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Crystal Defenders R1 Playtest & Videos

Square Enix apparently forgot to play this one before releasing it.


Crystal Defenders R1 hit WiiWare today, marking Square Enix's first homegrown title for the service since Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King.

For those who haven't played the original versions on cell phones and iPod Touch, Crystal Defenders falls under a category of game known as "tower defense." You position troops on a static map, press a button to let a flock of enemies enter from an entrance point, and watch as your troops attempt to keep the enemies from making it across the path to the exit point.

The title screen and options screen. Options allow you to toggle BGM, sound effects, tutorial and story events.

[end_preview /]

The main map showing that wonderful Tactics A2 artwork.

The troops in Crystal Defenders are jobs from the Final Fantasy series. You start off with just two jobs: soldier and black mage. Soldiers go up directly to their opponents to attack, and are thus limited in range. Black mages fire spells and can attack from more distant positions. More jobs become available as you progress.

Each stage is split into a series of enemy attack waves. Prior to each wave, you position troops anywhere on the map in whatever quantities you like, limited only by the amount of coins that you have. Your coin count goes up as you defeat enemies, allowing you to place more troops as tougher enemy waves appear.

In addition to simply placing troops, you have to level up your current troops in order to make them effective against more powerful enemies. Level ups also cost coins, with the cost rising exponentially (or something like that) with level.

Once you've positioned your troops, you press A, and the enemies start flowing in. You can sit back and watch, or you can actively go about fortifying your troops with level-ups. You can also add new troops as enemies enter the scene. For those who get stressed out with real time strategy games (I usually fall under this category), the action freezes while you're accessing menus.

The flow of battle. The field starts off empty. When you're done placing troops, you press A to make the enemies start flowing in. You can then continue to add troops and give your current troops level-ups to make sure they keep the enemy from reaching the exit.

Crystal Defenders certainly has the makings for a fine tower defense game, and with those adorable Tactics character sprites and the majestic Square Enix music, I'd like to explore further. Unfortunately, there's a serious flaw with the game: control.

The game supports only one control scheme: the Wiimote held horizontally NES style. You use the D pad to move a cursor around for selecting and positioning your troops. Square Enix apparently forgot to test the cursor movement out, though, because it's poorly implemented. Hold down a direction and the cursor moves way too slow at first, then shoots up to super fast speed. It's tough to make the cursor go exactly where you want it to go, which is obviously a problem for a game where you're pointing and clicking on things.

Particularly inexplicable is that there are no options for tabbing between your current set of troops. Meanwhile, you have three button choices for pausing the game!

The control pretty much ruins the game for me, so I'm not planning on playing further. Hopefully, someone at Square Enix will patch the game with Wiimote pointer controls or analogue control (for 1000 WiiPoints, there really should be options for both). If not, I'll be hoping for better things from the PSN or Xbox Live Arcade versions of the game.

I've put together a couple of quick videos of Crystal Defenders. This wasn't my intent or anything, but I'm pretty sure you can actually see how difficult it is to control the cursor.

By the way, these videos are 4x3 because the game doesn't support wide screen.

First, the title screen, options menu, and map interface, leading into one of the earlier stages.


Next, a slightly more difficult stage. This stage shows off an additional job and an enemy that's unaffected by magic.


Not shown in the video is that you can hold down a button to speed up the action. The initial enemy waves are a breeze, making this a handy feature for skipping to the tougher waves.

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