Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King
Game type: City builder/manager
Time demand: Fairly hefty, and addictive (if you get into it), and you can't save anywhere, but it does save after every game day, which is often.
Platform: Wii (WiiWare)
What it is:
This game is... odd. But, if it's your thing, fairly addictive. Although still not nearly flawless.
Anyhow, this is probably the gem of the new WiiWare (games created for the Wii and sold only via the Wii's shopping channel) category. It's by Squarenix, so it's a nice polished little gem, and is WiiWare probably because it's so niche.
This is a city builder/manager type game, but with its own definite twists. It takes place in the world of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, after the miasma is lifted. The main character is a very young (like, ten years old young) king, who has been wandering the land for a few years with only his (female half-selkie) chancellor and chief man-at-arms at his side, until he finally locates a kingdom left to him by his father, who has disappeared. (The story gets a bit garbled since it's pieced together in patches, but I think the general gist is that they were all in the old kingdom together, the old king vanished from there when it was lost to the miasma or just before, then he started this new kingdom but he and everyone from it vanished again before his son and retainers could ever find him.)
Anyhow, in this kingdom is located a crystal, which used to protect the various towns from the miasma, but this one talks. It holds a mysterious magic called Architek (not that the naming is obvious here or anything), which it bestows upon the young king. This allows the king to build new buildings on certain glowing spots of land within his new kingdom, but with a few restrictions. For one, he can only build buildings that he knows - which means small houses at first, and soon a few more things that he "quests" to learn how to build within the town, and otherwise he unlocks new buildings through having dungeons explored and defeating the boss. More on that later. The other restriction is that not only does each building take up a certain amount of land, but it also requires a certain amount of a power called Elementite to build, which in turn must be found in the various dungeons all around the kingdom.
Anyhow, each building comes with one or more residents already built in, and serves a different function. The different types of residences each hold one potential adventurer, and each also contributes a certain amount of gald (money) in tithes each game day. They also provide a varying number of normal residents that wander around the town, going about their business and sometimes allowing you to talk to them. Residential businesses cater to the normal residents, and allow you to increase the town's morale to higher levels (and one, the emporium, broadens the types of items sold in adventurer shops). Adventurer shops each sell different types of equipment and items to adventurers, surprise surprise - weapon, armor, and item shops all having their own separate inventories. Adventurer buildings allow you to have some of your adventurers change jobs (they start out as Warriors but can eventually become Thieves, Black Mages or White Mages as well), and also sell the spells and abilities for those jobs. There are also scattered other miscellaneous things such as parks which improve the mood of adventurers, Taverns to allow your adventurers to form parties, and so on.
This is starting to grow a bit long, so I'll try to sum up the rest fairly briefly. The general flow of the game is that you build your buildings, hire up to 16 adventurers, and then each day you set up one to three (depending on the number of bulletin boards you have) behests, which the adventurers in turn can accept, sending them out to do various things in the dungeons around the kingdom. You unlock more and more dungeons as you send your adventurers farther afield, and they get tougher and tougher to conquer. This in turn unlocks new building types, brings you elementite, and gives the adventurers gald (along with a daily salary from the castle) which they in turn can spend on items, equipment, and abilities.
In the meantime, you as the king can't set foot outside your city. So each day is spent talking to townspeople and increasing the morale of the town, which can be then spent in upgrading the town type itself (which in turn unlocks new abilities, like declaring a holiday), or spent to allow your king to increase the family members' bonds of the people he talks to for a while. Which in turn allows him to stay up later at night (he's just a kid remember), and lets you collect special medals from some houses, which you can in turn award to adventurers after they complete a special behest to defeat a boss or some such. You can also use the gald you gain in tithes to recruit new adventurers from the pool of prospects, to increase your adventurer cap or pay rate, or to improve the selections at the various shops and job-related buildings in the town.
The problem, as you might imagine, is that after a while this gets old. If this is your type of game, it's really addicting for a while, as you scramble to get more elementite, erect all the buildings you want, get key buildings unlocked in certain dungeons, not get your adventurers badly injured, increase your morale to improve your kingdom... etc etc etc. This can keep you going for a good bit, but after a while it just gets boring - if you're at the highest kingdom level and a ton of your residents have high family bonds, there's no real reason to keep grinding morale, you eventually run out of buildings to build (or space to put them in) so you don't really need to scramble for elementite, you've spent about all the gald that will really help your adventurers out... so you lose a bit of steam and it just turns into a grind.
Luckily, you can end the game day at any point you wish, so if it's turning into a grind you can mostly just do your morning stuff and then go to bed to bring on the next day. But I really really wish they'd tweak the game in some way to really give you more to do in the kingdom itself, to keep it from getting so stale, at least for a while longer.
So general consensus: Fairly addicting game and something to take a look at, IF you're in to this type of game in general. And don't mind somewhat cutesy art styles, and a horribly young protagonist. (Not as bad here as in an RPG, since you're not stepping into his role so much as just following him around and directing him.)