Aside from the regularly numbered games in the Final Fantasy series, we have been treated to quite a lot of spin-off games in the past few years. Some are pretty formulaic and others are bizarre. This game is the latter. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is not your typical Final Fantasy game. Gone are the hours of grind leveling, fetch quests and other RPG staples. Instead Final Fantasy is brought into the realm of simulation games. Some will not like the transition, but for anyone that wants to try something different, this game is a cheap and very enjoyable game.
In MLAAK (which is what I will call it from now on) you play as King Leo, who is nothing more than a child. You have the task of completely rebuilding a city after the events in the original Gamecube Crystal Chronicles game. There is no longer any miasma, and the former citizens of your city have begun to come back and need you to literally rebuild any buildings, houses, stores and any other piece of infrastructure that was once there. Leo initially has issues with trust from the citizens as his father pretty much had to evacuate the city, and evil still lurks in the shadows. That soon changes as you build all of the things your subjects need, which makes them know that you care about them.
You are aided by your father’s old court, consisting of Chime, your old nanny who acts as an advisor for urban development, Hugh Yurg, your fathers most trusted knight who now helps train your military, and Pavlov, a crotchety old penguin who gathers gossip and deals in tough love. These NPCs are colorful, well written, and definitely add to the charm of the game.
As I stated earlier, MLAAK plays out like a sim game that is more akin to a game like Animal Crossing than anything else. Any given day consists of you making and assigning your adventurers to behests (military orders) to make your troops fight monsters, explore ruins, look for lost items, or any other number of odd-jobs that may pop up. Those who participate are paid based on their performance and are awarded medals and other bonuses for a job well done. You have to watch out though because you can easily work your troops too hard and they may start refusing to do work, or may go AWOL in the parks you have built. Because of this you have to make sure everyone is happy and allow individuals to rest if they need it, or call national holidays to let everyone rest.
Once you are done sending your minions to do your bidding you can stroll through your town and build houses, stores, bars, or anything else your subjects may need. There is actually quite a bit of depth to this as you need to pay attention to what your subjects need and plan accordingly. For instance, if your citizens are complaining about a lack of bakeries near their homes, you need to figure out a way to get them one. If you place it in the wrong place citizens will have to walk all over the town to do their chores, and spend little time with their families, this in turn causes them to get along poorly. As you can see, even the simplest thing like placement of the park in town could mean tons of headaches for you and your citizens.
Each "day" lasts approximately 10 minutes, depending on kingdom morale. Players are given an increasing amount of options as to what to do that day as the game progresses. Most of the time you will be walking around visiting your families like an overbearing landlord to make sure everything is fine with them. If you talk to said subjects you can boost their morale and keep everyone happy. Each time you do this a small gauge fills. Once the gauge is maxed out you can make everyone’s morale boost, which in turn makes everyone get along better. If you do this enough and max out each home’s happiness gauge your citizens will give you medals that you can give to your troops. The morale gauge also allows you to save up morale boosts and trade them in for a larger city.
To continue using the magical crystal in the center of town to build up the settlement you must accumulate elementite, which must be obtained from the dungeons and caves that surround the town. If you run out of elementite you need to send out behests to obtain as much as possible. There will be various points in time where you seemingly max out your town, but as you build your town and do various quests the town will grow to a city, the city to a kingdom, and so on.
On the adventuring side of things you have an equally deep set of things to keep track of, including stock at your weapons, armor, and potion shops. You can also lay out situations where your troops level up and gain new abilities that help them be more efficient in battles and other tasks. Granted you never see one second of a battle in this game, but a ticker and text boxes keep you posted as to what is happening to your soldiers. This feature actually kept me interested in the battles that I actually never saw. The one thing that really hurts the gameplay is the fact that you never actually fight anything, which almost gives you a feeling of helplessness over the characters you have built up and cared for.
The graphics and sound in MLAAK are top notch and are among the best looking and sounding presentations of any WiiWare game. In fact you would be hard pressed not to assume it was a Gamecube game, given how excellent it looks. This beauty comes at a cost though, as this game takes up quite a bit of room on your internal memory, especially if you start picking up DLC. The basic controls of the game are pleasant, as you can play the game with one hand if you really want to, making this game one of the most relaxing WiiWare games you may play. The only downside in the audio and visual presentation of this game is the occasional slow-down you get when a massive amount of particle effects are present. This comes from a neat special effect that you trigger when you summon Chime to help you make a building, or when the building itself is actually being placed. This is by no means a game-breaker, but may be annoying, especially when your city gets far more crowded.
At one point I felt as though I was pretty much done with the game and decided to begin the final battles, then realized that I could purchase some downloadable content in order to add to the game. Square-Enix have added a few packs since launch and they are a mixed bag. I have purchased the packs that add dungeons, buildings, and classes to my game, but other things like extra costumes were not my cup of tea. These add-ons are nice and not at all necessary for enjoyment of the game. If you were to purchase all of the content you would end up with nearly the price of a full disk based game, but you are not forced to do this. The base price for the game is 1500 Wii Points, and most of the DLC chimes in at under 500 points a pop. I think since the time of this writing I have added 1500 points worth of stuff to my game, and added countless hours to my playtime in doing so. If you beat the game before you can use your DLC there is no need to worry as MLAAK comes with a “New game +” feature, like many Square-Enix games do.
The bottom line is that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is not your typical Final Fantasy game, and some will love it, others will hate it. If you are a fan of micromanagement sim games like Sim City, or other sim games like Animal Crossing, there is a pretty good chance that you will love this game. The graphics and sound are great for a WiiWare game, and the controls are easy to use. With a system so deep that you could easily spend countless hours getting lost in all of the quests, charts and troop building options, and also bonus DLC if you ever get bored, this game is one of the best packages on WiiWare.