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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was big news when it was first announced. Square had not created a Final Fantasy game (or any game, for that matter) for a Nintendo system since Final Fantasy VI for the Super NES. Since then, the game developer had gone on to become a household name, redefining the RPG genre with several classic PlayStation titles and helping the genre to finally gain a foothold in North America. Thus, fans had high expectations for Crystal Chronicles when it hit U.S., Canadian and European Gamecubes in early 2004, but it wasn't exactly what gamers had been hoping for.
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For starters, this was not a game with a turn-based or active-time battle system like the numbered Final Fantasy titles. Instead, Crystal Chronicles was a multiplayer action RPG. In this game, each of the one to four members of the adventuring party travel to different locations. You can choose from four different character types (Clavats, Lilties, Selkies and Yukes), each of which have different specializations. Along the way, expect to be visiting towns, exploring dungeon levels, fighting enemies, engaging in boss battles, crafting new gear and finding various items to help you out along the way.
On the whole, this is a fun-to-play game--or at least, it would be, were it not hampered by two catastrophic flaws. First, in multiplayer, each person is required to have both a Game Boy Advance and a special link cable that connects it to the Gamecube via the controller slot. At the time, this was an expensive and seemingly unnecessary move. These days, the problem isn't just cost; rather, even tracking down the cables required for the outdated hardware is a chore. The second problem is the fact that, in multiplayer, one person must always be responsible for carrying around a stupid chalice that keeps the other characters from taking damage due to the Miasma.
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What is Miasma, you ask? It is a toxic gas that has enveloped the Crystal Chronicles world, and in order to keep towns and villages safe, adventurers need to go out into the world on a yearly pilgrimage to track down a substance known as myrrh. The players are part of such a group, joining a Crystal Caravan in order to protect their hometown of Tipa. So starts the journey, but before too long the party will find themselves trying to track down the cause of the Miasma and put an end to the poisonous atmosphere for once and for all. It's a good premise, although Crystal Chronicles isn't nearly as story-heavy as most Final Fantasy titles tend to be.
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Graphics and Sound
This is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive Gamecube titles ever made. The environments are absolutely incredible, and while I've heard complaints that the characters look too much like "Precious Moments" figurines, I dig the look. Likewise, the soundtrack, which was composed by Kumi Tanioka, is exceptional. Five years after first playing the game, several of the tunes are still so firmly embedded in my mind that I can hum them from memory. Without a doubt, Crystal Chronicles continued Square's legacy of top-notch audio and video presentation quality.
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Despite some major flaws in the game's mechanics, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. It may not have been the epic, story-driven roleplaying classic that Square had become famous for delivering, and the multiplayer system might have been poorly designed, but it was still a fun, action-based romp with excellent production values. If you're a fan of Square's work, or of games like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance or Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, then this is one game you should definitely check out, provided you can track down a used copy somewhere.