Review by Zenax
One of the best multiplayer games ever, and a decent single player experience.
Square and Nintendo together for a game on the Gamecube!? At the time a lot of us were stunned, but it has became nothing with the fact Square is making games for just about everyone now, plenty of Square's games grace us on DS, and a few are going or are on Xbox. Now the game itself, where are its origins? Well it really came from no where. This was a large step by Square seeing as at the time everyone and their mother was bashing Nintendo as incredibly 'kiddy'. Most people expected Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles to be a giant flop, I was a Final Fantasy fanboy at the time and would buy it no matter if it sucked, was wonderful. What ever.
I bought the game on release, beat it with my brother twice, beat it alone once and I have to say it is one of the best games I have ever played from a multi-player standpoint. From a single player standpoint it boasts a very nice story line, but delivers it in a very odd way. Yet it is still a good all around game
Graphics - 10/10
WOW! I didn't know what to say at first. This game probably has some of the best graphics I have seen on the Cube. I had no idea it could produce things as pretty as you see in this game. A great example is mountains. Most mountains, even in GC titles have a 'painted' texture-less look to them. This game is completely the opposite. Everything looks amazing, almost as if you could touch it. Everything has a great amount of texture in it. You really feel like you could touch the screen and feel the grass blowing in the wind of a hill.
For the actual people and creatures in the game, more thumbs up. I love each of the new races introduced in the game, some are incredibly unique. For example the Yukes. Odd lanky like human figures that I am honestly not sure if they have helmets for heads or are actually wearing helmets. You also can't really tell if they have skin or clothes in some parts. They are a work of art that is very unique for a change from a lot of horrible races that have been created over video game years. They also threw in two human like races called the Selkie and Clavats that from being generic human rip-offs are very distinct even for looking so alike. Clavats are a bit taller and very human like, very sophisticated looking, while the Selkie are much thinner and more lively looking. You can easily tell the difference in the two and they are both wonderfully done. The last race is the Lilty. Not really much to be said about them because to be honest they are your average short people, same attitude and everything.
Story - 9/10
What, give this big 'kiddy' multi-player game a 9/10 for story?! What is wrong with me!? Well it is simple; anyone that gives this game a low score on the story part has obviously never played other games, especially those made by Square. We all know Square loves to send us on heroic journeys to save the world, which is basically the general look at most of the story lines in each Final Fantasy game. Now, that is honestly the general look at this game as well, little do we know, but the in depth look at it is quite the twist from most games.
This game takes place in a world that is covered in a deadly gas called miasma. You (and your friends in multi-player cases) have taken on the task of going around the world collecting a substance called myrrh from trees to fill a chalice to return home so your village can survive another year. The chalice has a magical crystal-thing on it that protects you from the miasma as you travel around the world each year, which adds some difficulty to the gameplay, but that I will explain later.
Your travels are what advance the story line in a very unique way compared to other games. On your journey you will randomly encounter other caravans with the same goal as you for their own village. The world not being very big there are not a lot of people you will run into on your journeys, which adds more of a personal feel to it.
As for the main story itself that is told through the elder of the village as you set out each year and by a few special scenes on your journey. What you learn early on to set up the rest of the game is a young scholar set out to find a way to rid the world of miasma. He hired the 'black knight' to protect him on his journeys. Early on in the game you will see a scene where the black knight is chasing down an odd clear orb rambling on about how his memories were stolen. This eventually leads to your caravan setting out to save the entire world on their own, but it is not a chosen thing, you stumble upon the opportunity more then anything.
Now it is odd how I gave it a 9/10 right? How I have only shown it praise. Well to be honest I do have one problem with the story. Too much text for a multi-player game. In single player mode I really enjoy all the text that is in this game because it is good stuff. In multi-player however it needed to be trimmed some, seeing as you have people that read at different speeds and you usually don't play a multi-player game for an epic tale, but a fun time with friends. When I played with my brother (who is anti-reading) he skipped through most of the text. Really was sad.
Gameplay - 8/10
I will be splitting this up at one point to review the gameplay from a single player standpoint and a multi-player standpoint, seeing as the two are very different from each other. To start though, the basics. As I said before your chalice you carry around holds a magical crystal-thing that is the only way you can survive in the miasma drenched world, and it literally does this. You have a small aura like circle around your character that if you leave you slowly lose HP and will eventually die from the poisonous miasma. This adds a bit of challenge to the game seeing as you must manage to be in the perfect position to attack some bosses and enemies, it can get really chaotic with multiple enemies and a small amount of room to run around in, but it is completely manageable 100% of the time so it does not hurt gameplay in the least.
Next, the actual combat in the game. It is nothing really new, in fact it has a very Zelda-ish feel to it. You even have hearts instead of actual HP numbers. Since the GBA acts as a controller in multi-player mode the controls are really simplistic overall but the challenges it offers are very fun indeed. You have a 'ring' of commands that you can cycle through with L and R to choose what you want to do in the current fight. You use the A button to do these commands and the B button is used for a few things such as dropping the chalice, talking to NPCs, and opening chests.
Each race has some sort of thing they are good at in combat. For example Yukes are good at magic. In multi-player you will find yourself as a Yuke often healing other members and downtime will be shooting some black magic spell at the opponent. Even with the specialties some races offer, like any good Final Fantasy game much customization can be done. You literally pick every last stat you gain as you go through dungeons. The first time I played through the game with my brother I was a Yuke with very high magic, the second time through I was a Clavat with very high magic and strength, I would heal when need be and melee the opponent in down time.
As for combat itself, it is very simplistic due to the fact the multi-player game is played with the GBA limiting the buttons. There is no ABAA combos here, just simple hack and slash features, casting magic spells and so on. At the start of the game you have an Attack and Defend command. As time goes on you can pick up various spells to use, cure, fire, blizzard, and so on. The basic Final Fantasy spells. It sounds very simplistic but the amazingly well done bosses can make it very challenging. Which I will explain.
Enemies, the AI in this game is fairly astounding, and has almost an MMO feel to it how you can aggro mobs and such. The bosses also boast simple mechanics, but once again a good MMO touch is the amount they actually do. Some bosses will throw so much at you it is near impossible to deal with. One boss for example has a flower with him that attacks you, an area attack of explosions, and a lock on explosion attack. It may sound fairly simple from words alone but when all three of these things are targeting you it gets very complicated but at the same time offers a very fun experience.
Single Player Mode
The chalice, the chalice! My god one thing that bothers me death in this game is the chalice in multi-player mode. One player in your team must always carry this to continue on. That is not too bad - or would not be except for the fact they move very slow compared to everyone else. Going in a straight line with no enemies around you the people not holding the chalice will always be far ahead and often have to stand still waiting for the chalice bearer to catch up for about 1 second, every 5 seconds or so. Thankfully single player mode destroyed that problem. You the player have a cute lovable Moogle to follow you around carrying the chalice. They hold it in their mouth and fly with it, moving at the same speed as you. It may sound like a minor gripe, but yes it is godsend from the annoyance you find in multi-player mode of walking.
Magic is a giant upgrade in single player mode then multi-player and it imbalances the game unless you're playing with magic hungry people. In multi-player I hope you like using Fire instead of Firaga. You need two or more people casting the spell at the exact same time and location to make the spell stronger. A flaw for multi-player. As for single player, it works fine. You go into your command ring and place two spells beside each other and fuse them so to speak. Three fires side by side will fuse into a Firaga for your use. Now with how well this is done it is killed by another flaw... You really can't use magic as a primary method of killing. A LOT of enemies stop you from casting and with how slow it is compared to attacking it is not really viable as a primary way of destruction. Which is very sad given how fun magic is in the game itself.
Combat, one of the best parts of this game. On single player it sometimes lacks the fun factor. I mean it is fun but it really shines in multi-player. A lot of bosses and just normal enemies require various strategies with players doing multiple things at once, and even switching roles at times, once again a very MMO feel. Also who doesn't love a good fun time playing with their friends and family for hours on end?
The difficulty also jumps up dramatically with multi-player; you no longer will yawn at the easy combat, but hang on to life with 2 or 3 phoenix downs equipped in case you die. It is a nice change of pace and makes the game much more fun.
Sound - 10/10
If I could find the soundtrack for this game in a store I would buy it. The music is amazing. To be honest I have no idea who did the music for this game but they should continue on in other Final Fantasy games. It would probably bring back the tunes we came to love and enjoy but have not heard since Final Fantasy VII specifically. I often found myself whistling the world map tune. Kind of annoyed my brother but he defiantly agrees the music in this game is some of the best we have heard in a long time. Most games today tend to be rather dry, but not Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles in one way.
As for the game sound itself, to be honest there is not a lot there. It is not bland or anything but it really is nothing superb. There is only one real voice actor in the game which is a woman that introduces each dungeon to you with a story, when honestly the game could have used a lot more voice acting. Specifically for scenes that progress the story.
Anyone on the planet who loves the multi-player genre should pick up this game. Even with the Wii out and the Gamecube on its death bed this game still stands strong as a great multi-player title in my opinion. As for the RPG or Square fan, buy it. The game can be as short as 10 hours if you want, but it really is a good 10 hours with a flavorful story line for a change. The replay value is huge. I have played with many different people in the game (only completing the game three times, but still) and have never once gotten sick of it, the characters really don't seem it but are highly customizable as far as their role, yet again hinting at MMO like gameplay. This game is a keeper.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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