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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered review: Busted antique

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered was supposed to be a remake of a beloved classic. Instead, it shows its age. Our review.

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If we've learned anything this summer from games like Super Mario Bros. and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, it's that the classics are classics for a reason and there's always a market for nostalgia. If done right, there are few better things in gaming than a piece of the past remade for a new generation. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is sadly not that. Instead of coming across like a wondrous piece of gaming nostalgia, Square Enix's remaster of the 2003 GameCube RPG feels like a relic.

We got a busted convoy

The Crystal Chronicles premise is quite different from the standard Final Fantasy fare. It's less of a traditional linear narrative and more of a story told over a number of years. The world is threatened by poisonous miasma and the only way to ward it off is to collect myrrh. Myrrh is located across the land, requiring brave adventurers to gather in a caravan and journey through different areas and dungeons. Players will find different playable areas, but also run into different characters along the way across random encounters on the overworld map.

As somebody who never played the original game, the setup is different, but it's certainly not bad. At least it wasn't until I actually started getting into the game itself. Anytime you're out in the world, you must carry around a chalice. The chalice is what you keep the myrrh in upon a dungeon's completion. But you don't keep the chalice in your inventory, like you would in most RPGs. You must physically carry the chalice at all times. That adds some difficilty to getting into combat. The easiest way around this is to have your Moogle sidekick carry the chalice around, that is until his arms get tired and he asks you do to some of the heavy lifting.

That all makes the chalice mechanic feel like a burden in itself, but it gets worse after factoring in the combat. The combat feels clunky. The controls are awful, as I would frequently mash face buttons wondering what half of them even do. Half the time it feels like my physical and magic strikes aren't registering, partly because of the bad hitboxes and partly because there often aren't any real indicators for when a hit lands. I was throwing Thunder around a lot in the early part of the game wondering if any of those spells were ever landing. Worse, you are limited to combat within the radius of the chalice. If you try and leave the chalice's radius, you will hit an invisible wall. You have to wait for the thing to catch up to you, which can make dodging boss attacks a real pain.

Speaking of boss fights, the camera makes these no better. Because you're often running around during these battles, you'll sometimes find pieces of the landscape obstruct your view. The only reason this isn't more of an issue is because the encounters feel laughably simplistic. They feel turn-based without being turn-based, in that enemies attack in tediously predictable patterns. You might die once early on, if only because you're still getting used to the terrible controls, but that's about the only difficulty you'll encounter, because the rest of the game feels formulaic and dull.

By the time I got through the first several dungeons, I didn't feel like I was making any real progress. Rather, the game started to feel mind-numbingly boring. And worse, there's no traditional leveling up in this game. The only way to increase your stats is by selecting rewards at the end of dungeons. So if you're looking to progress your character, you'll likely have to play multiple dungeons more than once. It's just so boring! But hey, maybe I'm being hard on this. Maybe playing with others will help.

Traveling for one

Before going any further, I'd like to parenthetically add that I'm mostly a solo player. I don't take part in co-op adventuring or online multiplayer very often. So I didn't quite know what to expect when I started hearing rumblings about Crystal Chronicles Remastered's multiplayer. Having attempted it, I can say that it's every bit as bad as people have said, if not worse.

Those who remember the original Crystal Chronicles know that getting multiplayer to work was like pulling teeth. Who knew three friends with Game Boy Advances, much less with three link cables? Theoretically, a modern remaster should make this process easier, right? One would think so, but no! That's not what happened here!

First off, there's no local co-op, which is a mind-numbing decision in itself. This is an online-only affair and that's assuming you can even get it working. Multiplayer in Crystal Chronicles Remastered involves using friend codes. This is bad when Nintendo does it and it's no better from Square Enix, especially because the friend codes are a limited-time use only.

But what if you're like me and have no friends? There's a lobby system in place with the option to create a multiplayer session for individual dungeons prior to entering. This will let you connect with strangers. By the time you get into a dungeon, you'll wish you hadn't. The online experience is miserable, filled with frequent rubber-banding. Worse, the combat is bad enough without adding input lag to the equation. I had multiple instances of this and was actually unable to finish a majority of dungeons online. Oh, and guess what? If you drop out of an online game, you don't keep any of what you collected. No artifacts, no gil, no Phoenix Downs, no nothing. You lose! Good day, sir!

In an effort to at least see what happens after successfully completing an online dungeon, I joined somebody else's lobby. The online experience was still awful, but we at least completed the dungeon, beat the boss, and collected our myrrh. I should amend that, actually. You see, he collected his myrrh. As it turns out, because I wasn't the host, I walked away with... you guessed it... nothing! You lose again! Good day, sir!

I'm honestly in disbelief that online multiplayer went out in this state. When your online multiplayer is somehow worse than a multiplayer system that invovles hooking up three Game Boy Advances with three link cables, you really aren't much of a remaster.

Chronicles of misery

I consider myself a retro gamer to a big extent. I love the classics. When I discover new classics, that brings me joy. When I got passed along Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered, I got excited. This would be my first time experiencing what many consider to be a classic. This sounded like fun.

Now I'm wondering what anybody saw in the original in the first place. The controls and the combat are bad. The story elements are dull. The load times are excruciatingly long and frequent. And visually, it doesn't look very polished, which makes me wonder how this is a remaster. The menus, especially, are an eyesore to look at with giant glaring fonts and ugly textures. The horrible online experience isn't just the icing on the cake, it's like someone took a cake and threw it in a blender without putting the lid on. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is a lot of things, but a classic is not one of them.


This review is based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is available now on the PlayStation Store and Nintendo eShop for $29.99. The game is rated T.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Pros
  • Bite-sized levels
  • Fusion magic is a cool idea
Cons
  • Controls are terrible
  • Combat is clunky even without having to stay within range of the chalice
  • Story is tedious
  • Long load times
  • Menus are ugly
  • Online play is a nightmare
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 4, 2020 7:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered review: Busted antique

    • reply
      September 4, 2020 11:32 AM

      I registered just to post this comment,

      Theres something really odd with this review.

      First, you never played the original game still you throw words like nostalgia relic classic, etc., always in a negative way.
      Second, most of your points seem really influenced by other reviews I've seen going around saying similar things.
      Third, this game was always designed with multiplayer in mind. I experienced how bad it was getting it to work in the old days with the gba and link cables, but still they went and completely got rid of that gimmick and made the game fully playable online and cross platform and you still find it, what? clunky? cumberson? are you getting tangled in a mess of cables and portable systems still?

      I'm having a blast with the game, the progression is easier than ever. Its the first time you can get to level multiple characters without having to go to each dungeon and grind your eyes out to get decent artifacts/gear, its way more approachable now. The coulve just updated the graphics and the controls like a bunch other ports/remasters did, but they added a bunch of new features you are not even mentioning in your article. Ill just name a few..
      Cross-Platform Multiplayer
      Cross-Platform Saves
      Remixes Of Old Tunes
      Mimic System
      New Weapons & Armor
      New Character Skins
      New dungeons
      New bosses
      Fully-voiced Characters
      New BGMs & Songs

      I don't know what is going around with this game reviews, but you guys need to stop the hate towards remakes/remasters/trilogies because they are going to stop making them and there are people who really want to get to play these games again in newer systems and you are just bullying away that chance.

      • reply
        September 4, 2020 3:40 PM

        Hey thanks for the perspective. I loved Crystal Chronicles back in the day. I’m happy to hear how much they’ve added to the remaster.

      • reply
        September 4, 2020 3:50 PM

        You pose an interesting problem for remaster+remake reviews - there are two distinct audiences: new players and those who played the old version. In my case, I loved Yakuza 1 and the Kawami remake improved on a game I already liked. Without the context of knowing the original version though, I could see how a new player wouldn't like the outdated game concepts on display.

        While I'd favor a review in the context of the original, I admit that reviews should be written from the approach of a new player as a fan of the original can parse if the remake fan already has enough context and can parse out what's been changed on their own. Does that make sense? Or have my covid cabin fever thoughts gotten the best of me?

        • reply
          September 4, 2020 4:03 PM

          I think the main thing that matters is that the reviewer divulges whether they’d played the original or not. It does put things in perspective. But, it’s important for any reviewer to get a handle on what’s changed or added to a remaster. If it takes an hour or two of research, or an email out to the game PR people, so be it. That way even people who played the game originally can get something of value out of the review.

          In FF: CC’s case, it never was promoted as a single player game. It was local coop focused and that’s where the fun was....But, it was a pretty challenging game back then too. I remember my coop partner getting very annoyed with the level of coordination we needed between us. :p

      • reply
        September 4, 2020 4:19 PM

        Uh, progression is worse than ever. I've still got the OG and a working Wii and 5 GBAs with 4 link cables. The number of times I've been kicked, the much slower pace of upgrading your town since you're the only one that can do it, not making progress in multiplayer. It's horrendous.

      • reply
        September 9, 2020 1:14 PM

        Guys you all make valid points. Here is the best review ive found so far, it points all the changes good and bad (mostly bad lets admid it) but it does make a point based on a lot of factors and a lot of experience with the original.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jyUqFEiiOU

    • reply
      September 4, 2020 4:26 PM

      Regarding what people saw in the original, it was mostly novelty. There were things in the map that only showed up on your GBA screen, so you had to coordinate with your partner players that way, and while you still have the "secret goals" it's not as fun when you can jab at your buds for taking all the stuff. You built the town together, since every player had a family in their own town. Also, the loading times are much worse in the remake than they were in the original, I'm guessing because of the way they implemented online multiplayer. It wasn't exactly a stunner visually originally, and the story is super bookended (it's all in the very beginning and the very end with almost nothing in the middle). Lots of people were disappointed with FF:CC, as it was supposed to be Square's return to FF games on a Nintendo console and it was very much so a B team game. I think people have looked more and more fondly on it over the years, and I honestly believe if they'd implemented online better it would have been a better game than its original. Unfortunately it doesn't even live up to that standard.

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