Monday, September 11, 2006

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles's Plot

Apologies in advance--I'm kinda sick right now, and my head's not so good at holding onto ideas for long and stuff. So...this might seem to have even less direction than usual. Or something. Of course, this could also ironically end up being the one instance where I actually DO go somewhere with a rant not outright insulting a game/a game's maker. I guess we'll see how it pans out.

Late last winter, I obtained, played, and beat like a naughty puppy Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Not because I particularly wanted it in any great fashion, but more just because it was there, on sale, and I was waiting for Suikoden 5 but not wanting Phantasy Star 3 and Grandia 3 to be my only diversions during that wait (my feelings on both games have been well-documented here). Given that it is a painfully transparant marketing ploy on the part of Nintendo and SquareEnix to suck your money from your wallet faster than Rogue can drain your mutant power, using its title of Final Fantasy not only to boost what otherwise would be a random RPG's sales, but also to encourage you and your friends to purchase Game Boy Advances so you can play it the way it's meant to be played (and don't forget the link cables! Cha-ching, cha-ching!), I was not expecting a whole lot. It's not a wise emotional investment to expect anything great from Square's recent blatant cash-ins. But hey, it didn't seem possible that it could be WORSE than PS3 and G3, so why not give it a whirl?

Well, long story short, I've ended up actually liking the game a fair deal. I don't think it's terrific or anything, but certainly a nice, light little RPG. Certainly a helluva lot more than I'd have expected.

In general, though, FFCC gets a really bad reputation as being a pointless and repetitive game with no plot. Well, repetitive I can't debate--even if you manage to somehow get through the game inside the first half a dozen years or so, the general flow of the levels and fighting enemies is generally boringly similar from one level and foe to the next. It's certainly not any more boring than most RPGs battle-wise, of course--I've mentioned RPGs generally having the most boring systems of battle that I can imagine--but just crawling through dungeons repeatedly can get old fast.

But pointless? No plot? No sir. The plot's there the whole time, though it may be only a few rumors and stories you hear on the road sometimes, or part of the tale your elder tells you at the beginning of each year. Yeah, it's not thick and heavy all the time, like in a regular Final Fantasy, or most other games, but it's not nonexistant--it just all really comes together at the end, that's all.

Now granted, I typically favor RPGs which contain heavy plots that dominate their events. Give me an extremely linear RPG following a set story and I'm a happy moogle. Or a happy box, depending on which site you're reading this from. But sometimes, a little bit of a light, non-linear plot can be remarkably refreshing from watching almost-anime heroes and villains spout hours of dialogue that I've heard half of in previous games/shows and often doesn't even make a whole lotta sense. As you go through FFCC's world, you learn little bits and pieces about it, as events unfold almost on the sidelines that don't all add up completely until the very end of the game. How long you spend beating up monsters on a yearly schedule is up to you, as is what locales you visit--technically, I don't think you have to visit even half the places in the game to beat it. So it's pretty open-ended on what you do when.

Still and all, right at the ending, you get at least half of the whole plot all at once before the final battle, and it really is pretty neat. It manages to incorporate all the little bits and pieces you've encountered of what the game's about so far, then explain'em all and just then charge you with the epic task of saving the world--and the explanation for the world as it is, and how to save it, is actually pretty darned neat if you take the time to really think about it and enjoy it. It's an original idea for an original world, and in the space of 10 minutes it manages to transport you from a dungeon-crawling experience into a rather epic finale to an adventure you barely realized you were having. And at the end of the game, even though you spent 49 hours out of 50 without much direction, the salvation of this world can still seem an epic accomplishment that was worth your time to achieve and witness.

Is it up to the level of other FFs like 9 and Tactics? Not really. Is it a really fantastic RPG? Nah. But it's at least a good one, and undeserving of most of the smack people talk about it.

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