Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
is, for a Final Fantasy game, surprisingly unpopular. Not X-2
unpopular, but for a game fulfilling the dream of allowing people to play in the Final Fantasy world with their friends (I refuse to count the soul-sucking MMO) it sure doesn't get much love. The game's appealingly cute exterior gives way to a surprisingly bleak storyline that deals with the erosion of memory, so fans of adorable characters and post-apocalyptic angst can both enjoy it. And yet, having something for everyone is not enough. The game is occasionally accused of being overly simple, and of requiring too much hardware (multiplayer requires each player bring a GBA), but these tend to be minor complaints. No, the reason why the game is so maligned boils down to just one feature, bemoaned of by many:
There's a bucket, and no one wants to carry it.
See, in the quietly sad little world of FF:CC
, the air is basically poison. People survive by keeping big purifying crystals in their towns, which burn away the miasma. Unfortunately, the crystals lose their power over time, so every so often a group of young warriors has to go out to make the ORBS shine again
*cough*, I mean replenish the crystal's energy with myrrh. They can survive in the miasma/monster filled world because they keep a crystal shard with them that purifies the air in a small radius.
In single player, a moogle carries the bucket, and all you have to worry about is staying inside it and killing monsters. All the fun's in multiplayer, though, and there someone has to carry that bucket around. It's heavy, so that character walks slowly, and can't cast spells or attack while carrying it.
I has a bucket. Now I can't do shit!
So your friends all get together, but they want to fight fight fight, they argue over who gets the fire spell, point out who's kicking a lot of monster butt. There are delightful mini-quests that each player gets in secret at the start of every zone, so there's room for some sneakiness and trickery (rewarded with first pick of the loot). Maybe someone gets a kick out of healing other players, but mostly people want to do damage.
Not me. I want to hold that bucket.
Why? It's a different kind of game when you're holding the bucket -- you're responsible for your teammates, you have to learn how they play and where they're going to go, you have to balance getting in some action for yourself (by putting the bucket down) with the need to move because your mates need to move, or the monster leaves the area.
Because I can't do a lot of damage, I pass on most spells. The other guys can have the magic. There's only one I want, and that's the cure spell, because one doesn't need to cast it too often, and it's nonetheless a pretty important duty, leaving other players free to cause mayhem without regard for their health. I protect them on two fronts -- against the poisonous air and the monsters that attack them.
In short, I love to carry the bucket because I love to play as a support class.
Carrying a bucket that creates zones where it's safe for other players to live
is a neat concept, and it fits with the game's atmosphere perfectly. As I said, the game looks very cutesy, but these people are living in a dying world where cities simply disappear. You see the ruins of towns whose crystal-bearers went out and never returned. Remembering the people you love, and taking care of them, is an important part of the storyline -- when you make your character, you are given a family that lives in your town, and these are the people you're saving when you collect myrrh. When you visit, they try to take care of you, giving you food or offering to help you however they can.
The village survives another year. Time to celebrate.
I mentioned that the game deals with the erosion of memory, and several prominent characters suffer from having lost their connection to family and friends because their memories have been stolen. Without these memories, they in turn lose their identities. Their lives as solitary people with no connection to the world are markedly bleak and even pointless. In the way Passage
is about life, this game is about how the memories of others -- and a commitment to them -- define a person. There is commitment in the form of facing danger for your village, or hauling the bucket for your friends, and also a focus on trust. Your family trusts that you'll save them. Your party members trust that you'll keep them safe inside the bucket's purifying radius.
Your efforts are rewarded with the love of your little NPC family, and the happiness of your friends when you shield or heal them. Your character is defined by your memories of these people, and theirs of you. Carrying the bucket -- protecting the people you love -- embraces the very heart of the game.
I'm probably one of maybe five or six people on earth who was sad to hear Ring of Fates
had no bucket to carry. I understand why (nobody liked it!), but at the same time, I think it only failed as a tool because not enough people understood and took joy from that kind of gameplay. However, games like TF2
and MMOs with healer classes, and even Mario Galaxy
, are giving supportive roles positive press, so I have hope that we'll see more games like Crystal Chronicles
in the future. It's a better game than people give it credit for. read