Otaku USA Magazine
My Life as a King

You’d be hard pressed to find a spin-off more confused than Crystal Chronicles. The franchise, a cutesy interpretation of traditional Final Fantasy, has had its first game hamstrung by pricey and unwieldy peripherals, and its second neutered into a shadow of what made the original game good. Now, with the launch of the Wii’s downloadable content service, WiiWare, Crystal Chronicles is given another go.

Were it not for the same child-like character designs you wouldn’t even recognize it. The previous releases were pretty standard Action RPGs with a few idiosyncrasies lumped on top. Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King is certainly not that. It drops all trappings of combat and leveling and loot gathering for a modest town building simulator.

You are King Leo, the child heir to a once-great kingdom. With your pair of advisors (and an irascible penguin sidekick) in tow, you go about rebuilding the realm through the power of the titular crystals. The game chooses the perspective rarely shown in the genre: that of the quest giver. Those who have wondered what the king does after he sends you on the quest to rescue the princess (I imagine there are precious few of you) will find themselves right at home.

Every day King Leo wakes up and sends his motley band of adventures on quests to dungeons and swamps and wizard towers that he will never see. While they seize the glory he busies himself bettering the realm. He establishes parks, creates weapon and armor shops to support his subjects, and builds houses to bring more people back to their homeland. At the end of the day the adventurers return home with their tales of derring-do and plenty of treasure in tow. They bring back elementium, the required building material, and in return are paid salaries from the castle’s coffers, funded by tithes given by the townspeople.

The depth of Crystal Chronicles‘ simulation is pretty light, almost like a modern day Actraiser. There’s only a couple buildings in each category, and most of the game involves building houses to recruit new adventurers and then creating specialized buildings to help them (Black Mage Academy, Thief’s Guild). Often, like the young king, you’ll find yourself wanting to take part in the magnificent battles going on outside the castle walls, but you’ll have to content yourself with placing another bakery while your adventurers bring back the spoils of war.

My Life As A King errs on the side of simplicity. It’s not long into the game before you’ll have exhausted everything you can possibly do in the day, and more and more often you’ll have nothing to do even until the king’s remarkably early bedtime. There are only so many houses to deposit and people to talk to, and hardcore simulation buffs would be better of playing a game of Civilization or even The Sims if they want to try out their god game prowess.

But it’s cute, and it’s charming, and it’s only fifteen dollars. In a downloadable service that is chock-full of things that look like browser-based flash games, Crystal Chronicles looks shockingly legit. A determined player will easily clock hundreds of in-game days without even noticing, and I even found myself crawling into bed hours later after promising to only do “one more day.”

 For fifteen dollars the game is remarkably low risk, and the option of downloadable content promises to spruce things up for people who are willing to pay a little more. Not everyone is going to like this game, but I’m wondering if this is where the series will finally find its niche.

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
System: Wii (WiiWare)
Available: Now
Rating: E