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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles

Preview By: Siou Choy

Developer:  Game Designers Studio (Square Enix)
Publisher:  Square Enix
Genre:  RPG
Est. Release:  February 2004
Posted:  7-31-03

The Final 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.

According to 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.

Crystal 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.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is expected to ship early next year for the Nintendo GameCube.

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