Game Review

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sean McDermott

Here's your chance to try out life as a Darklord!

As a launch title for the WiiWare service in all regions, the long-titled Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King was highly anticipated by fans of the famous series and city-building enthusiasts alike. Having received positive critical acclaim from the gaming world, which appeared to enjoy the new direction the series undertook, it was inevitable that Square Enix would release a sequel. But does this follow-up, aptly named My Life as a Darklord, build on the success of the former title and provide an original experience or is this sequel overkill?

First and foremost, My Life as a Darklord is nothing like its precursor, despite being a so-called sequel. Those who have played My Life as a King will know that in the game the player takes the role of King Leo who is entrusted with restoring his father’s barren kingdom using a special power that originates from a large crystal. The gameplay in the title mainly consisted of sending adventurers out to the real world to accomplish particular tasks, as well as constructing the various buildings and businesses that make up the land. The setup in My Life as a Darklord couldn’t be more different.

Taking the role of the cute (but obviously evil) Mira, the daughter of My Life as a King’s antagonist, you are tasked with defending the tower in which she lives from ‘adventurers’ – the good guys. This assignment is carried out by building the tower upwards through adding individual floors, which Mira’s monster buddies (told you she was evil) are then placed onto. Action takes place within the same tower, the main formula for every stage being to lay down a floor and position your chosen monsters on it. From here, you can only watch as your loyal minions scrap with the ‘do-gooders’ whose mission is solely to reach the tower’s summit and destroy the crystal atop it. The enemies themselves stroll into the area from the right side of the screen either in groups or alone; however there’s always a set number for each stage, and although only one adventurer is allowed on each floor, things can get overwhelming quickly. After some short turn-based battling, your enemy’s counter indicates that he is to move on to the next floor, and the process repeats itself. Overall the game boasts an extremely deep system that rewards strategic thinking and punishes lacklustre planning on the player’s part.

As is typical of Square’s main RPG series, individual attributes/skills play a huge part in My Life as a Darklord. Placing a floor isn’t just a matter of accessing the menu and choosing one – you’ll have to consider the type of enemy that your own monsters will be facing on it. There are four different types of floor: Offensive, Defensive, Support and Special. Over the course of the game you’ll acquire a variety of floors that you can place on your tower, with each having its own attributes that you must take into account. For example, the game denotes that magic units are strong against melee units, so if you see a Gladiator on his way up the tower then you’ll try to seek out a floor that counters his melee ability. This is the same for the monsters you have at your disposal. They are divided into five categories – melee ranged, magic, generic and healer – with each category having its own strengths and weaknesses against other units. This is obviously a tried-and-tested formula that many gamers are familiar with today, but My Life as a Darklord manages to add an additional level of depth to proceedings that really goes down well.

The stages in which the action takes place are accessed from a handy overworld map, with the next stage within a chapter being opened after the previous one has been cleared. This map is also the screen in which you accomplish all of your behind-the-scene duties: namely upgrading your monsters and expanding the maximum number of floors that your tower can hold. The former simply involves advancing the level of the troops while the latter does exactly what it says on the tin. However, both of these procedures come with a price as you must spend Karma anytime you want to carry them out. Karma is given to the player at the completion of a stage – you even get Karma if you fail a level (albeit not as much as if you succeeded in defending your tower) and in many cases you’re rewarded for completing a stage.

All of these gameplay features mean that My Life as a Darklord excels through its tremendous level of depth, ensuring that even the most experienced of strategy fans have plenty to think about. Really, there’s pretty much no letup from when you start a stage to when you complete it. There are more things to consider during the main gameplay too, of course. Although the actual levelling-up process, that costs Karma, takes place in the overworld map, you must apply this new level during the game using Negative Points, adding yet another job for you to carry out. In addition to this, special items can be made use of after being given as rewards from other stages, with their purposes ranging from attacking your enemies on each floor to simply adding to your Negative Points at the start of every battle.

If you’re going into the game expecting the inclusion of various funky, radical (or whatever they’re calling it these days) Wii remote gestures you’ll definitely be disappointed. Surprisingly, My Life as a Darklord doesn’t even utilise the controller’s IR-pointing capabilities and instead asks the player to hold the remote on its side. As you’d expect then, the d-pad navigates the many menus throughout the game, with the remote’s ‘2’ button being employed to select options. Aside from these functions, you can also open up a very useful guide during any stage that reminds you of the effectiveness of particular monster types on your enemies, among other useful info. Additionally, you can also zoom-in slightly on an individual floor to have a closer gander at the detailed sprites and pleasant floor design. Whilst the control system undoubtedly functions as it should, we can’t help but feel that a more involving experience could have been achieved if the developer had decided to take advantage of the Wii remote’s unique capabilities.

My Life as a Darklord contains the usual high-production values that you’d expect from a Square Enix game. Although the action takes place in an identical tower for every single stage, all of the sprites – both monsters and adventurers – are presented in the same style as you’re accustomed to within the Final Fantasy series. The background also changes slightly as battles rage on, but apart from that there’s little to discuss in the visual department. In the audio side of things the game excels with the usual upbeat tunes dominating the proceedings – really the norm for Final Fantasy titles. If we have one complaint about the presentation it’s Mira itself: her role during gameplay is little more than a small corner on the side of the screen in which she shouts random dribble that can become infuriating quickly.

As a Square Enix downloadable title, many will be aware that already My Life as a Darklord features a plethora of DLC. This extra content amounts to a grand total of 5700 Nintendo Points, but to be perfectly honest unless you’re a Final Fantasy veteran in need of nostalgia most of the game’s DLC isn’t worth the money. Nearly all individual downloads simply make the game easier by offering Negative Point-boosts at the beginning of battle or give you a set of items. However, there are two extra stages that can be purchased if you’re desperately in need of more levels to play (note that the former stage can only be played after the completion of the game’s third chapter and the latter after all chapters are finished).

Conclusion

One word sums up the gameplay in the latest Final Fantasy spin-off for WiiWare - deep. There’s absolutely no way you’ll be disappointed with the sheer number of things to consider throughout the game. If you are, at least you should be satisfied by the large number of individual stages and polished presentation in My Life as a Darklord. Although the game is extremely addictive and represents great value for money (the less said about the generally-unnecessary DLC the better), the same general formula does exist for every level, so repetition may be an issue for those not captivated by the genre, and more intuitive controls could have easily been implemented. Nevertheless, we’re more than confident that you won’t regret giving WiiWare’s latest strategy title a spin.

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User Comments (75)

Egg_miester

#4

Egg_miester said:

wow i was going to get the game no matter what the score is now i can't wait more for tomorrow

Auron586

#6

Auron586 said:

great review, i purchased this game and all DLC first day, and personally im very happy with both game and DLC.

Also, one thing i picked up on, the review says there are three types of floors, there is infact 4 types, the last being "Special" floors.

Shortay

#7

Shortay said:

Thanks for the kind words everyone, I appreciate it. :)

@Auron586: Thanks, forgot about that last one. I'll get that amended ASAP.

PopeReal

#9

PopeReal said:

Must have for me.

I'll download it tomorrow and maybe get some of the DLC stuff...

Bass_X0

#11

Bass_X0 said:

My only criticism of this game is that you have to use the Wii remote. I would have liked to have used the classic controller. I'm also kinda stuck now near the end of the third chapter.

Knux

#12

Knux said:

@Bass XO-You cannot use the Classic Controller? That's odd. Can you use the Gamecube controller?

Bahamut_ZERO

#16

Bahamut_ZERO said:

Eh, Tower Defense is all over the place. If you want a real good TD game, buy Plants vs Zombies :)

Bass_X0

#17

Bass_X0 said:

I'm stuck on the stage before the third castle. Three red mages! Agh! I also can't do the two optional stages of the third story either. I'm going to have to resort to DLC or wait for a guide. I also think I guessed who the identity of Tonbetty really is. The online manual says that Tonbetty looks like someone in a costume and asks the question of who could be wearing it.

And is Plants vs. Zombies on the Wii? No...

SilentJ

#19

SilentJ said:

Awesome review, Sean! I'll definitely be downloading this tomorrow morning. I'll have to wait a bit for the dlc though. I knew I should have saved more Wii points.

Kenji510

#20

Kenji510 said:

Nice!!!!!!! Definitely getting this game tomorrow for sure and i wanna try it out too! :D

-TR

#21

-TR said:

Life as a King or Life as a Darklord? I'll have to get one or the other soon...

guardian42

#22

guardian42 said:

Great review Sean.
I'll be getting this for sure, and probably only the extra stages DLC.
Does anyone know if this is the final DLC or will there be more?

dude

#23

dude said:

just scrolled thought the DLC... looks like it really is optional. Some give you more starting "mana" or stronger monsters. but i guess thats for noobs ;)

Golgo

#25

Golgo said:

nice review. what with swords and soldiers, v satisfying to see some solid strategy gaming on wiiware.

and to all the plants v zombies fans, this game is the same...but different. more complex. pvz remains the ultimate tower defence game tho, i think.

WolfRamHeart

#26

WolfRamHeart said:

Fantastic review! I was on the fence about getting this game when I heard about the hefty price tag for the DLC but now I am definitely going to get it! I'm glad to hear that buying all the DLC isn't necessary to enjoy the game! I will probably just get the extra stages! I can't wait to download this!:)

SwerdMurd

#27

SwerdMurd said:

This game sounds friggin' necessary...and here I was ready to lambaste (correct word?) it as soon as it dropped....

Great. Another reason to spend money. I seriously need to take a little 2-month-in-a-bubble vacation and beat my backlog...I seriously have 4 SNES games, plenty of PS1 games, and plenty of GBA games I haven't beaten....probably some PS1/GBA stuff I haven't even played!

What is it that compels me to buy games only to allow them to occupy bonus shelf spaces?

Bass_X0

#28

Bass_X0 said:

"Some give you more starting "mana" or stronger monsters. but i guess thats for noobs"

MLaaD is going to turn us all into n00bs. Some levels are quite difficult.

Alza

#29

Alza said:

Nice review!
How is the lasting appeal? There is something like the final rating in MlaaK or the medals?
I want to buy this game, but i'm worried it will not last as long as "... King"!
Thanks!

Haze4peace

#30

Haze4peace said:

I've been playing the game non-stop since it came out. I love it so much. I just made it to chapter 4 and am getting my ass kicked all over the place. If someone could design a perfect game just for me, this would be it. RPG, Tower Defense, Strategy. Great game!

Objection

#34

Objection said:

Great review for a day one download from me. Its annoying that so much of the DLC seems pointless but maybe the additional chapters will be worth downloading.

KrazyKain

#37

KrazyKain said:

overall it is a good game, but so much wasted potential... its a great tower defence game but a tower defence game nontheless.. it could have easily been a dungeon master type game.. i really hoped it would

KnucklesSonic8

#39

KnucklesSonic8 said:

Wow, talk about a great review! If anyone was on the fence before, surely this review would've helped them decide.

Also, I'm getting annoyed with SQUARE ENIX's laziness with Wii IR functionality. Could've been so great in Crystal Defenders and even here but instead they take the easy way out and choose to map it to button presses.

Objection

#40

Objection said:

I'm glad they went with the sideways remote. (Right?) That works great in menu-based games like this. Anyway, i'm gonna try and get this tomorrow, yay!

Captain_Jack_Sparrow

#41

Captain_Jack_Sparrow said:

Very excellent review; I read the whole thing & enjoyed it! :)

Will have to get sometime in the future I guess, along with My Life As King; since I'm a partial Final Fantasy fan! ;)
But all of the DLC is WAY TOO PRICEY for my tastes; I don't hold onto points very long or well enough to do so! :(

BTW, question for those who wish to answer... which will be more fun & possibly to get sometime? FF My Life as Dark Lord; or FFIV the After Years?! I've never played any retro Final Fantasy game before; or new visial 3D Final Fantasy game either! ;)

Bass_X0

#42

Bass_X0 said:

I'm glad there is no shaking or pointing involved here. It just wouldn't work and would have felt like it was forced in just for the sake of having shaking and pointing. It would have been novel at first but after a while you'd come to dislike it. The game moves too fast for you to accurately point at anything - if you had to point at a monster to select them for example then it would have been very awkward under pressure. And regarding the DLC... if you're average and don't want to give the game up completely before you've even completed the third stage, you will be resorting to some DLC.

Bass_X0

#44

Bass_X0 said:

You say that as if everyone has to buy everything available. How many times do you go into a regular shop getting pissed off at how much stuff is available in there and how much it would cost you if you bought one of each thing? Like any other shop, just buy what you need/want.

Varoennauraa

#45

Varoennauraa said:

Lack of IR-pointer is laughable and unforgivable. It is minimum requirement in Wii!!! You know, not just for the sake of having it, but for the sake of obviously better gameplay in a menu driven game. This would have been superb coffee game(I love playing strategy games while sipping coffee...or wine...or whisky), and I have been aching to have one for Wii, because of the sofa:)!!! I so wanted to love this game, especially since there is a soft spot in my heart for tower defence games, but cheap lazyness combined in premium prices( a combination once again attached to Square ), greatly reduces my playfulness. For once this at least looks great Wiiware game from Square, but I'm too bitter to buy it. Better luck next time.

Varoennauraa

#46

Varoennauraa said:

Making GBA controls doesn't rule IR out. There are people who like to play one handed from time to time. You could make controls work both ways to satisfy different needs.

stratocastx

#47

stratocastx said:

As someone who loved Crystal Defenders, how does this game compare?

Are the bonus levels the downloads that are 500 points, and how long do those take to play through? Is any other DLC worth buying?

WiisWorld

#48

WiisWorld said:

I felt IR could have worked, if they'd used a slightly different interface. Also the action pauses while you're making changes to your tower/monsters, so it's not like you need split-second timing or anything.

Bass_X0

#49

Bass_X0 said:

52: You'll love this one even more so. There's a lot more variety and things to do. Plus theres even a story - which isn't deep or anything but a nice addition; Mira is fun.

darklinkinfinite

#50

darklinkinfinite said:

I just picked this up today and I'm up to the start of Chapter 2 and I'm enjoying it so far. The Characters are fun and I'm hoping the storyline can hold its own as My Life as a King was able to do in its own way.

The sheer amount of DLC is mind boggling, For the total cost, they should've made it a retail game, or maybe they can release a retail version with all the DLC. Still, when/if I get the money I can see myself buying a lot of t; probably everything except for the costume stuff, though I haven't discounted it quite yet.

As for pointer control, if they had allowed it on the map screen it'd be great, but I'm glad they kept the battles themselves button-driven.

calculon

#51

calculon said:

Just started Chapter 3 and I'm loving this game so far. Had a few tough battles where I was tempted to buy DLC but like the game says, just keep trying and you'll figure it out.

Juding from Bass' comments, Chapter 3 sounds like it will be a real challenge. I haven't bought any DLC yet though and will only do so if I get REALLY stuck or when I come to replay the game as I think the extra features will add to the replay value.

Bass_X0

#52

Bass_X0 said:

Yeah, I didn't need any DLC for the first two stages and most of the third stage. I couldn't beat the optional battles on the third stage or the level before the castle without DLC. Even with it I am stuck on the castle and the optional stage where you get Shade from.

danih

#53

danih said:

I love the Tower Defense genre, and Square Enix took it literally :)
Really great stuff, I am at the 4th chapter now, sometimes it takes a few tries until you find the right strategy for the level. I'll look into the DLC as well, I hope it contains more levels!

danih

#54

danih said:

Hmm I don't think it's THAT hard :)
I never even used all the monsters, mu and shade seem pretty useless...
Just be sure who's attacking and when, attack floors with appropriate monsters (+ healer sometimes), lots of support floors if there are multiple enemies, and put puppet theaters on the bottom if you want to weaken adventurers or would like to buy some time for monsters above to heal.
No problems as of yet even with the side-missions, I've got all the NP-raising rewards (which are really recomennded or else you'll be f#&ked later on :))

ganondwarf16

#55

ganondwarf16 said:

i'm having a little trouble in chapter 2 thieves ascend my floor too quickly for me to control it anyone got any advice?

ganondwarf16

#56

ganondwarf16 said:

thanks but I already figured it out I didn't realize goblins were so effective against thieves

danih

#57

danih said:

Yep, melee units against ranged units (the thief counts as a ranged unit)

davegorack

#58

davegorack said:

Very good game.
I actulee whould recomend some of the Downloadeble contend(espcalee Kain) as it makes the game esayer.

Alza

#59

Alza said:

Thanks for the tips guys, i downloaded it and it is really fun!

Rawk_Hawk

#60

Rawk_Hawk said:

This game is not my cup of tea, but for a Wii Ware title it looks really stunning compared to other Wii Ware games.

bboy1

#62

bboy1 said:

Great game for 1000 points. I've clocked around 8 hours and am up to the end of the 3rd chapter. It can get pretty damn hard at times on the bonus missions. I haven't bought any DLC but I managed to beat that 3rd chapter bonus mission (ruins of carpeina) after like 10+ retries. You got to really think strategically. The trick is to use a couple of those slow down floors with magic guys in them (between them put 2 floors of magic guys) and also use healers in the bottom floors with goblins cause the bottom floors get wasted by thieves. And of course always have a couple puppet theatres at the very bottom.

Overall though I'm loving this game. It's great fun and addictive and definitely worth 1000 points!

bboy1

#63

bboy1 said:

Wow just when I thought the 3rd chapter was the last, there's more..

I seriously can't believe how deep and long this game is for 1000 wii points.

bboy1

#64

bboy1 said:

Just finished it, and all the play time including retries totaled just over 20 hours. I can't stress enough how good value that is considering a lot of retail games which cost way more last less than 10 hours.

Didn't end up needing any of the DLC. I reckon the hardest part of the game was chapter 3. Once you get the haste clock floor, use it because they're really effective at holding back enemies especially the annoying thieves.

For ranged units, the best strategy I found was to use several haste clocks with lvl 5 goblins in them and for melee enemies use the same floors but with lvl 5 bombs. Have lots of those floors then at the top have some defense floors with 2 ochus and a healer. The goblins and bombs will fend off everyone while the ochus at the top will kill wizards and any illusionists that get through. I barely used minions and behemoths in the later chapters cause they still attack slow in haste clocks. However along with ochus, you'll really need floors of them around chapters 3-4.

Tate24

#65

Tate24 said:

Great review and great game!!

i really like this game its so addictive!!
just unlocked the cactus & bemonth monsters so cool.
i haven't even bought any DLC yet and am finding it quite challenge, id proper like buy some new monsters when get some more points.

for me 9/10 my favorite wiiware game so far!!!

nintendo87

#66

nintendo87 said:

i like the dlc in this game i got most of them right now but the extra level this game is like a drug cant stop playin it!!!

bboy1

#67

bboy1 said:

the only dlc that's available in australia are some items. everything else says nothing available yet.

pikmin95

#68

pikmin95 said:

After completing the game (without any DLC), I feel it had made no impact on me. I guess the strategy genre just isn't for me.

Kadaj

#69

Kadaj said:

This game is just beyond awesome. As a huge Squeenix fan, I was quite happy with Dark Lord; it just plain delivers. Also a big fan of TD games as well, so it just all blended together nicely. I can't wait for a sequel, either in the form of DLC or a stand alone game.

Like MLAAK, I'm a DLC junkie :P Hopefully get to see more levels available soon!

Tiranytar

#73

Tiranytar said:

After months, I would give a chance at that game... I downloaded the demo, and, despite I am not a strategy-games fan, I found that FF: MLAADL very intriguing.
Probably I will invest 1000 points, but I saw... 5700 points in DLC? 1000 + 5700 = 6700 = 67 euros? The price of FF XIII (my PS3 will not avoid that announced blockbuster!)! And I have thought to have spent so much buying all the FFIV: The After Years's DLC. Now, I am really scared: if I would like even My life as a king, my wallet will cry! I have to download even that demo... Pardon for my english, maybe not very well...

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