Game Review

Crystal Defenders R1 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Brody Olimar

Break out the safe box.

Trailing off the coattails of Final Fantasy Tactics comes Crystal Defenders, Square's take on the incredibly popular 'Tower Defense' genre. Instead of methodically leveling units, using items, and strategizing your way through battle, you’ll be tasked with defending a set of crystals by means of brute force. Some may be familiar with the name due to its counterpart on the iPhone and iPod touch. The experience you’ll find in R1 is essentially a port of said game, but the experience has been split into multiple parts. So is it worth defending crystals on the Wii? Or would gamers be better off downloading it from another source?

In Crystal Defenders, you play on a series of small maps with tangled paths running through them. Monsters conspicuously occupy these roads and your goal is to station troops along the edges of the routes in order to stop them. Your units come in a variety of types, each with varying abilities and advantages. It’s important to keep those things in mind, as well as their range when you place them on a map. Each unit will cost you money, as will increasing their levels. If your funds run dry you’ll have to destroy more baddies in order to restock your supply.

Once you feel your defense is up to snuff, you can initiate the opposition’s movement. Before you set up your army you’re given a peek at what is coming, including enemy health points. Each wave will represent a large number of foes, so those ill prepared will inevitably let some get all the way to the other end of the trail. When that happens, you lose a crystal. Lose them all and it’s game over, and you’ll have to start the mission from the beginning. Winning is not always difficult as you’re given quite a bit of money to spend each round. However, those seeking a high score will want to be stingier, as doing so nets you more points.

Since the action of Crystal Defenders is entirely automated, it may be assumed that the gameplay would become dull and repetitive. For strategy game fans, this will certainly not be the case. There is a certain thrill that comes from setting up an army and seeing them lash out against an opposing crowd. Admittedly, a lot of your success can depend on brute force alone. Yet if you’re aiming to best yourself by limiting supplies, you’ll find that tactics will be essential to victory. This incentive will not remain for everyone, so proceed with caution.

The presentation of the game has been based strictly off of Final Fantasy Tactics, and more specifically Final Fantasy Tactics A2 for the Nintendo DS. The 2D sprites and backgrounds look decent enough, though many will be disappointed to see handheld quality visuals stretched on a large TV screen. It still feels better than subpar 3D visuals, though. It just would have been nice to see a revamped presentation. The music on the other hand, which also stems from Tactics A2, is quite nice. The quality is adequate, and the tunes are catchy.

The control method of the game is definitely an area of disappointment. The original version was entirely touch based, so it would be reasonable to expect Wii pointer control to be implemented. Sadly, that is not the case. Instead, you will be holding your remote sideways, and using buttons and direction pad to command units. While this certainly gets the job done, it would have been nice to have the option for something else.

Another gripe comes in the amount content the game contains. There is only one true game mode, with a limited number of missions to play within. While there is replay value in the way of beating your high scores, and even leader boards, it’s disappointing that more content wasn’t added into the final package. Especially considering this is only a portion of the original game, with a similar price tag. If you aren’t an iPod owner this shouldn’t factor into your decision, but those who do may need mull over the idea of paying the same for something less.


While it isn’t necessarily as whole an experience as its brethren, Crystal Defenders R1 supplies enough value to be worth a download for fans of the ‘Tower Defense’ genre. There are a few annoying niggles that prevent it from being a must-have purchase, but if you look past these you’ll find an addictive and ultimately entertaining experience. So break out the swords, shields, and magic. There are crystals in need of defending!

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User Comments (42)



Corbs said:

I'm kinda surprised they didn't use the Wii Remote pointer for the game. Ah well, I still might give it a try down the road.



KDR_11k said:

The experience you’ll find in R1 is essentially a port of said game, but the experience has been split into multiple parts.

Wait, wasn't it released in three games on the iPhone too?



flatspikes said:

Despite a getting a 7 this really sounds a little half assed... bit of a shame really...



Objection said:

Good review, it's actually a more positive one than I expected. By the way, in the last paragraph before the conclusion: "but those who do may need mull over the idea of paying the same for something less" I believe this part is missing a "to."



warioswoods said:

You have to use the directional pad to place your troops?? That's so incredibly inept for a developer to make you waste your time moving a cursor around the battlefield like that when you have an IR pointer built in. That alone means I have zero inclination to download it, no matter how polished the rest of the experience might be, and I'm going to hold out an irrational hope (irrational since the brand name alone will unfortunately secure some success) that this game will fall under the sales number required to turn a profit.

Honestly, by this point in time, I find it ridiculous to ever be forced to move a little cursor around a grid using a gamepad when touch or IR controls are infinitely more efficient.




Interesting, but reads more like a 6/10 game to me for some reason. Its not really my kind of game anyway. I reckon Europe's going to get this Friday.



Knux said:

I bought this,but I haven't tried it yet. But I will try it soon.



guttertalk said:

This review is okay, but it doesn't answer questions about how this version compares to others. I checked gamefaqs and the IGN review, both written by Tower of Defense fans who have played the different versions.

R1 includes only 13 levels, not the full 300. The Wii version has other differences, such as seeing info on the next 3 waves (instead of only next wave), unlocking new units as you go (rather than having them all available), costs and strengths are different than other versions. R1 basically plays like a tutorial and introduction to the game, and it is much easier than other versions as a result of the level designs and the stat tweaks.

Given all this, there's no way I'd buy R1, not unless they confirmed that R2 was free. Buy it for the iPhone or 360. If you don't own either, then wait for the price on R2. If CD had included IR support, then it might have been worth a total of $10, maybe even $12, for both R1 and R2.

IMO, this kind of port represents the worst of Wii games: Price gouging and dumbing the game down for us poor, unsophisticated Wii owners.



Olimar_91 said:


I'm afraid I haven't played the other versions, so comparisons would only be going by word of mouth. And I certainly didn't want to include misinformation if I could help it.

Perhaps the fact that this is the only version I've played had an effect on my overall opinion. Honestly, I think it's a pretty decent game, and I'll stand by the 7 - which represents a "good" game.



KeeperBvK said:

@ KDR_11k: Nope, the iPhone got all 3 together.

@ guttertalk: There are no 300 levels in the original iPhone version. It's just 12 levels with approximately 300 waves, so if the WiiWare version contains 13 levels than that would have to mean that it features new content.



Ricardo91 said:

No thanks. I'll wait and download the series on the ipod Touch (whenever I get one). I'm with Pixelman. I'm just gonna wait for Swords & Soldiers.

I don't see why they have to dumb the games down like this either. Now that the Wii has a proper storage solution, they should be able to release the game as a whole.



EdEN said:

On the iPhone, Crystal Defenders is separated into W1 and W2. The PSN and Xbox Arcade versions are ports of the mobile levels. The Wiiware game has new stages and units.

Now, do you guys own a 360? Then check a review or two (http://xboxlive.ign.com/articles/961/961613p1.html or maybe http://reviews.teamxbox.com/xbox-360/1670/Crystal-Defenders/p1/) and give the XBLA version a go for $10.

I own a Wii (and soon a PS3), but I'll be getting this game on Wiiware NOW.



longtimegamer said:

@Eden - Can you tell tell us what you think when you get it?

Anyone else who has played this please give your feelings on it too.



guttertalk said:

@Olimar: No problem. I'm very much of a comparison shopper, so I was trying to find out the details of the differences. From the sounds of it, CD is an enjoyable game if you like strategy games but haven't played a tower defense game.

Actually, I thoroughly enjoy Noda's homebrew Tower Defense for the DS, and I wouldn't mind having a tower defense game for a console. A change of characters would be nice.

The Wii and its IR control would have been a great platform for a map editor for this game.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

I'm interested to see if R2 and R3 will be free for those who got R1. If so, the game could be considered worth it. If not.....

@longtimegamer: Well, IGN said a few hours but I don't really pay attention to them.



longtimegamer said:

@KnucklesSonic8 - We haven't seen them do any free content yet for their other games have we? I'd be surpised if they did (even though they should to keep from srewing us over). Wish we could get this info from them.



stratocastx said:

Isn't R2 the same price as R1 in Japan? So I don't see it being free here...probably another 800 points. Bah, what a disappointment...I really wanted this but I'm not supporting their poor choices.



longtimegamer said:

@Stratocastx - If this is the case, I hope R1 and R2 equal or surpass whats on the other system. It would really suck to put out 3 at this price and have basically the same amout of content as the others.



Olimar_91 said:


I'm a pretty good chunk in at a couple hours of play. I'd estimate that I could finish within 4-5 hours. The length is strengthened by the score system though. There's a certain appeal of beating a level with minimal defense. With that considered I think the game could definitely last longer.



gig said:

I have this for both my ipod nano and 360, both are fairly similar with the xbox having an extra set of maps 12 in total compared to the ipods 8. Both versions have heaps of waves on each map so lots of game play.

Although I'm not too likely to get the Wii version at the moment as I have the option to play it already both on the move and at home it's still a great game and worth checking out if you don't already have access to it on other formats.

I had no interest in tower defence games untill playing this on the nano and it's sucked up heaps of my time. Well worth it.



The_Indigo_Effect said:

For me, tower defense games are fun for a while, but as time wears on they become repetitive. My main gripe is that you're limited to simply defending territories, but I think the ability to launch offensive maneuvers would help balance out these types of games.



WarioFan63 said:

Im so confused here guys. The Crystal Defenders on 360 has 12 maps but R1 ALONE has 13 DIFFERENT maps? Is this right? Wouldn't that mean that we're not really getting a bum deal even if R1 is mostly an extended tutorial?



warioswoods said:


I would like these details sorted out as well.

Also, doesn't it seem likely that they will eventually port it to DSiWare as well? It seems as if they've hit every downloadable platform possible so far (including cell phones, iPod Nano, PSN, etc), so the DSi would only come naturally at this point. That could easily be the definitive version, if they'd make clever use of the two screens and optimize it for stylus control.



longtimegamer said:

Does this game seem to be too easy to anybody who's played it or is there a decent level of difficulty on it?



PaperToad said:

It's a great game, although a bit too easy. I hope it gets harder in R2. (And by easy, I mean I could beat the levels on the first try most of the time.) I would also give the game 7/10.



SKTTR said:

I hope it's coming to EU this Friday... I like this genre.
It doesn't seem like a bad port. I'm gonna download it anyway since I have no iPod or XBOX and the WiiWare version seems to be quite good.



odd69 said:

i've played the ps3 demo version of this game a few weeks ago when it was released on the japan psn network. it was fun and i was going to buy it regardless. i'm glad i bought the wii version though because it just feels better.the wii version isn't as hard and does not cost you as much to upgrade your characters.it felt alot different than the psn version,but then again i only played the demo.



Bones00 said:

It seems when you clear a stage and try it again, it adds more waves. The first time I cleared the first stage, it had 5 waves. Next time I cleared it, 7 waves. I'm working on it again to see if there's anymore added waves. I am assuming this is why they wave number is in red text, since you didn't do all the waves in this particular stage



Bensei said:

Does the game feature any extras that justify triple the price of XBLA? (Every Chapter costs ~10€ while all three on XBLA and iPod cost only ~10€)



Wolfcoyote said:

I only have the Wii so I'm definitely downloading the WiiWare version. I don't play tower defense games that much but this game looks very interesting. Bones00 clinched it for me when he said that additional waves appear during level retries - and we've all done worse with 800 Points, right?



SKTTR said:

I bought it a week ago on release and I've beaten it now.
It took me approx. 15 hours of playtime to beat all 13 stages perfectly.

The fast-forward function is great! Without it, the playtime would've been much longer. And watching the slow-moving monsters in a stage with 30 waves again and again until you got your strategy right would be just boring and very annoying. I wouldn't like to play a version without this feature.

The classic control in this game is just right. Pointer controls could have been optional for the ones who want them, but I wouldn't use them.

The "tutorial design" makes this a good entry for newcomers, such as me. In the first stage you only have 2 different units, and I like how new units are introduced every 2 stages. So everyone can get comfortable with the units and learn their strengths and weaknesses without being confronted with too much heavy content at once.

It may have an extra stage compared to the other versions, but still the game feels a bit short and easy. This is the my only grip with the game. It's very balanced but it should have been longer!

Summoning the 4 beasts is kinda useless, since they suck up crystals. And you'll definately want to save them to get a perfect score. So this is just eye-candy for me, or I didn't understand the full use of them.

Well, having completed this I definately want R2.
I hope it starts off where R1 ended, continuing the level of challenge and adding more units (and hopefully more stages).

On a side note: I'm ranked 19th in the final stage.



calculon said:

I bought this and played it for a few hours and finally got bored with it on the final stage. Simply put - there's no consistency in the difficulty level as the player progrsses. Most people will waltz through the game using brute force (failing to get perfect on one or two random stages) within a few hours only to come up against the brick wall that is the final stage. Suddenly everything that the player has achieved seems pointless because everything they've done before goes against them. Not particularly a good 'tutorial game' if you ask me.

Yes, returning to the completed stages does add replay-ability with the extra waves but quite frankly outside of going back to get a perfect score and to rank somewhere on the somewhat pointless online leader-board, I doubt anyone will bother. I agree with SKTTR on the fast-forward button and the worthless elemental beasts too.

It's obvious Square have every intention of cashing in on this game. Usually I have no problems with their money-grabbing antics because most of their games have a good deal of polish - sadly the same can't be said about R1 which is not only short but really ugly with its blurry unmemorable visual style and less than spectacular audio.

Ultimately, I can only hope that R2 is somewhat better as this game is certainly not worth 800 of anyone's points - half that, yes. In fact, if the game play weren't solid enough I'd say the same for the score but I'm plumping for a less harsh 5/10. Square's first really disappointing WiiWare title.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

"It's obvious Square have every intention of cashing in on this game." - And every other WiiWare game they've released thus far.... They're money-hoarders!

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