How many Game Boy Advance units do you own?
If the answer isn’t “four,” you’re probably not going to appreciate this game
to its fullest. Granted, only once in my life did I have the opportunity to play Crystal
Chronicles with a truly full party, but the experience still ranks on my “If I have
the time and money and three complacent friends” list. There’s no substitute for it. The
teamwork necessary, the coordinated movement to stay within the aura of the chalice, the
trading and dealing to make sure all your members are well-equipped and battle-ready…
It’s like D&D, only Final Fantasy flavored, and running on your GameCube. In a world filled with poisonous Miasma (and
similarities to Final Fantasy IX, but those are left as an exercise for the reader), caravans
full of adventurers criss-cross the land, searching for the magical substance known
as myrrh to keep their villages safe. Your party of up to four represent one of these
caravans, travelling through dungeons to find… trees. Trees guarded by giant enemy crabs
and Malboros and whatnot. Defeat these bosses and you gain a drop of Myrrh for your chalice
(popularly known as the Bucket by depraved individuals with no sense of modesty), obtain
three drops and your village is safe for another year. While you can play the game solo with
a moogle maintaining your bucket, the real selling point of the game is the multiplayer,
which requires each party member to have their own Game Boy Advance, connected to the GameCube
via a link cable. The controls are simple: the L and R buttons cycle through your customizable
command list, A performs the selected command, B interacts with objects and picks up the
spoils of war, and select allows for direct interaction with the GBA, to set commands,
check inventory, and view various other information. It’s a multiplayer RPG, it’s just not
massive or online. It demands that the players be in the same room, and to that end demands
communication in real-time as one player might have the area map, but another has the positions
of the enemies. Coordinated spellcasting, likewise, results in drastically increased
effects, and you’ll have to get along to transfer and trade weapon and armor recipes
and the materials required to craft them. Through the years, your character continues
to develop, through stat bonuses from items rather than by a level system, and can even
be loaded onto a memory card and transferred to another system to take part in further
adventures. You can even play multiplayer mode alone – as I’ve had to this entire
time – if you want to do some solo adventuring or item hunting. It’s a massive paradigm
shift, bolstered by a great soundtrack and maybe the best visual display on the ‘Cube,
and one that later games bearing the Crystal Chronicles name simply have not been able
to live up to. I don’t want to buy two more GBAs and Link Cables, but every time I brush
up against this title, that temptation rears its ugly head.


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