Review by WishingTikal
The proof graphics don't make a game
I bought FFCC with single player mode in mind, although I knew what to expect from the game. I wasn't disappointed nor impressed. It could have been a great game if it hadn't been multiplayer or required GBAs. Note that this review only covers the single player experience.
Actually, I like the story. Well, the concept at least. The game takes place in a land where miasma, a poisonous fog, has entirely covered the world. Villagers can't survive in that fog, but there is a way to repeal the miasma. Crystals. In each village of that land, a huge crystal is set in the center of the town. Those crystals repeal the miasma at the limits of the village. Unfortunately, the crystals are not eternal. Every year, someone from the village, or a group of villagers, must leave and set out on a quest around the land to travel and collect Myhrr Drops, from Myhrr Trees, in order to restore the village's crystal. Once his/their mission is fulfilled, he/they return(s) to the village, celebrate(s), and the next year, must go and retrieve the drops again. There is no story expansion, that is all. There's no beginning, no end. And no plot. I find it sad that they waste such an interesting and original story. More could have been done with it.
As stated in the intro, this review is based uniquely on the single player experience, and so is the score.
The single player experience suffers from way too many problems to end up being enjoyable. You start off the game by choosing your own character from 32 different characters. There are 4 classes and male/female counterparts. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, like higher or lower strength, defense or magic. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of variety in the characters inside a same class, so most of the characters look alike. No customization can be done on your character. You can name your character, name your town and choose your family's work, but that's all. More different character classes would have been appreciated. Once your character is chosen, the adventure begins. Your caravan advances on the world map, and suddenly, at the junction of a path, a cut-scene occurs. These often occurs while you're traveling on the world map. Sometimes you'll encounter a caravan from another village, or traveling merchants who want to trade items. Those cut-scenes are pretty useless although they sometimes add a little to the story. All is done in real-time, there are no FMVs, but the real-time cut-scenes look so great a FMV wouldn't really change anything.
Then, you move your caravan to the first location, River Belle Path. You're shown a quick look around the level, while a storyteller (the only voice-acting in the whole game) tells you a short fable about the level. I guess this was meant to fill up the absence of a real storyline, but it's pointless. After the introduction, you take control of your character. First thing you'll notice, you're all by yourself, no sidekick. And you'll never ever have one. For the whole game. But, you do have a Moogle. The only thing it will do though, is following you around, carrying the bucket for you. The bucket is used to carry the Mhyrr Drops. It also repeals the miasma around you. In multiplayer, one of the players must carry the bucket for the party. In single player, the Moogle carries it for you. Convenient, isn't it? Well, not that much. Simply because the Moogle is a living-being, and can get hot, cold and tired. If you're in a lava level, the moogle gets hot. In a ice level, he gets cold. This results in the moogle getting tired and starting to fly really slowly. So you must stop, take the bucket from the Moogle, and carry it yourself. How convenient. Carrying the bucket is bad, because it makes you walk really slowly and you have to drop it before fighting enemies. If you're the one carrying the bucket though, the Moogle will use magic to help you defeat enemies. But only if you use magic yourself, so it's not like he really is a sidekick. Apart from being cute and furry, the Moogle is pretty useless, or was not used to full potential. More could have been done with the Moogle. You can customize him a bit, like cut his fur for the hot levels so he doesn't get tired too fast, or paint his fur to determine what type of magic he'll cast, but that's all.
To come back to what I was saying earlier, you move around the level with the Moogle carrying the bucket for you. There's miasma in all the levels, so you have to stay inside a circle set around the bucket's crystal. Hopefully, the circle is pretty large, so you can move freely. If you walk outside the limit, your health will gradually decrease. Now you walk around, and encounter an enemy. Depending on what class of characters you chose, your weapon will be either a sword, a spear, a hammer or a racket. To use the weapon, you press A and hit the enemy. And you press A repetitively until the enemy is dead. That's all. You could charge up your attack by holding the A button for a focus attack, which is stronger, but it's faster to just press up the A button. Of course, you can also use magic, but the only way to do magic is to find magicite in a level. You don't learn spells. Once the level is over, you loose your magicite and have to find it back in the next level. There are 6 basic magic spells: Blizzard, Thunder, Fire, Cure, Clear and Life. If you find them all, you can fuse the spells for more powerful ones. For example, you can mix 2 or 3 Fire spells together to get a powered-up version of that spell, or simply get new spells by combining different types of magic together. Unfortunately, playing in single player mode doesn't really let you the chance to use a lot of magic. If you play alone, surrounded by a horde of enemies, you won't have time to cast spells, so you'll end up just pressing A continuously for normal attacks, most of the time. The only spell you'll really use is the healing spell.
All I can say is that killing enemies is really boring. It's purely an hack 'n slash. You advance through the level, open up treasure chests, kill enemies... Hopefully, the level designs are pretty interesting. A mushroom forest, a goblin cavern, a manor inhabited by an ogre, a dead village devastated by miasma, a swamp, a temple, a volcano... and so on. Exploring the gorgeous levels and finding the chests is fun, but there are no real puzzles, unfortunately. The most frequent one would be find a key to open a door. The main problem with the fighting system in this game is that the combats are in real-time, but there are no button shortcuts for the controls, something required for real-time fights. All the fighting is done with the A button; attack, defend, magic and so on, while the B button is used to drop/pick up the bucket. You have a list of commands in the corner of the screen, and you must scroll through it to choose your action, then press A to perform it. Very bad idea. I don't understand why there are no command shortcuts, it would have been largely possible to have some. You really don't have time during a fight to scroll through the list, choose attack, then scroll and choose defend, then magic, etc. That's ridiculous. Especially in single player mode. For that matter especially, the single player mode is really hard. You are alone, surrounded by 5 enemies and don't have time to cast spells, defend or barely charge up strong attacks. So you'll be mashing the A button, or running away from the horde. This brings me to talk about the boss battles. At the end of each level, you have to face a boss. Usually, the boss is accompanied by 1 or 2 small enemies. In single player mode, this becomes really annoying as you have to take down the enemies first, then start hitting the boss, but the enemies come back after a while so you have to kill them over and over before finally hitting the boss. The boss themselves aren't too hard to beat, but rather pretty long to take down by yourself, especially near the beginning of the game.
Throughout the levels, you'll come across chests. Inside each, you'll find either an item, gil (money), magicite or an artifact. Artifacts are special items that raise your stats. In FFCC, there are no experience points, enemies simply drop item or money, and therefor, there is no level-up system. You start the game with 4 hearts, instead of HP, like most of the action-RPG games. You have stats and equipment, but no level. To raise your stats and hearts number, you must equip equipment or find artifacts. At the end of each level, after defeating the boss, a list of all the artifacts you found in the current level will appear. You can only keep one of those artifacts. If you want the others, you must go through the level again, and collect the artifacts again until you have them all. Some artifacts will raise your strength, others your defense or magic power. Since there is no level-up system, equipment is really important in that game. Occasionally, you will find scrolls in treasure chests to craft new equipment. To craft equipment, you will need to assemble the right materials (usually dropped by the enemies, traded or bought) and stop by a town to find a blacksmith. You can craft weapons, armor and accessories. Speaking of towns, there are only 4 towns you stop by during your quest. You can't enter the houses or shops, you simply walk around and talk to the villagers.
The last thing I want to elaborate on are the bonus points. During a level, you are given points based on a condition you must meet at the end of the level. Higher scores give you better artifacts. The problem with this is that you NEED a GBA in order to see the condition. The condition only appears on the GBA screen. Why not on the TV screen? It wouldn't take any space just to show the condition at the beginning of the level. Some artifacts can only be obtained by getting a high score, so in clear, you need a GBA to get all the artifacts, which I think is really unfair since artifacts are the only way to power-up your character.
The graphics are beautiful. There are sparkling effects on the water's surface, in the grass, on the ground... simply stunning. And you can actually see the shadow of the clouds moving on the ground as you walk. It looks really pretty. The reflection of objects and characters in the water also look very realistic. The sun and moon even reflect on the water's surface. You can even see your character through the crystals when walking around them. The character models are also very detailed and well modeled. And the lightning effects are stunning. There's not a single thing in FF:CC that doesn't look pretty. Everything is beautiful. Crystal clear.
Beautiful scores that create a calm atmosphere. Sometimes it feels a bit too slow-paced for the action going on the screen, but most of the time, it adds charm to the game. The towns especially, have really sweet music. Each score feel fully orchestrated. A pleasure for the ears. And there's not a single level that doesn't have great music. As for the sounds, they're pretty neat too, although quite absent except for the monster sounds. I would have like to hear the water's flow when near rivers...
The replay value is almost infinite, as you can play this game with your friends as much as you like, and the game never really ends. You can keep playing the levels over and over. If you're playing alone, the only replay value would be to get all the artifacts, and there are a lot. You could also want to get the best weapon and armor or find all the moogle nests, hidden in towns and levels, although this side quest (the only side quest in the game) is over pretty quickly. The main quest is an average of 20 hours long, but getting all the artifacts could take you a really long time. But is the game compelling enough to make you want to keep playing? Not really.
In conclusion, FFCC is a worthy purchase only if you have friends, GBAs and like RPGs in the same style as PSO. If you plan on playing only in single player mode, a rent would be a wise decision. It's still a nice game, with great music and graphics, but the gameplay was conceived with multiplayer only in mind, which hurts the single player experience badly, making it tedious.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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