In My Life as a Darklord, you get to play a Final Fantasy defending herself against the stream of would-be heroes assaulting her tower. It falls under the "tower defense" genre, which I am not overly fond of, but MLAADL has made me a believer. It offers 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. When you fail, you can usually point out exactly what you did wrong, and succeed on the second try.
The game has you defend this lone tower by building floors equipped 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.
You will constantly have to adapt your strategy to the types of heroes a level throws at you. Beyond the rock-paper-scissor system, you will have to consider the heroes' different speeds (some spend less time on a floor than others). This will determine if you focus on building lots of weakly defended floors, or few heavily guarded ones. Of course, the game will switch up adventurer types on you so you have to be ready to improvise. You absolutely cannot rely on a single strategy throughout the whole game.
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. 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 at the last second and salvaged a victory.
If once you've completed the game you crave more, there is a mission pack and an extra chapter to download for 500pts each, but I haven't given in to that yet. At over 12 hours to complete the game, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord is by far the longest single-player campaign of any Wiiware title I've played, anyway. Considering it only costs 10 dollars, that's great value right there.
Ah, one of the legendary, ephemeral WiiWare demos. It seems like everyone I know enjoys the tower-defense genre, but I just can't get into it. The lack of direct control kills me every time. The concept is kind of neat, but the interaction with the game world isn't very enjoyable for me.
Love the art direction on this game, though. Especially the main character. What a great design.
Nice review, I'm surprised I missed it the first time around!
I've been thinking about this game a bit lately. With the new WiiWare demos out, I was sort of bummed that none of them really grabbed me. MLaaDL, though, delivered a 45 minute demo that got me hooked on the game's mechanics almost right out of the gate. It's definitely one of my favorite WiiWare games (I'd probably only put the Mega Mans above it) and a quality tower-defense game. Despite this, I still haven't bitten the bait for the DLC, but maybe someday.