What’s with Nintendo and its fetish with the old-school titles? As if the re-releases of Legend of Zelda
and Super Mario
titles wasn’t enough we have to endure a remake of the original Metal Gear Solid
in the coming future and Crystal Chronicles
, a very close cousin to the very first Final Fantasy title released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989. Like the very first FF you’re introduced to a band of four adventurers whose purpose is to travel the lands and replenish the magic crystals but strangely enough, that classic title actually has more flesh and depth than Square’s latest title. This title lags behind in so many aspects and suffers from so many debilitating design flaws that the game can only be recommended to hardcore fans or absolute Nintendo fanboys. Admittedly, it’s a little surreal to see a Square game appear on a Nintendo console once again but the fact of the matter is that Nintendo fans deserved much better than this.
The re-attachment to the series’ roots comes with some major positives and negatives. Like the original title the game places very little emphasis on the storyline, a facet that has since become one of the series’ trademarks. Those fanciful CG cutscenes that we have become accustomed to from 1997 are gone. In fact there’s no CGI at all, all of the storyline (whatever little there is of it) unfolds via some in-game rendered sequences that are accompanied by floating text bubbles. Upon entering a dungeon you’ll be given an overview of the level that’s accompanied by a female narrative, but like the opening sequence, these are nonsensical and don’t really make too much sense. All you have to know is that mist is bad, giant crystal is good, water makes giant crystal work and young caravans are sent off every year to retrieve said water. In a nutshell that’s the storyline for this highly anticipated title.
After you’re ushered in by a pretty pointless introduction sequence that essentially boils down to a bunch of super deformed characters running around in fields, you’ll be given the chance to create your own character. There are four races available for you to choose from, all of which have their own proficiencies and weaknesses. I’d like to say that the character creation process is an intuitive one but the designers made it so damn inconvenient that you’ll have to refer to the game manual just to decide which race is right for you. After consulting your handbook to see which race fits your gameplay style you’re given the option to select the gender and outfit. Instead of giving you an instant representation of what your character will look like you’ll have to select the attire and progress to the next screen to view your avatar. If you don’t like the look you’ll have to go back a few screens and go through the whole process over again. After going through all of this trouble you’ll be given a list of professions to choose from and again, they lack any sort of description as to what advantages you can get from them. Upon putting your controller down to consult the manual for a second time you can complete your character and then finally jump into the game.
I hate to say it but Crystal Chronicles really is a tale of two very different titles. There’s a mundane single-player element and an insanely addictive multiplayer element, but even this mode is flawed. In addition to the insanely expensive GBA component the connectivity actually hinders your gameplay experience. Sure the option to view items on the GBA screen is a pretty neat gimmick but it’s just that, a gimmick, a reason to justify the pretty inane GBA-to-GC connectivity. Gameplay would remain virtually unchanged had the gamer been able to utilize four standard GameCube controllers as opposed to the GBA. As a matter of fact the GBA’s lack of functionality makes the game extremely difficult to play at times. You have one main command button and a context sensitive action button. What makes this worse is that you have to manually map the commands out yourself. When you want to utilize a different command you have to manually scroll through it and set it up. Nothing is efficient here and the controls are more counterintuitive than anything. Let’s say you’re getting pummeled by an enemy, you have a “defend” command at your disposal but you currently have attack and a couple of spells selected on your command list. If you want to defend yourself you’ll have to look down at the GBA, scroll through your list of commands until you find defend and then map it out to your trigger. Only then will you finally be able to defend yourself, after losing copious amounts of health of course. Doesn’t sound very efficient does it? Even if you do have it in your command list you’ll still have to scroll through the commands until the defend action comes up. Now let’s examine this from the GameCube controller’s perspective. You can easily map out a number of spells and commands to the buttons and then use the Z trigger as the defend function. Boy, that Game Boy Advance connectivity sure does seem a little forced doesn’t it?
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