Square Enix Gifts Facebook Players With Its Iconic Bird in Chocobo’s Crystal Tower

Whether you count in Roman or Arabic numerals, there have been a lot of Final Fantasy titles released since the first in 1987: 22 not counting expansions, collections and compilations. From this illustrious line come the spin-offs – Crystal Chronicles, Chocobo, and a plethora of one-offs. Nary a platform hasn’t been graced by its mix of magic, angst, drama and charm.

That includes Facebook, where Chocobo’s Crystal Tower joins Knights of the Crystals, which we recently reviewed. While Knights follows a fairly typical wizards-and-warriors formula, Crystal Tower focuses on Final Fantasy’s most accessible and least drama-laden creature, the flightless chocobo. Birds of great speed used to traverse long distances in the traditional titles, the chocobos of Crystal Tower battle evil in fortresses no man can enter. It’s your job, as the breeder of said birds, to raise and prepare them for battle.

The game begins with a very speedy backstory (I had difficulty keeping up) on the history of just why the chocobo are needed to keep the world at peace and how important it is that you breed them and keep them fighting. Then begins a lengthy and involved tutorial on how to raise, breed, and fight your chocobo.

Translations in the game feature the same “mistakes” that all Final Fantasy titles are known and often loved for. Whether the Facebook demographic considers this charming or merely sloppy remains to be seen.

As a breeder of chocobos, you must take the bird from hatchling to adult, and then retire it by setting it free. Your first egg is given to you. Subsequent eggs must be purchased for Gil – the in-game currency – or by breeding your first bird. This hatchling will take approximately 24 hours to mature, but once grown, the bird has several hundred hours during which to ascend the different Crystal Towers.

Four attributes help affect your success during these tower expeditions: Strength, Agility, Intelligence and Mind. When breeding your chocobo, it’s important to pick a partner that will provide you with the attributes you seek.

Attributes can be further enhanced over a lifetime by feeding the birds foods – each bird has a preference – and by equipping it with armor. Some armors are found when battling, others can be purchased with Gil or with Chocopoints from your personal shop. When visiting a friend’s farm, one can earn breeder points for the feeding and care of a friend’s birds. Checking the shop is also prudent, as every person has a different item on special.

Finally, your progress in the towers gives you an Ascender Rank, a measure of how many floors your birds have “ascended” fighting through the towers to keep the evil at bay.

When it comes to creating new birds, a small player base limits direct breeding requests (anonymous requests are an option) in Crystal Tower, but the ability to interact with random players allows for infinite game time. This will increase one’s breeding rank, a skill at breeding which is important because no individual pairing is assured of success — even though the wait for the player can be up to 24 hours.

Each farm can also be decorated just as distinctly as a house in a normal sim game, with items for purchase using one or the other currency. When the birds are not off fighting or breeding, they can be found rolling, chasing, or singing on the farm. The animations are smooth and quite adorable and though the sounds can become tiresome after days, they fit the birds most appropriately according to mood.

While the tower and farm sections of the game may seem complex, you aren’t forced to do both. Your Breeder Rank and Ascender Rank are unrelated, so if you wish, you may simply fight your birds, buying eggs in shops when your birds need to retire; or you may breed them to develop the most rare in-demand birds, never entering a single battle. The choice is yours.

Chocobo’s Crystal Tower is a surprisingly complex game with features unique to the social space, a difference driven in part by staying true to its Final Fantasy roots in the user interface, naming conventions, and storyline. Much of this is typical JRPG fare, very popular to a specific subset of the American gaming population. But since Facebook players have shown that they are typically not (yet) the standard American gaming population, much less a subset, Crystal Tower may have a tough time succeeding.