Review: Crystal Defenders R1 (WiiWare)

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.

Conclusion

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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