Review: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King (WiiWare)

Is this a game fit for a king or a pauper?

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, is the first WiiWare game from SquareEnix and they obviously spared no expense in putting this title together. Instead of pitting you in the fighting role, as in most normal Final Fantasy titles, this game puts you in the role of King and allows you full control over everything in the kingdom in a more simulation-style atmosphere. The game might lack the intensity of a regular Final Fantasy release, but you'll certainly never be at a loss for things to do in your new role.

The game plays out one day at a time and you have a running clock in the top corner of the screen that lets you always know how much time you have left in each day. At the start of a new day, you're given a report from the previous day's activities. This is where you find out what was accomplished and how much money was made. You can then send your adventurers out on missions called behests. These allow your fighters to leave the castle walls and explore the surrounding areas. They can do battle with monsters in an effort to make money for the kingdom as well as bring back the special ore "Elementite" that you'll need to build new houses and shops in town. While you don't actually take part in these battles yourself, you will have to carefully level up your fighters by sending them on only Behests that they are capable of handling, and you'll also have to occasionally rest them when they become fatigued.

As if this weren't enough of a responsibility, you'll also have to find time to build new houses and shops for the people of your kingdom to use, not to mention take care of special tasks that the people of the kingdom request of you. If you ignore their requests, morale will drop and your people won't contribute as much tax money as they normally would. Everything in the game revolves around you being a good monarch and taking care of the many responsibilities that go along with it. Since there are so many tasks, it might feel overwhelming right at first, but the game is set up so that you are never given too many things to do at once. To help you out, you also have several characters at your disposal that will constantly push you in the right direction as to what tasks need to be done next.

Don't expect a lot of fancy Wii Remote controls, as the only motion-sensing controls in the game come when you have to jiggle the Wii Remote in order to summon Chime, your royal aide. Other than this, you'll find that the controls are very standard in moving around the kingdom, and even the menus are all very intuitive and easy to manoeuvre. There's not much action, but the simulation aspects are very well executed and the game has this unique way of letting you have as much or as little freedom as you choose, which really adds to the overall relaxed and enjoyable feel of the game.

You certainly wouldn't know that this game is a downloadable title from looking at it; the visuals are quite simply astounding. The kingdom itself is enormous and each and every building is very detailed and has its own distinct design characteristics. The many characters are equally impressive in terms of both look and the realistic way in which they all animate. It's hard to believe that there's so much visual quality and variety in a game with such a small file size - My Life As A King effortlessly ranks as the best looking WiiWare game to date.

Final Fantasy games are generally well-known for their fully orchestrated soundtracks, but given the space limitations placed on the WiiWare titles, some concessions had to be made and it's obvious the music took the brunt of these cuts. The main musical theme is outstanding, and that's a good thing considering that it plays for pretty much the duration. You'll occasionally hear a fresh musical piece here and there, but it's generally only during times when something new happens and then it's back to same old tune from before. Of course there isn't any voiced dialogue either, other than the occasional "yes" or "no" mumble you'll hear from one of the characters. Once again, this is obviously done for space limitation reasons and certainly doesn't take anything away from the overall audio experience.

Conclusion

Of all the WiiWare titles to date, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is easily the most ambitious. The scope of the game is enormous and there's never a lack of things to do as you live out each day of the adventure. It can be a little frustrating not being able to take part in battles yourself, but you'll soon find that being in charge has its perks and building your kingdom from the ground up can be quite rewarding in this unique simulation-style adventure. The ability to purchase new content, such as additional outfits, buildings, and dungeons, gives the game an almost endless amount of expandability, but it's yet to be determined how interested consumers will be in paying for additional content for a game that already costs 1500 Wii Points. If you can get past any expectations that this game will offer the same type of RPG experience as those found in the regular Final Fantasy games and just appreciate it for what it is, you'll likely find a lot to enjoy about this wonderful and charming WiiWare release.