Crystal Defenders: Why Is The Fate Of The Crystals In My Hands?

By Spencer . March 11, 2009 . 9:26pm

01

The world is in danger, maybe, but there isn’t time for Square Enix to tell us why. Crystal Defenders skips the story and jumps right into waves of crystal hungry monsters. Bare bones presentation, I know. This was originally a mobile phone game and Square Enix reused assets from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 so I guess I shouldn’t have expected much in the first place. Then again does a tower defense game really need a story?

 

Crystal Defenders is simply Square Enix’s take on the tower defense genre. Players set towers based off the units from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and watch them pummel monster hordes as they walk on a dirt road. If the monsters reach the end of the map they reduce your crystal count. Lose 20 crystals and it’s game over. Survive 30 monster waves and you win. Take note of the wave count. There are 300+ waves of tower defense here spread over 12 maps and three episodes. Even the map count is a bit skewed since the “12″ maps are really six maps and six modified expert maps that add new forks to watch out for.

 

04

 

Between episodes you have a slightly different set of towers. Crystal Defenders W1 and its four maps have the most basic towers. A soldier that hits for heavy damage, but to only one ground enemy at a time. A splash damage dealing monk, magic shooting black mage, aerial killing archer, and a time mage that slows mobs down. If you played a tower defense game before these should sound similar. The one unique exception is the thief, which can’t attack at all. Thieves give you bonus gold if you kill a monster next to them. Later missions introduce more complicated towers like time freezing tinkers and sluggish dragoons. The late game towers aren’t that different. Take the berserker as an example, it’s a modified white monk. In addition to towers you also have espers, summon monsters that can damage all the enemies on the screen or boost your towers stats for a wave. These powerful allies can be summoned if you’re willing to sacrifice five crystals, a quarter of what you start with.

 

Tower defense games are all about clever placement. At the start of each wave everything freezes so you can place and upgrade towers at your leisure. Even in the heat of battle you can pause the action to add a new tower or power up an old one before a monster gets away. If you can’t figure out what should go where a developer play through gives hints. You unlock these replay videos by playing the game and each one goes through 15 waves or half the number of stages to clear a map. Watch a video and you’ll have a good idea how to win, but you won’t know everything. Once you master a level you can save a replay of your own.

 

05

 

While Crystal Defenders is an Xbox Live Arcade game it stills looks and feels like a mobile phone game. The sprites are larger, but the framerate is choppy. When you hold down the right bumper to speed the game up it’s noticeable. Square Enix also developed a version of Crystal Defenders for WiiWare and strangely its presentation was upgraded to include a visual map between waves. You don’t get that on Xbox Live Arcade. Stages are chosen through lackluster menus. On the other hand the WiiWare version is more expensive and has less levels so there is a tradeoff there.

 

It may be unspectacular, but Crystal Defenders, like any good tower defense game, is addictive.

 

Food for thought:

 

1.) Too bad Square Enix didn’t add a feature to send replay videos to friends. I wonder if the PlayStation 3 version has built in YouTube uploading like Noby Noby Boy. That would be a neat community feature.

 

2.) I used to love tower defense maps games like Warcraft III or Starcraft, but part of the fun there was working together with others. Square Enix could have created online co-op maps or at the very least a competitive mode where players can spend gold to overwhelm rivals with extra monsters.


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  • Mazen

    Its really strange that the framerate is better in the Wii versions but they are more expensive, well still these are the best Tower Defense games by far.

  • Enix

    I have the game on ipod where it controls fine, so have no real need to get it on a console.

  • MadMirko

    Look, there is a tiny game playing inside the frames! j/k

    A version for a portable console would have been nice for us no (current) iPod / iPhone people.

  • BlackFreefall

    I’ll just stick to my FFA2.

  • daizyujin

    I was checking out video of this last night and was shocked how much it looks like a flash game I saw on a website a month or so ago. Swap out the FF characters for monkeys and you have the same game. Of course, that one was free to play. It was fun, I may have dropped 400 MSP on this but 800? No thanks.

  • Rciwws

    Is this on PSN yet?

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      Yes, in Japan.

  • Jellybit

    I’m surprised you imply that this is a good tower defense games. There have been a dozen other much more enriching games based on the tower defense concept. This one has major flaws that were eradicated by later designs in this genre. In Pixeljunk Monsters, for instance, you can’t blindly play the same strategy to beat a level. You control a character who has to pick up the goodies monsters leave behind, sometimes weaving in and out to do so. Also, what trees have goodies is random, and you have two types of currency. The gold will buy items, while the crystals will research new types of items to buy. Add to this that there is a multiplayer mode, which has both of you racing to grab gold (as you have two separate purses), and you have a much more fulfilling experience after all. Plus the game was actually made to run on the hardware on which you bought it.

    The worldwide score rankings on each level in Pixeljunk Monsters is also pretty nice, and the levels are designed in a more organic way (not a boring grid containing a path with only 90 degree turns). There isn’t just a single path enemies come down either. You have to create vastly different strategies per level because of this, and not just because of the different enemies. For instance, one level has a bridge, and all land creatures must use this, however, the flying creatures can go over the river, so they take a different route. Or another level where your town is in the center of the screen, and enemies could come from all directions, weaving around trees.

    In comparison to other advances made in the genre, Crystal Defenders is a pitiful attempt at game design, that adds nothing to the genre. I almost never say this about simple games (as they’re all I design), but this one truly is nothing more than those free flash games, just with choppy graphics. For newer takes on the design, I strongly suggest pixeljunk monsters, or for a “free flash game” attempt that actually adds something to the genre, check out The Space Game (http://www.casualcollective.com/games/The_Space_Game)

  • Jellybit

    ok, sorry, I do see that there are two types of currency in Crystal Defenders too, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the strategy is quite rigid, and wouldn’t offer anything worthwhile on a second playthrough. Also, in the demo at least, I couldn’t earn any crystals, so you couldn’t really manage that currency. But good on the designer for adding SOMETHING. It’s just not nearly enough compared to other advances that actually make the genre interesting, in addition to being addictive.

  • Memphis

    hmmmm….. it is SQUARE, I am just surprized that the game is decent…. it is their first attempt at something like this I am pretty sure

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