Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered review for PS4, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PS4
Also On: Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is an updated version of the GameCube cult classic that originally released in 2003. I?ll say cult classic simply because it?s not the first game that tends to spring to mind when discussing your favorite Final Fantasy entry, but it is fondly remembered due to its focus on cooperative gameplay, its charming visuals, and a soundtrack that stands out as exceptional in a series that?s already known for excellent music. 

The remastered version of Crystal Chronicles updates the visuals a bit for modern consoles, bringing everything into the HD era of gaming, and as a whole, it?s a nice looking update that won?t necessarily blow anyone away, but still manages to capture the charm of the original release nicely. Also, the soundtrack is still excellent here, bringing back classic tunes from the first game with updated versions of existing songs, and it?s easy to see why Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles music is so well-regarded.

If you?re not familiar with the original game, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is essentially a dungeon crawler RPG. There?s no traditional experience or leveling system; instead, you?ll tackle a series of progressively difficult dungeons in order to obtain loot which will in turn enhance your character?s three primary stats, namely attack, magic, and defense. Your character falls into one of four races, with two genders for each race. The races available effectively work like classes, focused on areas like melee attacks, magic, or a combination of the two.

The storyline focused on your character of choice has you venturing out into the world from your village to collect a substance called Myrrh, which is gathered from a tree at the end of each dungeon you complete. You?ll carry with you a small chalice, which also serves as a protective shield against encroaching energy called miasma. When traversing a dungeon, you, your Moogle companion, or other players if trying out co-op, will carry the chalice around with you. While in the vicinity of the chalice (displayed on-screen as a small circle surrounding your group) you won?t take damage from the environment, just from enemy attacks. However, if you venture outside of this circle, you?ll see your health quickly deplete. 

The use of the chalice, which has long been a point of contention for people that played the original game, is pretty much identical to the original here. If you found the mechanic of needing to babysit the bucket, as it is often referred to by fans, to be somewhat annoying, you?ll likely still dislike the mechanic here. If you?re playing with a dedicated group of friends and someone is willing to take on the bucket carrying role it?s easy enough to manage, but if you play with complete strangers who lack a form of communicating with you, it can be a bit more of a problem in this release. 

Which, in turn, brings me to how multiplayer has been handled in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered. The original GameCube release featured local co-op only for multiplayer, which also required each player to have their own GameBoy Advance attached to the system via a link cable, to assist with inventory management, basic controls, shopping in town, and so on. It led to Crystal Chronicles being one of the most unique multiplayer experiences on the boxy console, and for those that managed to pull it off, the experience of playing through the entire game with three additional friends in tow tended to be a rewarding experience overall. 

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered, on the other hand, abandons the local co-op mode in favor of online multiplayer only. Yes, you can absolutely play through the game alone if you so choose, but it?s always been clear that Crystal Chronicles was a co-op experience first and foremost, so multiplayer has always been the ideal way to go. When I heard that online would be the only option for this, it didn?t strike me as unreasonable, considering it would be somewhat difficult to emulate the whole four GBA?s connected to a console set-up without considerably overhauling certain aspects of the game. However, in my time spent with this remastered version, the online multiplayer definitely loses something in the translation so to speak. 

You can enter into multiplayer in a couple of different ways. One is through your main menu, accessible when on the world map. From here you can link up with other people on your friends list, or look for open rooms with strangers to join that have opened up their session for multiplayer. Alternatively, you can also venture to a dungeon, and before entering, choose multiplayer instead of singleplayer. This latter option rarely felt ideal to me though, as the game wouldn?t wait to find other players for a dungeon and match me with them, instead, it would often dump me into the dungeon by myself, and since I chose multiplayer as my option going in, my Moogle companion would be missing and I?d be forced to lug the chalice around all by my lonesome. 

The other issues, and likely the biggest problem with the game, is that regardless of how you join into the multiplayer mode you?ll never really be able to play through the entire game from beginning to end with a group intact unless the other three people are willing to give up their story progress to do so. Even then, they can?t really pair up with you outside of dungeons, making your village and city stops feel sort of empty and certainly different than the original experience back in 2003. Online multiplayer absolutely makes sense in 2020, and ideally would serve as a way to bring even more people together, but preventing story progression for everyone but the host is a severe misstep. 

So, as it stands, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is a tough game to suggest for everyone. Playing through the game alone works perfectly fine, you?ll still get a pretty good experience provided you are willing to put up with the repetitive nature of the action combat and revisiting dungeons over and over. And the online multiplayer component works well too, I had no real issues connecting with other players, no problems with lag or disconnects. But the core co-op experience feels decidedly empty and does a poor job of echoing back to the experience I had with the original game, so much so that I leave the game a tad disappointed overall. 

Note: Square Enix provided us with a Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B-