So before getting downright dirty into the nitty-gritty, we have to address the elephant in the room. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is currently unavailable to purchase in Australian stores, whether that be digital or physical. The title had released prior to this review, and we had our hands on the title a short time before it hit shelves but to be completely honest, we were most excited for its main attraction; online. If you haven’t heard by now, online services for the title are currently unavailable in Australia, deeming the title somewhat broken. In fairness, that’s an arguable point as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles still demonstrates a decent narrative for a title that was polarising for its audience, at its initial 2004 launch on the Nintendo Gamecube.
Garnering critical acclaim, the title itself demonstrated a return to form in its isometric style gameplay that had been deviated, and differentiated as unconventional for quite a few years at that point. However, due to its archaic framework implemented, and experimenting with multiplayer in what would have been best suited as a single player campaign experience on its intended hardware, there was a mixed reception that had lightly blemished its legacy. Understandingly, wanting to revisit the title almost two decades later with hardware capable of elevating its entire presentation and gameplay experience is nothing more than a little appreciation towards its devoted fanbase. Sure it could be labelled fanservice, but Crystal Chronicles excels in what many modern JRPG’s lack; heart.
Much like the traditional JPRG from yesteryear, creating and crafting is integral to the overall experience. Four races are made available from the onset, each with their own unique abilities, stock stats and the choice of portraying a male or female lead. The campaign takes place in an isolated fantasy world, inhabited by four tribes that are represented by each race. The Clavats are humanoid in appearance and are notorious for being the most peaceful, and accepting tribe. As farmhands, the seemingly pint-sized progeny of Fum, boasts a lofty level of strength above their fellow country-people. The courageous Lities are the fearless, yet stubborn warriors with blazing red locks to accompany their fiery attitude. Known for their grounded attacks, the tribe are weak in magic, so I wouldn’t be using a Lity for spell-casting anytime soon.
In a complete juxtaposition, the Yukes are fascinating creatures. Keeping their identities concealed, they keep their faces covered by a Knight’s helmet, and are garbed in regal yet raggedy attire. While maintaining a humanoid-like figure, their arms resemble that of owl’s wings. While wielding their menacing mallets, the tribe rarely use physical attacks, but are well trained in the art of alchemy. Their attacks may take a little longer to charge than the rest of the party, but are well worth the wait. Finally, the Selkie’s. Now here’s the weird thing, Physcially I could never tell the Selkie’s and the Clavat’s apart. Almost identical in stature and demeanor, the only key difference separating the two tribes are their charge time, and speed. Ranged attacks with weaponry seems to also be a key feature that distinctively splits the pair.
Taking place in an isolated alternate universe, the fantasy world has been overtaken by clouds of poisonous gas only known as Miasma. To protect their people, each tribe gather around large crystals which hold the key in clearing these large gatherings of ghastly fumes. Each Crystal hoard only has the capability of exuding a certain amount of repellent before dying, and the only way of reviving its power is to revitalising it with drops of Myrrh. The only way to obtain these droplets are from tree’s which are normally guarded by monsters, placed in cavernous chalices across the fantasy world. The only hopes of survival for each settlement is for a warrior to lead a team to obtain as much Myrrh as possible to dispel this volatile substance and reclaim their land.
Setting off with the intent of exploring each territory with hopes of gathering droplets of Myrrh, player’s may assume the role of the various protagonists within their party along their quest. While exploring the engulfed enclave, you may choose to follow a linear strategy in accomplishing each task, or leisurely roam through the campaign in the intended open world structure. Ultimately, the map is designed for players to own their story and control the narrative as they please. Completing each objective, and defeating various enemies are as vanilla as isometric JRPG’s traditionally are. You will find yourself revisiting each area on multiple occasions in hopes of collecting as much of the medicinal moisture that condensates from each of the shrub’s saplings.
Each tree produces a single droplet of Myrrh every two years (in-game), meaning that you will have to wait for trees to replenish their sap over your journey, and return to each tree with their new guard stationed and defeat the monstrous foe. Each guard’s specie will change with every visit as the campaign progresses to match your party’s overall experience. Using the map to guide your party, you will be able to travel by caravan to a market territory, where upon your arrival you may explore the area in scrupulous fashion on foot. Each town is split into two settings that define the area’s motif and gameplay. Town’s outdoor settings are for exploring and interacting with NPC’s, while there are dungeons scattered across each territory waiting for your party to raid and defeat its entailing myriad of monsters.
After each encounter and collecting a droplet of the tree’s mystical sap, you will be given an artifact that increases a choice of on stat within your party. This also helps level your Health Points and Magic Slots for Mana use. Staying in touch with family and friends from your home base will unlock artillery such as equipment, rare items and other necessities while on your endless journey. While keeping an old school exterior, Crystal Chronicles turfs the traditional turn-based style combat and uses the now modern day real-time based approach that has since become the industry standard. This only proves how innovative the title was for its time. Its expeditious approach melded with its seamlessly stylish combat. While it may not be as polished as some real-time strategy based JRPG’s in recent years, it still demonstrates a foundation laid for what was transformative and evolutionary for the genre.
With online absent and the title off shelves in Australia for the time being, we’re unable to comment on its multiplayer experience which leaves this review somewhat unfinished for the time being. While I would love to extrapolate further, it’s beyond my capability at this time. I will make note of its gorgeous aesthetics, and re-rendered vibrancy that the title exudes, but apart from a few upgrades it’s still the exact same experience from the Nintendo Gamecube, on the Nintendo Switch. Without its main marketed feature, it’s marred by a hollow crater left in its overall offering. So while we patiently await a fix and a re-release for the title in the Oceania, I will leave my thoughts for its multiplayer experience at a later date, with an amendment to the review at an appropriate date.
However, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is still a treat for gamers and fans of its broad universe. Is it worth revisiting the title in 2020? Sure, if you’re looking to experience a classic from yesteryear with a narrative that encompasses a triumphant tale of heroics, and some solemn heartache. It certainly is one of the most wondrous story’s to ever be created, with its unique setting and quirky cast of characters, leaving you captivated by their own ambition. I see why the title may have been a polarising experience for its generation, introducing a “nonsensical” mechanic that would have been labelled by traditionalists as flawed. Regardless of its glaring online mishap, I have had an amazing time revisiting the title, and look forward to jumping back in when servers are reactivated and restored.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is an action role-playing game developed by The Game Designers Studio and published for the GameCube by Nintendo in 2003 in Japan; and 2004 in North America, Europe and Australia.