Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Only two games have my utter respect, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy. Too bad (for me that is) those two games are each released on a different platform. When I saw the first footage of the firstnamed game’s remake, I chose the GameCube as my platform. The lil’ cube maybe gives me lots of joy, I missed the games of my other favorite series. Then salvation came, and Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) said the magic words “FF is coming to the Cube”. After about a month of wondering what it would be like, a two-second movie was released. Ever since the release of that movie I’ve been checking the calendar up until now. I could finally get started on Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles…
“Story?!? Are you friggin’ insane? They’ll play for the gameplay, not the story! Don’t waste your time on that”, must Square-Enix have thought as there is a wee story in the game. At the start you can give your character some personal touches: pick your race (out of four), your sex (two picks ), your name, and finally your profession (eight in total). Everything affects your stats later, as in better defence, better magic, … After making your character, it’s time to go out on your adventure.
The world is covered with some dirty stuff named Miasma and if you’re exposed to it too much, you’ll just die. Every self-respecting village in the game has a gigantic crystal to make sure that the Miasma (and the monsters coming with it) doesn’t get to the villagers. However, after a year the crystal becomes unclear, losing its ability to protect. That’s where you step in. You can go roam the country with a caravan, in search of Myrrh Trees. These blue-greeny coloured trees contain a kind of fluid which is able to purify the crystal, called Myrrh (duh ). Every year you must collect four drops of Myrrh in a little chalice, and return it to your hometown. On the road you’ll meet the caravans of other villages who don’t really add much to the story, but are apparently interesting enough to go in your diary. That’s right, your diary. Every tiny thing you’ll ever do or accomplish in the game, is going straight in it. When you come back in your village after a year, a ritual will be held, and everyone gets to listen to your deepest secrets. The story sucks. I can’t make it sound nicer. Every previous Final Fantasy was able to suck you in and interest you until the end, but now 95% of the story is pushed in the end. Oh well, it’s all about the gameplay right?
The game is pretty much a loop of the same actions. You start on a map, follow a path to an area, get in there, slash and run yourself through tons of enemies, meet and defeat a huge boss, collect a drop of Myrrh in your chalice, get a letter from your dear family, and repeat. After four drops, a new year emerges, and your chalice is empty again. Done. It’s like this in most of the game. You’ll immediately get that you just can’t compare this game to any previous FF. Instead of all the turn-based fighting, it’s now all real-time.
With the L and R trigger you scroll through a list of actions, and with A you’ll execute them. You start off with four command slots which are expandable later. Two are standard, as in unchangeable. Those are Attack and Defend. With Attack you can just slash by mashing the A button, but when you hold it, you get a Focus Attack, which is a lot more powerful. Defend does what it has to do, but why you would ever use it, is beyond me. The two other slots are for you to pick. Every enemy you kill drops items. In the beginning those will mostly be Magicite Orbs. Every kind of magic has its own Orb (Cure, Thunder, Blizzard, …), and works like a Focus Attack (charge and fire). It’s also possible to fuse different kinds of Magicite, to create an even more powerful one. You have quite some possibilities, but in the end you’ll end up using mostly Attack (it’s just way handier). The gameplay also gets very monotonous: dodge, attack, dodge, attack, etc…
Every level contains artefacts, and the game lets you keep one every end of a level. With these artefacts you’ll tweak your stats, you get an extra command slot, or an extra heart.
Your chalice also proves its use, there’s a tiny piece of crystal in it to protect you against the Miasma. There’s always a shield around you, and if you leave it, it’s bye bye to your hearts of life. In the singleplayer part this chalice is being carried by a Moogle (which you can paint, wash and trim, how cute is that?!). The fuzzy thing will get tired sometimes, and then it’s your time to carry it. If this is during a boss fight, beware of your temper, because before you know it, you’ll run outside the circle, and lose anóther well-needed heart.
If you connect a GBA, it serves as a radar that helps you locate the enemies, but it’s really not worth the batteries. The real value of the game lies in the multiplayer part. You múst each have a GBA (it’s not possible to simultaneously use a GC controller and a GBA). Everyone sees information about items and other stuff on his/her screen, so there’s more variation than in singleplayer. The team play works amazingly well. Afterwards it’s brilliant to think about the things you yelled at each other (“at the right damnit!” or “BEHIND HIM!”) . One of the players will have to carry the chalice (no moogle at your service here), so that’s a free discussion on top.
The graphics have all sorts of details which almost makes them perfect. If you walk behind one of those gigantic crystals in a town, the light breaks the way it should, and if you walk next to water, you can admire your rippled reflection. Add incredible atmospheric levels (a kitchen with Tonberries, a ghost village that fell out of Myrrh, a volcano filled with kamikaze-Bombs), detailed characters, and nice magic effects and it’s save to conclude the graphics are finger licking good.
There’s not much music in the game, but what there is, is very moody. Alright, after some time you’ll go nuts from the every repeating world map-tune, but that’s the only con. Every level has an introduction, spoken by a charming lady. Too bad those are the only spoken bits in the game. Oh well, they perfectly match with the atmosphere of the rest of the game.
Alright, Crystal Chronicles isn’t the quality we’re used of a Final Fantasy, but as a multiplayer RPG it does a darn good job. There’s this incredible atmosphere, and with two or more players you’ll never get bored. The game is also pretty extended, with different kinds of weapons and armour per race and per profession. Too bad it loses a lot of its value in the singleplayer aspect, it’s a bit too much of the same. It also would be perfectly possible to play multiplayer with regular controllers, but hey, money beats the rest. The graphics and sound are just dóne, and the surroundings suck you in. If you have mates with a GBA, just buy this. To play alone is FFCC just a good slash RPG, nothing more, nothing less.