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If it seems like it was only a few weeks ago that Square Enix released the first installment of their Final Fantasy-themed tower defense game Crystal Defenders, there's a good reason for that. It was just a couple of weeks ago--on April 20, to be exact. Not wanting to rest on their laurels, the RPG giant released the second installment of the series, Crystal Defenders R2, on May 18. Considering that those Wii owners who are interested in the series just plunked down 800 points for R1, one has to wonder if this isn't a case of oversaturation or, at the very least, a case of "too much, too soon."
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Considering that both Crystal Defenders titles are tower defense style strategy games, R1 veterans should basically expect more of the same. Once again, you will be given a short map inspired by a Final Fantasy Tactics A2 location, and you will need to place units in order to combat an oncoming rush of monsters. Each one that you fail to destroy before it reaches the exit will pilfer crystals from your stash, and if you lose them all, it's game over.
There are a few differences this time around, however. For one thing, many of the maps in R2 feature multiple entrances and exits. If you've played through R1, you know that only the bonus level there had this kind of set-up, so right off the bat you can expect this to be a more difficult title. Also, some of the units have been changed, and while some are merely cosmetic in nature (the Fencer essentially just replaces the Soldier), others are a little more unique (like the Flintlock and the Tinker). Also, in this game, you can now place crystals near your units to give them statistical boosts, such as power and speed. This was by far my favorite addition to the game, because it adds an extra layer of strategy to what had been a somewhat shallow (though enjoyable) experience.
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Despite some initial rumors to the contrary, R2 does not support the Wiimote pointer function. Once again, you need to turn the remote sideways and control the game traditionally. The control pad moves your cursor around, the 2 button brings up the unit placement and level-up menus, and the A button to start each wave of enemies. Also, holding down the 1 button speeds up enemies--a handy feature for when you're replaying a map and want to speed through the easier, early waves. As in Crystal Defenders R1, I don't really have any issues with the controls per se, but I still am left wondering why the pointer wasn't utilized.
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Graphics and Sound
In my humble opinion, the Crystal Defenders titles are some of the best looking games available on WiiWare. I love the character designs, and the map layouts are colorful and easy on the eyes. However, I do have to knock a point off this category's score because of the way Square Enix recycled some of the visuals, the sound effects, and especially the background music. Reusing sounds and character sprites isn't as big a deal as failing to come up with original music for each title. It just reeks of laziness.
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Basically, Crystal Defenders R2 is Crystal Defenders R1 with a few new units, added power-up crystals, and--for better or worse--much tougher gameplay. If you loved R1, you will not regret purchasing R2. If you're trying to choose between one or the other, be aware that R1 is the easier, more casual gamer friendly title while R2 is much tougher and sports much greater strategic depth in its gameplay. Based on that information, you should be able to tell which title is right for you.