Crystal Chronicles is a game designed to bring people of all nationalities, creeds, and both genders together. For every person that owns a Game Boy Advance and every friend of his that owns a GameCube, there is Crystal Chronicles. It is a game of sharing the wealth and giving benefits to others that will benefit oneself in return. If you don't have friends, just turn around and pretend this game doesn't exist, but I'd highly recommend you find some, because there isn't a better bonding experience around.
The focus here is obviously on teamwork and helping each other, and so long as the people you play with aren't self-centered and recognize how to play as a team, Crystal Chronicles will make for one hell of a time. As a party of anywhere from one to four people (three or four being optimal), that group will be the hope of a town that requires them to adventure out and return with a life-giving force. The world is covered in Miasma, a poisonous mist that can be repelled by crystals required to be held by every town and wandering soul. However, those crystals need to be polished to retain their sheen and power and so a journey must be made every year to obtain dew from mystical trees throughout the land for just that purpose.
In single-player, there's a cute little moogle that flies along carrying the container for both the necessary crystal for traveling and collecting the dew for later return to home. With company it's up to one of the players to sling it along for the ride. This is really the game's only major weakness, as it means that one person will move more slowly than everyone else while carrying it - because of the speed of battle, he'll also miss most of the action during a level. If it at least could be strapped to a character's back so he could still fight without putting it down, that would be an improvement; nevertheless, it's an annoying burden that has to be dealt with.
From there on out everything else is smooth sailing. The fighting and spells are certainly simplistic when taken alone, but like the rest of the game, they shine in multiplayer. With two or more characters, attacks and spells can be combined into more and more powerful strikes, and every additional spell or blow added into the equation puffs up the visual pyrotechnics along with the damage. Timing is crucial here, which led my group to calling out 3-2-1 countdowns for coordinated attacks, and the improvisational vocals just add to the flavor. The required Game Boy Advance link-up is there for on-the-fly switching of items, personal level goals, purchasing equipment, and specific family matters. More accurately, it's there to keep all of that to yourself and not bother the other players with any of it, something to be happy about when a friend wants to switch around items in the middle of a heated boss battle.
All such actions take place throughout a multitude of beautiful levels, showcasing quite a display of graphical splendor. Every area has its own look and feel, enhanced by the great music that shines forth everywhere (excluding the nigh-obnoxious overworld theme). Each passing game year gives way to a new set with new bosses and a totally new design, from forests, mines, and ghost houses, to both friendly and haunted towns. They greet every step of the journey towards protecting the home village for another year, and each has an abundance of its own unique inhabitants. All but the villages also house a boss, which is almost always a stunning display of polygons and animation. It would almost seem a shame to destroy them if it didn't result in such nice death effects and even better rewards, and they all have to make way for the town's needed cure.
Hopping from village to town to dungeon to Miasma stream is a glorious journey and one that should be shared. Alone, the journey feels too empty and battle seems lacking, but when a group is present and their families fill out the town, it adds a richness to the game that's otherwise absent. This is a place for friends, and with them comes a ride many armed with a GBA will love. Time to break out those connection cables and finally put them to some good us; there's no better place than here.
· · · Christopher Rubin