ron, Jun-14 2008

Most certainly terrible

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King has been released as a launch title for WiiWare just three weeks ago, and due to the exceptional quickness I am famous for, I have already played it. It turns out its unwieldy title isn't the only reason for me to loathe it.

Title screen of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life As A King

"Oooh, pretty". That much can certainly be said about FFCCMLAAK, or, short, F.

F starts you off as the very young king of a very non-existant town. Your personified tutorials will soon instruct you to erect buildings and send out adventurers to further explore the land. I could actually stop here, because that's all that ever happens in F. The promise of adventure, and a proper RPG of some sort kicking in later is draped over the whole experience like a molten wax question mark, but it is never fulfilled. You can't leave the town, because kings don't do that. Your task is strictly in domestic management, and you never even so much as see a monster, let alone a dungeon. Those things only exist in text. Text that tells you of exploration, the recovering of precious building resources, and epic battles against boss enemies. Boss enemies of which there aren't even sprites for you to see, but only the letters that make up a report at the beginning of the next simulated day.

A log of one adventurer's activities for one day

Every day, F will present you with a log of the exciting things that theoretically might have happened, and which you never take part in.

That's not to say management sims are necessarily bad, there are many ways to make such games engaging. However, F is not such a game. The game presents a few "right" things to do, such as letting beat-up or tired adventurers rest for a day, but it consistently fails to offer any incentive to actually play that way. There is positively zero challenge, no risk, no urgency, and as such there's no reason to do anything but make your own life as a player efficient. Namely, instead of hand-picking individual adventurers to send to a particular location, it's best to always just send them all, because that takes much less time for you to do.
If you want more money to fund further research for better equipment, so that your adventurers are more effective at having theoretically exciting adventures, you could boost morale by running around your town and have "inspiring" conversations with every single inhabitant twice a day. But why do that when you get a guaranteed stream of gold anyway, every day, a stream that will never diminish. Just skip days and you're filthy rich in no time.

King-boy on his town plaza

While outbound adventurer Nina may or may not have entered an exciting battle, we're still here, trying to find the townsfolk that have "not-yet-talked-to" icons above their head, and fix their morale. This is done by walking up to them, and skipping through the ever-repeating dialog that ensues.

There are a couple of other issues, such as the controls, the quickly and automatically passing days, and the save system, but most of them pale in the face of having no risk, no way to ever lose anything, no challenge, at all, ever. It's crucially broken. What remains, however cute one may find it, is as much of a game as calling someone over to mow the lawn would be.
There's one aspect of it that is so unbelievably annoying that it still bears mention: the quests. The adventurers that get to have all the fun outside of town in your stead, will require assignments to do so. Each day, you can issue new assignments, but not for each of your adventurers, nohooo, but you can issue a new assignment for each bulletin board in your town. That means in the (likely) case of you having five adventurers to send out while still being stuck with a single bulletin board, you can't divide them up between two different caves. If you need someone to pick a rare flower (this quest actually exists in the game, for real now), that's all you're going to achieve for the day. No other assignments can be created. Because on bulletin boards, as in real life, there's ever only space for one message. It's so stupid, and so insulting, because the only effect it has on the game flow is slowing the player down without need or purpose. It's a deliberately placed measure to waste as much of your time as possible.

Don't be fooled by appearances. F is not an RPG. F is at best a management sim, but a broken, terrible one at that. It never delivers on its promises. Don't throw your (real, not just text-based) money away like that.

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