Whilst Final Fantasy has seen countless spin-offs over the years, 2003’s Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was one that always felt a bit special to me. The Gamecube-exclusive offered my first foray into multiplayer in the beloved Final Fantasy franchise and I had a TON of fun adventuring through it with friends, even if it was a bit complicated to get going considering every player needed a Gameboy Advance to play.
Now, seventeen-years on, Square Enix have revived the classic adventure with a remastered release. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition brings all of the adventuring that players were used to, given it a fresh lick of paint, and added some additional content to really test your skills. However, they’ve also changed up the way that multiplayer is handled – for better and worse…
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition takes place in a world that has been cursed with a deadly miasma, with powerful crystals quelling the effect to keep its inhabitants safe. However, these crystals require a rare ingredient called myrhh to work, which can only be gathered by adventurers who are brave enough to venture through the treacherous locales where it’s found. Luckily, you’re one of those brave adventurers, so you head out to explore, gather myrhh, and maybe find the source of what’s causing all the miasma in the first place…
Ultimately, the tale is a bit more bare-boned than your typical Final Fantasy adventure, but it offers enough charm within its world and characters that it’s easy to invest yourself into it. You shouldn’t expect a story full of twists-and-turns, but you should expect one that’ll keep you interested in unravelling the source of the world’s misfortune and fixing it.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition is all about dungeon-crawling, with the player leading their own created character through an array of treacherous locales, all whilst beating up all sorts of baddies in hack-and-slash and magic-blasting action, solving an assortment of cleverly designed puzzles, and collecting loot to improve your capabilities along the way. It takes all of the basics of the typical dungeon-crawling formula, but adds a charming Final Fantasy vibe to the mix.
One of the first things that you’ll do is create your own character, with four classes on offer for players to choose between that bring with them their own strengths and weaknesses. They’re all very cutesy in design and there are a few elements of their physical appearance that you can alter, so you really will feel like you have your own unique adventurer to journey with. Actually improving your character’s capabilities doesn’t take the typical Final Fantasy ‘levelling up’ approach though, but is instead based around collecting different stat-boosting artefacts and upgrading your gear in the town. This encourages multiple dungeon runs, with the materials required to upgrade collected as you progress – it’ll certainly give you the incentive to play through each dungeon a handful of occasions. In fairness, it never feels repetitive, but the Final Fantasy fan inside me did wish I could’ve done some traditional levelling up too…
Remember that treacherous miasma that I told you about? Well, that also just so happens to be found within dungeons, so you’ve got to keep yourself out of its way if you don’t want to take a hit to your health. Fortunately, you’re equipped with a unique Crystal Chalice that emits an area of protection around you, meaning no miasma can harm you as long as you remain within its area of effect. When you play in single player, you’ll have a useful Moogle to help you out by carrying the Crystal Chalice for you – sure, he might get tired at times, but he does a good job of keeping you protected. However, when you play in multiplayer, you’ll have to organise the carrying of the Crystal Chalice with your allies. Admittedly, this could be a bit of a pain at times (no one wants to be the chalice carrier, right?), but it fits in contextually within the world and actually adds to the charm of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition’s unique experience.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition can be played through in its entirety in single player and there is an enjoyable adventure to be had as you work through its array of creative and challenging dungeons. There are plenty of familiar Final Fantasy enemies to be found along the way too, with the boss battles especially standing out as impressive encounters that’ll push your combat skills to their limits. It all translates well to a single-player experience and you won’t feel limited by a lack of allies joining you in battle if you prefer to go at it alone.
Still, there’s no denying that Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition is at its very best when you’re playing through it with friends, with support for up to four-players in online multiplayer. I have to note that the lack of local multiplayer was a bit disappointing given that it was how I experienced playing it in my younger years with my friends (in the most inaccessible way ever by having all players requiring Game Boy Advances), though Square Enix have released a free-to-play Lite version of the game to make amends for this – as long as one player owns the full game, your friends can join you across a decent selection of the game’s dungeons. It’s a great feature and one that I’ve taken advantage of for a good few hours already…
Multiplayer brings with it some cool elements of teamwork, with players able to string attacks together to unleash special fusion abilities whilst some puzzles are catered for multiple players to work together – it’s clear that teamwork is built around exploration as much as it is beating up enemies. The core elements of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition can be quite simple in design, but playing with friends adds more strategy to the fray that just feels incredibly satisfying and fun throughout. Honestly, if you can get a decent group of players to join you in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, you’re going to have a good time.
That being said, Square Enix haven’t made online play the smoothest of processes, with players having to manually invite players to their game through the use of codes (which is something that’s owed to the cross-play nature of the game, so I can’t hate on it too much). What did annoy me was the fact that I’d have to make an all-new game session to change dungeons, with groups only able to re-play the same dungeon after completing it. It’s all really fiddly and counter-intuitive, especially when you consider how far online gaming has come. It’s a shame: Square Enix have done a great job in offering a Lite version of the game for players to enjoy together with no strings attached, but shot themselves in the foot by making the whole system a bit complicated to enjoy together.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition brings with it additional content that wasn’t included in the original game, with more dungeons thrown into the mix to give players a tougher challenge, revamped visuals that offer some impressive landscapes to adventure through, and voice acting to add a more cinematic vibe to the experience (even if it is a bit cringey). It’s certainly a well-presented game and you won’t feel like you’re playing something that originally released in 2003… well… outside of the occasional sketchy texture.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition offers an entertaining adventuring experience that can be enjoyed when played solo or with friends – it’s just a shame that the process of playing online with others is so finicky in design. Boy, did it make me miss the glory days of being able to play in local multiplayer, even IF the free ‘Lite’ edition of the game is a delight.
If you can look past that though, you really are in for a fun time with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition. It can be guilty of keeping its gameplay mechanics feeling simple in design, but there’s something so charming about its adventure that it’s easy to find yourself completely hooked in, especially if you’re already a fan of Final Fantasy. Add three friends into the mix and you’ll quickly find that it offers something a bit special…. just make sure you’ve got the patience to keep setting up online dungeon runs.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch