When Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles first released on the Nintendo GameCube back in 2004, it was a pretty big deal. After all, it had been nearly a decade since a new entry in the series had released on a Nintendo console, and it seemed that there were some hard feelings between Nintendo and Square. Fast forward 16 years, and Final Fantasy games are pretty common on Nintendo platforms. Now, Square Enix has brought Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition to modern consoles, raising the question of whether its initial success might have been tied to its novelty.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is a bit of a departure for the franchise. Rather than a turn-based RPG, Crystal Chronicles is a dungeon-crawler for one-to-four players. In the game, the world has been covered by a substance called "Miasma." In order to protect their town, Caravanners must travel the world collecting a substance called "Myrrh" inside a Chalice. Myrrh is used to power the crystals that protect each town from Miasma, and the game's narrative shows players what can happen to their town should they fail in their quest.
Crystal Chronicles can be played as a single-player campaign, but the experience just isn't that enjoyable solo. Because of the Miasma that surrounds the game's world, players must stay within range of the Chalice at all times. In multiplayer, one of the players must carry it in order to navigate each area or dungeon, but in single-player, your Moogle partner does the carrying; well, most of it, at least. Often, the character will grow tired and force you to pick up the slack. Then, after a few seconds, they'll be ready to pick it up again, but the process repeats itself so often that it becomes frustrating, and dealing with the Chalice at all feels like an unnecessary annoyance.
The single-player campaign truly is a solo affair, as well. Your caravan isn't filled out with computer-controlled players as in dungeon crawlers like Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Instead, it's just one character taking on each dungeon. This really makes the game lonely and a bit boring, as all the enemy's attention will be on that single character, making it more difficult to do anything too advanced. Instead, players will find themselves attacking, then dodging, and repeating this over and over to defeat each enemy. This becomes monotonous fairly quickly.
The monotony of the combat is complicated by the game's controls. Players have one button that controls attacking, defending, and using magic, and toggling through these choices is a chore. It's easier in multiplayer when players have other partners helping them, but it felt pointless to spend the time switching to the defend command when it's much easier to just move out of an enemy's range.
The highlight of Crystal Chronicles has always been the multiplayer gameplay. On Nintendo GameCube, the process required each player to have their own Game Boy Advance to use as a controller, as well as a link cable. While that set-up was cumbersome, the pay-off felt worth it. It's technically simpler to engage in multiplayer sessions in Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, but it doesn't seem better than the old method. A big part of that is the absence of couch co-op, which is unfortunate, to say the least.
That's not to say the multiplayer situation is all bad. The game offers multiple options, including the ability to host a game, join another player's game, or jump into a quick match that's already in progress. Jumping into a quick multiplayer session with a group of other players is a blast when everything works the way it's supposed to, and it's one of the highlights of playing the game on mobile. Dungeons aren't terribly long in the game, so jumping into an in-progress match is a great way to play for those looking for a quick session.
Load times in Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition are agonizingly long. If fans need any kind of reminder that the game originally released 16 years ago, the load times will quickly show the game's age. The load times also made it feel like a chore to visit areas that weren't required. This is particularly disappointing, as the game's presentation really has stood the test of time, and it should be more enjoyable to see the game's world.
The Final Fantasy franchise has always been known for its music, and Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition is no exception. There are some tracks that prove a bit more grating than others, but overall, the quality is quite strong. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the game's voice acting. Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition adds new voice work that wasn't in the original game, and it mostly falls flat. There's something that just feels off about it, and it never feels like it fits the established world.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition feels like a squandered opportunity. The game has seen a number of delays over the last year, but it doesn't feel like Square Enix utilized that time to improve the game over its predecessor. The voice work is rough, the controls are frustrating, load times are laughable, and the lack of couch co-op is glaring. The game's music and overall presentation are great and multiplayer is still fun after all these years, but it's hard to recommend the game when it feels like such a step back.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android, and PC. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PlayStation 4 and on iPhone.