Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles GameCube Review

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Finally Square has returned to its welcome routes and created a game for a Nintendo Console! Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is unlike any other previous Final Fantasy game, mainly because of the fact it is multiplayer action RPG. Using GBA connectivity, up to four players can experience the game at anyone time, using their game boy advance screens as stat and item displays meaning you never have to pause the game to configure items and weapons. The single player mode is also fun, however you are playing by yourself all the time and it makes the game fairly harder. Nevertheless this is a welcome return from Square and delivers a fun and almost epic title. GameCube owning Final Fantasy Fans will finally be rid of not playing the next generation of Final Fantasy instalments with FF: CC. I was very excited and surprised when I first saw news of the game (over a year ago now) and grew more anticipated with each new screenshot and information. Finally I had a chance to play it and was amazed at the results.

Being a Final Fantasy Game, you would expect the plot to be something special, however this is the biggest disappointment in the game. We understand that the game is supposed to be an Action RPG but even The Wind Waker was equal in plot to this. The game starts with the player selecting their name, sex, tribe, appearance and family occupation. Once this is done, the player is told that an evil Mist known as Miasma, threatens the harmonic race, which transforms people into ruthless monsters. Therefore the population needs to be protected. This is where you come in. Every town/settlement has a crystal in the centre, which helps keep the Miasma away. This crystal is powered by droplets of Myrrh and needs to be regenerated every year with three droplets. These droplets are found in Myrrh Trees, which produce droplets every other year and are guarded by monsters and bosses, naturally. Every year each town sends out a caravan to go and seek these droplets. For Miasma protection each caravan has a crystal chalice of their own which is carried by a team-mate or mog. Yes moogles have made a return as the mail service, helpers and Stiltskin as a teacher. After that that’s about it until the end of the game. You receive various hints here and there but basically that’s all their is too it. There isn’t any story changing decisions made along the way either. This aspect will be the biggest drawback for solid RPG fans but will make a welcome change to those who want a lighter game.

Graphics

As you can see from the various screenshots this game is graphically stunning, no less than you would expect from Square. The in game graphics are easily one of the best on any system with fluid animation, beautiful textures and smooth character models. The water effects are stunning, as well as haze and smoke. All detail has been crafted beautifully to give the game a stunning exterior. The textures are particularly pretty, right down from the rivers to mogs fur, giving the player a visual treat. However traditional Final Fantasy fans will be disappointed to know that there are no longer any cinema sequences. All cinematics are portrayed with the natural in game graphics, however this is still very good. Due to the type of graphics, players can rarely interact with the environment, however. This means players can’t really open doors in towns and character interference doesn’t really have any impact on the environment. The frame rate supports all four players rushing about at once with enemies present and various spells hurling about. This game could sell out right because of its graphics.

Gameplay

As has already been mentioned, Crystal Chronicles is unlike any other Final Fantasy game before it and the multiplayer aspects could only be possible using the GameCube’s connectivity technology. At the start of there game you are asked whether you shall be playing a single player game or with friends. The bare minimum you need to play the game is a controller. During single player however, a game boy advance can still be used as a map, beast guide or treasure map depending on which colour you paint your moogle. Every player in multiplayer will need his or her own GBA and link cable which can become very costly.

Once in single player you can create seven other different characters to play the game with, however they will never fight along side each other. This option is only really useful if you want to get a special profession and level up, as family friends will give you discounts when purchasing items. The family job option at the start of the game can be quite essential if you want to get some of the better items. This job can be promoted by sending home relevant items every time a Myrrh drop is obtained via the moogle service. When you receive the letter you have a choice of two replies, which are usually negative or positive and will raise or lower the particular family member relationship. If they are angry at you then they will ignore you, however make them happy and they will happily make items for you. If you send home decent items their jobs will improve allowing better items to be used/crafted. The only jobs worth really considering are the alchemist, blacksmith, tailor and merchant. Weapons and accessories are created via collecting the necessary materials and scroll. Once this is done, take these to the matching crafter and pay a price to have them made. The further and better you get at the game the better the items/scrolls become.

Combat in the game is no longer turn based and you do not get ‘warped’ into battle, as this is an action RPG. Primarily each character has four different ways of attack: Standard attack (can be used to create three hit combos), Focus attack (a powerful attack that has to be charged like with magic and aimed), Defend (the character stops and raises his/her weapon/shield to form a barrier, however this can be penetrated) and magic. The magic system in the game consists of the player collecting orbs or magictites of each particular magic and setting them to use. These magictites are Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Life, Cure, Clear and ???. They are obvious in what they do with the exception of ??? being special and all disappear after the level is completed. These can be combined together to create other spells or increase the severity of others, e.g. Fire + Life = Holy etc. Disappointingly there isn’t really that many different spells that can be created and there are no summon type creatures either. Magic is used by selecting it on the command list and holding down ‘A’ slightly before aiming and casting. Magics can be combined with other players in multiplayer and with Mog in single player if he isn’t carrying the chalice.

Fans will be pleased to hear that there are some classic Final Fantasy beasts in there as well and the bosses are quite spectacular. Expect to see Behemoths, Iron Giants and Dragon Zombies along with many others. Monsters in the game aren’t particularly hard and most of the time can be defeated with the dodge-attack system. Once defeated the enemies drop items or gill. Towards the end of every dungeon there is a boss creature, which suits each environment. These are usually large and damaging and usefully have a health bar near them. They also summon various minions at times, which can be particularly annoying. After the battle is won the character collects their well earned Myrrh droplet and get to choose an artefact to keep that they have found in the level. These raise stats and obviously the harder to obtain the more useful they are. The player also receives gil for the amount of points they receive. Points are received by killing enemies and sticking to the bonus rule. This rule can be a number of things from ‘Inflict damage’ to ‘don’t pick up items’ and can be frustrating sometimes, however these are the keys to getting large amounts of gil and to getting good items as artefacts.

When the player is not in dungeons or searching for Myrrh they are on the road between towns travelling via their caravan. On the road players come into events, which are usually coincidental apart from the rare, story essential ones. The player keeps a diary of these events, which can be accessed from the world map.

Sound

The Final Fantasy games are famous for their sounds and Crystal Chronicles isn’t as exception. The designers have decided to focus more so on sound effects than anything else however, and these are particularly special. Some notable examples are the boat timbers creaking on the water and the cow sounds. The music follows a light-hearted, cheerful path and is never as dramatic as something like Final Fantasy VIII.

Lifespan

This game will keep you going for a fair old while, especially if you want to get the best items, weapons and statistics in the game. However the game can actually be completed within around fifth-teen hours if you’re straight to the point. It isn’t a huge epic as with the other games in the series, however. There aren’t really any side quests or useful ones at that and our beloved chocobos are gone. The game is very linear in comparison to the other games but try not to think of it in that way. It is a completely different take on to the other games and has been executed well for an RPG that is fun to play and fairly addictive. Replay value comes in the form of graphics and the ability to test a different selection of characters and jobs. Also the multiplayer will keep you happy as well. That is, if you have three, fairly rich friends.

Dedicated fans of the Final Fantasy series (and there are many out there) will find FF:CC as an original break from the pack but will be remembered as ‘that GC FF’ and will never be categorised along the more traditional classic titles of the series. New and casual gamers will be hooked by the graphics and subtle approach into the fantasy genre, appreciative of the simple menus and not being too bogged down in statistics or strategy. Despite the over-looked advantages of the GBA-GC connection system, a fault on Nintendo’s part, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles remains a visual and awe-inspiring game throughout. One is enjoyable, but four is very much a party.

9 out of 10
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