We’re reviewing the remastered version of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles on the PlayStation 4, a game that’s also being released for the Switch and which can even be played on mobile devices. How does it the game, originally released for the GameCube, fare in 2020?
I remember that when the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was released, it felt a bit out of reach for many gamers. This wasn’t because of some incredibly intricate gameplay mechanics that made the game too difficult though, it was because of the hardware limitations it imposed on players who wanted to play cooperatively. Co-op play required you to connect a pair of GameBoy Advance handhelds to your GameCube, and people just didn’t always have access to that hardware combination – let alone additional handhelds to play with four players at once.
It was a very cool feature though, as it used the GameBoy Advance screen to display extra info, much like the underused PlayStation Second Screen app can do. Sure, a bit cumbersome to set up, but highly innovative and a cult classic for that reason alone. And despite the lack of a display screen on the DualShock controllers, I was looking forward to finally trying out the game and its cooperative mode in 2020.
Unfortunately though, local co-op was scrapped from the 2020 remaster, so you’re left only with the option to play online with others. Of course that didn’t have to be a huge issue, but the way it’s been implemented is… odd. Instead of being side by side with your friend (or a stranger) for the duration of the adventure, you only stand shoulder to shoulder once you’re in a dungeon and lose each other again when you exit. Because only one player gets awarded for completing the dungeon you also don’t get the sense that you’re adventuring together – instead just supporting someone and hoping someone will return the favor later. It requires multiple playthroughs of the same dungeons and it’s just too complex to keep the experience fun and accessible.
You get cross-platform support when you play online, but I would have much rather had more of a sense of playing together – and ideally through local co-op! This was the main draw for the original GameCube release, and it’s sad that being in 2020 means we can finally transcend platform boundaries but have to lose the ability to play the game as is was originally conceived.
But although that appeal was stripped, what’s left is still a quality remaster. The art style is incredibly charming, and the HD upgrade (thanks to the cartoon-like style) only emphasizes this more. The music is also excellent, and the voice work has received special attention for this 2020 release as well. And, and this certainly isn’t a given when it comes to remasters, there is also extra content to be enjoyed – both cosmetic and in terms of additional dungeons to explore.
The gameplay itself revolves around rare trees and the myrrh that grows on them, as that is what powers the crystals that protect people from the dangers outside of their village. The only problem is that myrrh trees only grow inside dungeons, and thus the setup for an action RPG is born. And if you look past the poor implementation of co-op play it’s a very competent one as well, with simple but effective combat mechanics. There’s an additional mechanics when playing together that involves carrying and protecting the vessel that collects the myrhh, which makes for an interesting dynamic as the player that carries it can’t fight and thus needs protection. You can easily tell how well that would work sitting on a couch together. Play in single player, and you have an in-game companion who does the job for you.
There’s a real gem of an action RPG here somewhere, but it’s being held back from unleashing its potential due to a lack of local cooperative play and an iffy implementation of the online version. Let’s hope this gets patched in post-release, but we’re not holding our breath.