Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Review — The Tedious Journey Of A Crystal Caravan
16 years later, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is the same immersive JRPG held back by a battle system blander than Desert Bus' gameplay.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition
Action RPG, Japanese RPG
Review copy provided by the publisher
Back when Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles released on GameCube, I was still a middle school student. The game ended up in my hands, and is still stored right beside me 16 years later. To be honest, FFCC was one of the first games in my life I could play for hours while still thinking it was incredibly lacking in some fronts. This Remastered Edition allowed me to check and see if I’d still felt this way as an adult. Sadly, I still do, even now that an online multiplayer mode was added.
“The best word to describe Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles by far is ‘unconventional.'”
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is set in a world plagued by the Miasma, a poison deadly to all of the four Tribes the player can create their characters from. The only way to live normally in this world is under the protection of giant crystals, shielding populated areas from Miasma. These crystals slowly end up corrupted as well, so each year, each settlement has no choice but to send a Crystal Caravan to travel the world, and bring back Myrrh, a special substance that can purify crystals. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is a JRPG, so obviously, Myrrh can only be found deep inside dungeons after a boss fight.
The best word to describe Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles by far is “unconventional.” The scenario and world-building are the best aspects of the game, but the way the story is told is quite unique. The game’s World Map is in the form of roads followed by your caravan, with icons symbolizing towns or dungeons. As you reach crossroads, you have a chance to trigger events that will expose some of the lore, through meetings with other caravans and various NPCs.
These events are then collected in your diary, including your excursions in dungeons. Once you collect enough Myrrh for a year, which is the equivalent of clearing three dungeons, you go back to your hometown (which you named at the beginning of the game), with a huge feast celebrating your return. There, all the events that happened that year in-game will be recited through your diary, with your own characters and their families dancing and singing. It’s a pretty nice feeling and really makes you feel like you’ve traveled a long way, in life and in the world. FFCC perfectly manages to bring forth a feeling of travel, perhaps even more than some current open-world games.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is unconventional in how it doesn’t tell players much — it’s up to you to experiment and figure most things out. I personally like this way of doing things, proceeding with trial and error, but it’s definitely not for everyone. FFCC is a game one needs to get used to. It can take a few hours, or it can never click. The game doesn’t even tell you your town of origin won’t be populated unless you actually make multiple characters. As each character has a family with a different Job, which you’ll set. You’ll only be able to shop or forge items in your own town if you made Merchant, Blacksmith etc characters. You can also influence what the families at home will sell depending on the gifts you send them by mail while you’re on the road.
Each character in your Caravan holds heir own money and can only exchange items via a common storage accessible in your hometown. With this way of doing things, complete with the diary recording of each event, rather than Final Fantasy, Crystal Chronicles feels much more like another series of Square Enix, Romancing SaGa. Something that makes perfect sense now, as compared to my teen days, I noticed right away producer Akitoshi Kawazu’s name in the game’s credits, who is the creator of the SaGa series.
Unconventional doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and all of this would make Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles a captivating and immersive experience, if not for the battle system. In 2004, I thought it spoiled the rest of the game, and it still does. FFCC is an action RPG with, again, unconventional mechanics, that do work together in theory. However, as you play, you’ll always feel like no one really play tested the game with the same mindset as a normal player. The battle system simply isn’t fun at all. As I previously explained, the Miasma is everywhere, meaning the only way for caravans to travel safely is to carry a Crystal Chalice, forming a safe zone around a caravan.
In the dungeon exploration gameplay, this translates to a very small safe zone, represented by a circle around the Crystal Chalice. Leaving that zone makes you rapidly lose HP and die. Moreover, someone needs to carry the Chalice: A duty handled by a flying Moogle in single player. That Moogle closely follows the player, but can get tired as well, meaning you’ll have to wait for him, and it’s honestly quite annoying. The Crystal Chalice can be carried by the player themselves as well when the Moogle is tired, but most notably to solve certain interruptors-based puzzles. In multiplayer, the Moogle is absent, and its up to one of the players to carry the Crystal Chalice, and it’s needless to say the most boring role to fulfill.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has no EXP or levels, with the only ways to strengthen a character being forging better equipment and picking a single stat upgrade such as “Strength +1” or “Magic +2” after clearing a dungeon. The four Tribes in the game each have their specialization as well. The Clavat are all-rounders, the Lilty focus on strength, the Yuke on magic, and the Selkie on having a faster charging time for attacks or magic.
Speaking of Magic, there’s no MP in FFCC either, and to use spells, you’ll have to first get Magic Stones such as “Cure” and “Fire” by defeating monsters. You actually lose these Stones once you clear a dungeon, meaning if you’re specializing in Magic, you’ll have to get them back each time. This doesn’t even count as farming though, as the drop rates are extremely generous. The first monsters you kill after entering a dungeon will almost always drop you magic stones. Note that you can also earn accessories granting you usage of a specific spell at all times.
Moreover, you can also fuse magic stones to create more powerful or brand new Magic by stacking different stones in your Command List. The order in which you stack them will trigger different results as well. Simply put, stacking two Fire in your Command List will fuse them into Fira. Stacking three will fuse into Firaga. Those Tier 3 magic abilities are quite powerful and make many encounters much easier.
This is another problem of the battle system overall, though. The first hours of dungeon exploration in Crystal Chronicles will feel incredibly difficult and unnatural as you get used to the game, but soon enough, you’ll realize it’s incredibly easy, yet tedious and annoying. Enemy patterns are quite simple to remember, and the most effective strategy is to “bait” enemies. Getting in their attack range so they initiate their attack, while you quickly back off and thus have time to charge your own attack. As charged strikes and especially magic, which always need to be charged, will deal much more damage.
While there is some variety, like ghost enemies which can only be damaged after first hitting them with the holy magic, battles in Crystal Chronicles feel like a repetitive chore. They are needlessly long as well, once you start redoing some of the early dungeons but in higher difficulty. Most mobs feel like HP sponges. They’re easy to dodge and to deal with, and yet take forever to defeat.
Again, the game is generous with drops too, so after a few hours, you’ll also have an incredible stock of Phoenix Downs — an item which automatically revives you as long as you have one in your Command List. It makes most bosses into a tedious chore you need to go through, slowly chipping away at their HP bar. Plus, the game almost always makes an enemy drop a Cure magic stone, ensuring you an easy, unlimited way to recover HP.
In Multiplayer, fusing Magic by yourself through your Command List isn’t possible. Instead, you’ll have to coordinate with your teammates and cast each separate Magic you want to fuse at the right moment. It sounds cool in theory, but again, ultimately just feels like adding another hurdle to the already bothersome battle system. Once two in-game years have passed after clearing a dungeon, the Myrrh in that dungeon will be replenished, but the layout will include new, tougher enemies. There are high difficulty post-game dungeons as well. However, it’s simply not fun to revisit these, even in multiplayer. At the end of the day, you’ll constantly tell yourself you could use your own and your friends’ time in a better way.
“It’s a shame many quality-of-life improvements that could have been made to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles aren’t present in this Remastered Edition.”
Lastly, I’d also add it’s a shame many quality-of-life improvements that could have been made to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles aren’t present in this Remastered Edition. Certain issues are really baffling like being unable to check your characters’ stats and inventory in the character selection menu on the world map. You need to pick a character, go inside a town, and then you’re allowed to check the inventory menu. Want to check another character’s stats? You’d like to buy that item you’ve seen at the shop with another character’s money? You’ll have to go back to the world map, change to this character, and enter back town again.
Speaking of the towns, some of them are particularly big and it’s a pleasant surprise. Once you’re done shopping, a shortcut to instantly return to the world map would have greatly helped, instead of having to walk all the way back to the exit. It’s incredibly puzzling such simple improvements weren’t added to the game, despite the development team going as far as making online multiplayer crossplay between PS4, Switch, and mobile.
The scenario and world-building of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles are by far the best aspects of the game and what will push players forward, clearing dungeons despite the tediousness. Some of these flaws were corrected in following Crystal Chronicles games. Perhaps future remasters, remakes, or new projects from Square Enix could make everyone remember the Crystal Chronicles series for brighter reasons. Meanwhile, if you really want to try out FFCC Remastered Edition, out of curiosity, nostalgia, or anything else, I highly suggest grabbing the trial version (PS4, Switch) first, which also allows online multiplayer.
Editor’s Note: We’ve removed the ribbing about “unseasoned food” from the flavor text; it’s an internet joke that definitely didn’t fit the tone of the article.