Review by ThePatrick

"At least you can play a living suit of armor-feathery-wingy thing."

Once upon a time, Squaresoft made Final Fantasies exclusively for release on Nintendo-owned systems. These games really wow'ed the gaming community and saved a struggling video game company from running out of red ink for its accounting records.

Then, things changed. Square pulled away from Nintendo. See, there was a man who must be respected for making some of the greatest games around named Miyamoto Shigeru. He was a nice man, and a brilliant man, although a bit eccentric and a little obsessed with an Italian plumber who lives in another world and eats mushrooms in order to gain powers.

This genius was also obsessed with the strange idea that only little tiny kids could play games. Listening to their cash cow, Nintendo decided that their incredible system that they had been hemming and hawing at for years and years couldn't possibly be CD-based. The costs would drop and the space for games would become almost literally not even a worry anymore for programmers, but Miyamoto felt that little kids wouldn't like CD's and would probably just end up destroying them anyway (a valid point to those of us who have ever rented a CD game or DVD).

Anyway, from the rumor mills, Square decided that without room to program on, the cartridge-based, new Nintendo system would not be the one for them. They opted for Sony's game system, the colossus of colossuses, Playstation.

So, imagine everyone's shock and surprise at hearing Square-Enix was going to make a new Final Fantasy for the Game Cube. Many people, of course, murmured heavily of a new revolution.

The truth is that if you are thinking of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles in this way--as a video game revolution--or in any other way just thinking it will be ground-breaking and earth-shattering, well, you're going to be disappointed.

This game is not a ''main'' Final Fantasy game. Similar to the series produced by other houses such as Final Fantasy Legends or Mystic Quest, this game is more light-hearted, simpler, and yes, maybe even aimed at a younger market.

''This game is like Zelda.''

I knew he was going to say it before he did. I don't understand why he said it, but there he did. They always do.

This game is not Zelda, either. The clerk was wrong. They always say that to sell an action-RPG. Just like when they sell RPG's, they say ''This is like Final Fantasy.''

It's actually more like Seiken Densetsu (''Secret of Mana'' to the U.S.) than anything else. Or maybe even an earlier Enix action-RPG. Here's how it works:

You and three of your friends can play. If you play by yourself, all you need is a Gamecube and a controller. If you have others, tho', you'll all need to be using Gameboy Advances, hooked into the controller slots of the Gamecube with a necessary adaptor. The game did come with an adaptor, in Japan...I'm not sure how it will be sold overseas.

You attack with a button, hit it three times for a string, hold it down for a special attack, or cycle through commands with the L and R buttons and use those with the aforementioned attack button. For instance, you can equip the command ''Fire'' and cycle to it with the L and R buttons, then cast that spell by holding down the button, targetting the enemy, and releasing.

It's fairly simple. You gain money and items, and for completing levels you gain 'artifacts' to increase your life gauge, attack power, number of command slots, etc., etc.

Straightforward enough. Then, why not a high score? Well, to be honest, there are quite a few problems with this game. Let's get right to them.

For some reason, Square-Enix felt that they had to explain why you get that effect you usually get in multi-player action games where both players use the same screen to move around in. You know, the one where you suddenly encounter invisible barriers because the screen shows all that it can. To Crystal Chronicles, their solution was that in the world you live in, there is a miasma that will kill all who are enveloped in it. There are crystals which keep this effect at bay, but they only reach so far. If anyone strays too far from these crystals, why, they take damage and eventually die. So, one character will have to carry a ''crystal cage'' about...so that the camera knows where to focus and so that people don't get easily separated by things such as elevators and the like.

Well, that does pose a problem, however. Namely, that one person will have to always be toting this cumbersome thing around with them. In single-player, it's not so bad, because Square-Enix has provided a little buddy for you who carries your thing around. If you are playing with friends, however, it is quite frustrating, because many battles involve enemies that frenetically run all over the place and continually set up for attacks you'll have to run all over the place to avoid. It wouldn't be too bad if they just considered the crystal on someone's person, like a necklace or something, but that person in the actual game moves more slowly and cannot perform any actions while moving, such as fighting or casting a spell.

So, in other words, either one guy gets to just stand back and watch the fight, while running for his life, or the darned thing has to be picked up again and again and set back down again and again during a battle just so that people can move around crowds of missile-firing enemies or giant bosses who can effect nearly anything on the screen.

The other main problem I see in the game is that if you are using a Gameboy Advance as a controller (which you need to do in order to play with friends), accessing the menu system can be quite a bother. The menu will appear on your GBA screen, which would be fine, except that the enemies still mob you and lodge barrages of attacks all over your then-stationary character. If you need to change spells, or even equip another Phoenix Down so that your next death won't be simply the end of the game for you, and you're in the middle of a big fight, well, chances are you're going to die if you try it.

In truth, the ''Active'' mode for enemies while you look through menus should be banned from Square's games. The games are simply too involved in clumsy, poorly-designed menus, which is actually fine when everyone pauses and waits for you to look for something. Too bad there isn't such an option for Crystal Chronicles, nor can you juggle your menus while you've paused the game.

Other than that, well, the other problems are inherit in a game such as this. There simply is not enough to do, the story is easily forgotten, as are the characters, and even advancing the story or opening new places to wander around in doesn't prove very interesting. It's a bit dull, actually. But that's because it's all been streamlined into a nice little action-RPG thing you can play with your friends.

It's not very challenging, either, but that's actually fine. There are many games that aren't challenging but are still fun to play--especially if you have a friend over to play with you.

As for what's so great about this game, well, the graphics obviously come to mind. The cut-scenes look great, and even the graphics for the world turning on the little ''world map'' are really nice. The water effects are also amazing.

It can be fun at times, yes. Especially if you're a fan of all the monsters of Final Fantasy lore. They most recognizable ones are in there, such as the Tonberry and Sabotender (Cactuar/Caltrot).

So, let's look past all the history of the series, the idea of what makes a Final Fantasy game a Final Fantasy game, the comparisons you can draw to a huge franchise--this game is what it is. And what it is, is a decent, nice little game that you might pick up if things are slow for your Game Cube, or if you want to do some mindless stuff with a friend besides a fighting game or head-to-head 1st person shooters. It's not a ''real'' Final Fantasy. It's not Zelda. Heck, it's not even Seiken Densetsu. But it's not the worst game ever or anything.

Graphics: 8/10--People are cute, environments are lush.
Level Design: 7/10--Not terribly complex, but not side-scroller or anything
Controls: 7/10--They would be fine if it weren't for the constant juggling of commands
Music: 8/10--Standard kiddie RPG--even a bit better, really....
Overall: 7/10--Rife with problems, yet not buggy or spastic


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/03/03


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