Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles GameCube Review

“Thy memories to the light shall flow
Forgotten jewels that lose their glow
In time they shall return anew
To be gathered like drops of dew…”

It’s been many a year since a Final Fantasy game has been booted up on a Nintendo console. It has been almost eight years since that little fallout happened between the two companies and now Square-Enix, under the guise of Game Designer Studio, brings Final Fantasy back to where it started. Some may even refer to it as it homecoming of a long lost friend. We all welcome someone that has been away for a while, but how much has our friend changed since it has been away? and how much will it cost to get that “connection” back with your old friend you once knew? and most of all is our old friend as good as we remember him all them years ago?

Gameplay

Like I said in the previous paragraph, Crystal Chronicles is the first Final Fantasy game on a Nintendo console in almost a decade – but it is Final Fantasy in name alone. So much is different in this game than any other incarnations it would be indistinguishable to a casual passer-by that did not know what game you where playing. What has changed? Well to start off, the game has been made with multiplayer in mind – infact to get the most out of the you should play multiplayer. There are no FMV’s to be seen in the game; all cut-scenes are done using the in-game engine. The game is also less story based than it counterpart, but there is still a small tale to be told. Anyway, enough with the comparing to previous titles; lets move on a talk about the newest and most innovative Final Fantasy to hit a console this year.

Like all Final Fantasies Crystal Chronicles tell a story, but unlike others incarnations the story is not very in-depth; in fact, it is just there to offer an explanation to the fights you are going to find yourself in. A evil dark matter, know as the Miasma, has covered all the world after a terrible meteor struck. This Miasma is fatal, causing death to anyone who comes into contact with it. The outlook was dim; there was no way to get rid of it, and the townsfolk began to despair and lost all hope there would ever get rid of this menace. But luckily, just at the time it was needed, a Crystal was discovered (wasn’t that nice of the developers). This magical all-singing-all-dancing crystal could keep the miasma at bay and save the races from eminent destruction. But (yes there is a but) the crystal needs the sacred substance called “Myrrh” to get its power….

….This is where you (and your friends) come in….

….The Myrrh can only keep its power the crystal for about a year. Every year villagers traveled in crystal caravans (which can sit a maximum of 4, GBA’s sold separately) and spent a year collecting drops of Myrrh from different trees. If you fail, your village is doomed – yes doomed – so do not fail if you don’t want to be doomed.

There are four diverse races in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. At the start of the game you must decide on the race that you want to be. This is significant, since each race has a diverse set of strengths and weaknesses. There are four races: Clavats (balanced stats), Lilties (physical combat), Yukes (magic class), and Selkies (focus attacks). You must create your own characters and name your own village and chose your own trade. So, the game ends up having a custom feel to it and as you have created and named you own character you feel like you are in the game and not just walking through the world in someone else’s shoes. The game is divided into a period of eight years. Each year, you’ll have to journey with your team to three different dungeons and defeat the boss before collecting the Myrrh which will move you onto the next year. Then it’s wash, rinse and repeat with bigger badder bosses to complete the following years. Access to these levels are selected from a very neatly designed world map.

The much talked about Game Boy Advance link has to be used while playing in multiplayer. “Why do I have to use it this way?” you may ask – well, to clear things, up the GBA is NOT used for the single player mode, so if you were concerned about that aspect you can rest easy now or run out and get your copy now. There is a valid reason to have to use the Game Boy Advance while playing in multiplayer; it is not just a devious scheme by Nintendo to pry money from you grubby mitts (40% devious scheme, 60% logical decision)

You see, the GBA is used as your command screen; if each player had to pause to use the command screen via the TV then not only would the feel of the game be ruined, your friends would get bored and possibly angry waiting for you. Other clever aspects of using the GBA are each shows a different screen. One player may have a map of the dungeon that you are in, others will get the location of the treasures revealed to them and another player may get a monster locater revealed to them. These different screens force players to communicate to get through the dungeon successfully which is a nice aspect as when you finally finished the dungeon each player should feel as they contributed in some way and no one will be left out no matter how high or low there gaming skills are.

Crystal Chronicles is not your typical role playing game; I refer to it as RPG-lite as it takes out some aspects that you would normally expect to see in the genre but keeps enough of the bare-bone to let it be called a RPG. It is more action oriented than most RPG’s out there, random battles are no where to be seen, and the levelling up side of the game is kept to a minimum. Fights take place in real-time; attacks are performed by pressing the “A” button, and holding down the “A” button powers up your attack and make a target appear; by letting for of “A” you will perform a focus attack. By pressing “L” and “R” you can chose what you want the “A” button to do; you can choose between Attack, Defend, Fire, Cure, Thunder, and Blizzard and all the other magic you have seen in other final fantasy games. It may take a while to get used to this method but after about 10 minutes you should be attacking and casting spells better than Gandalf and Harry Potter combined.

The game is best experienced in 4 player mode; every thing just feels much better when you play it like that. It feels primarily designed around this mode, so if you ever get the chance to play it like that do so right away. Although both 3, 2, and even 1 player are not to bad either, there is no denying that 4 players is the way to go if you can.

Graphics

Square, or should I say Game Designer Studio, have outdone themselves – to quote Jim Carey they are B-E-A-U-tiful. There is no other way to describe them; the locations magnificently animated and a pulsating and alive with wonderful color and textures. It seems to be really pushing the GameCube to the limits of what it is capable of. The water effects splash Wave Race in the face and then pull of on its jet ski leaving ripples in it wake. The fur shading on the moogles is not only nice, but as it is a very difficult touch to pull off it seems like the developers are saying “Hey! look what we can do!” The foliage, grass, and trees may be some of the best I have ever seen. One aspect that could have been “slightly” improved the graphical quality of the characters themselves but there are still highly above average; while the character could have been improved slightly, their animation and how they walk, run and move are done to perfection. I find myself running out of superlative to describe what I saw before me while playing the game. These are definitely some of the best you are going to running on a console this generation.

Sound

If there was one thing to equal or better the fantastic graphics it would have to be the sound. An extravagant and flamboyant intro sequence complete with its own song starts off the game, and it’s very well produced that suits the feel of the rest of the game and really gets you in the mood for the adventure that lies ahead. Speaking of the adventure that lies ahead, it is all accompanied by it own extremely well composed music.

Each area has it own trademark beautifully crafted tune, each one feeling completely different than the one before; the tunes are mostly all memorable and range from higher tempo fast paced songs to slow melodies but they all share a Celtic or Old Irish theme. You will probably be humming at least one of them weeks after you take the disk out of your console the last time. The game has very little voice acting in it; none of your main characters talk. The main reason for this is probably disk-space, but it could be to let you build up your own image of the character in your head. The only voice acting that is in there is the female voice that introduces each new area. Some may be disappointed by the lack of voice acting, but it is not really needed as the story isn’t as deep as a normal FF game and the fantastic music makes up for any short coming in any other area.

Lifespan

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles really is a fun action RPG with its own genre that no one else explored with great depth. While you can replay the level again and again to advance in years and finish the game, you can play though all the areas in the game in about 25 hours and then it is up to you how far more you want to go with it or how many more years you want to play, so a reasonable amount of replay value is available to the gamer(s)

Overall

If you where hoping for the likes of a next-gen version of Secret of Mana then you may end up disappointed. If you were hoping for a in-depth RPG then you also may be also disappointed. FF:CC does have RPG elements in there but is more RPG-lite with some of the more complicated parts taken out. If you enjoy hack and slash games and want some fun with your mates Crystal Chronicles is the way to go; you will have some laughs and fights, but most of all you will have buckets of fun (pun intended). The game may have scored more if it did not cost more than £300 to get the most out of it but if you can afford the gargantuan hardware requirements required to fully enjoy it then go ahead and make your mark on the Crystal Chronicles.

8.6 out of 10

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