I've been waiting awhile to write this one. I had to stop myself from writing, as I could gush on forever! I hope my passion about this game fuels you to check it out later this year. As always, thanks for reading!
I am 38 years old, and I've played a lot of games in my time. There are games that I really enjoyed, games that rubbed me the wrong way, and countless titles I've dabbled with and likely forgotten. I'm sure the case is the same for all of you. Sometimes you play games that slip through the cracks of your mind, and other times you find something you'll never forget. In the mix with all of those experiences are a handful of titles that really mean something to you. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is one of those games for me.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles may not seem like a big deal now, but it definitely was back in the day. Following the release of Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo in 1996, we started to see the falling out between Nintendo and Squaresoft. The company would release two more Japan-only Super Famicom titles in 1996, and then they would make a major pivot to the Playstation brand. Squaresoft did originally work on Final Fantasy VII for the N64, but prototype was shelved and the company moved on. The falling out and subsequent bad blood between the two companies would lead to a 7-year drought of Square games on Nintendo platforms.
What was the game to mark Square-Enix's return to the Nintendo side of things? Minus a late 2002 Japan-only GBA release of Chocobo Land: A Game of Dice, it was Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles that would Square-Enix's reintroduction to Nintendo fans worldwide. Nintendo and Square-Enix had mended fences, and Nintendo fans were going to get a GameCube exclusive out of the deal. This was a major showing of Square-Enix being back in the good graces of Nintendo, as well as Nintendo showing that they were moving past their previous issues with Square-Enix.
Not only was this going to be a GameCube exclusive, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was going to be a celebration of all things Nintendo at the time. Square-Enix was going all-out on showing that they were officially ready to support Nintendo fans. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles would make use of the GameCube's 4-player feature with a multiplayer Final Fantasy experience. This would be done by utilizing the GBA and link cables, providing not just a new way to play local multiplayer, but an option for single player as well. The marriage of all these ideas, dedication to unique features, and exclusivity for the GameCube proved Square-Enix really was all-in.
Seeing this major support from Square-Enix was awesome back in the day, and did a lot to get Nintendo fans hyped up. After getting such great support on the SNES and then missing out on the N64, this return with the GameCube really meant a ton.
Unfortunately, the decision to embrace the many unique features of the GameCube and GBA ended up being more of a hindrance to players, rather than a help.
For those who really wanted to experience the multiplayer action of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, a lot was required. Having a GameCube and a copy of the game itself wasn't enough. You couldn't plug in more GameCube controllers and pass them off to friends. If you wanted to play multiplayer, you had to do so through a GBA. This meant you needed a GameCube, a copy of the game, four GBAs, and four Link Cables. Having some of those is certainly doable, but managing to have them all was a serious hurdle.
Most people knew friends with a GBA, which meant they could jump in on the action...so long as they had a Link Cable. If you had four friends that wanted to play, but not enough GBAs to go around, that meant some were out of luck. You could either trade off with friends, or just sit back and watch the action. Obviously this was all done through local multiplayer as well, which meant you had to gather everyone around in person. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was the type of game where you wanted everyone around to play, make progress, and level up as a group. If a couple friends weren't around to play, you most likely had to hang back and wait for a better time.
There were so many steps to multiplayer that it ended up being too much for a lot of people. The game that was built around multiplayer ended up being a solo experience. There were plenty of people who ended up going the game alone, and just plugged in their own GBA to use as a controller, as it provided radar information. Any game that is built from the ground up for play with friends is never going to be as enjoyable when you're the only one playing.
Even with all the requirements, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles still sold pretty well. After roughly 4 years on the market, final totals put the game at 1.3 million units sold worldwide. Not exactly a show-stopper, but not a failure by any means. When you factor in everything the game asked of its players in terms of extra hardware, the total sales come across a bit rosier. It's clear that fans were happy to have Square-Enix back, and there was an audience who really got the most out of the game.
That is where the magic lies for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Those out there who were lucky enough to experience the game as intended, with three other buddies and GBAs in use, were in for quite a treat. There really wasn't any other game like it at the time. Gathering with your real-life friends to go on an in-game adventure felt like something special. You all had to work together to make sure you could survive levels, cast spells together, heal one another, and protect those around you as the adventure got more dangerous.
Playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles with four GBAs attached felt like something out of the future. Seeing everything working with nary a hiccup was like some sort of black magic. Everyone controlling their own characters through their GBA, watching the action on the big screen, glancing down at the GBA screen for other details...it was crazy! It was a glimpse into Nintendo's dual-screened future long before we knew they'd head in that direction. Seeing it all in action really was mind-boggling, and made you feel like you were part of something really awesome.
Thanks to the Link Cables, tiny GBAs, and local multiplayer aspects of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, you had an experience that made you grow closer with your friends. You all had to be in the same area physically, and you had to sit pretty damn close to one another to play. Conversations about the game were flying left and right, with decisions on where to go and what to becoming crucial to surviving. Throwing out suggestions and plans of attack with your friends and having things fall into place felt so wonderful, and every boss beaten or level passed felt like a real accomplishment with buddies at your side.
This is one of the big reasons why Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles means so much to me. I honestly don't think I've had a multiplayer game experience as engaging ever since. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has really stuck with me all of these years, and I yearn to find my way back to something like that. Working together with friends in a local multiplayer setting, using multiple devices to get the job done, celebrating our achievements in real life...it honestly felt like going on an adventure together. It created a special bond with those friends that I'll never forget, and I'll absolutely cherish for the rest of my life.
It also doesn't hurt that the game itself is fantastic! Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is an action-RPG, which is definitely my bread-and-butter when it comes to the RPG genre. Getting in there and slashing away, casting spells, and being able to actually dodge enemy attacks is something I really love. The customization, character growth, and richer story only makes the experience that much better. It's one of those games that just feels good to play, and constantly makes you feel like you're achieving something. It had more than a fair amount of challenge, with level design that pushed cooperation, and boss battles that required a balancing act between you and your friends. It's clear a ton of thought and heart went into this game's creation.
Then there's the game's soundtrack, which deserves every single bit of praise it gets. I honestly believe Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles to have one of the best game soundtracks of all-time, and it never seems to get the attention it deserves. The game has a sound that is so unique. It's perfectly tuned to the whole experience, and makes use of signature instruments to connect not just every song, but every in-game moment. A soundtrack that can be whimsical and carefree, sullen and sad, or engaging and energetic. I've been listening to that soundtrack outside of the game itself for years, and continue to do so to this day.
Looking back on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, it seems like a game that almost broke through. It wooed over a million fans, but it never seemed to break out into the greater gaming community. The soundtrack certainly has its fans, but it failed to capture the attention of a larger audience. The game's ability to foster real connections among players will be remembered by players for years to come, but so many have never experienced it. These reasons are why I'm incredibly excited for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition.
I've always wanted more people to experience Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. There were so many things that prevented a further reach for the game back in the day. The hardware requirements, the need to be together physically, the lower install base of the GameCube, and so on. It's been one of those games that I find bittersweet to look back on. There are so many great memories tied to the game for me, but it always made me sad that more people didn't get a chance to see what the adventure had to offer.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition is going to be a chance for the game to shine once again, and potentially outshine its original reach. The game is coming out on Switch, PS4, iOS, and Android, which will certainly expand the potential audience. It's also going to have online multiplayer, which is not just expected of multiplayer games today, but a real godsend for an experience like this. As I've said, the hardware requirements of the original severely limited who could play, but being able to hop online with three friends will make it so much easier to get the adventure going.
Things get even better, as the game is going to offer cross-play as well. Being able to pool together friends across platforms makes perfect sense for a game like this. Cross-play is a welcome feature in any game nowadays, but something like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition, which was built around intense cooperation from day one, will truly benefit. Find a friend on any platform, group up to form a party, and take on an adventure together. It's certain to strengthen the bonds between players no matter where they play.
Of course, there's other bells and whistles thrown into Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition as well. Spruced up visuals and audio, new character voices, new dungeons, and a Mimic feature that lets you change up how you look. Not anything mind-blowing mind you, but still fun content to check out, especially for those who had the chance to play the original. These extra features, along with the online multiplayer are set to make Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition the definitive way to experience the game...almost.
This could just be the old gamer in me, but I'll forever say that local multiplayer experiences trump online. For me, there's something extra special about actually gathering with those you love to play a game. It's a kind of bonding experience that playing together virtually just doesn't replicate. I fully recognize that online play is easier and is a go-to feature nowadays. I use online multiplayer all the time, and combined with voice chat, I really do get a ton of fun from it. That said, if given the option to play in the same room as friends, I'll take that every single time.
Will Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition be as special to me when playing online as the original release was with its local multiplayer? I certainly will keep an open mind, but I don't think it'll be able to measure up. I'll have to run through the game online and see how it all plays out before I can make a final call. That said, just thinking about in-person experiences versus online interactions makes for a tough comparison. Who knows though? Perhaps I'll be surprised with how things play out, and I'm certainly hoping that's the case.
There's still hope for some sort of local multiplayer, but things aren't looking good. Any feature we've seen on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition sings the praises of online play, but there's no word on local multiplayer. That seems just fine for a platform like PS4, but when you think about the missed opportunities for Switch/iOS/Android, it starts to sting. Those platforms are all perfect for playing locally, as they're portable. It still wouldn't be exactly the same as the original, but it could get close. I can only hope that Square-Enix is holding onto that tidbit of news for closer to launch, but I won't hold my breath.
Even if local multiplayer doesn't make the cut, I'm still incredibly excited for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition. I want to play through the adventure with friends again so badly. The wait for the Aug. launch is going to be absolutely killer. To see that world again, hear those tunes alongside experiencing the setting, and collaborating with friends is such an enticing proposition to me. I'm eager to jump back in and see how things play out this time, and also find out what kinds of bonds are formed along the way.
To tell you the truth, I'm most excited for others to play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition. As I said, the game is very near and dear to me, and it's always been sad to think about the audience that missed out on it. I want others to give Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition a go, and I can only hope they like it as much as I do. I feel this game deserves a very notable spot in gaming history, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition might just be the thing to cement that spot in history. Older gamers who missed out the first time will have a chance to right that wrong, and new gamers will hopefully flock to it as well.
I sincerely hope Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition finds great success. It may not be revolution in terms of gameplay or visuals by today's standard, but the type of experience it provides in a multiplayer setting is just as enticing all these years later. If this game isn't on your radar, I hope I've convinced you to give it a second look. I truly believe it can provide a one-of-a-kind experience, both inside and out of the game.