Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was one of the hardest games to gather friends to play in its original incarnation. For the Remaster, Square Enix wants to make it the easiest.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is a cult classic, but it was infamously obtuse. It required such a specialized combination of hardware that building a full squad required a hefty investment from each player. For the Remastered version, coming next month to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices, Square Enix is taking a remarkably more accessible approach, even by modern standards.
The original Crystal Chronicles was built around multiplayer. Though you could complete it as a single-player experience, the story centered around a caravan protected by a band of warriors from different magical races, each with their own combat specialty. But that multiplayer relied on a GameCube link cable, connected to up to four GameBoy Advance systems. The conceit allowed each player to have their own personalized menu, but the requirement made the sticker price remarkably high. If your friends didn't happen to already own a GBA, they needed to buy one to join in.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered, on the other hand, looks to make a full 180 on that barrier-laden design philosophy. The advent of connected consoles and smartphones makes it easy for players to connect and retain their own individual menus like any other online game. Rather than lock players into a single console with a very narrow control scheme, it features cross-play so that players can join up regardless of platform preference.
It will also take the compatibility one step further with a free "Lite" version launching alongside the standard paid game. That version will have access to some single-player content and the first dungeons, with remastered visuals and new features. But the Lite version also serves as an entry point for those who want to play with friends. If your buddy has bought the game and wants you to join their caravan, the Lite version will let you play the first 13 dungeons with your host. Out of a total of 14 original GameCube dungeons, that means you have access to almost all of them.
The post-game content is locked to the full version, making the Lite something of a sample onboarding process while you get to know if you're in it for the long haul. There are 13 high-level end-game dungeons in all. In a publisher Q&A, game director Ryoma Araki said that these dungeons make it easier to complete the new crafting recipes for better gear. That gives the impression that this version is taking notes from the long tail of "live" games, with post-campaign content that's meant to be farmed with your friends.
"In the current era, lots of people enjoy playing games, but there are also a huge variety of play styles and different platforms that people play their games on," Araki said. "I wanted to make it so that players could easily invite their friends, family or partners along to play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and create some good memories together, even if they owned different gaming platforms, so cross-platform compatibility was a must."
The Remastered edition packs a few other new bells and whistles as well. A Magic Timer and Fusion system summons more powerful versions of spells if you combine them with your friends in online multiplayer. A Mimic option lets you imitate story characters who are otherwise rendered unplayable. It also includes English voiceover for the first time, and a few quality-of-life features like a revised mini-map and quick chat feature.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered launches August 27 for PS4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.