Stellar graphics, fun multiplayer action
Absurd GBA prerequisite, scant plot
Creepiest Character Class:
Bustier-clad female Yukes
By Shane Bettenhausen
Score:8 (out of 10)
Crystal Chronicles isn't exactly the classic Final Fantasy homecoming that Nintendo fans may have hoped for. While it might lure in series vets with distinctive FF trappingscuddly moogle mailmen, elemental spellcraft, and familiar foes such as tonberries and cactuarsit's really a different beast altogether. You won't find any melodramatic love stories, lavish CG cut-scenes, turn-based battles, or over-the-top summon spells here; Crystal Chronicles reduces the Final Fantasy experience to a basic, action-packed concept that's all about gameplay and charm. Imagine Zelda crossed with Gauntlet, and you're close to figuring out this remarkable game's addictive formula.
Actually, the first (and most important) part of that formula involves finding three friends. Nintendo has been preaching the gospel of connectivity (as opposed to, say, online play) for the last year, and Chronicles finally makes good on that promise: It truly is best when played with four players. Brave souls willing to fill their lives with cables will reap fantastic rewardsteamwork factors into the gameplay at a fundamental level. You'll want to recruit your friends so one of you can carry the Crystal Chalice, a magic device that provides a protective shield from the poisonous gas infesting each dungeon. Also, combat rewards combosboth physical and magical attacks power up when executed simultaneously. Simple hack-n-slash gameplay magically transforms into something strategic, wild, and addictive.
Single-player action isn't quite as compelling (no combos, some puzzles are tough without friends, and your pet moogle isn't that adept at carrying the Chalice), but it's an acceptable alternative when your pals aren't around. And since you can move your characters in and out of each other's games at any point, you'll want to play solo just to find new weapons and artifacts for your hero.
Gameplay isn't the only draw here. Chronicles is one visually arresting gameevery location you explore harbors stunning details. Overhead torches sway in a mine, casting flickering shadows; rivulets of sand cascade down sun-bleached desert dunes; gooey, mucuslike cobblestones glint in a fungal forest. The graphics are so great that you'll actually start wondering what a realistic GC Zelda might have looked like. A haunting, subtle soundtrack matches the brilliance of the eye candy, and the evocative, folky tunes provide a great score for all the monster thwacking.
Daunting as the setup might be, give Chronicles a chance and you'll likely get hooked. It's a simple, beautiful, and rewarding experience.
By Jennifer Tsao
Score:8 (out of 10)
For me, playing this game is sort of like walking by the Hello Kitty store. I know I'm supposed to be too cool/sophisticated/old to go inside, but the disgustingly cute characters, blindingly pretty colors, and shiny objects lure me in and keep me there for hours at a time until I guiltily emerge into the filthy, impure real world (which, it then seems, just doesn't offer enough glittering mushrooms in one day to keep me happy).
Lots of stereotypes work (this game's for kiddies, for girls, for Final Fantasylovin' fanboys), but none even hint at how deep this action-RPG goes. You can specialize your character in magic or melee, or you can keep your guy a jack-of-all-trades. You can meticulously beat every boss in every level, or you can skip around wherever your little heart takes you (though this can make the game more difficult, since your character won't have the proper skillz to pay the billz). You can (in a fantastic homage to Animal Crossing) write letters and send gifts to your family and friends to win their favor. It's both intensely frivolous and intensely rewardingeveryone should try it.
By Kevin Gifford
Score:8 (out of 10)
I'm sorry if this sounds blunt, but calling this game Final Fantasy probably wasn't the greatest idea. Despite the moogles and traditional magic-spell names, this really isn't FFthere are no experience points or leveling, and really not much of a story, either. Instead, you've got a fair-to-middlin' action-RPG that graduates to a must-play experience with two or three friends.
It's obvious that the developers concentrated most of their effort on the multiplayer game. Playing by yourself gets boring very quickly, even by the second "year" of in-game time, thanks to the repetitive dungeons and straightforward hack-n-slash gameplay. Your moogle companion is more of a drag than a support, too. Some sort of A.I.-controlled fighting companion would have been niceafter all, you're in a "crystal caravan," right? That would imply traveling with more than one person, no?
The single-player roughness, though, is covered by two features: a superb graphic and sound package (the most beautiful on GameCube, I'd say), as well as a multiplayer mode that's actually worth the cost of multiple GBAs and cables. I know most gamers won't have the money and time required to fully enjoy FFCC with their pals, but the payoff in dorky couch-rocking fun is something unattainable anywhere else. Just make sure you're playing with evenly balanced charactersthe monsters seem like they're tuned to the strongest party member, so very weak characters could get crushed in their wake.