Pros: Unique and innovative, great use of GBA connectivity, excellent
Cons: Control takes time to get used to, single player mode is lacking,
story lacks depth, leveling up your character is a chore
Nintendo and Squaresoft haven't been able to see eye to eye after
their fallout during the reign of the Nintendo 64. Once Squaresoft moved
over to support the Playstation Enix followed and it spelled the doom of
the console in Japan. Fortunately for gamers, Nintendo and Square, now
known as Square Enix, decided to work together on creating games again.
Instead of re-releasing a popular title or creating another Mario RPG
Square Enix made a game that revolves around Game Boy Advance
connectivity. For most games that include GBA connectivity it is used in
minor way, but Nintendo has been trying to push it forward. In some ways
Crystal Chronicles is a test to see how much you can do with
connectivity, and what it does it does well.
First let me say if you're expecting an traditionally epic Final
Fantasy you're going to have to wait until XII comes out. Crystal
Chronicles is more a kin to the mana series rather than the Final
Fantasy series. The is about a group of young adventurers that brave the
world in search of myrrth. This magical myrrth protects towns from the
creeping miasma, a deadly mist. Myrrth doesn't last forever so there is
a constant journey to acquire more myrtth. You play as one of the
nameless (until you name them of course) young adventurers who is part
of a caravan of other adventures in search of the myrrth. Once you start
the game you will be given a chance to make your character. There are
four races to choose from and four sprites for each race. You can also
choose to be male or female, which leaves a total of 32 possible looks
for your character. The most human like race are the Clavats,
which are strongest in defense. There are the tiny and aptly named
Litllys, which are the strongest attackers. The Yukes are the furry
dragon-like creatures that excel in magic. Finally there are the Selkies,
which are the blue haired, fur wearing humans that have the fastest
attack. It doesn't matter too much which race you choose because the
difference in attributes isn't that noticeable. After you design your
character you get to choose a job for your character's family. You can
pick from a number of different professions including: merchant,
blacksmith, alchemist and even a fisherman. Each job opens a different
store in your hometown. So if you want more stores to open you'll have
to create more characters.
Once you actually start on your journey, you'll soon see that Crystal
Chronicles is at heart a hack and slash action RPG. Your character will
always have the basic commands attack and defend. Whether you're playing
using a Game Boy Advance or a standard Gamecube controller "R" and "L"
cycle through your available commands and "A" executes that command. So
if you want to attack you need to cycle through your commands to get to
attack and then press A to attack. Cycling through commands takes some
time getting used to. At times the command scheme seems somewhat
ridiculous. Because when you're being pummeled by an onslaught of
enemies you'll wish you had an extra button you could assign another
command to. There should be at least a Gamecube controller scheme and a
Game Boy Advance scheme, but since the game is designed for the Game Boy
Advance, it neglects players that choose not to play with one. Actually
if you play without a Game Boy Advance you'll be missing out on a
personal status screen and even a helpful map. So there seems to be a
strong push for you to use the GBA.
There are a number of questionable "features" that are included in
Crystal Chronicles besides the control scheme. For instance, when you
enter into a dungeon you have no magic. After defeating a few enemies
you'll run into magicite, which can be equipped to one of your empty
slots. When magicite is equipped you can cast the spell that is imbued
in it. So if you find fire magicite you can cast fire and cure magicite
allows you to cast cure. However, once you leave the dungeon your
magicite is gone, even if you enter the same dungeon again you need to
track down your magacite again. Later on you can get an item that
errantly allows you to have a spell, but that's not until much later in
the game. If you want to cast an advanced spell, which is anything
stronger that single magacite, you'll need to use two of your command
slots to combine spells. So if you want to cast holy you'll need to
equip both fire and life. However, you won't be able to cast either fire
or life, just holy. When you only have two changeable command slots using
them to make one spell seems wasteful. What ends up happening is you're
constantly going back to the menu to change your commands. The magic
system works a lot better when playing with other people. If you
synchronize your spell timing with a partner you can cast advanced
spells. So if you wanted to cast holy one person can cast fire and the
other life. This works out much better than single player, but it takes
time for people to synchronize their spells. Another problem with the
game is the way your characters "level up". At the start of each dungeon
every playing character is given a goal. This goal can be "attack
enemies" or "use magic" it can also be something as asinine as "collect
gil" or "open treasure boxes". What makes matters worse is the goal can
even be something impossible such as "get hit by magic" or "don't attack
enemies". The secret goal is shown when you plug in your GBA. You can
opt to tell your partners this goal, but you'll probably keep it secret
since you're competing to achieve your different goals. When you beat a
dungeon you are given a score towards how you completed your goal. The
person with the highest score gets to pick from the artifacts found in
the game first. These artifacts give permanent increases to status
attributes, more slots or even a new ability. However, you can only have
one of each type of artifact. This means if you complete a dungeon and
all the artifacts that are left over you already collected you won't get
an upgrade. This is a problem when playing with four people, only one or
two players may get an upgrade. Most of the time it's not even in the
player's control, when they have those impossible goals like "don't get
hit". The game just doesn't seem fair or enjoyable at that point.
Probably the greatest annoyance of the game is the ever present
miasma. Your caravan carries a chalice with some myrrth filled in it.
The chalice gives you a radius to fight in. If you step to far away from
the chalice you'll incur damage and eventually die. When playing alone
you're given a moogle to carry the chalice around. The moogle does a
pretty good job of following you, but if you move too fast the moogle
won't catch up. This means you'll be taking damage unless you move
through the dungeon slowly. The chalice problem worsens when playing
with other people. First of all you don't have a moogle to carry the
myrrth around. A player has to actually carry it. Whoever carries it,
moves slower and they're forced to put it down to attack or pick up
items. Also since the player that carries it moves slowly all of the
other players have to wait for him or her to catch up before pressing
forward. All of this makes the pace of the game feel slow, which an
action RPG isn't supposed to be like.
When you actually want to play multiplayer you must connect Game Boy
Advances to use as controllers instead of the normal controller. This
means for four players you'll need four GBAs, four link cables, a copy
of the game and a Gamecube. That's a lot of expensive equipment to play
one game, more than even playing Phantasy Star Online. However, Square
Enix does a really good job of using the GBA's a little bit more than a
novelty feature. Each player is given different information about the
battlefield. When playing with two players one person has a map and one
person has a radar. The GBA also serves as your individual menu screen
that you can access by pressing "select". This allows you to change
commands, use items and such without stopping the flow of the game.
Square Enix has even placed other mini games that use GBA connectivity
like a Caravan racing game that looks strikingly like Mario Kart.
Overall, just using the GBAs with Crystal Chronicles is an experience on
One thing Square Enix rarely does is skimp on the visuals. While
Crystal Chronicles has reverted back to the adorable look rather than
the realistic look of X and XI, the graphics look amazing. When you're
walking by water you can see a clear reflection of your character and
your moogle. The backgrounds are breathtaking, with lush environments
and lots of reflective surfaces. The game also makes good use of a fog
effect to represent the miasma. The characters look awesome too, each of
the sprites are packed with animation. Perhaps the amount of detail can
be seen just by looking at the moogles in the game. The moogles look
"furry" with what looks like realistic fur, a lot of time was put into
what looks like a simple detail. One thing that fans may question is the
lack of full motion video in Crystal Chronicles. While there is a great
full motion intro, there really aren't too many other full motion scenes
in the game.
The music in the game is something that you're going to love or hate.
The fanfare is a mix of ambient music that sounds strikingly medieval.
Instead of the emotional pieces in other Final Fantasy games you get a
soundtrack from a Renaissance Fair. While the tracks are decent, they
don't resemble the same aural experience expected by Final Fantasy
fans. The sound effects are also lacking you can hear a clang of the
sword and burst of fire when attacking, but that's about it. There is
also little voice acting in the game besides introductions to the stage.
The world of Crystal Chronicles feels awfully quiet.
While the gameplay does have its nuisances it still is enjoyable, but
mainly with other people. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has the best
use of GBA connectivity to date, but at the expense of a weak single
player game. Besides the use of the GBA there isn't anything else that
differentiates Crystal Chronicles from any other action RPG. One other
problem with the game is that it came with the Final Fantasy headline.
People have such high expectations for a "Final Fantasy" that this game
would have been better off if it wasn't so directly associated with the
No need to import it. It has a US release date of February 11, 2004.
If you are looking to import it for whatever reason, the Japanese
version is not unplayable. The game is so simple that you can play
through it without missing much.
February 11, 2004 is the date you can pick it up.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is a game that you're going to love
or hate. If you're a die hard Final Fantasy fan you may want to get
those expectations of a standard FF game out of the way to enjoy this
one. While Crystal Chronicles remains a truly unique and innovative
game, its not without its flaws.