Review by Cow Killer

"A fun, unique game, but nothing really mind blowing"

Everyone knows how long running the Final Fantasy series is and how many side games they’ve made based off of the franchise such as Chocobo’s Dungeon and Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, all with varied levels of acceptance, but none has garnered quite as much attention as Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicals and not just simply due to the fact that it’s a Square game back on a Nintendo system once again. The requirement of using Game Boy Advances as controllers for multiplayer really stirred up the hornets nest as people argued over the pros and cons. However, is there enough game to back up this extra requirement? Read on…

Gameplay: 8/10
- Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles at heart is really just a dungeon hack and slash in the vein of Gauntlet and Diablo. While more complex than Gauntlet, it is nowhere near the complexity of games such as Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. In teams of 1 to 4, players circumnavigate the globe looking for drops of myrrh to fuel the power of their hometowns crystal which holds back the poisonous miasma fog that kills any living creature that’s not a monster. To do so, adventurers carry a crystal chalice which contains some of the power of myrrh which can keep the poison fog at bay for a limited area and has to be carried with the group at all times. While this goal is pretty straight forward, it later branches out and you come across many different places where myrrh can be found. This can be done either solo or with 3 friends in the multiplayer mode choosing from 1 of 4 races. The races are the Lilties, the little warrior caste, the Clavats, the jack of all trades class with a focus on defense, the Yukes, the magical class, or the Selkies, the jack of all trades class with a focus on speed and magic.
In the single player mode it’s pretty easy to get the hang of things. There are many differences between single player and multiplayer, the most noticeable is the learning curve. To cast spells in single player, the player must first collect random pieces of magicite and then, if they so wish, place them in the correct order in your command chain and bond them together to create a new spell. For instance, place a fire and an ice magicite together and you can cast the spell gravity when linked. When equipped with certain magicite rings, you can cast more powerful versions of these spells. The other difference between single and multiplayer comes from the use of your helper moogle who journeys with you. First and foremost, this moogle is used to carry the chalice for you while you fight off the hordes of monsters thrust at you. However, your moogle can also cast certain spells that allow the player to chain with to create even more powerful magical combos. The type of magic that your moogle casts is dependent on his hair style. While this sounds odd, you can customize the color and fluffiness of your moogle to change his attack style by visiting one of many moogle nests that are hidden throughout all the stages. By giving your moogle red fur, he’ll cast fire magic, blue, ice magic and so on. The only problem with the moogle system is that your moogle often gets tired and asks for you to carry the chalice for awhile which sometimes comes across as an unnecessary burden, but at least he doesn’t stay tired for long. Using these tools at your disposal, you can blast through the game.
As for multiplayer, things change around quite a bit. First off, the biggest change is from the required use of Game Boy Advances. The sole purpose of this mechanism is to control item and skill management so that when you want to pause and look at your equipment or whatnot, it doesn’t stop the action of everyone else involved. It keeps the game going at a pretty good pace and you auto follow while you’re in your menus, but the menus aren’t quite as easily navigated when on the GBA screen as they were when you could just pause and look in single player. Another change has to do with the use of magic and skills. While you could create more powerful magic all on your own in single player, in multi, you have to do magic chains and attack chains in coordination with other players, sometimes timing the release of the magic button so that you can create a certain skill chain. The idea is pretty cool, and while it feels like you’ve really accomplished something when you actually pull one off, it’s a lot more difficult to do then in theory. Whenever you are hit by an enemy, you lose any charged attack be it magic or physical causing a lot of hassle when trying to match up targeting reticules. However, this also stresses the use of teamwork and it makes sure that the player keeps in constant contact with the others in the room. Also in multiplayer, one of the players has to carry the chalice around at almost all times. You can put it down to fight monsters, but there’s still a lot of carrying to do which can be frustrating at times do to the slower pace of the chalice carrier over the speed of the other characters. Sure, that’s also frustrating, but it also shows the significance of teamwork.
As for basic gameplay between both versions of play, the controls are very easy to use. It is easier to navigate with the control stick offered with the use of the regular GCN controller that is used in the single player mode than with the GBA, but things still work pretty well on a directional pad. Just expect to have sore thumbs from extended play from the smaller, stiffer pad. While you don’t level up per say in this game, there are ways to make your character more versatile and gives them the chance to live a little longer in later missions. First, you can buy armor and weapons if you have the correct design pattern (which can be purchased or is dropped by many enemies) and the right amount of gil. While this is really the main way to make your character more powerful, you can also boost your stats at the end of every level depending on what relics (or power ups basically) that you picked up during the mission, plus relics are granted to the players after a boss is finished and varies depending on your performance. The order that relics are chosen amongst the characters depends on how well they met certain criteria given to them at the start of every mission such as ‘Don’t pick up items’ or ‘kill enemies using only magic’. In single player, you just choose one of whatever you want. While this is fine as well, there are times where players become a bit dastardly in the way that they achieve these objectives. For a game that is so oriented on cooperation in multiplayer, it doesn’t make much sense to me to create a system for powering up that’s so based on competition, but this just ensures that you further your team working skills even farther or else you won’t get anywhere.

Story: 5/10
-While initially there isn’t much of a story offered in the game, depending on where you go and what decisions you make, little snippets of extra storytelling pops up here and there. Taking the story from primarily a search for myrhh to keep your hometown alive, you can pick up further plot lines through sometimes random sometimes scripted events that happen and by reading through your diary entries gained throughout the year. The big drawback here for story buffs though is that it’s pretty easy to blaze through without ever seeing much of the story unfold. For a hack and slash though, there has been worse, but with something containing Final Fantasy in the title, more story should almost be expected by most fans.

Graphics: 9/10
- No doubt about it, the graphics are fantastic in this game. The world looks spectacular and the characters are imaginative and endearing. From water effects to the undulating of an upset Malboro, everything visually in this game is inspired and refreshing. The bosses especially stand out with their often enoumous bulk filling up much of the screen yet still managing to look great. The only thing that brought this score down was the level design. While most levels look very nice and are well put together, there isn’t enough variation in the visuals. Too often do you get that ‘have I been here before’ feeling. More variety in level would have been nice, but at least there’s a lot of different dungeons all with different themes that look great.

Audio: 10/10
- While playing in multiplayer it’s easy to overlook the numerous well composed melodies and themes due to incessant chattering over what to do next, but when those tracks do come through, they are often a thing of beauty to the aural senses. Especially enjoyed here are the tracks reminiscent to Scottish folklore which give an almost peaceful feeling to the world despite the impending danger facing all inhabitants.

Replay Value: 9/10
- This game was made to cater those who want to replay levels and explore the world fully. With numerous dungeons that can all be replayed and lots of side quests such as the mog stamp quest or numerous character side quests and hidden plot bits, there’s a lot to do. However, the single player game is often over much faster than the multiplayer version of the game. Without the need to coordinate player movements and ways to power up magical attacks all on your own makes it easy to blaze through the game in around 5-6 hours. Multiplayer however takes much more time as more preparations need to be made and often 4 people want to explore different parts of a level differently leading to lengthening of game time.

Buy or Rent?
- If you plan on only playing the single player portion of the game, I highly recommend renting it first. You could probably play through pretty quickly and exploring gets tedious when playing alone. If you intend on delving into the deep multiplayer side of the game, you should really consider buying if not just for the fact that it takes time to get 4 people together and coordinated to play a game such as this. If you can get into the game though, there’s much to be found and a lot of fun to be had.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/05/04

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