Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition reviews

The joy that I had when Square Enix announced Crystal Chronicles Remastered was massive, even shadowing news for other games that I was expecting. As if it was a miracle, they launched a remaster that seemed unlikely, almost impossible to happen. Soon, upon launching the game and playing a few hours with my other two fellow caravaneers, I knew that this was going to be a rough journey.

It's not that FFCCR is a bad remaster at all. Although superficial, it certainly adds a lot of things, like new rearranged music, new re-skinned harder dungeons, and a few other things. The fact is that even without these new additions, I would still get the game regardless. Still, I'm grateful that we get this game with all this new stuff. However, as they say, the devil is in the details, and with the precision of an ice pick that pierces a big chunk of solid ice, little details are the demise of these chronicles. But let's not get too ahead, and let's talk about the new stuff before we get there.

The first thing you'll notice about this remaster is the HD graphics. The work fo the developers did in the Game Cube was outstanding in regards to art direction and visuals, and to find that they still hold up pretty well to this day is remarkable. They're a testament to their skills and crafts. In some instances, you'll find low-res textures here and there, but they're just little stains in the overall great work.

Back in the day when the original launched, I didn't have a sound system to enjoy the music as it should, but now that I have one, it was like falling in love with the same person all over again. I consider Kumi Tanioka's work on the music a masterpiece, and that is still true to this day. As far as new music goes, I could only recall two new songs (that fit gorgeously within the original score), and also every new dungeon has a rearranged song with different instruments or vocals. In some cases, I even prefer the new rearranged work. They are that good.

The opening and ending themes were re-recorded, and it seems that a lot of people didn't like them at all. The first time I heard Morning Star (the opening song) in one of the pre-launch trailers, I didn't like it either. But, hearing it again when launching the game, my opinion changed immediately. I can see why people prefer the originals better (as I do prefer them also). However, they're still pretty good, and I like that they went that far to re-record these songs to make things fresh. We now have two versions of two already incredible songs. Usually, a remastered game doesn't have the luxury of having new songs but the fact that they went extra with one of the strong points of the original game it's pretty amazing.

When Square Enix first announced this game, they hinted that it will feature voice acting. I was hoping that it will have the option of hearing the Japanese voices, but as it seems for other important stuff, the voice acting was region-locked, so only Japanese audio for Japanese copies. As a general rule, I tend to play games or watch movies in their original language, since a lot of the expression and original intentions can be lost in translation. It's not that western voice actors are bad; one only needs to play any Rockstar game to hear good acting. But, I can't imagine why RPGs from Japan tend to have a cartoony and, at times, cringy acting. That said, I think the acting in FFCCR wasn't that bad; however, it wasn't that good either, so I turn off the VO. The game initially was meant to be played without it, so it wasn't a particularly hard choice to make, at least turning the VO off doesn't turn off the dungeons' intro narration. I don't think it's that hard to put dual audio in a game. After all, other SE games had it, my uneducated guess is that it definitely cost more money than not doing it, although I don't know anything about game development, so maybe I'm wrong.

The new dungeons are counterparts of the original ones, that means that 13 dungeons (not including the final dungeon) have a new skin. They come in different forms like one dungeon that was set at night now is set in the afternoon, one is now completely frozen, or other that is only the boss fight. They also come with new re-skinned and re-sized enemies with more powerful attacks and swarms of them. They can present a real challenge, but unlike the original dungeons that increase their difficulty by each cycle you complete (capped at LVL 3), the new ones have a fixed difficulty. It means that no matter how many times you beat them, their difficulty stays the same. Although they're hard, once you complete them, there's not much reason to replay them because the spoils you get there are awkwardly sorted between them.

For example, some of them only give you items and equipment for a specific race, or others only give you basic equipment that is not better than the best equipment you get in the base game. And there's also mimics; the game's new system to change your appearance, basically skins of NPCs for your character. These skins could be a great way to improve replayability, but instead of evenly divide them into all the new dungeons, they made the weird decision to put them (or at least the majority) in the last harder dungeons. It doesn't help that they're gender and race locked, which is a thing that I can understand I guess, however, what bothers me a lot is that some races and genders have more skins than others. And what is truly mind-boggling is that in some cases they're repeated, meaning that you'll get two identical skins, but the only difference is their name. In the original game, you could collect stamps hidden in dungeons to play a (bad) racing minigame, in this remaster they removed that mini-game, instead we now get mimic skins, which are better in my opinion.

Back to the dungeons. Given the number of enemies and difficulty, these are meant to be played with at least two people. Which leads us to this remaster's main problem. The original game was a multiplayer game in its design, local multiplayer, to be precise. You needed to co-operate with your team members to create the most powerful spells, to smoothly advance, and most importantly, to create your narrative with them; both personal and as a caravan. So advancing together, going to towns together, being in events together was mandatory to be immersed in this world.

Sadly, FFCCR doesn't build upon the multiplayer design of the original. It builds around its single-player. While it's not as bad as a lot of people say, it certainly is a different, more condensed, and sterile experience than what you get while playing multiplayer. Now, instead of being in the same caravan. You and your friends can only interact in dungeons, so a big part of the immersion is severed with this decision. It only adds salt to the injury that NPCs in events and towns, and even your character refer to you as a caravan with more people.

The main problem with this immersion-breaking decision it's more pronounced when doing dungeons together with friends. For some creative or technical desition, the only person that can get a Myrrh drop after beating a dungeon is the host (For those unfamiliar, to advance in this game, you need to get 3 Myrrh drops every year. They're acquired only in dungeons), this means that for every one of us to complete a year playing together, we needed to play through 9 dungeons, and we could only choose from the exact pool of dungeons, so we ended repeating a lot of them over and over, not to mention that the boss appearing cutscenes and mail receiving cutscenes after beating it were completely unskippable. The issue of advancing so slow through every year but getting stronger is that you overpower yourself too quickly, and it only makes your playtime more hollow and boring. I can only wonder how caravans with four persons manage themselves. The fact that making and disbanding your party was so clumsy and slow didn't help at all. Oh, and by the way, online play is region-locked. Thankfully my friends and I were in the same region so this wasn't an issue for us, but it was just luck. Maybe is the price for playing cross-platform?

I read that some people in Reddit work around the issue of repeating dungeons and getting OP through only focus on one person advancing. It is somehow a solution, but it has a lot of compromises and also this is a problem that needed to be solved by the developers, not the players. Clearly, playing together with friends was not the objective of the developers when making this remaster, because is easier to play at your own pace but one can only have so much fun playing with strangers, and because there are only preset messages that are very limited, to say the least, communication with other players isn't that fun. So more often than not, you'll be paired with people that maybe isn't on the same page as you in terms of how you want to proceed, attack, or navigate.

One of the cooler things of the NGC version was the spell mechanic, in which you could fuse spells with the other players via summoning rings, you needed to be precise and have synergy to cast the most powerful of them. They tweaked that summoning ring with a timer, which I don't think is better but given lag and internet delay, its a great solution and it also maintains the fun to cast. Loading times weren't an issue at first, but steadily they became a burden.

The game looks beautiful and all, but it doesn't seem like a particularly heavy-texture game, and given that dungeons and towns are pretty small, one can only wonder why loading times take so long and why are they so regular. The game has a lot of glitches and crashes that only made our experience worse.

By the time I'm writing this post, SE has already released a patch addressing some issues, one of them to make the multiplayer scenes skippable, which now might invalidate some points of my review, but for people who bought the game from day 1, it's a little too late, even if SE patched the 1 Myrrh drop per player thing I'll still stand by my comments. We currently have a huge problem in which publishers/developers release uncomplete or faulty games but regularly patch them some time afterward, this is a problem not only in terms of game preservation but it is also some kind of punishment for people that buy their game in the first time-frame of their release. Does our money have less value or something? or Do they took us [the day-oners] for granted? Why bother with people who will buy the game faulty or not. In this particular case, FFCC is one of my favorite games, and, since it isn't a blockbuster franchise, I'm grateful that we get this remaster at all, but given how SE treated it and treated us fans, it only makes me rethink my decision for buying it or support possible new installments.

When everything's said and done, I have some fun playing this remaster with my friends, not in the way I would like and not even close to my experience with the original. Same with the NGC version it's hard to recommend this game and it feels like a huge missed opportunity, but if you played the original and liked it playing it solo I think this is the definitive version of that experience. But if you're looking for that game in regards to its multiplayer aspect, well, you better get some local friends and look on eBay for that GBA + cable link stuff.
«Buggy as hell»