bit game.

The biggest issue with the game is the fact that it’s just boring. There’s little actual interactivity besides choosing which troop you want to use and placing it on the map, then pressing a button to watch it all play out. Even watching the results is boring since for some reason even though the monsters want to steal your crystals, they never put up any fight. Despite being on the same level as the soldiers and archers the two sides barely interact aside from the troops attacking the monsters. Honestly I felt bad for the monsters, it seems like you trick them into running through a corridor where they are helpless and then jab them with pointy things until they die. Unless you plan on working at a KFC slaughterhouse when you grow up and want to gain the experience, I’m not sure I see the fun in that.

Even the AI of the different troops is just bad. They don’t differentiate between stronger and weaker targets, sometimes they’ll stand there or attack a target you don’t want them to attack or seemingly waste effort on a creature that isn’t affected by their type of attack. There are no options for AI control so you can try to adjust this at all in the game. You just get to watch as monsters walk through a hallway while different troops you paid for attack in the most uncoordinated way possible, just because a monster walked into their area of attack.

What is even more insulting is the fact that after barely anytime spent with the game you can unlock a mode called Devplay. Devplay essentially shows you how to clear a board if you are having too much trouble with it. Really? In a game which should encourage people to use strategy they included a mode that shows you what to do?

As if that wasn’t insulting enough, the asking price for this game is 800 Microsoft points, or the equivalent of $10. I implore you, instead of dropping $10 on this game, instead check out game sites like www.TowerDefenceGames.com. On that site alone there are several games of the same genre that are done much, much better than Crystal Defense, and best of all, they’re free. There’s even one with a fantasy theme that not only is a superior game, it even looks better.

Crystal Defender is a boring tower defense game with little interactivity required from the player and looks bad. It looks and feels like a cheap cash in of the Final Fantasy franchise, and there are a ton of other 800 point games or lower on the Arcade service that are much better than this, and there are even several Community Games on Xbox Live that are better than this and much cheaper.

Take your ten dollars and sign up for a trial month of Gamefly or Netflix, donate it to some cause, or just shred it into confetti and celebrate a holiday with it, but for the love of all that is holy, stay away from Crystal Defenders.

Unless you really like being bored, in that case, go right ahead and purchase it.

The Scores:

Mode: Poor
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Bad
Control/Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Decent
Originality: Awful
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal: Bad
Miscellaneous: Worthless

Final Score: BAD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:
There are a number of free online tower defense games that are superior to this $10 game. If you buy Crystal Defenders, you are a sucker.

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