Review by MillenniumX
"Final Fantasy: Crystal Controversy"
Well, it's finally in the US. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles may be one of the most controversial games ever produced, not for sex or violence, but because of its control scheme. The controversy stems from the fact that in order to experience multiplayer mode, all of the players must have a Gameboy Advance and the GBA/GC link cable. There are good arguments on either side of this issue. So the question is, how does this game measure up? Is it worth the added cost?
These are some of the best graphics I've ever seen on a GameCube. The reflection and water effects are particularly amazing, but the general feel of the game provokes an incredible sense of wonder. This sense of wonder has been reserved only for certain scenes in the previous games with the FF moniker, but it permeates every aspect of FF:CC, and the effect is stunning.
The designs for characters and monsters are reminiscent of Final Fantasy IX. They are not lifted wholesale -as some other reviewers accuse- but they do look similar. This has led some to believe that there may be some sort of tie-in, though there's no official evidence to support this.
The music has a very Celtic feel to it. If you're into this -I am- then you will love the music. If you're not, then you may be in trouble. It's worth noting that the voices are also done with an accent which I can't place, but fits well with the music. My one complaint is that the music seems to be tailored towards too specific a group, and I'm docking it a point for that. Either way, you'll love the sound or you'll hate it.
This is where FF:CC falls a bit weaker than some of the other FF games. It's basically a high-fantasy post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story. Despite the large number of syllables in that description, it's actually fairly basic. The problem is that unlike most games with the FF moniker, the story doesn't do much to drive the game along. It takes a backseat to the action, which some players will love, but others -particularly die-hard FF fans- will not view quite so favorably.
What's there, though, is great. The storyline has been compared to the works of animator Miyazaki Hayao (Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, for the mainstream US crowd), and these comparisons hold quite well. The graphics and sound seem to have been selected specifically to enhance this feel.
Gameplay (not counting multiplayer): 7/10
Multiplayer mode deserves some special considerations, which I will review in its own section. This review is geared towards general gameplay issues affecting both modes.
The gameplay is generally smooth. This was designed to be played with a GBA, and so on a GameCube controller it doesn't use many buttons, however this matters surprisingly little. A lot of power is packed into very few buttons.
This said, there are two glaring flaws, each of which I'm docking points for. The first has to do with a device called the Chalice, which defines the area in which you may move as a sphere slightly smaller in diameter than the screen itself. Stepping outside the bounds of this sphere causes damage. The Chalice can be picked up and moved by a player (this is how you move through a dungeon), and a helper character is provided to carry it for you in single-player mode. None of this would be a problem, except that whoever is carrying the Chalice moves more slowly than the other players. This quickly becomes extremely annoying, as the other characters have to move in a jerky, start-and-stop manner. The fact that an Action Replay is required for something as basic as smooth movement costs this game a point (though at least it can be corrected; otherwise I would dock two points).
The other problem has to do with continues. When you continue, you normally start off at a point not far from where you died. This isn't a problem. The problem is that you lose all the items you used since the last time you died rather than being reset to the state you were at when you reached the ''continue point''. For example, if you use up all of your Phoenix Downs in a fight, die anyway, and continue, you will still be out of Phoenix Downs. Another gameplay problem which is worth two points, because there is no way to correct it. This one is simply Bad Game Design, and is such an obvious and glaring flaw that I'm frankly dismayed that it slipped through Square. I expected better of something with the Final Fantasy label.
Multiplayer mode is a work of genius (outside the gameplay problems mentioned above, which still apply). The fact that GBAs are required for multiplayer mode makes complete sense, once you actually play this game. The idea of a player-specific screen for menus and such is nothing short of brilliance. This is not greed, this is not gimmicky; this is a completely new paradigm for games. And it is glorious.
However, the design is too far ahead of its time. The expense of a GBA/cable set for each player is causing quite a few buyers to balk, and it is at the heart of the controversy over this game. This paradigm is unlikely to become popular until we see standard controllers with screens built into them, and that is unlikely to happen for at least another generation of consoles. This is why I docked a point; the market is not ready for this, and won't be until there's a console which can handle it without needing another system to assist.
A quick note: Some reviewers are stating that you cannot use the original GBA as a controller, but must use the more expensive GBASP. This is false. Both the GBA and GBASP will work fine; my wife and I play with one of each. Similarly, third-party link cables work fine, as long as they don't interfere with using the L and R buttons. The only concern would be if the cable has a habit of becoming disconnected. Disconnecting the cable doesn't break the game, but it will continue on until you're reconnected, and meanwhile you can't move. If enemies are attacking you, this is Not A Good Thing.
Final Recommendation: 9/10
The barrier to entry when it comes to multiplayer mode is a steep one (the cost of a GBA/cable set), but if you can afford it then it's worth every last cent. That cost is the only reason I'm not giving it a 10/10.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/12/04
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