Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles marks the second return of the Final Fantasy series to a Nintendo console in recent memory, the first being Final Fantasy: Tactics Advance. However, unlike FF: Tactics Advance, Crystal Chronicles does not feel like a part of the series. It has very little in common with any of the previous installments, and for many, this will sour the game experience right away. It is also a game the offers two very different gameplay experiences, depending on if you play it single or multi-player. Finally, multi-player gaming comes with the high price of forcing everyone to own a Gameboy Advance and a Gamecube to Gameboy Advance Link Cable. This makes reviewing this game quite difficult, because it will offer each gamer quite a different experience depending on how you play it.
First things first: this is not a turn-based Final Fantasy game. If that is what you are expecting, you will be seriously disappointed. However, if you are looking for a unique gaming experience, read on. The story takes place in a world were poisonous miasma surrounds the land. The only relief from the poison is a crystal, which forms a protective layer around each town. However, every year, they run dry and require crystal caravans to go out to fill them up again. The story is told via random cut scenes and diary entries. While it does evolve a little later in the game, the plot line is certainly not the most riveting, especially for a Final Fantasy game. The plot is also the same whether you play the game single or multi-player.
One begins the game by choosing a character class, from four choices. Each race has eight players to choose from, four from each sex. The races differ slightly in beginning stats, as well as the type of equipment one can wear. You also choose the type of family your character has, from eight professions. Your family is what makes up your town, and they will send you letters and gifts throughout your adventures. Each save file, called a caravan, holds eight characters. Whether you play the game single or multi-player, it is advised to fill all eight slots, so that your town will have all eight professions in it.
Your chalice needs to be filled once a year, which means you need to defeat three areas to move to the next year. Before each battle begins, you have the option to fill your command slots. This, basically, is your personal menu for the game. You start with four slots, two being used by Attack, and Defend. Your last two can be filled with magic, food, phoenix downs, or other useful items. You can always change these throughout the level, as you get new items or as new tactics dictate. All battle is done in real time, and all players must be in the chalices’ protective field to avoid taking damage from the miasma. Although this damage is minimal, it is still not advised to stay too long outside of it, since you only start with four hearts. The controls, and the gameplay, are different for single and multi-player, so I will discuss them separately.
In single player, you control the game with the Gamecube controller. You also have the option of plugging in a Gameboy Advance into the second controller port. While not necessary to finish the game, it does give you access to useful maps, such as a level map, or the location of treasure chests. The “L” and “R” buttons rotate through your action list, “A” is your action button, “B” picks up items, and “X” or “Y” accesses your menus. You are also given a moogle to help you out on your adventures. He doesn’t attack directly, but he does carry your chalice for you. His path finding is quite good, and he is very helpful during boss battles. Also, he may assist in magic in the game as well. One nice bonus in single player is that whenever you access the menus, the game is paused, unlike multi-player, where the action never stops. When you first start off the game, it will start off quite tediously. You character is not very strong, and it will take a few hits to kill pretty much anything. The first boss battle can take quite awhile. However, after a few levels, your enjoyment will increase greatly.