Review by EJRICH

"Rings of Change"

Final Fantasy has always held a special place in my heart, as to be quite honest, it is one of the most thought out franchises in the history of gaming. From character depth to excellent gameplay, it always seems to deliver in such a way that it can't normally be matched by other gaming experiences. One thing I will say about FF:CC though is that without a true multiplayer experience, you'll find yourself playing through a game that is meant more for a party than for for a single person. As I started the game, I found myself more often than not looking at the opening seen, it's downright awesome, and easily in a class of its own when it comes to flat out presentation. I would like to say it's more of a treat to fans than anything else, as that's were you'll see the credits, and it's thanks to their generosity of the seen that actually makes it bearable to sit through, as without the cg you'd have to sit through about 5 minutes worth of credits just to start the game. That being aside, I enjoyed the game, and as you read through this review, you'll see why and why.

One thing I will say about the story is that it's definitely final fantasy to its core, as character and npc development alike are top notch. One thing that you will see though is that a true story is really missing, as your basically going from dungeon to dungeon and then once your done with three have a small recap of the year. That may sound a little dry, but it wouldn't be a FF title without some form of a story, and square definitely delivers through a plethora of character confrontations through the map. These confrontations range from a run in with a bunch of thieves, to seeing the tragic story of the back knight. And as you go through them, you get small glimpses of what the plague of the miasma has really done. Now to start off, I'll say that miasma is the big problem in the first place, as because of that caravans must be formed to collect special life-giving drops of myrr that must be offered to each towns crystal to protect the town from another years worth of miasma invasion. Now the thing that makes miasma so terrible in the first place is that it is a poisonous substance that can kill within little periods of time, and to be quite honest, it's a blessing in the first place that the inhabitants of this thriving world found the protection of the crystals in the first place. In order for the crystals to continue to survive, they must be strengthened with the myrr dropletts.

Myrr dropletts can only be found from rare trees that thrive only within the most deepest of dungeons, and to that effect three must be harvested before the years end to give the town another years worth of life. Caravans of young heroes are formed to harvest these droplets, and only those with pure hearts can truly make the quest without falter. There are four races within the world of FF:CC, and they are the clavats, selkies, yukes, and lilties. each has its own distinct personalities, and each has there own distinct way of life. Clavats are based on a strong family bond, and to that effect they are very defensive. They fight with the honor of the sword, and are excellent magicians to boot. Selkies are the more outcast race in the world of FF, as they are naturally born thieves at heart. They often find themselves living in desolate areas, as there bodies have adapted to these same areas. Selkies are extremely athletic, so that autimatically gives them a more broadened range of speed and agility within there attacks.

Yukes are the more magically inapt of the races, as they build there whole societies around there magical properties. The one yuke city that you visit in the game is only accessible by yukes normally, but with a special ticket all can enter. Long ago, the Yukes fended off a liltyian invasion with the help of there magical powers, and it's because of that that the lilties were stopped from ruling all of the known world. now the Yukes spend most of their time tutoring others in the ways of magic. Lilties are probably the most warlike of the three races, as they have extremely short tempers coupled with a low gravity to the ground. This makes them obviously wanting to show the other races up in everything that they do.

The gameplay of FF:CC is heavily based on the exploratory elements that the game presents in the form of dungeon trekking with a splash of hack and slash fighting. This area of the game truly shines in multiplayer, as it's a romping experience to have all of your friends trying to bash the enemies to gain points only to find out they aren't adding anything to their individual point score . Dungeons are usually an invigorating experience, as they'd truly have to be since they take up about 95% of the time you'll be spending playing this game. The way you get through a dungeon normally depends on what character your currently using, as strategies differ from rushing into combat to staying behind and casting potent magic from afar.

The one thing I will say is that level design is fantastic, as even in the first dungeon you'll find yourself scratching your head on the fact that the enemies won't just sit there and be hit, enemy ai is usually top notch, which is what I have basically come to expect from a place like square enix. Pathways are intertwined and many do lead to dead ends, which can get pretty annoying, but gives out an over sense of accomplishment as you get to the part of the boss area were you'll truly see if your ready. That's another point that I will discuss, as the one thing with level design that I like is actually being able to see the placement of enemies, there normally not evenly spaced out, which is nice because I personally like the challenge of multiple enemies at once.

People say that the game is better to play in multi-player, as it truly is, since it's always very nice to be backed up by your friends when fighting multiple enemies. The one thing that doesn't get annoying though is that enemis and bosses alike will recieve a bonus in health and attack power depending on how many are playing the game at once, it's not truly that big, but big enough to make a noticeable difference. Chests usually contain helpful items, and more often then not you'll be wanting them to contain the particular food your race can get a benefit from, as depending on your race you'll find certain healing items heal more than others. Other good thing to expect are smithing materials and plans, great for forging new items, and the trade mark pheonix downs that can revive your character in a pinch. Bosses are usually huge and imaginative, as it normally will take much more than just bashing the a button to bring them down. Even the first boss can be a chore to take down if that says anything at all. Boss battles usually consist of one giant boss surrounded by a group of little enemies, and it's normal practice to go after the small fry first. After that you can normally try to find a certain weakness taht the boss will present, such as a weakness to ice type weapons and magic. If you do find this weakness than your basically in for a much easier fight, but as I always like to say please don't count your chickens before they hatch, as bosses still will take a nice amount of time to defeat even with the advantage.

To get to the dungeon in the first place, you and your caravan must traverse a wide continent that spralls out across a beautiful story book landscape. As I said before, it is possible when going from one location to the next that you will come across a support conversation, and when it is finished it will add to your thriving journal that will play a huge roll in the final boss fight. If the story didn't have these conversations, then all would be truly lost, because as I said before there is no truly good story to back up the game. Time does pass as the years go by, and you'll find yourself returning to old stomping grounds over time to re-harvest the myrr out of the trees, and that really is cool since the enemies will get much harder as you redo routes. Back to the time passing system, time does pass, as rivers will dry up as well, as the annual miasma river changing. Once that happens, you'll have to find a chalice with the corresponding element to continue. Characters range from the four races, further divided into male and female depending on what you want, so character customization is really top notch. There are over 32 possible combos for all of the characters, and because of that it's very unlikely that you and your friend will have the same character. Each character has different attributes, and it shows depending on who you choose. Here are the basic breakdowns of the characters.

Clavets are extremely well balanced, as they both excel in sword play and magic alike. There stats are pretty even, and they wind up having an excellent block maneuver. Selkies are the more athletic of the races, and because of that there focus attacks are top notch. There defense is pitiful, as well as there block maneuver. You'll find yourself being hit more than anything else when using it as it is only a little back-flip. Yukes, in my opinion at least, are the best race. Magic is utterly broken in this game, as this class can pretty much power through the game on it's own. I love their block, as it completely renders them invisible to all incoming attacks. Liltys are some of the most powerful attackers, and this stems from the fact that they excel with halberds. Block is great, as is there focus attacks. magic is pitiful however. Moogles, as always, play a very important role in the game, as they can help hold the chalice in single player, as well has cast spells depending on there colors. You can customize them to your liking, and to this extent you can make them look like anything you want.

I have come to expect a certain caliber of graphics when I play FF, and this game never fails to present one of the most beautiful experiences to ever befall the gcn. I love this game's graphical representation, as everything from the hair of the moogles to the blazing inferno of firaga. One thing that I love about this game is the beautiful cg sequences that dot the gameplay. From beginning to end, everything is beautiful to begin with, so to even include these is a sight to behold for any video game development agency. Now one thing that I will comment on is that the spells look extremely real, and from swirling sand dunes to the all out ice crystal blowing from blizzaga, everything looks like something out of a movie. GC graphics are usually a little disappointing, so for something like this to blow away people so much, you can expect it to be absolutely brilliant. Now for the bad comments....there is a bit of choppiness towards the end of some higher level spells, and frame rate can sometimes lag a bit due to so much going on on the screen at once. But these are barely noticeable, and I was specifically looking for them to begin with, so to someone who isn't really paying attention, you really can't notice.

Music is top notch, from some small, peaceful melodies, to fully orchestrated symphonies. I never was disappointed at all with it. You can tell they really spared no expense when making this game, as the orchestra alone must have cost a lot to procure. One thing that I really liked was that some previous FF tunes seemed to make a return in this game, and that brought reminiscence to my ears. Boss Battles are pretty interesting, as the music seems to set a tone of excitement in the crowded arenas in which you'll be fighting. Now no game is truly perfect, and this seems to pertain to this as well. Dull moments eem to plague the dungeons with repetitive music that repeats over and over angain, and this can gt excruciatingly boring towards the end of some of the longer dungeons.

This is were the game truly shines, as with a bunch of friends your in for one of the most entertaining experiences to ever behold a console. You and your friends each get your own gba, and then link it to the gamecube to serve as your controller and map. The map is a great addition to the multiplayer experience, as with it you can use it to scout out treasure and enemies before you actually get to them to get a jump on your friends. Multiplayer mode also sports one of the best competitive guilty pleasures ever, since you may want to run off with the chalice to annoy your friends. Now, back to the multiplayer, you can also fuse some spells. Unlike single player mode were you just fuse the spells on your own, you must fuse the spells in real time with other players. This allows for the highest level of magic, and that magic can shred enemies like no tomorrow.

Now there is a problem to this all, as the more friends that are playing the higher the bonuses the enemies will get in attack and hp. I find it hard as well because one friend must hold the chalice, and depending on how many are playing, one person may be replacing the moogle while the other kills stronger enemies, which can get very hard. The one thing your porbably saying by now is how much does multiplayer cost? Well, I'll say that it isn't cheap, but it's much much much cheaper than when it first can out, as back then you would have to shell out about 500 bucks for all of the connections and extra gbas. Now the prices closer to around 100 for the whole package, and that icludes about 4 gbas, 4 cables, and the game disc

Difficulty is were the game really leaves it's mark, as the game in single player mode can get very annoying to say the least. I liked it, and it's a nice change of pace to all the cookie cutter difficulty games that can be beaten in about 5 hours. With multi it gets harder, but it's much more rewarding in the end to see you and your friends triumph over the dungeon. Final Score:6/10 Replay Value:It's definitely there, and it gets better with multi. I found myself replaying the game several times actually, as it always feels new when your having a good time with friends. Truly a great time

Buy it if you have friends, if not than just rent as it can be completed within 15 hours if you're quick.

I always like the FF series of games, and this game never fails to disappoint. From characters to a rich base of dungeons, I can basically guarantee that you'll never forget the experience if you have a ton of friends to goof off with. It never feels old, and just the enjoyment of beating a hard drawn out dungeon is truly special. For all of you FF purists, this may not be the game for you, but to everyone else, then be prepared to see the wondeful world of FF.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 03/06/07, Updated 12/23/09

Game Release: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (US, 02/09/04)

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