In 2004, Square Enix released Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. It was the first Final Fantasy game to be released on a Nintendo console after the fallout between Square and Nintendo. However, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles turned out to be very different to what fans were expecting. The Final Fantasy brand is associated with story heavy RPGs and character development. Crystal Chronicles, on the other hand, is an action game with role-playing elements attached. Yet, in spite of the action oriented gameplay, the story of Crystal Chronicles deals with some serious philosophical matters regarding memories.
Memories are a central theme in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles as your characters form memories as they journey. Your character will be sent letters from your relatives, can interact with NPCs that are “random” events and even you, the player, will have to remember locations and scenery in preparation for the final dungeon. Even one of the bosses Memiroa is simply an anagram for memoria (the Spanish word for memory). Events which might not seem important at the time have relevance in the future and even make your journey easier. Your tales are detailed in a diary called the Crystal Chronicles which is a clever, if simple, way of incorporating the title into the game. But, besides the journal being titled as such, the crystals bear great importance to the world of FFCC.
The crystals in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles protect the world from a toxic gas which threatens to engulf the world. The caravans make a trip each year to collect myrrh which grows from trees found in each level. This myrrh powers up the crystals in the town allowing the citizens to live comfortably until the cycle repeats. This is where the player comes into play as your character is a member of one of these caravans. However, caravan trips are rife with danger and in this world with no name, the risk of failing doesn’t just carry the weight of your life; it carries the lives of your whole village. We see an example of this in one of the levels with Tida, whose caravan did not complete the trip and died out.
You, the player, can witness the remains of a preparation for some form of celebration. This is the same celebration you will witness after making each successful trip. The miasma engulfed Tida. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles used this tactic to you show the player what was a stake. Thus Crystal Chronicles lays down quickly what will happen if you (the player) fails. But, this wasn’t the only way Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles tried to connect with the player. Throughout the journey, your characters family would send you letters. The letters would ask the player seemingly random questions. Your answers would not only affect your relationships, but you might need to remember the response. Playing with a full party improved this experience as everyone had different questions to answer.
Speaking of multiplayer action, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles had a very polarizing multiplayer concept. If you want to play with friends, you better pray they owned Game Boy Advance and some connectors. Nintendo made this game really expensive to play. Players responded by making Nintendo the butt of money grubbing jokes on the internet. Nintendo’s response was to make another game with the same concept called Four Swords Adventure. Both of these games were action oriented and had a large emphasis on multiplayer, which was admittedly very fun.
Combat in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was real-time and it was great. Players will attack and dodge at their own pace. You can even skip certain enemies all together, similar to Phantasy Star Online which is also a fantastic example of the genre. Players could combine magic to get a stronger effect or cast gravity, if they mixed elements. Even the best spell in the game, holyra, was only available in multiplayer for this reason, but this brought a few downsides for single players.
Single player limited the abilities to the second level as a companion moogle would help with spells. A moogle companion was designed to carry the chalice which dispelled a small portion of miasma. The multiplayer element of the game removed this moogle and effectively crippled the party as even a two man team would be ineffective since one player would have to be a mule. Doomed to carry the chalice or troll the party by letting them die. Still, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was a fun experience, and also had beautiful orchestrated Celtic music. The game managed to secure enough sales to warrant quite a few sequels, with the last one titled The Crystal Bearers released on the Wii.
An interesting experiment, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles deserves to be experienced at least once in your gaming life, both as the first Nintendo Final Fantasy in those years and as an experiment. This is especially true if you have friends and extra controllers (read Game Boy Advance’s).
Looking for this game? Check out Ebay and have it in time for Christmas.