73rd game played so far

Genre: Action/RPG
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: The Game Designer’s Studio
Publisher: Nintendo

Before people wonder, no, this wasn’t the first or only Final Fantasy spin-off. Although I’m sure there’s others out there, two larger ones I remember preceeding this is the Gameboy Final Fantasy Adventure, which reflected this game’s action-based in-game battle, vaguely resembling Zelda. The other is Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, a western-focused Final Fantasy branded game that’s simpler and more focused on action, set up as an easier version for those not into the number crunching and complexity of other Final Fantasy games. Next to that, there are also other more recent famous series like the more strategy-based as Final Fantasy Tactics games.

Crystal Chronicles is a more recent game that involves a simple action interface, again similar to Zelda. Travel around with your caravan and collect myrrh. This is good for your village and advances time. It’s very important. Obviously. As any Final Fantasy game, except more actiony.

Our Thoughts

In preparation for this game we invested in a pair of GBA Adaptors for the Gamecube so that we would be able to do our playthrough in multiplayer mode. Granted two of our previously covered games (found here and here) would have been supplemented by such a peripheral accessory but this is the first one on the list which has a large effect on gameplay.

This is a game that was clearly developed with the GBA in mind. While it plays well without it if you play on your own, the GBA adds radar to help you explore, as well as providing easier access to the inventory and other menus. Which is why it’s needed for multiplayer – without it you wouldn’t otherwise be able to set up your character and skills. With the recent announcement of the Wii U at E3 one cannot help to see these games as possible precursors to test the waters. Ten years later… Clearly we needed to get to the point where the hardware caught up too. The announcement makes sense, and it’s going to make gaming great. This game showed it.

So yes, this is a roundabout way of saying: this review will be biased towards the multiplayer mode.

One of the things where this showed up were the minigames. By collecting Moogle stamps when travelling around the world, you get access to different minigames that you play against the other players – obviously on the GBA. They worked nicely as a distraction and change of pace, even if the main one we played, the racing game, also had some issues with control – they are clearly simple minigames that need to be small to make it to the GBA.

Luckily control issues don’t affect the actual game, which is simpler than the five layer nested menu you see in some Final Fantasy games, limiting it to moving between four control options (a number you can expand later), attack, defend, and two options that you can decide, becoming spells or items. You use them with ‘A’, while ‘B’ allows you to interact with the world. This mostly turns the game into button mashing for a melee-based character, but ranged attacks are possible as focused attacks, and obviously spell casting allows you some more options.

At the beginning of your journey to milk myrrh trees (seriously, what drugs were involved in the game’s conception) you get to choose between four races which have different battle statistical leanings. When playing this we chose a character that prefers magic and one that was meant to be faster. The fact that the female version of my character looked manlier than the male version of the other race is a bit of a comment of boys in Japanese animation. But you don’t have to be too rigid about how you approach each character as after each level you are able to level them up for their different characteristics. Still, as a spell caster I came to enjoy the fact that there is no MP involved and that the only side-effect is the time taken to cast spells. Something that at times affected melee attacks as well, which is quite slow at times as well. Especially the focus attacks.

I also enjoyed how the spells can be combined to make different ones if they are cast at the same time. This allowed the makers of this game to involve large numbers of the spells in the canon such as Gravity and Holy (with the notable absence of the Water-based attacks).  In fact, it seemed like quite a few combinations of spells created Gravity from what we tried… Well there are a lot of combinations. Most of them clearly weighing you down …not even worth a tumbleweed.

Anyway, one thing I really to enjoy were the different settings for each level. With the exception of the Miasma Levels (which, for something threatening, turned out to be a bit bland) they were all distinct and greatly helped to develop the atmosphere. Despite the fact that these are now graphics you would expect to see on the current generation of portable gaming devices it still looks incredibly inviting, goes to prove that you don’t need the latest graphical innovations to set the scene. (It’s worth mentioning here that the Crystal Chronicles series has also been appearing on the DS with Ring of Fates and Echoes of Time).

I would like to now mention this games incarnation of the Moogle. Whilst they have been a long staple of the series (along with the chocobo) this has to be the cutest I have ever seen them… being all sweet and pudgy in their little cosy abodes tucked into their fluffy beds. Aside from appearing in a collection side quest, they also have larger roles in other parts of the game, such as the Moogle who features as the game’s tutorial.

We just lost Peter to Moogle-love, so I’ll go on. The areas themselves are gorgeous too. Varied environments place you in forest, firey mines (where you need to cross bridges to get to some bonuses) and even an area made up solely of giant mushrooms. Sorry, just being appalled by the Moogle designs in Final Fantasy XIII.

Either way, I think that it is safe to say that this has become the most successful spin-off of the Final Fantasy franchise due to it being a nice diversion from the more in-depth RPGs. Now I am looking forward to trying out Dissidia.

Final Thoughts

Is this a complex game? No, not really. Not when compared to the regular games in the franchise. Not in gameplay mechanics, not in story, not really.  What it is, however, is a very fun game. Very pretty in place, difficult but far from impossible and with a large variety of environments.

This game, however, works best as a multiplayer game. If you still have a GBA, get a link cable (it’s only a few quid on Amazon) and play it together with friends. It’s absolutely worth it and really makes the game. One of the few multiplayer Final Fantasy games… how can you resist?

  1. […] of games made in Japan. Why this warning here rather than for Xenogears, Tales of Symphonia or Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles? Well if you spend 30 seconds with part-human, part-feline Taokaka and you will know the reason […]

  2. […] As we approach the one-in-six mark, there’s only one of the major franchises (at least five games on the list) that we haven’t covered yet. We’ve played some Grand Theft Auto, plenty of Legend of Zelda games and a remarkable amount of Mario, but Resident Evil still remains untouched. Don’t forget about Final Fantasy! […]