Fantasy series will be making its long overdue return to a Nintendo
home console system later this year when Square Enix releases Final
Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the Nintendo GameCube. For those
with short memories, the last time a Final Fantasy game graced
a Nintendo console was back in the days of the Super Nintendo, a good
ten years ago.
The game will
differ slightly from what Final Fantasy gamers have come to
expect. This time around, you have the option of tackling the virtual
adventure with a group of four as well as the usual solo play mode.
Assuming you can gather all da boyz together at the same time every
time you get the itch, such group play should naturally make the game
more amusing (hell, anything and everything is funny when you’re
hanging with your pals). The downside, beyond ongoing four-way
scheduling conflicts, is that this isn’t a sports, racing, or shooter
game – it’s an RPG. So you’d best find some hardcore obsessive types
to pal around with (if they’re the type that carries a deck of cards
around with them - and I don’t mean the kind with four suits, either -
you’ve got yourself a winner) because working your way through an
entire Final Fantasy experience this way (and we all know how
long-winded they can get) is going to require a lot of time,
attention, and interaction between players.
the literature, to “get the most out of” the game, it’s suggested that
each player hook up his or her own Game Boy Advance to the GameCube.
Naturally, this is not a requirement to play; but it amounts to yet
another cheap cross-promotional sales pitch ala Animal Crossing
and its little islanders. Should you be one of those sheep given to
doing everything you’re told, or just one of those greedy yuppie
progeny who just has to have it all, the GBA linkup
gives the option to view your status screen throughout. This little
extra will allow you to perform the usual time consuming RPG item
swaps and reorgs without slowing down the game for the entire team.
Also, we are told, “certain players will be able to retrieve
information that may not be available to other players”. The player
can then share this information to help the group in their collective
quest, or hold this information close to the vest for their own
personal benefit like a businessman playing the stock market. Good
news for the enlightened among us: just like in the real world, (but
without quite getting to the karmic justice stage), there doesn’t seem
to be any logical reason or real long term benefit to greedily
hoarding said tidbits in pursuit of blatant self-interest. There are
four players in the game, and one playing field – no individual side
quests, no split screen. Everyone’s playing on the same team, and
they’d better learn to get it together before all-consuming greed and
xenophobia bring them down, individually and collectively. If that
isn’t a message to Bush-era America, and the rest of the world, for
that matter, then I don’t know what is.
Chronicles also takes a
departure from the standard Final Fantasy fight scheme. Turn
and menu-based action is now history. Action will take place in
real-time (more in line with PC RPGs than console standards), and
players gain the ability to “charge up” for a stronger attack (Dragonball
Z fans should be ecstatic). FMV also have gone the way of the
Yugo in place of real-time cinemas. Summon spells are gone -
players have to work together (ooh, alien concept!) to perform attacks
of that power level. Crystal Chronicles is also more mission
based than previous entries in the series.
Now after all
that, I’m sure there’s a few of you out there jumping up and down,
yelling “the plot! What about the plot!?!” Well, here it is: you play
as a member of the Crystal Caravan, a group sent out into the big bad
world to retrieve and refill the supply of “Mirula droplet” crystals
necessary to heal the world of a dark plague. Naturally, said
crystals are only to be found in areas overrun with monsters who, like
everyone else in a society where people buy into the “dog eat dog”
mentality foisted on us by our corporate would-be masters, want to
prevent you from succeeding (doubtless in the misapprehension that
“one more out of the way” will somehow give them better positioning,
more colloquially known as the “zero sum economy” theory). Who would
have thought Square could be so unintentionally savvy?
One last weird
twist: throughout the game, one player in your team will have to carry
a crystal cage (which will most likely contain one of the Mirula
droplets). Each member of the team will have to stay close to the
teammate carrying the cage, because if they were to fall out of the
range of the cage, a decrease in health (possibly even death) would
occur. During huge fight scenes, the cage can be placed on the ground
so everybody can concentrate on the fight. Don’t ask me, I didn’t
write the story.
Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
is expected to ship early next year for the Nintendo GameCube.