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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord
Editorial by 
December 15, 2009, 07:59:40
12 hours and 14 minutes. That's how long the gameplay record on the Nintendo Channel on my Wii says it took me to beat Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord. That makes it, by far, the longest single-player campaign of any Wiiware title I've played. Heck, it even beats several full retail Wii releases like MADWORLD (8 hours 45 minutes), Overlord: Dark Legend (7 hrs 16 min), or Punch-Out!! (6 hrs 1 min, first run through only).

Considering it's only 1000 pts (10 dollars), that's great value right there. And while before playing this game and Plants vs Zombies I would have argued that a 4 hr Wiiware platformer like LostWinds is better than a thousand hours playing tower defense games, I think those games have made me a tower defense fan. They both offer a more streamlined experience than most of the other games in that genre I've played, taking out the guesswork and the experimentation and making it more about strategy, in my opinion. When you fail, you can usually point out exactly what you did wrong, and succeed on the second try.

But whereas Plants vs Zombies is very casual, and very easy, MLAADL can be punishingly difficult IF you don't adopt the right strategy. So much so that I've read some people on the Internet claim the game is near impossible to finish without downloading extra items at 200pts a pop that make the game easier on the player.

In fact, the game is entirely possible to beat without those when you do have the right strategy, and thankfully the game constantly reminds you that if you're failing, you're doing it wrong (while giving you some pointers). Paying for the DLC is not necessary. I'd even say it's not recommended, as it would unbalance the game and would probably rob you of any feeling of accomplishment you might get when you finally succeed.

The game has you defend this lone tower against a series of invading "adventurers" on a quest to take you out as the Dark Lord. You build a series of floors equiped with booby traps, which you populate with monsters (up to three on a floor, but different types of floors have different capacities). The adventurers will arrive alone or in groups of 2 or 3 at a time, however only one adventurer will visit a floor at a time. The next adventurer, finding the floor occupied, will move on to the next one. An adventurer will remain on a floor until he has destroyed it, until he is killed or until a timer runs out (he'll then move on to the next floor).

At first you only have one type of floor, and one type of monster. Gradually, the game introduces new traps (some slow down the enemy, some reduce his speed, etc), new monsters, and new twists, for instance a rock-paper-scissor system (magic beats melee, melee beats ranged, and ranged beats magic). Before long you'll have to think not only about using the right monsters against the right adventurer type, but also about the way you structure your tower.

Your resources being limited, you must be careful how you manage your mana. You'll often have to decide if you're going to build a lot of floors with few monsters on them (effective against fast enemy types that don't spend a lot of time on each floor), or few floors with very powerful monsters on them (effective against tough but slow adventurers). Of course, the game will switch up adventurer types on you so you have to be ready to improvise...

MLAADL is a challenging game to be sure, but it's also perfectly fair. The game tells you everything to know in order to win (press + on the Wiimote to display everything you need to know about the pros and cons of each type of floor or monster), and when you fail, it offers advice concerning what you might have done wrong. It also allows you to make a few mistakes without completely messing up your chances of winning a level.

Grinding is also possible (this IS a Final Fantasy game after all), but also not necessary at all. All that's required is a head on your shoulders and the willingness to try another angle when your first strategy fails you. Few things feel as good as when you finally do beat a level that's given you trouble, when you are on the brink of failing to an adventurer with a sliver of health but you managed to preserve enough mana to add the weakest floor type and the weakest monster, but that is just enough to salvage victory.

I highly recommend dowloading the demo at the very least. It lets you play for about 45 minutes. It's easier than the full game, but it will give you a taste of the graphics and art style, the humor, and the strategery.

And once you've completed the game and somehow that wasn't enough content for you, there is a mission pack and an extra chapter to download for 500pts each, but I haven't given in to that yet. But I probably will, because the game was damn good.

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Posted: 12/15/09, 07:59:40    
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
Well as I said, you could do that (I called it grinding) to gain what the game calls Karma but you don't have to.

Let me explain something first: the game has two resources. The first is Karma, and they're basically experience points. You gain it from beating levels and killing adventurers, and you spend it to upgrade the number of floors you can build for your tower, or the maximum level of your monsters. You spend it on the world map only.

The second resource is Negative Points. They're basically money, and you start each with a fixed amount of it. This is what you spend in-level for everything: build a floor, summon a monster, or raise a monster's level. You can only increase the amount of NP you start with by gaining artifacts from beating certain levels (or buying them as DLC, but if you do that, you're a sucker).

Now you see, grinding has very limited use after all: you can only grind for Karma, but not for NP. And while Karma will allow you to augment the max number of floors you can built, or the max level of your monsters, but despite that, once you’re in a level, you’re still limited by your NP. You always start from scratch : you have no floors, and the monsters you summon always start at level 1. All the Karma you spent only increased the max possible level, not the level you start at.

So in effect, you can't grind your way to victory. If you're not using the right strategy for the type of adventurers the level pits against you, you will run out of NP, and you will fail. You absolutely need to figure out the right way to tackle a level or you won't beat it. But the game still gives you enough NP for you to have some room for error, so the challenge is absolutely overcomeable(!).

Posted by 
 on: 12/15/09, 19:47:55
No, you wouldn't have to restart, ever, you could always just grind for Karma.

But honestly I don't think you CAN make choices that unwise. Personally, I only upgraded my tower once (from a 5 floors max to a 10 floors max), and upgraded my monsters pretty evenly, and I went through the game without having to grind and without having to upgrade all my monsters all the way up.

Posted by 
 on: 12/15/09, 20:11:55
I was thinking about getting this for a bit before the demo came along but I just wasn't sure about it. Then along came the demo and I was sold. Everything you've stated is what I've experienced from it. It requires a good bit of strategy and goes deeper than I had thought a tower defense game could go. There were levels later (well, earlier than that I guess) in the game I first thought impossible but try after try and figuring out a good strategy, I was able to defeat the do-gooders. Very rewarding to see that you had successfully defended your tower and see just one enemy left to crush. Quite the opposite when that one last guy is crawling into your top floor to end it all and there's not a damn thing you can do but to start it over. Well worth my 10$ and I suggest everyone at least get the demo.

Good impressions!

Posted by 
 on: 12/16/09, 02:23:33
I was going to get Pokemon Rumble over this at first. Then they had demos for both.

Then I played both.

This is infinitely better.

The demo was extremely charming, and pretty much sold me on it, though I haven't bought it yet. But it is likely my next WiiWare purchase. (^__^ )

Glad to hear those great impressions! Too bad you can't really grind though, that's what I love to do!!

Posted by 
 on: 12/16/09, 03:03:47
Well you can grind... sorta. I usually play older levels and use my karma I've gained to level up my monsters and to get more floors. Each monster has five levels of power. Leveling them up is usually less NP than getting just more monsters in a battle. For me, one monster leveled up to it maximum is much better than 3 level one monsters of the same type. In the end though, it all comes down to just what type of strategy you use.

Posted by 
 on: 12/16/09, 03:53:06
Cool, someone else played it!

Have you downloaded the mission pack or extra chapter yet, Pablo? I know I should be tired of defending a tower after 12 hours, but I feel I'll break soon and download one of them.

Posted by 
 on: 12/16/09, 05:59:26
No, not yet but I did check em out in the download section. I'm totally interested in getting them but money is a little tight right now. Plus I still have the latest MI to get through and a couple Genesis games to finish (Shining in the Darkness & LandStalker). Hopefully I'll have a good number of Wii points after the holiday. If you do decide to get one, please post some impressions. I'm sure they'll be worth the price.

On a different but some what related topic, I'm wondering if 'My Life as a King' would tickle my fancy much like this game. I know it's a different type of "casual" game but SquareEnix seems to know how to spice things up a little and of course provide the usual FF charm. Really wish there was a demo for it.

Posted by 
 on: 12/16/09, 06:22:29
Me too, I haven't played it.

My fear concerning the mission pack is that you can download it as soon as you finish chapter 3. I think I may be overpowered for them at this point, having beaten the game. And my fear concerning the extra chapter is perhaps you're underpowered if you haven't done the mission pack.

Posted by 
 on: 12/16/09, 06:35:32
It is a great game. I got stuck on a lot of levels but kept trying new things untill I beat them. I am nowon the DLC levels and am loving it.

I am suprised at how much stratagy is in this game.

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/09, 18:11:38
Ah, another MLaaDL fan! Welcome to NW :) So can you give some quick impressions of the DLC levels? Length, difficulty, worth the plunge, ect? I assume they are, I'd just like to hear a little about em.

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/09, 18:24:42
PabloXl5 said:
Ah, another MLaaDL fan! Welcome to NW :) So can you give some quick impressions of the DLC levels? Length, difficulty, worth the plunge, ect? I assume they are, I'd just like to hear a little about em.

You can get 2 packs. One is additional levels for the world map and another is an all-new area. The all-new area is to be played once you beat the game and the difficulty is high. The other pack has levels all over the world, so some are very easy.

You get a fair amount of levels in both for your money so I would say go for it!

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/09, 18:28:51
Are there new items or monsters included with the mission pack? And the extra chapter?

And did you really buy ALL the DLC, i.e. all the extra items and such? That's close to $50!

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/09, 18:34:30
The demo is really 45 minutes long? Hard to argue with that.

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/09, 19:43:07
Pandareus said:
Are there new items or monsters included with the mission pack? And the extra chapter?

And did you really buy ALL the DLC, i.e. all the extra items and such? That's close to $50!

You don't get any new items or monsters in the level packs. I would suggest buying the powerful monsters monster pack. They kick butt!
The "medium" monster pack is a bit crap.

Posted by 
 on: 12/23/09, 19:47:45
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