Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered
Square Enix has brought Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles to the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Is the update of the GameCube title worth picking up or should it have remained part of our nostalgic past? Check out my full review to find out!
My love for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has been well documented over the years (ending up on my list of GameCube games that deserved a remaster). I hadn’t played many Final Fantasy games when the title launched in 2003, in fact, I generally avoided RPG games back then. Even so, I was living with my best friend at the time and as we both had GameBoy Advance’s (required for the game’s wonky multiplayer) and thought it’d be fun.
As such, I was very eager to finally get my hands on the remastered edition for the Nintendo Switch. I saw it as a great chance to dive back into a game I remember loving back when I had a GameCube. Sadly, it seems nostalgia painted a different picture for me and time hasn’t been as kind to this game as I’d hoped.
Crystal Chronicles isn’t your typical Final Fantasy game. There’s no world-ending god-like being you and a group have to fight against. Instead, you’re tasked with escorting a caravan across the land as you seek out drops of "myrrh.” The world is covered by a deadly miasma, and only massive crystals can keep it at bay. As such, villages were built around these Crystals, but every year, they need to be replenished...That’s where you come in.
You’ll saddle up on your caravan, using one of eight characters you can create to populate your town (based on four different races) and traverse the world map. Here you’ll enter one of 14 dungeons you’ll battle through to reach massive trees which give you the myrrh you need.
Each tree only gives a single drop and you’ll need to fill your bucket with three of them before returning home and restoring the crystal. Then, you’ll do it all over again for the next “year” within the game. You’ll have to rotate around to different dungeons as trees take time to replenish their myrrh, so you can’t spam the same dungeons over and over again.
Eventually you get to a point where you meet an ancient race that directs you to the source of the miasma, with the goal of destroying it forever. It’s a fun story filled with a host of engaging characters you meet along the way, in a world that feels unique and alive.
It’s not truly an RPG, as it eschews any sort of leveling system. Even as you battle it out, there are no stats to increase, instead it’s all about the gear you acquire. As you progress in a dungeon, enemies will drop all sorts of goodies. From recipes to craft stronger weapons, edibles that boost your attack/magic, and even brand new magical spells altogether.
The caveat, however, is that you don’t get to KEEP all of those goodies once you complete the dungeon. You can only keep one of the main items (except for recipes) you acquire meaning you have to think strategically about it or simply replay the dungeon to get more than one thing. While some don’t care for this system, it’s one of the things I enjoyed most about it on the original release.
There are a number of other things you can do in the game (like exploring your village, painting your friendly moogle, etc), but the core of the game is old-fashioned dungeon-crawling.
Where It Went Wrong
Sounds fairly interesting right? Back when it first released, the action take on the franchise was still novel and a nice break from the typical turn-based formula. The ability to tackle things with a friend added another level of strategy that made it fun to come back to. There’s a reason the game was so well-received initially.
The trouble I’m having with Crystal Chronicles Remastered is that it really doesn’t feel like a remaster. Instead, this comes off as more of a straight port of the older GameCube title. The textures are given a coat of polish, making the character models look crisp and clear on your system, but aren’t updated much beyond that.
Whereas most remasters work to eliminate loading times, Chronicles seemingly doubles down on them. You’ll be hit with a loading screen as you head into a cutscene AND as you leave it. Between popping in and out of dungeons/towns on the world map and random encounters on the road, I found myself staring at load screens more than I have in a long time.
Where it stumbles the most, however, are the controls. Everyone knows the original control scheme was a bit strange. Because it was built to utilize the GameBoy Advance as a controller, it was designed around limited amounts of button inputs. While the Remaster does away with that aspect (obviously), it doesn’t actually make things easier.
Pretty much everything is done through a singular action button, and I mean everything. Attack, defending, and magic are all mapped to the same button. So if you want to change things up in the middle of battle, you’ll have to navigate the menu (via a shoulder button) to select the action you want to use. This means you can’t easily swap between basic sword attacks and magic items.
Hell, even if you want to use your shield, you have to take your eyes off of the enemy in order to cycle to the correct option and THEN use the action button to defend yourself. You’ll have to do the same process once again in order to switch back into attack mode. To say it’s a pain in the butt is something of an understatement.
The end result is the “action” is more about menu cycling than anything else. Ultimately I just did my best to hack and slash my way through each dungeon rather than take the time to swap things around. This almost killed the strategy element I remember enjoying nearly two decades ago, and made combat more of a chore. Considering it’s a dungeon crawling game, the grind quickly became tedious.
Instead of overhauling the notoriously wonky control scheme, they somehow made it even stranger!
Crystal Chronicles is designed as more of a multiplayer game, where you can partner with up to three other friends. So, presumably, each player could be assigned a role (magic, attack, defense) and limit the need for all that action-button swapping.
Well, the multiplayer manages to be even more frustrating. First of all, there’s no “local” option to play with a friend. It’s only possible online, but even then it’s region locked, so there’s no pairing up with buddies in other parts of the world. Beyond that, the game itself comes with its OWN friend codes you have to use to connect. These only last a limited time (30 minutes) so if your connection drops out during a game, you’ll need to generate/input an entirely new code!
Worst of all, progress made with buddies is only saved for the HOST’S game. If four people are playing, only one game will actually progress. Friends wanting to keep pace with the story together would have to change hosts and redo the entire dungeon.
With no quality of life updates to mention (even more bizarre considering the few delays it had) and a multiplayer system that’s more frustrating than useful, it pains me to say that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles isn’t worth picking up. As one of my favorite games when I was in high school, it’s frustrating to see the Remaster get so much wrong.