By Ishaan . April 26, 2009 . 9:42am
With all the fuss surrounding Final Fantasy XIII and the release of the demo, no one’s been paying any attention to The Crystal Bearers, Square Enix’s massive RPG project for the Wii. It’s unfortunate because Crystal Bearers seems to be one of the most fresh, innovate Square Enix ideas in years. Everything from the art style and setting to the gameplay experience it offers are a welcome change from the usual JRPG fare we’re so familiar with and would probably strike a chord with anyone who’s been wanting something new.
What is Crystal Bearers?
Crystal Bearers is the next big retail game in the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles timeline. Chronologically, it takes place several years after the original Crystal Chronicles on Gamecube. The timeline as we understand it is: Ring of Fates > Crystal Chronicles > My Life as a King > Crystal Bearers. No one knows where exactly My Life as a Darklord and Echoes of Time fall in the timeline just yet.
Is the game an RPG like the other Crystal Chronicles games?
Actually, Crystal Bearers has been described by Weekly Jump as an action-adventure. It also emphasizes the single player aspect as opposed to cooperative multiplayer experience of most of the other CC games.
Who is the game directed by?
Crystal Bearers is directed by Toshiyuki Itahana, who is credited for character design for Final Fantasy IX. He later went on to design the various races for the Crystal Chronicles games. Itahana-san has also done artwork for Square’s Final Fantasy Fables games. Akitoshi Kawazu, director of the Romancing SaGa games is the game’s scenario writer.
Who’s that blonde kid and what does his non-bishounen appearance imply ?
That’s Layle, the protagonist of Crystal Bearers. As you’ve probably noticed, Layle doesn’t share much in common with the rest of Square Enix’s portfolio of bishounen RPG protagonists. This is because Itahana wanted to give Layle a more rugged look as opposed to a prettyboy one. The point was to have a protagonist who is “already a hero” before the story even begins. Quite a change from the Square scenarios we’re used to. From an interview with Itahana-san:
“I wanted more of a world-weary weather-beaten image, my image was not to design a hero with curly hair, but to make it appear a little disheveled because it’s supposed to be a little messy so that it appears that he’s been through a lot of stuff and wanted to convey a rugged look for the hero. I want to write an exhilarating tale of this great hero set against sweeping blue skies, who has in his past gone around adventuring, so that’s what I had in mind.”
So, what is a crystal bearer exactly?
Crystal bearers are people born with a shard of crystal infused in their bodies. These may or may not be visible and glow whenever the bearer uses the powers endowed by their crystal. This power is seen as both a gift and a curse.
It is unclear whether there can be more than a single crystal bearer representing each race. Just as Layle is the Clavat crystal bearer, Amidatelion – the game’s antagonist – is the crystal bearer representing the extinct Yuke race. She has the power to warp objects through space.
What is the world of Crystal Bearers like?
Crystal Bearers takes place in the same Crystal Chronicles world we’re familiar with, but it’s set many years into the future and is decidedly more mature in tone than its predecessors. Things have changed an awful lot since the days of miasma and crystal sickness. In a rather shocking twist, Yukes are now extinct (reportedly for “thousands of years”) as the result of a war with the Lilties.
Gone are the days when crystals were used to protect towns and bring happiness to the land and its people. Now, they are mere tools of industrialization used to power technology built by the Lilties. Crystal Bearers in particular takes place in a militaristic nation. This means you’ll see less of crystal caravans and magic staves and more of high-tech trains and bazookas.
The world is still inhabited by plenty of monster tribes though. You’ll see signature Final Fantasy staples like Chocobos and Moogles, and creatures that are slightly reminiscent of Red XIII from FF7. There are also monsters that look like the Bombs from various other FF games as well as an assortment of wolves and a dragon (Bahamut, perhaps?).
What is the underlying gameplay mechanic?
Crystal Bearers is designed around gravitation and telekinesis.
By virtue of being a “crystal bearer,” Layle has the ability to control gravitational force. Using this ability, you can influence enemies within the game. This is done by using the Wii remote’s pointer to target them. From there, you can either pull yourself toward an enemy, pull an enemy toward you, throw them at other enemies or even swing yourself around enemies or other objects to dodge their attacks.
The interesting part is, this isn’t restricted just to enemies. You can influence other objects and people within the game as well, and depending on how much of a lunatic you are around townspeople, they’ll react to you in different ways (women and guards for example). You can use this ability to open doors, jump across wide gaps, throw people around and even control enemies.
There’s also an interesting AI system in place for monsters in the game called “demon reaction.” Not only do the monsters react to Layle in different ways, they also interact with each other in a variety of ways if you leave them be. It has been said that there are quite a few varieties of behaviour programmed into them, and this feature should make for something interesting experimentation and discovery.
And now, for the best part. All the cool mid-air action sequences from the trailer are actually in the game in the form of quicktime events. These are called “playable events.” One example mentioned in Famitsu is that Layle is falling through the sky, surrounded by demons. Using the Wii remote, you need to shoot at them.
There’s a scene in the trailer that has Layle trapping an airship in some sort of telekinetic field and flinging it downward…that’s probably a QTE, along with the caravan chase scene, too.
What are the RPG elements in the game?
By now, you can probably tell that Crystal Bearers isn’t turn-based. In fact, interactivity is the name of the game here. The idea was to design an open-ended game that wasn’t just fun to play, but also fun to watch.
The game does retain certain RPG elements though. While there is no leveling-up system, the growth of Layle’s abilities is controlled using accessories and equipment. It also seems like there are “reactions” of sorts to be discovered by influencing various objects in the environment using your powers. An example of this is the scene involving the Cactus Jack look-a-like from the trailer.
The various trailers and gameplay clips also hint at some sort of a “charm” effect by which you can make enemies do your bidding or make them grow attached to you.
Is there other stuff to do in the game?
It certainly seems like it. Chocobo-riding is present and accounted for, and we’re certain the open-ended nature of the game means there will be plenty of side-activities to pursue. There are platforming elements based around Layle’s gravitational powers, and we’ve already seen several examples of the demon reactions and someone humping a rock (thanks Volcynika) so…
What’s the story behind the game?
So, a Lilty, a Selkie and a Moogle all walk into a bar…
Just kidding. It goes something like this: Layle is heading an escort mission for a passenger ship on its maiden voyage when Amidatelion decides to attack with her army. Layle tries to fend them off. This sparks an in game rivalry between the two.
Somehow, the Lilty queen, Althea and Jegran – the head of the Lilty army – are involved. Althea’s mother is dead and her father – no hints as to who this might be; I’m assuming the Goron-looking person – is sick. Judging by the trailer, Althea and Jegran are on the airship that gets attacked by Amidatelion. Jegran knows both Layle and Amidatelion are crystal bearers and senses trouble from both. While Amitadelion’s intentions are up in the air (har har…get it?), I assume it has something to with the Lilties wiping out her race. I mean, I’d be pretty pissed, too. This is all Square has revealed so far.
Any other major characters I should know about?
Yes there are! There’s Layle’s trusty bandana-sporting Selkie companion, Keiss, who is pictured below. He’s briefly visible in the trailer in a scene that has Amidatelion attacking him. Keiss seems to be piloting the escort ship when Yuke’s ambush takes place. He later goes missing and part of Layle’s story involes his search for his friend.
And then there’s the cute redheaded Selkie girl, who seems to be Layle’s love interest in Crystal Bearers. A scene from the trailer has her using a camera and another has her running from the Lilty guards. Perhaps she’s some sort of journalist?
This…doesn’t look like the same game from E3 2006.
Yes, the game has gone undergone quite the change, hasn’t it? Here’s the funny part.
The teaser trailer shown off at Nintendo’s press conference E3 2006 was just a pre-rendered movie that was created before Itahana-san and his team had decided upon a direction for Crystal Bearers. The game was still in pre-production back then, so the teaser looked closer to the original Crystal Chronicles on Gamecube.
In its current form, Crystal Bearers looks far more “grown up” than it did back then. For instance, here are comparison pics of the protagonist from E3 2006 and Layle in his current form, and of the old logo versus the new one. I find it pretty neat that the current ingame Layle model looks better and more detailed than the pre-rendered one.
Anything else interesting that I should know about?
The game will allow a second player to assist or “hinder” (don’t ask) you by using a second Wii remote a la Super Mario Galaxy.
Food for thought:
1. Square has said that Ring of Fates “sets the stage” for The Crystal Bearers. However, Ring of Fates is chronologically the first game in the Crystal Chronicles timeline. The events from RoF lead to the miasma-afflicted world of the first Crystal Chronicles, so there’s no way to tell which game Crystal Bearers is most connected to.
2. It has been said that this world is “ruled by the Lilty tribe,” but to what extent? It really makes me wonder about the political and societal structure of the Crystal Bearers world.
3. While the Crystal Chronicles games have always been perceived as a “kiddier” Final Fantasy because of the art style, that really couldn’t be farther from the truth, given that every CC game has undertones of depression and destruction and the loss of loved ones. Perhaps this is why Square opted to go with a more mature look for The Crystal Bearers.
4. “Layle’s Jacket” is a piece of equipment that can be bought in Ring of Fates. It returns in Echoes of Time along with “Layle’s Goggles.”
5. The game has been described as a new beginning for the Crystal Chronicles series, whatever that implies. As far as I’m concerned, this is the Wii’s “Resident Evil 4.”
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