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October 2021

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles

Platform(s): GameCube, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 27, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Team up with faraway friends to take down fearsome foes! Enlist comrades to your crystal caravan in an online multiplayer mode for up to four players.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube was arguably the most expensive Final Fantasy game you could buy. Rather than standard controllers, the game required every player to have their own Game Boy Advance system and GameCube, which were connected with a GC-GBA link cable. For those who had those things, Crystal Chronicles became a nostalgic favorite, but for most people, it was basically a weird single-player game. Crystal Chronicles Remastered will give players a chance to play the game online with friends and experience what made it such a memorable title.

For a Final Fantasy game, Crystal Chronicles doesn't have much of a plot. The game is set in a world covered by a terrible miasma that quickly drains the life of anyone who touches it. The only people who can survive in this world are those who live near powerful crystals, which generate a field that repels the miasma. Unfortunately, the crystals need to be replenished with a substance called myrrh, which can only be found outside of the safe zones. It is up to your unnamed hero to venture from their home town, find the year's myrrh, and bring it back. Then they must do it again, gradually venturing deeper until they locate the source of the miasma and free the world from its grasp. That's about all you get, and the plot feels secondary to the adventure.

The first thing you'll do in Crystal Chronicles is create a character from any of the four races: Clavats, who are generic humans with solid defense and magic; Selkies, who are slightly different-looking humans with high speed and poor defense; Lilty, who are dwarflike with huge power and cruddy magic; and Yukes, who are tall, behelmeted characters who specialize in magic. There are a handful of different looks for each race, but you'll want to choose the race that fits your preferred play style.

Crystal Chronicles can best be described as a hack-and-slash game. The core concept is that you go into a dungeon and kill everything in your path to find loot and gain stat bonuses. Combat options can be customized, so you have a small list of abilities that you can instantly swap between (similar to Kingdom Hearts). Dungeon exploration features basic puzzles and the occasional need to swap a character's element to progress.

The game is designed to be played with four people, so you can aid each other and perform combination attacks. Casting a spell gives other players the chance to join with a fusion spell, which can create new and more powerful magic as long as you sync up properly. In single-player mode, you can customize your character to have both parts of a fusion (using up precious slots), but in multiplayer, you can build your team around casting as many different spells as possible. A well-built team can have a much easier time with the game than one player would.

Part of the cooperative element of Crystal Chronicles also includes carrying the Crystal Chalice, which is used to collect myrrh and project a miasma shield to protect your characters. This means that someone needs to pick up and carry the chalice as you explore. This might sound dull, but thankfully, the chalice projects a bubble at all times, so it doesn't need to be constantly monitored.

The chalice is an interesting gimmick, but it feels like it was put in place to compensate for having four players on a system that didn't have the power to let them spread out beyond the length of a screen. In single-player mode, it's basically a nonentity, and in multiplayer, you can toss it on the ground whenever you want, so unless you need to move quickly during a fight, it's about making sure you don't get too far outside the bubble. The chalice isn't a detraction from the game, but neither is it necessarily a huge plus; it mostly just exists.

Crystal Chronicles' biggest issue is the same one that plagued the original release: This game is best played alongside friends. The single-player campaign is fun enough, but pretty much every gameplay mechanic is designed to be played with friends. Without that, you can't help but feel like you're playing a lesser version of the title. Since you don't need a few hundred dollars of gaming equipment to play the game anymore, it should be easier to gather a group to play. The loss of the GBA connection actually works against the game by making it feel less distinctive. It's not a serious issue, but it is easy to imagine someone playing Crystal Chronicles for the first time and not quite getting what made the game so special to people who played with three friends crowded around a TV in 2004.

Beyond that, it's a fun hack-and-slash game to play with friends. It doesn't break the mold, especially 16 years later, when multiplayer co-op games have become the word of the day thanks to online play. The gameplay is solid enough and has enough depth that you can enjoy playing through it, and the addition of hard dungeons and content in the Remastered edition gives it significantly more playtime than the original game — as long as you're fine with playing with other people online.

Crystal Chronicles has a Final Fantasy IX-inspired art style, right down to reusing some of the same designs. As such, it has a super-deformed and cartoonish look that fits the game pretty well. It also means that the remastered graphics had a somewhat easier time than most because the game was going for bright, cartoonish shapes instead of heavy realism. It still looks quite good, even if it has some of the limitations of the original hardware. The music is excellent, as you'd expect from a Final Fantasy game. The new voice acting is fine. I don't think it adds much to the game, but it does well enough, and there are a few nice twists.

Overall Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is a fun little hack-and-slash. The nostalgia of playing on a GBA might not be there anymore, but there's a lot of adventure packed into a small package. Its biggest flaws are that it doesn't feel particularly inimitable nowadays, and the multiplayer is almost a must. If you're looking for a relaxing way to beat down some baddies with your friends, Crystal Chronicles gives you everything you might be looking for — without having to shell out for four portable systems.

Score: 8.0/10

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