|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The Final Fantasy franchise may be Square Enix's most notable, but the powerhouse developer/publisher has plenty of other games under its belt, including the Star Ocean franchise, and RPG standalones like Infinite Undiscovery and The Last Remnant. However, even though all of these games fall under the broad RPG genre, they all have their own distinct battle systems and formats. Crystal Defender is another stand-alone title from Square Enix that was originally for the iPhone/iPod Touch, but has recently been ported over to the Xbox 360 via its Live Arcade service. But, this standalone title bears more than a passing resemblance to last year's Final Fantasy Tactics A2.
Crystal Defenders is a real-time tower defense strategy title akin to PixelJunk Monsters in which you have a fixed board where enemies enter from one side, and it is your job to stop them from getting to the other side and stealing crystals that are stored at your home base. Each foe will take between 1-2 crystals (depending on their size) if you fail to stop them before they get to your base. However, each game begins with 20 crystals, so if one or two slip through, you'll still be ok.
In order to successfully complete this mission, you will have to use specialized troops with different abilities. The game uses the job system from Final Fantasy Tactics A2, and you will be able to use old standards like the Soldier, White Mage, Time Mage, and Dragoon to obliterate invading forces. The troops will attack the forces on their own, but it will be up to you to place and level up your forces to make them the most effective.
In addition to the main troop system, Crystal Defenders also has a special attack system that can help you beat down multiple enemies at once. However, this special attack system comes at a price. You are able to summon different beasts, such as Ifrit or Chocobo, but in order for them to appear you will need to use some of your crystals. And, as mentioned before, the game ends when your crystal count goes down to zero. This tactical device is fairly interesting and forces you to examine whether you would lose more crystals by summoning a beast or by letting a few monsters through.
There are three main tactical "levels" incorporated in Crystal Defenders: W1, W2, and W3. W1 is extremely basic and just involves five different classes and a whole lot of monsters. W2 is a little bit more interesting and ups the job count to seven and adds special Power Crystals, which can be placed next to troops to increase their speed, range, or accuracy. W3 can best be described as the hardcore level, having advanced jobs and faster enemy wave gameplay.
One of the main issues that I have with Crystal Defenders is that its scope is a little too small for a console title. Even though other games like PixelJunk Monsters have used a screen-sized board, Crystal Defenders only uses about 2/3 of the screen to display the action, and the different boards are too small to really allow for complex tactics. Instead, most boards can be completed with the "put as many troops on the field" tactical scheme, which can become a little bit boring if you are an RTS fan.