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Destructoid review: Crystal Defenders (iPhone)

2:00 PM on 01.05.2009 // Dale North

Japanese gamers have been enjoying fairly high-profile mobile game releases for some time now. The American mobile games market has never had a solid and widely-accepted platform for game publishers to focus their energy on until now. Now, with the growing popularity of the iPhone and Apple's App Store, these game makers can draw on and re-release some of those titles for the rest of the world.

Square Enix has a sizable library of games to draw from and port, and Crystal Defenders is their first to come to the iPhone App Store. It may not have been made specifically for the device, and it kind of seems thrown together, but Crystal Defenders still manages to be a solid, worthwhile release.

Crystal Defenders (iPhone, iPod Touch)
Published by Square Enix

Released on December 18, 2008 (US)

Crystal Defenders is your classic “tower defense” title, decorated with a Final Fantasy twist. Instead of towers, you'll be defending your stock of twenty crystals from monsters, all pulled from the Final Fantasy world. Your job is to hire (using Gil earned from battle) any number of defenders to man a given map, using their abilities to hold of hordes of Tonberry, Malboro and other baddies. Should one manage to penetrate your defenses, they'll nab one or more of your crystals, depleting your stock. Once all twenty are gone, your game is over.

There are three modes of game play included in Crystal Defenders. The first is for beginners, letting them focus on defense, placement and levelling. The others add more strategy elements, like power crystals that can boost fighters' attack capabilites. In each of the game modes, a couple of different maps are available. The most basic have enemies coming in at once entrance point and going out another. More difficult ones have more points of entry, and less areas open to defense placement.

Attacks come in waves of increasing difficulty. In the easiest map's first wave, you'll fend of a string of low-level cockatrice. One well-placed level 1 fighter can hold the whole bunch off. But as you successfully complete waves, you'll be put up against tougher enemies, all the way up to boss characters with 1000+ hit points, some who take multiple crystals when let through. Some of these enemies may be airborne, and not attackable from your standard fighter. You'll wan to make sure your archers are well placed. Others may be strong to psychical attacks, requiring the presence of black mages. Knowing what types of defense forces to hire and where to place them on the map is the basis of game play.

This is all controlled via a sort of directional pad on the bottom half of the iPhone's screen. Just like a real d-pad, you're able to press the graphical representation of the direction you want your cursor to move There is also a more direct touchscreen control, letting you select characters on your map by simply touching them. I found that the faux d-pad seemed to work better, as both your cursor and the size of the character sprites are quite small. Others may feel that this control scheme is just laziness on Square Enix's part, though. Neither control method is great, but in the end, there isn't really any action to control, so both work well enough.

As far as presentation goes, those that have played the Final Fantasy Tactics DS games will see many familiar assets. All of the art seems to be pulled directly from those titles, including all of the characters and enemies. The music also seems to be pulled from, or at least inspired by these games as well. The menu and option screens are nice, decorated with art from these Tactics titles as well. It all looks great, but you can't help but feel that Square Enix got off easy with this title.

Is this worth the $7.99 purchase price? It depends on whether you like tower defense-style games or not. Despite the overall thrown together feeling, the game play is quite addictive, and the title still looks and sounds nice. Defenders has become my go-to game for travel, cab rides, and waits in line. We would recommend that you try the free trial version to see if you'll have any issues with the faux d-pad control method. If you're okay with it, you'll likely find hours of fun within Crystal Defenders.

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Dale North, Former Dtoid EIC
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