Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered, what’s there to know about it? For those who are unfamiliar, the Crystal Chronicles series is a loosely related Final Fantasy spin-off that debuted an innovative form of multiplayer for the GameCube at its launch in 2003. To play its multiplayer, each of the players had to have a Game Boy Advanced or SP that they would connect to their GameCube or Wii with an adapter. The original was well received at its launch, but the gear required for multiplayer limited the audience- not all of the kids on the block are fortunate enough to have a Nintendo handheld, let alone the adapter cables. Nearing two decades since the initial launch, and a decade since the last installment of the series, why the revival, and what can we expect?
See The Game's Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxct3RLT0Sg
For the most part, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is a completely new game to their target market. I can say in almost-perfect confidence that 99.99% of the current generation entering and exiting grade school have never heard of the series unless they were inducted by an older, nostalgic driven fan who went out of their way to salvage the gear to play. But the remaster is certainly not because Square Enix is motivated to cater to the niche fans who long passionately for another installment, it is likely a byproduct of their desire to put more games into the mobile marketplace. It’s a pretty smart move- they updated it to be closer to modern standards and likely didn’t require much resources to do so.
As for the updated features in the remaster, not a lot is known. So far, the only things confirmed are voice acting and there will be additional content. The graphics have improved, but they are only marginally better at 720p quality. It is being released on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Android, and IOS later this year.
(Side by side of graphics improvement. Remastered on the left, and orginal on the right. Source: https://fextralife.com/final-fantasy-crystal-chronicles-remastered-gameplay-at-tgs-2018/)
Arguably, the greatest strength of the remaster might turn out to be the game’s greatest weakness. By eliminating the need for external devices, players must either play online with their own devices or play co-op. The GameCube version allowed players to interact with their inventory and map screen on their handheld without interrupting the game for other players. To compensate for that, they may handle couch co-op by having it pause the screen and give each player a corner to interact with, or players must play exclusively on their own device. Either method would have significant advantages and disadvantages for players, but we will find out more when it is launched.
As a huge fan myself, I dove back into the cult classic as soon I heard of the announcement of the remaster. I was fortunate enough to still have all of my gear and three other friends to play with, and the results were kind of surprising. Only one other friend had played the game besides me, so it was an even split of new and old players. For the old players, we got massive amounts of dopamine as soon as we heard the main menu music. For the new players, the game was pretty hectic as they tried to keep track of their characters on the screen. My nostalgia began to wear down as the new players pointed out how tight the field of view was and the hassle of coordinating four people in a relatively cramped area players have that protects them from the poisonous fog that pervades the world, miasma.
Though the new players found Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles to be lacking compared to recent games that have improved upon the fluidity of co-op multiplayer, they still thought the game was charming. The music is stellar, like, really stellar (Link to video debating that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5N6aZ0zFZM), and the aesthetics of the game compliments it. Everything about Crystal Chronicles feels folky and ancient. Each of the races is called tribes, they dress in colorful, cultural garments, and the soundtrack is composed of medieval instruments. You choose the background of your family, which can provide your items and different shops to your hometown based on what you choose. For instance, I played a Lity, a baby-face turnip munchkin, and went with a rancher background because my character’s racial preference was to meat, and food will heal you differently based on your characters preference. Oddly enough, the little feature of your family background created a significant amount of investment for my group. For instance, after each dungeon, a mail Moogle will follow the trail of corpses to the players to deliver letters from their respective families. The letters feel incredibly genuine, and whether it's your parents or siblings, the writer sounds like an actual person sending a letter giving updates on things back home and how they miss you. Depending on your responses to the letters, which also allow you to send back gifts, you can improve or worsen your relationships with each family member. Though the gifts from your family are nice, and the improving relationships with them can yield better improvements for their shops, but I enjoyed it primarily for its flavor. Who else would you celebrate the end of the year festivities with?
The combat itself is nothing to send a letter and a star-striped carrot home about, but the game relies on players deriving fun through their teamwork. In singleplayer, the player gets a Moogle companion that contributes with spell casting and carrying the chalice that wards away miasma- but everything is a free-for-all in multiplayer. For the four of us, we divided into roles. Support caster, offensive caster, fighter, and the odd duck that did a little of everything. The chalice itself provides a very interesting dynamic to the game because it’ll test how well a team will work together. Players will learn immediately that the chalice bearer calls the shots of where the party goes, so unless the party agrees on a primary bearer, things can devolve into pandemonium rather quickly. Another dynamic to each level is the secret bonus objectives that player will randomly receive at the start of each dungeon. It is up to the players to divulge their bonus objective, but my friends and I thought it was best to keep it secret. This led to curious behaviors like our fighter suddenly using nothing but spells, and our support caster would run through the thick of combat just so he could open up a chest. There is a fairly wide range of objectives that players can have, and your success with the bonus objective is what determines the order of who gets first pick of loot. For my group, we played secretly and competitively for points but were democratic when it came down to who got what loot.
Will Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered focus on creating a unique couch co-op experience for its players like the original? Likely not. Will it revive the Crystal Chronicles series? Likely not. While the nostalgic fanboy inside me weeps knowing that I won’t be playing it as I had during the age of LAN parties and couch co-op, I know that the remastered version will only add onto the original and make it more accessible for everyone.