Ever since Square Enix brought Final Fantasy back to Nintendo consoles with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube in 2004 they have been releasing prequels and sequels to flesh out the story. The Crystal Chronicles series is very light-hearted with usually a very simple story accompanying action oriented gameplay, but their newest release throws out the action oriented gameplay in favor of a management sim with accompanying RPG elements. It also happens to be a downloadable title that’s only 15 bucks on Nintendo’s new service, the WiiWare. This makes it the first downloadable title for Square Enix on the service. Should anyone care, or is it just shovelware for Square Enix to make some easy cash?
As mentioned, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a very different title compared to what Square Enix is known for. You play as King Leo, a young up and coming that happens to run the city. The storyline takes place after the events in the original Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube. There is no longer any miasma, which is what caused the kingdom to lose all its citizens and buildings (since the miasma brought the creatures), and your task is simply to rebuild the kingdom from scratch. King Leo does this thanks to architek, a power which he receives from the huge crystal in the middle of town. Suffice to say, there is evil doing that happens, and talks about a “dark lord,” but it’s your typical RPG stuff you have been hearing for years. One thing is for sure: you won’t be playing this game for the plot. This is fine to, because for 15 bucks this game doesn’t need a compelling plot to be enjoyable.
The gameplay in My Life as a King is simple, at first. The game has “days” that take about 5 minutes to go by, and even though this sounds too short, believe me it isn’t. It just adds to the incredible addiction rate most will face. You get to build small houses that hold a small family, but in order to do so you need elementite. Elementite is used to construct all of the buildings for your town, so you have to use it sparingly. Since you can’t just warp elementite into town from nowhere, King Leo has to fund adventurers willing to go out and get some. In order to fund adventurers though, you need money (stupid economics) so you need citizens that you can tax. After you hire an adventurer, you can send them on behests (fancy name for quest) that you post on boards, which range from exploring a dungeon to killing the big boss in the area. In order to be able to take on the boss though, you have to get a certain exploration rate in the dungeon, so it might take a couple of days (in game) to be able to take on the boss. Each dungeon has a level range that your adventurer should be at if they want to survive, so if they aren’t high enough you can just send them to train and get experience. They can still get taken out though, so you have to be careful where you send them. If a character gets taken out though, they aren’t gone permanently; they just can’t do anything the next day so they can rest up.
Sending your adventurers on behests and constructing buildings isn’t the only thing you can do, though. You also have to raise the morale of the people in your town and keep them happy by talking to them. It’s probably the most boring part of the game, but it is required for your city to flourish. By talking to the people in your city you fill up a meter in the upper left part of the screen, and when it is full you can either use it to raise the morale of the people even further (meaning when you talk to them you get a bigger amount that normal), or you can give it to Chime in the castle to raise the status of the town (like changing it from town to city). Since you have a limit on the number of buildings you can have of each type in your town, upgrading the status helps to give you more options. In order to get the different buildings, though, you have to beat dungeons so you can get the bonus. These range from giving you a new building you didn’t have before to raising the limit you can have in town of a certain building. After a day goes by in the game, your game saves and the King sleeps. When he wakes his assistant Chime gives him all the reports you need. These reports tell you the details on what your adventurers happened to do the day before. You also get a financial report telling you how much money and elementite you spent, how much you gained, and your current amounts. After this you go right back into it.
Once you start getting all the necessary buildings from sending you adventurers on behests and boosting the moral of your city, the game gets a little more complex. You can start changing the classes of your adventurers (which include warrior, thief, black mage, and white mage) as well as fund shops that give them new equipment and items to take with them on their adventures. Each class also has abilities that can be taught to the adventurers, but that also requires you to put funds into research for them. Money runs most of the things in the game, so choosing what to put your money into is the key. After you fund them for so long though, they run out of supplies and you have to send your adventurers on behests to get more materials. You can also have multiple shops, but it means you have to fund the newer one from scratch, which can be annoying if you have already put a bunch of money in another one of the same type. You’ll also get to build taverns, which allow you to put your adventurers into teams so that they survive longer. You can put them in teams of 4, but you can only have one team per tavern so you need multiple if you want more than one team. About the same time you will also be allowed to build guild halls, which allow you to spend money and increase the maximum number of adventurers for hire and raise their pay. If you don’t raise the pay, once the adventurers get to a higher level they will lose their enthusiasm for going on behests, so that’s your cue to go raise the pay. You can also get more boards so you can assign multiple behests at once.
Most of these elements work great, but a few don’t. Since you have to assign a behest on a board in order to change characters classes, it slows down the development of your city. It also means that you can’t decide for yourself which characters will decide to go to that board and ask for a change in class; it’s completely random. This can become frustrating if you can’t get the character you want to change into a certain class over to the right board to do it, causing you to post that behest more than once in hope that they will eventually get it right. The AI also isn’t as bright as they should be. Often times they get themselves killed when they shouldn’t be and run around town for so long trying to go to each shop and look for new stuff that by the time they are done, the day is over and they didn’t even start traveling out of town to the dungeon yet. Repetition also is in abundance in this game, so if you hate repetition, you might get annoyed. The game is still very addictive despite the repetition, though.
Even with all its faults My Life as a King’s gameplay can be incredible addictive. You’ll want to see your town expand each day and won’t be able to tell yourself to quit. There is a certain satisfaction to watching your town go from nothing to a huge kingdom that really compels you to push forward. You’ll be telling yourself “just one more day, then I’ll quit,” and before you know it that day turned into 5.
The controls for My Life as a King are fine, for the most part. If you are using a Wiimote and nunchuck though, you might get annoyed. You have to waggle the Wiimote in order to call Chime and construct a building, but I ended up calling her plenty of times when I didn’t mean to simply because I moved my hand. It becomes frustrating because you stop and can’t do anything until you tell her you didn’t need anything. The menus are all navigated easily though and that’s a good thing considering all the menus you will go through. Camera controls aren’t the best either. You can use the d-pad on the Wiimote to move the camera around, but it moves incredibly slow. You’re better off to let the camera move on its own (unless you are just sight-seeing).
The presentation for My Life as a King is commendable for a downloadable title. The graphics are pretty average for a Wii game, but it has great style and charm to it that pushes it beyond average. There are a few framerate hitches when you construct buildings, but none of it is gamebreaking by any means. The animation is robotic at times though, and can be a little weird. The sound departments fairs about the same as the graphics. The soundtrack is pretty good and soothing to the ears, but you’ll hear the songs so much though that they will inevitably grate on your nerves. There is no voice acting either, which is a shame considering Ring of Fates had some and it was on a handheld. Since the story isn’t all that great, the game would have benefited with a little personality to the characters via voice acting. They are emotionless during all of the cutscenes, so it only makes it easier to not care what is going on.
There’s already downloadable content that you can download that gives you more dungeons to explore, new outfits to put on the characters, and a few other things, but none of it is needed to enjoy this game. If you happen to really like the game, though, some of the downloadable content definitely goes a long way to making the game last longer. The game takes about 15 hours to complete, and there is a new game plus feature once you beat the game, so there is plenty incentive to play it again if you really liked the game. There’s definitely plenty of bang for your buck.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is better than the sum of its parts. When you look at everything separately nothing sticks out as particularly fantastic, but its charm and addictive quality go a long way towards making it a great game. You are getting enough quantity and quality to justify spending 15 bucks. It fills a void in the lacking RPG department of the Wii.