The Final Fantasy franchise isn’t exactly known for its sequels and spin-off titles, and until Final Fantasy XI, neither was the franchise normally associated with its multiplayer capabilities. Shortly after Final Fantasy XI’s debut, Square Enix released yet another multiplayer game for the Nintendo GameCube (the first time an original Final Fantasy title had graced a Nintendo system since Final Fantasy VI) called Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, which featured for the first time ever a fully real-time combat system, and the ability to team up and play with friends through the use of your Game Boy Advances and link cables. This game’s art style is more animated and cartoon-like than the realistic-looking approach most other FF games have taken. However, there are many elements such as classes, moogles, enemies, bosses, magic, items, equipment and classic Final Fantasy staples that fans expect out of any installment to the series.
In this new world, everything has become shrouded in a poison referred to as “miasma,” and only the crystals that each city is built around have the ability to keep the poison at bay. The crystals however, are powered by a substance called “myrrh,” which can be harvested from any myrrh tree and stored in a crystal chalice once annually each year. Each town sends out a caravan once a year in search of myrrh, in an effort to keep their homes safe for another year. As one of the citizens of your hometown joining the caravan, this is where your quest begins.
As you start your journey, you select from one of four different classes. Each of these has their own special fighting techniques, weapons, and statistic set.
From there, you’ll choose your family’s trade. This will affect the types of services that will be available in your hometown such as blacksmiths or merchants, altering the types of crafts that you can construct or the ability to purchase items. Throughout the game, after you complete each area, one of your familymembers will send you a letter and your response affects your relationship with each member. The gifts that you receive when you return home at the end of every year are determined by your chosen family trade, your relationship to each member, and the gifts you send them while out on your quest. This is also how you get some of the best items in the game, so it helps to stay on good terms with your family.
Once out on the world map, you will be able to move your caravan along the roads that connect various towns and the individual areas that you must traverse in order to collect myrrh. While moving your caravan from location to location, you sometimes trigger short cut scenes involving relationships and conflicts that you and your party experience with other travelers. In my experience, these incidents can become a bit annoying when you need to go back and forth between different areas on the map.
While out on this adventure, it doesn’t take long to realize how essential the crystal chalice is while progressing throughout the world; the chalice creates a protective barrier around the party from the toxic air. As a result, one player will always have to carry the chalice in order to move around. While playing solo, a moogle assistant will be provided to carry the chalice for you. You will also have the ability to attribute different elements to your chalice which plays another important role in advancing across the world map, allowing you to cross through gates called “Miasma Streams.”Seemingly useless, each miasma stream requires a certain element to be attributed to your chalice, which can be done simply by traveling to an area with the required element and selecting it from a menu. However, that can become quite annoying as each miasma stream’s element changes every year, forcing players to redo certain levels while they wait for the elemental requirement to change. But if there’s one thing Square Enix knows how to do right, it’s creating visually stunning environments, and even in my re-visitation of this last generation title, I still enjoy simply walking from one side of each deadly stream of miasma to the other.
The GBA may have seemed like a primitive controller at first, however, the controls are actually quite smooth. You switch between your attack, magic, and defend commands on your HUD with L and R, and can even equip single use items for quick and easy consumption. When attack is selected, players can either mash A and deal multiple quick weak strikes, or press and hold A to perform a focus attack, creating a target circle on the ground that allows them to move around freely and attack any enemy they wish. This also does significantly more damage and varies depending on your weapon. When selecting types of magic, players must press and hold A to create a target circle, and line up their attack over their enemy to unleash their wrath endlessly, as the “magicite” players pick up throughout each level does not require MP! Unfortunately, the downside is that the magicite doesn’t leave the level with you.
The Defense command varies from class to class. Races like the Yukes with lower defense can make their bodies intangible and protect themselves from any attack, whereas Races like Clavats, who have higher defense, are only able to defend themselves from frontal attacks.The GBA screen proves to be very useful as well, as each player receives their own specialized map to help guide the party forward throughout each level . One screen will have a scale map of the area, while another has upcoming enemy locations marked. If there are more than two players, there is also a map indicating treasure chest locations and a screen with information about the enemies that you are currently battling. Of those last two, someone will have one or the other if there are only three players.When you are exploring the vast maze-like mushroom forests, goblin-overrun mines, treacherous deserts, and many other memorable environments, you really get to enjoy the simple beauty of FFCC. By incorporating the ability to team up with your friends, gameplay becomes far more enjoyable because players will encounter large amounts of enemies that could be a little overwhelming while playing alone. The ability to stack your magic together and create new spells by yourself in single player mode is beneficial, but not quite as satisfying as using teamwork and strategizing with your companions.
This is a great game for any group of FF fans or for anyone who has ever been turned away by the slower-paced turn based titles. As I had previously mentioned, the Final Fantasy franchise isn’t quite known for its spin of titles, and that could be part of the reason that FFCC is largely overshadowed by its numbered ancestors. Another reason could be that the game simply required too much extra hardware for a system that wasn’t as popular as its competitors at the time. Whatever the reason may be, this is a game that I feel deserves more attention and should at least be given a fair chance alongside the rest of the FF canon.