Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 02/09/04 | Genre: Action/RPG
I have very good memories of Square games on Nintendo systems. These memories go all the way back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System with Final Fantasy. This was the first Role Playing Game I had ever played to that point. It was the start of my passion for the genre and the beginning of my love affair with Square. However, those days did not last forever.
Square and Nintendo went on to bring US gamers Final Fantasy IV and VI (known as Final Fantasy 2 and 3 on the SNES), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy Legend I, II, & III, and Final Fantasy Adventure. Their last game with Nintendo was Super Mario RPG. This was the end of a great RPG era and then Square went on to make new history with Sony on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2.
Recently, Square and Nintendo have patched up their relationship a little bit. The two companies have come together to bring gamers a Game Boy Advance remake of Final Fantasy Adventure and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. However, even though both of these titles are very good, the biggest news has been the release of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. This is the first title Square has help create for a major Nintendo console--besides the recent Game Boy Advance titles. Since hearing about Crystal Chronicles last year, I have been eagerly anticipating the title. Would this be the start of a new future on Nintendo home consoles? If Crystal Chronicles is any indication of the titles Square will release for Nintendo in the future, I hope they only stick to the standard Final Fantasy titles on the PlayStation platform.
I felt a little strange playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles during E3 2003. I was playing the game with three complete strangers who were all using a Game Boy Advance as a controller. While we all had an absolute blast playing through the E3 demo, I immediately questioned how the single player game would work. However, neither Square or Nintendo would answer this question for me. I now understand why.
I popped in the copy of Crystal Chronicles in my GameCube and turned it on. I had my Game Boy Advance connected to my GameCube with the GBA to GCN link cable and got ready to play the single player game. I was told that I was unable to begin the game until I replaced the GBA with a normal controller. The GBA can only be used as a controller for a mutiplayer game. Why don't I get the choice of using the GBA as a controller during a single player game? I undrstand that there aren't as many buttons on the Game Boy Advance, but still--this is the big feature of the game--GBA connectivity.
Shortly afterwards, I began a multiplayer game with a few of the staff here at CVGames. We had a Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Advance, a Wavebird, and a normal Cube controller. We were unable to start a multiplayer game unless all players had a GBA and GBA to GCN link cable. So we decided to play a two player game but we were still unable to start a game until we physically unplugged the Wavebird receiver and the normal GameCube controller. Why can we not play a four player game with normal controllers? While I understand that Nintendo wants to push their GBA Connectivity, they are doing so at the expense of the player. What if I just want to have friends come over and play the new Final Fantasy game? Wait, they don't have GBA's and link cables? Well, I guess we can just play Mario Kart instead�
This is a very likely scenario that will be playing out in the coming weeks all over North America. Unless all your friends have GBA's and link cables, you can kiss a multiplayer session of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles goodbye.
My guess is that the same person who came up with the idea to allow LAN sessions of Mario Kart Double Dash also came up with the idea to force all players to have GBA's and link cables. Whether or not this is true, both cases show one of the biggest problems at Nintendo. They don't care about what the player wants. What do players want? They want to play Mario Kart Double Dash online as well as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. In the case of Crystal Chronicles, they want to play with the GBA as the controller for a one player game and have their friends play a multiplayer game with a normal controller.
Enough about the setup shortcomings of Crystal Chronicles though. While it is important to point out, you are probably wondering about the gameplay and story. Hardcore Final Fantasy fans like myself will be extremely disappointed to find out that there isn't really a story in Crystal Chronicles. Instead, you control a young hero from one of several different tribes. Each memory card can hold up to eight different characters and you can also import characters from other memory cards. This will allow friends to bring their characters into your game. Once you set off, you will meet up with all of the other players connected in a town. This is your Crystal Caravan. The only way the story really progresses is when you get letters from home, send replies with items inside, and when you come home to celebrate collecting enough myrrh from trees. Conveniently, these trees only give you one drop and they are at the end of each action level. It takes several drops to fill up your Crystal Chalice so celebrations from your home town don't come all the time.
Sadly, this is all that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has to offer in the story department.
The gameplay in Crystal Chronicles is a lot of fun if you are playing with more than one person. Nothing beats a four player session of this game with three close friends. There is a Crystal Chalice that one player must carry. It emits a circle shield around you. If anyone in the party tries to walk outside of the shield, they will quickly lose life and die. So when going into battle, one character will be concentrating on picking up and moving the crystal chalice around so that the other players can always have as much room to fight as possible. However, you can drop the crystal chalice at any time and jump in the action yourself.
In the single player mode, the Crystal Chalice is carried by a moogle who flies around. You can make him drop it at any time so you can carry it yourself. However, the moogle does not fight for you and is a very bad substitute for another player.
Attacks and spells can be linked together by players. But most of the time, when monsters come, you will be franticly holding down the attack button, charging your attack or spell, and trying to navigate the targeting ring around the enemy. This takes a lot of practice and patience. The targeting system definitely could have used some work. Players can also start hitting the attack button and fighting enemies by just slashing at them. However, the enemies usually get the upper hand.
Each of the action worlds are pretty tedious and you won't find much fun or excitement in these worlds until you reach the boss. The bosses are all very challenging but beatable. It will take total team work. This is another area where the single player game falls short. If I don't have any companions to nudge beside me or yell �HELP ME OVER HERE!� an element of the game is missing.
Visually Crystal Chronicles looks great. The lighting effects are awesome as well as the short and deformed characters within the world. The game is alive with lots of detail in the environment. It is a shame that all of these great visuals couldn't have been used for a standard single player Role Playing Game experience...
After spending some time with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, it almost seems as if Nintendo has taken Animal Crossing and meshed it with Square's development team. While the game definitely isn't Animal Crossing, there are several elements the two share. The most important element they share is that both games are meant to be social events. If you are not able to play Crystal Chronicles with at least one other person, you should just forget about the game. The single player version is not worth playing. This title is for two or more players and it is a shame that a good single player version was left out. I guess we will just have to keep waiting to see if Square and Nintendo can give us hardcore Final Fantasy fans a true single player RPG... Until then, I will stick to Sword of Mana, on the GBA, for my Action RPG.