Crystal Chronicles: Have I Been Playing All Wrong?

It feels like the GameCube era of games falls into an odd middle ground where they’re just old enough that getting your hands on them is hard, but they’re also too new to be included on Virtual Console or the Switch’s online service.  So when I saw that the Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles HD remake was on sale on the PS4, I jumped at the chance to buy it.  (My other reason is for recording the game for YouTube.  GameCube games also tend to be difficult to record, considering they aren’t HDMI-compatible.)  Having not played the game for 15 years, this recent playthrough opened my eyes to the fact that…I know surprisingly little about this game, despite having beaten it multiple times.

For one thing, a major feature of this game is multiplayer.  Which I have never tried.  Yeah, um, even when I first got this game as a duckling, I never really had the opportunity to have friends over to play the game with me.  Part of the issue might have stemmed from the fact that the GameCube was on the living room TV, which was not as accessible as the basement TV.  I would imagine this feature made this game very unique and a whole new experience.  But alas, I have never done this, and from what I’ve read online, the multiplayer present in the game’s new remake is really terrible, though I can’t say why, since I have no personal experience in the matter.

This is probably better with friends…probably…

Furthermore, as I made my way through the game on the PS4, I was often unsure of what was new and what wasn’t.  I mean, I know the voice acting was new (aside from the narration at the start of each level).  From what little I heard, I didn’t like it one bit.  I didn’t find it to be very good, plus it differed from my original GameCube experience, and I wanted no part of it.  So I promptly turned it off.  (Just go into Options and turn Voice Volume all the way down.)  Good, now encounters on the road have no verbal speaking whatsoever, and my character attacks and casts spells in complete silence.  Just as it should be.

But I am utterly clueless as to whether or not trimming Mog’s fur ever had any noticeable effect.  They said if his fur is too long in hot places, he’ll get too warm, and if it’s too short in cold places, he’ll get too chilly.  I trimmed his fur once before entering the desert, and I saw no change.  Whether this was a feature of the original game, I have no idea, because I never utilized it.  And now when you get Moogle stamps, you can mimic the appearance of other characters in the game.  Characters I am told are popular and beloved.  I paraphrase, but I recall reading as much online at one point?  Maybe I’m unique in this respect, but I couldn’t care less about the majority of random characters in the game and have no desire to look like them.  This is a new feature, right?  So…what did I get before when I collected Moogle stamps?

Oh, and are loading screens longer than they used to be?  Because…I feel like they are, but I can’t remember….  And if that’s the case, how come this old GameCube game loads slower on the PS4, hmm?

The first boss: Big Ol’ Crab

The last thing that really occurred to me when revisiting this game was how little I had experienced.  I always beat the game between years 6-8.  Actually, this was the first time I had ever advanced beyond year 6, and for the first time in my life, I saw a few scenes I had never seen before.  And there may very well be more that I have yet to experience.  I also read about people upgrading their equipment to the best weapons and armor, increasing their family relationships, and something about upgrading your family’s jobs.  I have to admit…I have no idea what they’re talking about or why I would need to put effort into any of this when I can beat the game just fine with minimal extended effort.

After looking up what others were saying online, I feel like I hardly know this game.  I even saw recommended stats for the final boss, and I’ve always beaten the game at much lower without too much trouble.  Frankly, improving your stats is a bit of a bother anyway because you don’t level up like you would in an ordinary RPG.  You have to get artifacts in each stage, beat the boss, and then choose one artifact, which will increase one stat or give you an extra heart or some such thing.  It’s a lot of work to inevitably get a measly +2 upgrade to your magic.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Crystal Chronicles.  Even playing solo, it’s a lot of fun.  I like that you have multiple characters from which to choose for varied play styles.  I like the real-time combat, coupled with the fact that you can use unlimited magic, something I usually conserve in RPGs and don’t utilize to its fullest.  As such, I always play as a Yuke so that I can cast spells quicker and with a greater range.  Even 15 years later, zapping all my foes with Thundara hasn’t gotten old.

My preferred character

Nevertheless, as I played through the game and was faced with so many features I never bothered to fully explore, I had to wonder if I was really as big of a fan of the game as I used to believe.  Because I still have no motivation to play beyond the basics.  Plus, after a time, I did start to find the gameplay to be a bit repetitive (do stronger enemies really need to take that many hits to defeat…because that is not fun).  And every encounter on the road felt more like a nuisance than an enriching addition to my adventure.  I get that it’s supposed to feel like I’m really travelling the roads with my caravan, meeting fellow travelers along the way.  But said travelers are not interesting, and I remember two of them even outright dying, and I didn’t really care all that much.

I probably sound like I dislike the game.  And that’s not really true.  I still had fun with it, even after not playing for 15 years.  The locations are interesting and varied, and I really enjoyed the game’s beautiful soundtrack, with its unique instruments that you don’t hear in most games.  But I’m clearly not experiencing the game to its fullest.  Maybe someday, I should return and try to understand the game’s mechanics to a greater depth.  Or maybe the game just can’t be truly appreciated as a single player.  Whatever the case may be, I’ve rarely played a game before where I feel both fondness and indifference.

Video from YouTube User: Virtual Bastion