Let’s give Square Enix credit where credit is due: they made a few Crystal Defenders tower defense games that were pretty basic, but skinned with characters from the Final Fantasy universe. While entertaining enough, they didn’t add anything new to what has become an oversaturated genre. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord (the pseudo sequel to the nifty WiiWare launch title, My Life as a King) changes that pattern up though, and not only proves to be a worthwhile addition to the tower defense genre, but also brings some new and fresh ideas to the table that help to make this one of the top games on the WiiWare service.
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
July 20, 2009
Rather than building towers along a path to slow monsters down and guide them away from your home base or an exit, you instead build inside of a tower. At the top is the dark crystal, which you have to keep the opposition away from. You do this by placing floors in the way that the adventurers will have to stop and fight on. You have multiple kinds of floors that you unlock through the game–some offensively oriented, some defensive, some support–and they each have their own positives and negatives. You then place monsters on each floor–again, each with their own strengths and weaknesses–in the hopes of defeating the waves of adventurers before they reach the dark crystal.
Damage is done in rock-paper-scissors form, with ranged attackers besting magic, magic beating melee, and melee hurting ranged. There are also generic monsters that do the same amount of damage to all classes, which is useful if you’re unsure of just what you will be facing when. Be warned though: the adventurers can destroy your monsters, but can also damage and take out your floors too, meaning they can move up through the tower quicker than you anticipate. You get some healing monsters to alleviate this later in the game, but you still need to be aware of it or it will make winning difficult. Thankfully you can retry at any point, and even keep some of the karma points–which is used to upgrade monsters and your tower–when you do so.
You build with Negative Points, which are accumulated by defeating adventurers. You can increase your starting amount by collecting items that you find after finishing levels, some on the main path and others from optional side missions. The game warns you when you are running low, which will happen often, given you need to build new floors, add monsters and then level them up over the course of a match.
The game is very difficult at times, but it’s also very rewarding. You can retry as many times as you would like, and since you gain karma even in your failed attempts, none of your efforts are wasted. You can also replay levels you have beaten in order to beef up your tower or units, though the karma output will be lower the second time around.
The title has the charm and polish we have come to expect from Square Enix and the Crystal Chronicles series. Graphically, it’s pretty good looking for a WiiWare title, though it is basic at times–units don’t change appearance when you upgrade them, and Mira, the Darklord, is strangely static in her facial expressions much like the King in the first of these spinoffs. The music is catchy and well done though, and even if there is a bit of slowdown at times when the on-screen action is chaotic, it’s nothing that affects the gameplay.
There’s a bunch of DLC planned for this title, in addition to the initial $10 price tag. While a lot of it is meant to be for costumes and items, new stages will be available at some point in the future. Not all of the DLC may be for you, but it is optional, and there is plenty of game here for $10 to begin with.
Blast Factor: My Life as a Darklord is a worthwhile entry in the tower defense genre, one that takes its namesake literally by placing you in control of a tower in a vertically-based game. It’s polished, charming, and both difficult and rewarding. You can’t ask for much more than that for $10, but if you insist, Square Enix also has DLC available and more–including new stages–on the way.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord is available exclusively on Nintendo’s WiiWare service for $10, or 1000 Nintendo Points