Crystal Defenders review (Android)

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When a company like Square Enix decides to bring its wares to Android, you instinctively sit up and take notice. The Japanese veteran has a long and illustrious history, packed with million-selling franchises such as Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana and Kingdom Hearts.

Sadly for us, Square Enix’s first Android outing isn’t a 30-hour RPG epic, but rather a conversion of the aging iPhone tower defence clone Crystal Defenders. While it’s by no means a terrible game, we can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed.

Crystal Defenders takes the tried-and-tested tower defence gameplay and dresses it up in some especially gorgeous presentation. This aspect of the game is unquestionably what makes it so appealing. When you place Crystal Defenders alongside the countless other similar titles available on the Android Market, it looks almost impossibly superior. The visuals are bold and colourful, showcasing the considerable talents of Square Enix’s talented team of in-house 2D artists.

Fans of Square Enix’s games will also be pleased to note many character designs and enemies have been carried over from series, such as Final Fantasy, lending the game a very authentic feel.

Unfortunately, Square Enix has seemingly given very little attention to the gameplay. Aside from offering two game modes (one showcases basic tower defence strategies while the other introduces power crystals, which have a positive effect on nearby units) there’s little here in the way of innovation. Indeed, Crystal Defenders feels a little stale when compared with recent examples of this type of game – but then it is over two years old now, so it’s hardly surprising.

To make matters worse, Square Enix has actually omitted content from this Android version. The third game mode – a more challenging proposition with new units – is missing, and for can’t for the life of us understand why. It’s included in both the iPhone, iPad, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade editions of the game, so why not here?

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The picture becomes even more depressing when you place the Android port of Crystal Defenders alongside the iPhone edition. It’s clear that the game hasn’t been properly optimised for Google’s platform, with erratic performance and occasional force closures. We reviewed the game on a Google Nexus S, so these issues certainly can’t be blamed on underpowered hardware.

Crystal Defenders isn’t a terrible game and if you’re a fan of the genre then you’re likely to extract a lot of enjoyment from it. However, the high price point, inconsistent performance and lack of content make this a poor relation to its Apple-based relatives. Unless you’re absolutely dying for another title of this ilk, we’d recommend you cast your gaze elsewhere.

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