Square Enix’s multiplayer role playing game is playable on the show floor. After months of hype, how does this title stack up?
The E3 version of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles contains three playable levels and the opening movie, which is done in real time. One player mode using a GameCube controller was not available at the unit we tried, so we played through two out of three levels.
The gameplay can be summed up as Square’s version of Gauntlet. While the E3 demo contains four fixed characters, the final version will allow the players to choose their own character (there are four types, and a male and female version of each). As stated in our preview, the premise is that the world is covered with a deadly smog so your party must use a special crystal to create a barrier to protect against it.
Each player in the demo has four available battle actions that you rotate through with the L/R buttons. After selecting an action, the A button would perform that particular action. The actions include: Attack, which was a standard attack with the character’s weapon, Defend, which makes the character shield himself, Cure, which casts a healing spell, Life, which revives a fallen character, and a ranged elemental attack magic spell. Spells and physical attacks can be charged by holding the A button. In the case of spells, they must be charged in order to give you an attack cursor so you can aim your spell.
Items are picked up using the B button. Usable items such as coins are consumed, but some items such as stone tablets that have to be placed on pillars to unlock doors must be carried by a player. When a player is carrying an item, he walks at a slower pace than the others and cannot use any actions.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles uses a variety of multiplayer elements to promote cooperation among players. Only one player can carry the crystal at a time, so that player essentially guides the party. He can also drop the crystal so another person can carry it, or to attack during enemy and boss encounters. Also, since you must rotate between your actions, players will find that battles are easier if they assign specific duties. For instance, one player would confront enemies directly with physical attacks, another could stay back and cast spells, while yet another would be the party healer.
Players can also team up to do combined attacks, but in the few minutes of playtime I had, I could not figure out how to accomplish this.
To reduce clutter on the screen, Game Boy Advances are used as controllers when playing in multiplayer mode. The Game Boy Advance screen displays your character’s stats, and location of all four players on the map.
With that said, don’t get Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles expecting another epic Final Fantasy game. The game has almost no resemblance to the Final Fantasy series in general and the few resemblances that it does have certainly will not leave the impression of a real Final Fantasy game for fans of the series. If you get the game under the impression that it is an interesting multiplayer action game, then you might not be disappointed.
The environments in the demo levels are fairly linear, as you basically adventure through the level, fight enemies, find a key, unlock a door, and then face the end boss.
The final game should contain levels more complex than this, but we currently do not have an idea of what else they will be adding besides more skills.
With beautiful scenery graphics and real-time cinemas, the storyline does have some potential, but Square Enix still has to demonstrate that the actual game will be more complex and that the demo levels are not representative of final game levels.