February 20, 2004

SquareSoft 0wnz0r3d Me

I carried a package from work to a friend's home today for him, since he was out waiting for the Cable Guy to hook his ass up to the bitstream. He called me and asked if I could temporarily spare $120 to pick something up for him. I said "Sure," since, well, I could. Just as I was about to ask what, I realized what he needed.

The package I was taking him (an Amazon.com box) contained Final Fantasy:Crystal Chronicles, and a link cable for his Game Boy Advance SP. Since SquareSoft and Nintendo are such frighteningly ruthless marketers, FF:CC is the first game that doesn't just allow you to use the GBAs as spiffy controllers for the GameCube - it requires them.

That means for every person who plays (up to 4) you need a $100 GBA. Plus the GameCube. Plus the game. Bastards.

Of course, it'd be much easier to be annoyed with them if the game weren't so damn pretty! I mean, hell, it's just gorgeous. We spent about ten minutes watching the intro, which is rendered much better than 95% of the crap animation on TV anyway, and then dove into the game - and found that you need the GBAs. Each character has 10 different 'management' screens, and rather than taking up the main view, you perform all the management functions on your GBA/controller - which lets you do stuff without pausing the game, and ensures that your playmates and you don't compete for TV real estate at a critical moment during a battle because you forgot to equip that damn Blizzard Magicite Sphere.

These guys, who are much better at this gaming stuff than I, have gone on at length about this game, but here are my impressions from one 3-hr session. First of all, party play is not just an enhancer, it's absolutely unavoidable. For one thing, each player character has different abilities (well, duh, that's normal). For another, they do sneaky things. For example, when he and I were running around our cool brightly-colored world, we both kept our GBAs in 'Radar' mode - where status info and your radar/nav screen are on the GBA during play. It didn't take us long to realize that my screen had the map - and his had the enemy positions on his radar.

Then the next area, it switched.

You are assigned 'bonus tasks' at the beginning of each round. For example, one round I had 'Inflict Physical Damage' (that was easy, I was tanking at the time) and he had 'Open Treasure Chests.' Then the next round, I had (I kid you not) 'Take Physical Damage' and he had 'Pick Up Items.' Then I had 'Don't Pick Up Anything' while he was supposed to hog all the gil. While a divided party might bitch and whine about this, really, all possessions are shared amongst the players (if you're smart) so this didn't really inconvenience anyone - but it sure made play interesting.

For another thing, the world is so hostile (it contains ' miasma', which is icky and hurts you) that the only thing that keeps you safe is your Crystal Chalice. Your party carries this around to collect myrrh. When I say 'party' I mean 'one player therein' - because it's a large basin, and somebody has to tote it around at all times. Not in 'inventory' but taking up your hands. There is a 'safe zone' around the Chalice that all party members have to stay within if they don't want to take damage from the miasma. So you have to coordinate. Not only in position, but the person holding the chalice has to put it down to attack or cast spells. More coordination.

Plus, did I mention it's really, really, really damn pretty? I can't get the incidental music out of my head now, kupo.

I'm gonna lose a lot of time to this one. Luckily I don't have a GameCube. Unfortunately, he does. Posted by jbz at February 20, 2004 1:44 AM

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