As mentioned in Bright Hub's review of Crystal Defenders R1, this Final Fantasy Tactics A2 themed strategy game is what's known as a "tower defense" game. Basically, on each map you will be facing a wave of a certain enemy type attempting to steal your Crystals. The enemy will travel along a set path. Your mission is to strategically place units along the path to combat them. Each unit costs a certain among of Gil (currency in the Final Fantasy universe), has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and can be levelled up to a certain degree. The trick is choosing the best units for the job, and placing them where they can do the most damage. There are 12 main levels in Crystal Defenders R1, as well as a secret 13th level that can be unlocked after the credits roll.
You start off with just two unit types, the Soldier and the Black Mage, but over time you will gain access to the White Monk, the Time Mage, the Thief, the Archer and the Dragoon as well. As mentioned above, each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The Soldier is one of the primary units you’ll be using, and probably will be the first one you place on each level. They have a decent attack and good speed, and can be promoted to level seven, but are ineffective against flying enemies. Black Mages are considerably weaker, but are necessary because some enemies you’ll encounter are resistant or immune to physical attacks. They also can be raised up to level seven, are effective against flying enemies, and at their highest levels have excellent attack range.
Some gamers may argue, but I found the White Monk to be all but worthless. True, they can attack multiple enemies, but they’re less powerful than the Soldier, slower, and ineffective against flying enemies. Don’t waste your money. Likewise, Archers are limited in their usefulness. They’re effective against flying foes, particularly ones resistant to magic, but I found a good balanced corps of Mages and Dragoons to be far better on the whole. Use them sparingly. Speaking of Dragoons, are easily the most powerful combat unit available in the game, they have a great range, and they can even damage aerial opponents. The downside is that they’re slow, only can be promoted to level four, and are quite expensive to purchase and level up. You’ll definitely want to use some, especially on later maps, but try to limit yourself to around 8-10 of them at a time.
I never found Time Mages to be all that particularly useful in the Final Fantasy Tactics games, but here they’re absolutely invaluable, especially on level 12. Time Mages slow monsters’ progress, allowing the other units around them to have extra opportunities to attack. This definitely comes in handy, especially against those enemies that are super-quick or have a lot of hit points. I would’ve never beaten the game without them. Likewise, Thieves are surprisingly useful. They net you extra Gil, which can be used to level up troops and is often times the difference between success and failure. Definitely don’t make the mistake of overlooking these two valuable unit types.
As any veteran of tower defense games will tell you, unit placement is essential, especially late in the game. Obviously, you’ll need to experiment a bit to see what works best for you, but here are some pointers I found useful. Try to place your first units in a place where they’ll have two chances to strike the enemies–that is, somewhere where the path passes them twice. You essentially double their value by doing so, all while saving yourself some valuable Gil in the early part of a stage. Whenever possible, place your Dragoons and Black Mages near the center of the map. Both unit types have excellent range once leveled up, and its best to put them somewhere where they can cover as much territory as possible. Putting them in corners might result in some of their attack circle going offscreen, which is pretty much a waste of their potential. Also, I personally preferred placing Time Mages and Thieves together, then surrounding them with a group of levelled-up Soldiers. Creating such an arrangement, particularly near a bottleneck, maximizes the effectiveness of all units involved.
The Secret Level
In order to unlock the secret level, you not only need to beat the game, but you need a perfect score on all 12 main levels. This might take some real trial and effort, but hopefully the tips above will help out. The 13th level is a real challenge, because it is the only stage in the game where the enemies enter from two different locations. Of course, by the time you get there, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Choose your units wisely, place them strategically, use Esper summons when needed, and eventually you’ll win the day!