I don’t know how many of you were able to enjoy the original Crystal Chronicles when it was released on GameCube seven years ago, but I’m hoping many of you did. A game that was initially bought on a whim quickly turned into one of my favorite GameCube games ever, perhaps second only to Metroid Prime. The graphics, music, characters and story were all fantastic. Players had to piece together the story for themselves, but what they got was an incredibly deep tale of friendship and memories. The game was an Action RPG, with a health system reminiscent to that of Zelda, as your health was measured in hearts.
Upon release, many people complained the the full experience cost way too much money, as you would need four Game Boy Advances along with four Link Cables. I never understood where these complaints came from, as a cable came with the game, and nearly everyone I knew had a Game Boy Advance as it was. I played together with two of my friends for a time, but ultimately I went through the game with the help of one other person. Many aspects of the game were interesting, especially the poems and the lack of a level up system. For you to gain an increase in your skills, you’d have to complete a dungeon. Each one was different, and featured incredible music and scenery. I spent more than 42 hours in Crystal Chronicles and plan to play through it again some day.
Now there are five other games that all bear the Crystal Chronicles name, with two of them for WiiWare. However, there is only one game in the series since the original that managed to capture the same magic and feel, and that game was My Life as a King. I was incredibly disappointed by both of the series outings on DS, but I’ve gone back and played through My Life as a King on two different occasions. To me, it is the last great Crystal Chronicles game. This title was one of the flagship titles of the WiiWare service when it launched in 2008. It gave people hope that the service would be able to deliver outstanding original games, and is still one of the top games on the service.
Unlike in the original Crystal Chronicles, you aren’t controlling characters and sending them through dungeons. Instead, you take the role of a young king, and send warriors on quests because you have more important things to do. As the king, you have the power of Architek, so it is up to you to build houses for your subjects, and keeping the people in your town happy. It is a unique mix of an RPG and a city builder, and the game delivers in every way. Despite being a WiiWare game, the graphics are nearly as good as those of the original title, and the game features many enjoyable and soothing tunes. Many of the character models are taken from Crystal Chronicles, which in this case is a good thing, as it is a sequel. Many of the warriors in MLaaK looked very similar to heroes in my Crystal Chronicles file, so it was as if they were only continuing their adventure.
If you pay attention to the game, you’ll see that the main town theme actually changes over time. At the beginning of your adventure it will be quiet and mellow, but as more citizens return to your kingdom, more and more instruments are added to the theme. The more citizens you have means the more money you’ll be able to collect in taxes, which in turn allows you to send warriors on more behests. There are multiple classes for each character, and there are schools that you can build to teach them specific skills. You won’t actually see them fight, but at the end of everyday you’ll receive a log of what your warriors did, and award them with medals to boost their stats.
Since the happiness of your kingdom comes first, schools aren’t the only things you can build. Fountains, bakeries, shops and more will all contribute to the overall happiness of your townspeople. Once you select a plot of land for your structure, it will build itself. Personal visits by the king also go a long way in making people happy. The higher the morale of your kingdom, the longer your warriors can stay out at night. An added bonus is hearing the gentle music that comes with the night and seeing the warm glow of your city’s crystal as you await the return of your subjects. New characters such as Pavlov added some welcome comedy to the game, while returning characters like Stiltzkin make connections to the previous adventure.
The game was playable with nearly every controller that Wii had to offer, but I felt that the GameCube controller was the only way to play the game, and made it feel much closer to Crystal Chronicles. This WiiWare title also has plenty of downloadable content available, in the form of extra dungeons and buildings. What began as a flagship title for Wii’s downloadable service is still one of the best games on the service, more than three years later.