Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

a game by Square Enix
Platform: GameCube
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 2 reviews
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See also: Final Fantasy Series

THE BASICS:

The famous RPG series finally returns to the Nintendo party after years of absence, but Crystal Chronicles might not be the same glittering homecoming queen everybody expected. "I think people will find the game to be quite different from all of the Final Fantasy games we've seen up until now," explains Producer Akitoshi Kawazu. It's hard to predict how fans of the PS1 and PS2 RPGs will react--Crystal Chronicles barely resembles the 10 previous proper FF titles. Forgoing the heavy plot, sullen heroes, and turn-based combat typical of the series, Chronicles is a multiplayer action-RPG that's meant to appeal to a much wider audience. That's not to say Chronicles lacks a gripping story line, but it definitely takes a backseat to the action. At the game's outset, you (and up to three comrades) assume the roles of Crystal Caravan members Ciaron, Lu'ge, Cyadd, and Hias-- four young heroes sworn to rescue the world from diabolical smog by finding powerful magic crystals. The adventure unfolds in a series of missions across fields, cities, and dungeons, with you and your companions swinging swords and casting spells against hordes of enemies all the while. Luckily, the combat is smooth and fun--you've got three-hit weapon combos (a la Phantasy Star Online), charge-up attacks, and real-time versions of familiar FF magic spells. Puzzles appear to be on the light side (i.e., match the key to the similarly shaped lock), and climactic boss encounters await you at the end of each mission. Overall, it's simple, easy-to-pick-up stuff.

HOW WAS IT?

All right, I get it--this isn't like the other Final Fantasy games, but then again, I happen to like them. Even so, I really enjoyed the early build of Chronicles. It's a truly unique blend--imagine Gauntlet meets Phantasy Star Online with a chaser of Final Fantasy mythos and you're almost there. I especially dug the slick visuals, haunting music, and rewarding combat. The jury's still out on the much-vaunted GBA connectivity, though. Your pals don't have to use a GBA to play, but it does offer them a map and enhanced inventory management. Neat, but quite gimmicky, really.

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Game Reviews

Square Enix are arguable the master of role playing games and Nintendo has almost always been home to some of the best games in that genre, so the return of Final Fantasy to a Nintendo console was destined to be great ' an boy has Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles lived up to that destiny.

Developers can make a game fun, easy to play, nice to look at and a pleasure to listen to but to make any role playing game worth its salt you have to do one more thing ' you have to write a story. Playing Crystal Chronicles is all about unraveling the plot ' as much fun as this game is to play it just wouldn't last past a single play if it weren't for the deeply involved plot and branching side stories.

On first blush, the game has a fairly simple plot, placing you in control of a caravan that travels around the country side collecting myrrh to cleanse your village's crystal. The town's crystal protects the town from a miasma that is devouring the world. To get enough myrrh each year you have to travel around looking for boss monsters to defeat. You'll have to defeat three to last a year. As you fight and travel your way through this basic plot you will start learning the secret of the miasma. You will also start hearing about side plots from travelers ' making the game a must multiplay to fully understand what's going on in this latest Final Fantasy world.

The game's mechanics are a breeze to master, but still offer up enough intricacies to make playing the game more about skill than random button mashing and luck. At the beginning of any combat phase you assign weapons and magic to quick buttons which are cycled with the shoulder buttons during combat. Attacking a monster is as easy as tapping the A button or holding it for a charged special attack. One clever design built into the combat system is instead of just tapping away to inflict damage you have to learn the rhythm of the character and weapon you are using to perform combo hits.

The background graphics and character animation is top notch, as expected from Square Enix, featuring a wide variety of settings and a disparate group of characters and monsters to interact with. The sound and music is even better than I expected, which is quite a feat. Most noticeable was the fact that much of the cut scenes are fully spoken by a talented voice actor. The music, like most Final Fantasy games, is catchy and beautiful ' offering up much more than the annoying, repetitive junk that mars many video games today.

The multiplayer mode in Crystal Chronicles is quite unique but a bit of a let down at times. The disappointment comes from the fact that to play multiplayer, you'll have to have at least one GBA. To play with four players simultaneously you'll have to find friends who own GBAs. While I understand the preference for multiple screens, I don't think it's worth alienating a whole slew of gamers by requiring a GBA to play.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles very much lives up to its Final Fantasy name offering gamers a chance to immerse themselves in a world that is as fun to experience as it is to solve. It is great to see the Final Fantasy series back home on a Nintendo system.

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