Whereas the Xbox Live Arcade and iPhone releases of Crystal Defenders came in one package, Square-Enix has chosen to split the WiiWare release into two separate parts. We've already seen Crystal Defenders R1 released on the service and now we've received the second part in Crystal Defenders R2. The games themselves are basically the same, with R2 offering up a bit more challenge than the first release that spent much of its time teaching players the basics of how the game is played. So is this second part of the game worth your time, and would those who haven't yet tried the games benefit more from skipping the first game and diving straight into this second release?
The game play in Crystal Defenders R2 is quite simple. You're put in control of a set of units that you can deploy onto a map that features winding paths of different shapes and lengths. Your task is to stop the enemies from reaching the end of these paths and stealing all of your valuable crystals. To do this you'll have to carefully and strategically position your various units along these paths in an effort to destroy the enemies before they can reach the crystals. You'll begin the game with only a handful of varying units to deploy, but as you progress through the game, you'll be given more units that feature new types of attacks.
Each time you place a unit down on the map, it will cost you Gil. It also costs you Gil to level your units up. Given that you only have a certain amount of Gil for each round, it's important to spend your money wisely and only deploy the units you actually need and only level them up when their attacks become too weak to destroy the enemies. It's also important to choose the right unit to deploy, as each unit has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Some units, like the Fencers for instance, feature great short-ranged attacks whereas Mages and Hunters excel at long range attacks, which come in handy for taking out aerial enemies. It's this careful blend of choosing the right type of unit and the location in which you position them that will determine how successful your units are in stopping the barrage of enemies in each round.
There are varying numbers of waves of enemies that you'll have to endure in each stage, each becoming more powerful and more challenging than the last. If you can make it to the end of the last wave with any of your crystals left, you win the stage and move on to the next area. But if you lose all of your crystals anytime along the way, you'll have to start the stage over again.
The options and deployment play controls are all very intuitive and easy to use. Most of the actual deployment is just pointing your cursor to the square on the map you wish to place the unit on and then choosing the unit from the menu of choices. Once you've placed all of your units into position, you merely press the "A" button to start the barrage of enemies marching down the paths. It's at this time that you'll find out how successful your deployment strategy actually was.
The visuals in Crystal Defenders are fairly basic, but that's no real surprise considering what type of game this is. You can only do so much visually when each level is basically just a set of winding pathways with a few varying backdrops tossed into the mix. The enemies and units are all well drawn and animate well, and even the menus used in the game are very distinctive. This WiiWare version might not have the glossy crispness of the Xbox Live Arcade release, but in some ways it's actually even more vibrant and striking in its overall presentation.
The music in the game is typical Square-Enix material. While there's not a lot of variety, the actual musical tracks that are present are very engaging and really fit the action taking place onscreen. They're also quite lengthy and tend to change rhythms and melodies often enough that, at times, they seem like different tracks entirely. The sound effects are a bit bland, but they play such a minor role in the overall scheme of things that it's hard to complain about them too much.
It's difficult to grade these two releases as separate entities, as you can't help but feel that they should have been included in the same package. Crystal Defenders R2 features a bit more challenge and just feels a little meatier overall than the first release. If you enjoyed Crystal Defenders R1, you'll likely enjoy this second title as it's basically more of the same, just with a little more of an edge to it. However, if you're only going to purchase one of these titles, you'd probably be better suited choosing this second release as it just feels like an stronger package overall.