I was playing it today, and I hit a bat with a club. I may as well be jumping on crates in a sewer level, or collecting bafmodads.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (import, in this case) has one of the most amazing presentations the GameCube has ever had to offer. Beautiful graphics, an excellent soundtrack, GBA connectivity, and four-player cooperative play are all great things to put in a game, but unfortunately, they don't save it from paper-thin gameplay.
The graphics, while not quite perfect, come pretty close. Everything is rendered in real-time. The streams of water seriously look real. Other nice touches include cool visual distortions from looking through giant crystals or the miasma storms between each area. The characters might leave a little to be desired though - they only have the simplest of expressions and speaking animation. The animation looks good though, especially considering how the bosses have so many free-flowing articulated parts. Some of the enemies are vividly animated to the point where it might even get obnoxious, like the little trolls and their goofy dance. I mean, they're just standing there, and they're turning and hopping and busting out a little jig for no real apparent reason.
The soundtrack is pretty cool, and it's a bit reminiscent of the Final Fantasy IV Celtic Moon CD (which VideoGameDepot has for the bargain price of 14 dollars). It sticks to the medieval-sounding music, so don't expect any thumpin' bass tracks or any weird variety like in the 'regular' Final Fantasy games. It's fantastic at what it does, and well enough should be left alone.
The GBA integration is a strange balance of good and bad. It's certainly handy to have a whole menu to yourself, but going through the trouble of rounding up enough GBAs and link cables could be a hassle, depending on who your friends are. When playing with an older style GBA, you'll go through an awful lot of batteries playing the game, too. I'd rather have saved a few bucks and played with a regular controller.
There are four different character classes, but they're not really that different. They have differences in stats at creation which, later on, become very inconsequential. Selkies seem to be able to charge their attacks faster, though. There's a nice variety in appearances; four designs of each gender for each class, for a total of 32 playable characters. That doesn't entail any storyline differences or anything, it's strictly appearance (there's not a lot of storyline anyway). The ability to add/delete characters and store up to eight is a great feature. Friends can join in at any point in the game (well, not in the middle of gameplay, but you get the idea). Characters gain stats after finishing dungeons; it's a little out of the norm, but the ends are essentially the same. You can choose which stat to boost if you want to try to specialize a little.
Characters can attack enemies up-close or from a distance with a charged attack or spell; hold the action button to charge, move the targeting cursor with the stick or control pad, and release to fire it off. And, well, yeah, that's about the extent of what characters can do in the game. Other than carry a bucket around or big stone gate keys, that is. It would have been much more fun to be able to steal, mimic, summon, or any number of weird abilities that make Final Fantasy characters interesting. Instead, we're reduced to fight and magic and items from the menu. Maybe that was enough for our hut-dwelling bronze-tool-using ancestors that played Gauntlet and Final Fantasy One, but in this day and age, it's the most basic element of a vague system of gameplay possible. It's like eating a bag of flour when you could order a delicious, greasy pizza. As you might imagine, this is a painful experience with single player, but it's more bearable with multiple players.
It's almost the other way around with bosses, though. With multiple people, you're restricted to a tiny space, which the boss is probably already taking up half of, and using a simple formula of healing, bucket-carrying, and attacking, divided among party members. For single player, it's actually a little more fun than the rest of the trip through the dungeon; a single player has room to move, and must multi-task with space management, smaller enemies, healing, and attacking the main boss. Sure, it's still pattern-oriented, but not nearly as bad as the rest of the game. There's a single, horrible problem that can ruins most boss battles, though; they're about ten times the size of your character, and you can't see through them. The camera doesn't move around to allow for a proper view of what's going on when the boss's backside is taking up 70% of the screen, and then you die. Terrible.
There are better cooperative games with stats and swords and stuff like that out there, even on the GameCube (PSO). This doesn't even have internet play or any other truly interesting draws, other than having 'Square Enix' on the case and the Game Boy Advance linkage (which isn't all it's cracked up to be). Think twice about that pre-order, and try before you buy.