We have a lot of remasters, remakes and that reboot flooding the games market lately. Each company wants its own slice in the nostalgic heart of gamers. It’s good to know well where you are going when choosing a title that fits into one of these different groups, which brings certain works of old times to the current one.
I’m always curious to know the final result when I discover that some game has been modernized in some way. As much as remasters are the most controversial revitalization among all of those mentioned – especially when it comes to a game that has already been launched in recent generations -, it’s still possible to make tweaks here and there to adapt old game design decisions to the modern world. Well, what is the correct way to do something like that?
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is a game originally released for the GameCube in the distant year of 2003, and marks Square’s return to Nintendo platforms since the release of Final Fantasy VII on PS1. At that time I was totally immersed in the PlayStation brand and let Crystal Chronicles pass completely. Years later, even though I had a GameCube and later a Wii, I had no contact with this series, considered a spin-off of one of the most important RPG franchises in existence. My eyes were totally focused on some of the main ones, like Final Fantasy VII, IX and XII, each for a different reason: character charisma, history and Gambit system – respectively.
Upon hearing of the existence of Crystal Chronicles Remastered when news of this revitalization was due to launch soon, I was immediately hooked. As a Final Fantasy lover, because of its ability to tell different stories in a universe that seems connected, I decided that I needed to know why this title marked so many people because of its couch Co-op.
However, a few different decisions were made throughout development, and one of those that received the most criticism was precisely why Crystal Chronicles became such a precious game for fans: the same console multiplayer. The producers simply encouraged the audience to announce that the title would also bring the great news of online multiplayer. Better yet, the game would support crossplay between mobile devices and desktop consoles. However, the wonderful news came with complete frustration: it was impossible to coexist online multiplayer and the location – according to Square Enix’s own words via Twitter.
Since then, many people have stood back, expressing opinions contrary to the decision and complaining before the launch. The game has been the target of criticism for many months, but was all this really fair enough for so much criticism? Is the local multiplayer really lacking?
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered does not change the story from the original. The plot tells of events in a world where a large layer of miasma, a kind of poisonous gas, permeates the entire planet after the fall of a meteorite. Caravans known as Crystal Caravans are often organized so that chalices are transported and filled with a liquid called myrrh, acquired through myrrh trees, used to protect living beings and everything around them. Large crystals act as a source of protection for cities around the globe, needing to be fed a portion of myrrh to continue emitting their barrier against miasma.
Unlike most games in the franchise, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered does not have a protagonist or anyone important enough to be declared as such. Here, you create your own character – and a mute one -, choosing between 4 different races with advantages and disadvantages, in addition to choosing a class (job system) among those available.
The approach chosen in Crystal Chronicles is that you will live your own story, delivering it in a game with a focus on gameplay and multiplayer fun, leaving aside complex systems, stories with many ramifications and any other feature more present in the main games. Crystal Chronicles carries the significant name of the franchise, has several elements and characters that are trademarks of Final Fantasy, but seems to target more casual players and without so much commitment to follow an epic journey.
Its soundtrack is incredible, as expected, and the art direction in general is impressive, even for a game with over 15 years on the back. Clearly the graphics still refer to the PS2 and GameCube generation, but with a touch of revitalization using high resolution and better textures – that’s why the name Remastered. Don’t expect big changes to the menus, gameplay, and the way the game works in general. In fact, these are some of my biggest criticisms regarding the game: clunky elements without a better treatment.
In fact, the gameplay of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered still works nowadays. As mentioned, its approach is simpler, and the objective is to face enemies in dungeons of the world map. Each of these dungeons has its own environment, simple puzzles, enemies and a brief story told before starting the mission. Along with your character there is a cute Moogle, exclusively for use in the single player.
This creature is especially useful for the dirty task of taking the cup where the myrrh will be carried over, but he gets tired when carrying it for many minutes. He gives you a warning about his fatigue and begins to load the object very slowly, requiring the player to stop or take possession of the cup for a few moments. Simply awful. Other than that, Moogle can use spells to help you during battles, but in a very useless way. It does not work intelligently, and requires the player being in use of the charged attack or a spell so that it can actually attack too, but in a completely inaccurate way. Seriously. Don’t count on him.
The chalice of myrrh serves to protect the group, creating a kind of barrier where their safety is guaranteed. If you try to stay out of that barrier, it’ll only take a few seconds for your life to start to be consumed. Therefore, this protective field created by the cup works as a camera that needs to be carried throughout the dungeon, and the biggest problem is having your movement and actions limited while carrying the object.
The obligation is split between two or more players on multiplayer online. It is necessary to share possession of the chalice at all times, which ends up being quite a dull task. Especially when the dungeons require interactions with the scenario at times. It’s an interesting mechanic that forces you to worry about secondary stuff besides the battles, but it ends up becoming just an annoyance, despite being inserted in the story’s context. It works and makes sense, but it sucks a lot.
The controls mapping contributes to the feeling of Crystal Chronicles Remastered being a game with excessive flaws. The menu navigation has simply not been updated or done in the best possible way. It is a very common situation to be completely lost on which button to press to navigate between items and change tabs. All of this is done amidst a confusion between the R and L, D-pad and analog buttons on the Switch. It is simply not clear and natural. You get used to it, but you’re going to be still frustrated.
Combat is a kind of simplified action RPG, but with elements that resemble the active battles of Final Fantasy VII, for example. Offensive actions take a few moments to be executed, although movement and avoidance are totally free to be performed. Spells need to be armed and fired, which takes about 2.5 seconds from start to be cast. The quickest way to attack is to use the basic attack, turning the gameplay into a smashing button system. Your main weapon also has a more powerful version of the attack, but it takes about the same time as the spells to fire.
All enemies usually drop crafting items, consumables and artefacts that increase players attributes. Spell stones are also commonly acquired in this way, which need to be equipped in the character’s command slots to be used. Or you can find rings with specific spells, to equip and start a dungeon with that one equipped.
When accessing the equipment menu, the game, fortunately pauses (in single player only) and allows you to organize the command slots with weapons, spells and consumable items. To use each of these selected commands, you must change the asset through R and L during battles, something not so intuitive. The smartest thing to do at these times is to get away from enemies. This makes me question why they did not insert hotkeys to use spells, items and the like, since the ZR and ZL buttons and the right analogue stick are completely unmapped.
All dungeons have several paths to follow, and some require you to complete some simple task or puzzle before heading to the boss’s area. When you get into the fight with this boss, the strategy will basically remain the same: run away from your attacks, heal yourself, take the cup close to the enemy and attack. And the loop remains the same in all battles until the end of the game. I confess that in the single player these fights are something much more dull, repetitive and time consuming. Therefore, the game makes everything easier and more agile in multiplayer, so that the player is always induced to pass the game accompanied by others.
After defeating the boss, if it is the first time – the bosses can be defeated as many times as you want -, the cutscene will appear where you can see the character collecting the drop of myrrh from the tree. A specific amount of myrrh drops is required for delivery to be made and another cutscene representing the change of year. Unfortunately, this loop of gameplay is repeated in all game’s years, falling into the repetition very quickly. Also, the problem is that you need to go through the entire map once again through the caravan’s annoying navigation. But the worst thing probably is to have to choose the element contained in your chalice, selecting dungeons already overcome to be able to cross the miasma streams, which are nothing more than bridges to cross on foot. These elements are on altars contained within the dungeons, and are necessary to make this crossing. No fast travel here, sorry.
Crystal Chronicles Remastered doesn’t offer a direct evolution of your character’s attributes, but upgrades happen through artefacts. Remember I mentioned them? At the end of each dungeon the player will be required to choose one artefact found during the dungeon to keep in their inventory, and each of these objects has a different attribute increase, such as strength, magic and defence, up to additional command slots, or an extra heart of life. It is a very interesting way to simulate the level increase, but none of this is actually felt or represented during battles through hit points (amount of damage), which would make a lot of difference.
The game’s biggest draw is also one of its biggest pains. Online multiplayer works privately with friends or publicly. You can check and enter – at any time during the dungeon, drop-in and drop-out – only in groups set up in respective dungeons in the region you are on the map, and often when attempting to enter a match the result will be an error message. It’s also possible to bypass it and invite people on your friends list through a very poorly designed system. And no matter the physical distance between the other players and you, you’re going to get lag. Although Square Enix has secretly restricted players to matchmaking from the region itself, the server appears to be very badly optimized. It’s quite common to see others teleporting all the time in a match, and sometimes the existence of input delay.
Playing in a group, things get ridiculously easier, even if the Moogle that carries the cup doesn’t exist. However, this makes the task more boring, since someone will have to do the work of taking the cup. Boss fights are also resolved in a matter of seconds, showing that the game was really made for players with other people. Too bad they didn’t keep the local multiplayer or even on the same WiFi, which would make organizing matches a lot easier and would not require both players to have a paid subscription to play online.
After the group eliminates the stage leader, where one will choose the artefact to upgrade and continue in the game. In short, multiplayer works in a very superficial way, with no actual journey together or caravan trips. And this is sad, because only the host will make progress in the story, and the guests will get only the acquired items, money and gotten artefacts. Not too bad, but not so great.
Definitely Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is not a game for everyone. Much less for those who like the original formula of the franchise’s games, both classics and the newer ones with that action RPG approach. I also don’t recommend this game as a first-contact to the series, as Crystal Chronicles itself is already very disappointing because of its repetition and shallow gameplay. The game is worth it just for the curiosity, new game plus elements that have been added and because it differs from the main ones, but it is difficult to fall in love with it.
Being a revitalized title, I expected much more in terms of accessibility and controls adapted to modern joysticks. I also don’t see any good reason for the removal of the local multiplayer, something that many will surely miss a lot. Crystal Chronicles Remastered will probably appeal to the most nostalgic fans and win over a few new players, but its terrible controls, similar structured dungeons and clunky gameplay are a very critical point for the remaster.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES Remastered Edition Review
Gameplay - 4/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
Crystal Chronicles Remastered will likely appeal to the most nostalgic fans and win over a few new players, but its terrible controls, similar structured dungeons and clunky gameplay are a very critical point for the remaster.