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‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ is the New Bench Mark for Open World RPGs

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About forty-five hours into playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I was tasked with tracking down an old companion of mine who had gone AWOL. The mission began as I met up with another old friend and we discussed the best way to track our missing ally down. Knowing that our mutual friend in question was somewhat of a Lothario, we ran through his diary, split up the names of the women he’d been meeting with, and each went out into the city to begin questioning his various conquests. The quest is partly played for laughs, as the jilted lovers make their anger quite clear, and the women who saw through his lecherous act and spurned him comment on his appalling behavior.

What was most striking about the quest was how it was structured. In any other game of this ilk, this sort of light-hearted side-quest would likely be over in minutes, before getting back to more serious matters. In Wild Hunt, the quest lasts an hour, and involves, but is not limited to, a meeting with four different women across the city, a day at the races, a good old fashioned bar brawl, some fencing lessons, and a live performance from a famous, lute-playing bard. From there, the quest branches, opening up other side quests involving the characters we met, some of which also branch into other quests after that.

This game is absolutely massive.

But what makes The Witcher 3 really, really special is that this enormous, open world role-playing game doesn’t spread itself too thinly. The quest I mentioned before is just one example of dozens of well thought out, fully realized quest-lines that take the player on a journey across multiple towns, meeting scores of fleshed-out characters, in many different scenarios. This isn’t a question of quality versus quantity. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gives the player both, and it does so with such a confident swagger that it’s nigh-impossible not to be impressed.

Geralt can happen upon all kinds of incidents, and if the player wishes it, he can usually step in.

Geralt can happen upon all kinds of incidents, and if the player wishes it, he can usually step in.

On countless occasions I opened up the map screen to begin deciding where I would head next, only to sit back in my chair aghast at the breadth of the options before me. Some games provide an incredible five hour experience, while others take a weekend or a fortnight to master. After over forty hours of game, I could quite easily double that and still not complete all the quests I’ve unlocked so far. It’s possible some may find the game overwhelming, but for players like me, who relish the opportunity to become invested in a fully realized world, this is gaming heaven. I’m playing it in most of my spare time. When I’m not playing it, I’m thinking about playing it. If you only buy one game this year, so far, this is the one to get.

The Witcher franchise is based on a series of fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. One of the greatest strengths of Wild Hunt is the setting created by the author, and the feeling that the world hasn’t just been created for us as a playground; it’s a lived in, war-torn continent inhabited by real people with real issues. So many times in open-world games the towns and cities feel artificial, but not here.

Consider Seattle as represented by inFamous: Second Son. The third inFamous was an enjoyable game, but strolling up to a street corner to see another musician doing the same thing as the musician you saw a few blocks away takes you out of the illusion. It’s an artificial representation of a city, with precious few variations of citizen, each following regimented patterns in a way that is inherently inorganic. The setting of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most convincing open world settings I’ve ever experienced, and one in which after forty hours I’ve yet to experience a repeat quest or random instance. It might be an artificial world created for our enjoyment, but it feels genuine, and successfully pulling the wool over our eyes makes the experience joyfully unpredictable.

The sorceress Keira Metz is an old friend of Geralt, and like all old friends, comes with her own branching quest-lines.

The sorceress Keira Metz is an old friend of Geralt, and like all old friends, comes with her own branching quest-lines.

For the uninitiated, our hero, Geralt of Rivia, is a witcher. Witchers undergo special training and body modifications as children in order to enable them to battle dangerous creatures and live to tell the tale. Their unconventional upbringing means that some citizens consider them to be freaks or abominations, but throughout the land they are regarded as warriors who can be counted on to complete tasks that mere humans could not. Pay up, and they’ll take care of the monster terrorizing your village. Cross them, and you’ll wish you only had a wraith or a were-wolf to contend with.

Geralt is the gold standard of Witcher; firm but fair, with a dry wit, and an undeniable charm. The scars that mark his body tell you more than any lengthy piece of exposition could, and the way old friends speak with him says a lot about how reliable he is at his job. Getting to know Geralt in Wild Hunt is a slow burning process, and while the character may appear stoic and emotionless at the beginning of the game, unpacking the various facets of his personality through dozens of hours of interactions with other characters reveal that he’s a lot more interesting than those opening minutes might suggest.

The main plot thrust of the game involves Geralt looking for Ciri, an adoptive daughter of sorts, who has gone missing and is presumably in grave danger. The interesting twist on this familiar narrative is that as Geralt learns a little more about what Ciri has been doing through conversation with other characters who’ve met her, the player is allowed to control her in flashbacks, revealing that she’s not a damsel in distress, but rather a highly skilled warrior comparable to Geralt himself.

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The Ciri sections are brief but allow us to get to know her, which in turn makes it easy to feel sympathetic to her plight, giving Geralt’s main quest-line to find her a little more emotional heft. Geralt travels to different towns, speaking to many different people and becoming embroiled in their adventures as he strives to find Ciri, and while the main plot might seem to be very simple for a game of this scope, the simplicity actually helps to make sure that the ultimate objective never becomes lost in side-quests, or the larger political landscape.

As Geralt travels the world he’ll unlock many different quests in many different variations. These can be found by checking out a notice board in a town or village, speaking to characters marked with an exclamation mark above their heads, or they can unlock automatically branching out from other quests. Missions can be unlocked at any time, providing the circumstances for unlocking them have been met, and they’re filed in a handy subsection of the main menu that lets you know where the quests are based, and roughly what level you should be at to have a chance of making it out alive. It’s not unusual to have dozens of quests active at any one time, for recommended levels both far in advance and far below your current stature, but the quests are different enough, and the quest-givers fleshed out enough, that the missions mostly avoid feeling rote or by numbers.

Opening the map screen allows the player to keep track of exactly which direction they should be headed in order to complete their current mission, but also reveals places of interest removed from the currently unlocked objectives. These take the form of question marks on the map, and heading to one could reveal buried treasure, bandit camps to eradicate, monster nests to take care of, slaves to free, dangerous beasts to slay, and other activities. While these instances rarely come with a story-based incentive to complete them, they often yield valuable items and experience points, so it behoves the player to make the effort when they come across the opportunity. The main thrust of these mini-objectives is generally to find something, or kill a bunch of creatures, which requires the player to use their “witcher senses” or their combat skills respectively.

Geralt can join a bare-knuckle boxing competition to prove his worth among the peasants.

Geralt can join a bare-knuckle boxing competition to prove his worth among the peasants.

Witcher senses are essentially the detective mode from the Arkham games for witchers. Holding down the L2 button gives the screen a blur effect and allows Geralt to use his heightened senses to locate items of interest, ranging from hidden walls and objects, to tracks, blood or scent trails. Missions frequently require Geralt to use his witcher senses to track a friend or enemy, before ultimately having to deal with whatever the problem may be. While he can deal with many issues diplomatically, or even by using his magic powers to influence someone’s mind, more often than not, he has to deal with his problems the old fashioned way; by whipping out his swords and cutting down whoever, or whatever, stands in his way.

Combat in Wild Hunt feels somewhat akin to combat in Assassin’s Creed, for better or worse. Geralt has two swords – a steel blade for human foes, and a silver one to vanquish magical beasts. Sword fights make use of both quick and strong attacks, careful blocking, as well as countering with a well timed tap of the block button. Like Assassin’s Creed, these battles require careful timing that when mastered can allow the player to feel like a truly powerful warrior. Often, taking a hit isn’t a matter of course, but the result of an ill-timed block or parry attempt, and so success or failure always feels like it’s in the hands of the player, rather than a cheap enemy attack.

Geralt is also in possession of an array of magical skills, such as the ability to conjure a defensive shield, a fiery blast, or to take control one of his foes, forcing them into doing his bidding. Enemies have their own strengths and weaknesses, leading some to be more susceptible to certain types of magic than others, and the bestiary reveals much about how to tackle the various monsters that inhabit the lands. Coating your blades in special oils can buff your weapons with specific properties, and this sort of preparation can mean the difference between making mincemeat of your enemies, scraping through a dungeon by the skin of your teeth, or failing outright.

Geralt's beard grows over the course of the game. Seriously. In fact, for beard lovers everywhere, one of the first pieces of free DLC is a hair/beard style pack, allowing more styles of grooming for all you witchers who like to look good.

Geralt’s beard grows over the course of the game. Seriously. In fact, for beard lovers everywhere, one of the first pieces of free DLC is a hair/beard style pack, allowing more styles of grooming for all you witchers who like to look good.

One of the greatest strengths of the combat in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt actually lies in its brevity. While there are many battles in the game, the size of the world and length of the missions mean that the time spent fighting is comparatively short. Where Assassin’s Creed has similar combat mechanics, that series has a tendency to overwhelm the player with a lot of enemies, which can lead to battles degenerating into button mashing affairs as the player tries desperately to get out of the fight as quickly as possible.

Wild Hunt recognizes that violence is generally most impactful when used sparingly, and so the battles in the game tend be over fairly quickly. Geralt will usually find himself in a pickle that can only be resolved via the sharp end of his blade, and seconds later he’s surrounding by the bloody corpses of his recently slain foes. Like the Japanese movie series Zatoichi, the battles Geralt gets into tend to be intense flurries rather than drawn out affairs, and they’re all the better for it. Combat isn’t perfect, with the lock-on system feeling a little sketchy at times, and hits occasionally not registering when it looks like they should, but on the whole it’s satisfying and engaging.

The variety of missions and the random instances that take place in the game are undoubtedly one of Wild Hunt’s greatest strengths, but also worthwhile of note is the relative inactivity between these moments. The periods of calm as Geralt travels from one town to the next are a treat unto themselves, allowing the player time to absorb the scenery, learn the lay of the land, or even just have a little alone time to think about the task at hand before reaching the next destination. These quieter moments are, in many way, just as important as the flashes of violence or the story progression, as they give the player an opportunity to become more immersed in the wonderful open-world created for them.

If you're a fan of lutes, you're in for a treat in this mission.

If you’re a fan of lutes, you’re in for a treat in this mission.

Riding through a town to a chorus of insults from superstitious peasants that consider witchers a sin against their various gods, it’s hard not to feel something. Wild Hunt has you, the player, take on the role of an outsider, and the animosity some people spew at you based purely on your upbringing can really hit home just how volatile this world is. The political scene is tense and seemingly ready to explode, and Geralt and his witchers are just one of the combustible elements in play. The moments spent observing the common-folk, both amiable and hostile, helps to give the game a real sense of a world inhabited by people with their own thoughts, allegiances, and prejudices.

In a similar vein it’s worth noting that on a technical level, the world created here is nothing short of astonishing. While the graphics aren’t as eye-popping as something like The Order or The Last Of Us, the fact that the world can look half as good as it does given the scale of the maps and the almost complete lack of load times (experienced only when first loading, fast-travelling, or upon death) is incredible. Of particular note is the weather system, which like the time spent among the peasants and lords of the towns and cities, helps portray a world that feels truly alive. Sunsets as seen behind the silhouette of farmland, or wind and rain battering the branches of trees in a small forest are often breathtaking to behold, and among the very best I’ve seen in a video game. Voice acting is also consistently strong, and with all characters fully voiced, side-quests that would otherwise perhaps feel of less importance are often just as compelling as the main plot-line.

The quest that I mentioned at the beginning of this review is worthy of note for more reasons than highlighting just how long Wild Hunt is. I’ve mentioned many different ways in which the game is special, but that mission (and there are many others that I could talk about in this way) represented exactly what I think is the strongest aspect of The Witcher 3, and why it’s a truly special game. The greatest achievement of CD Projekt RED here is the amalgamation of all these separate strengths into a cohesive whole that amounts to more than the sum of its already impressive parts.

Battles are violent, bloody and usually over quickly.

Battles are violent, bloody and usually over quickly.

Tracking a friend via his string of scorned lovers gives the player an opportunity to explore a town, taking in the sights and sounds, before conversing with the aforementioned women leading to further missions. We learn more about Geralt and the world through the interaction with these characters and the women are all completely different and believable, ranging from lowly peasants to high nobility and everything in-between. We learn some of the history of side characters and open up more quest lines. We get into brief bar-room brawls and take part in sword fighting lessons. We try our hand at horse racing. And there’s a wonderful scene in a tavern as we sit back and watch a song played by a bard that is both genuinely entertaining, and offers some well deserved respite. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game that has many strengths, but it’s greatest is in knowing how to use them all together to create something truly memorable.

It’s worth noting here that CD Projekt RED have also, quite magnanimously, vowed to release up to sixteen pieces of free downloadable content for players as well as the obligatory upcoming paid DLC. Given the amount to do already in the game upon release, complimenting it with more free content down the line is a gesture that shouldn’t be ignored, and hopefully one that other publishers will take note of. With dozens of unique missions, hundreds of random encounters and hidden treasures, a fully fledged popular card game to master, a pugilists club, horse racing rackets, dozens of magical beasts to slay, weapons and armor to upgrade, a complex character progression system, alchemy and crafting options, serious decisions to make with real consequences, and romance options to boot, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the quintessential example of how to do open-world gaming properly. There’s no superfluous collecta-thons, and there’s little in the way of repeated missions. The amount of content in this game is borderline ridiculous, and for once the hyperbole regarding how long it will take to uncover all the secrets of the world feels like it might actually be an understatement.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an almost MMO-level commitment, but without the grind associated with that genre. It’s not the sort of game you can dive into for ten minutes here and there, or hope to beat in a weekend. This is the sort of long-form gaming that keeps you busy for a month and does it with such style that it never gets old, or tedious, and never makes you feel like you’re completing busy work or administration. A few technical flaws here and there and some occasionally clunky combat mechanics are about the only issues, but given the weight of positives going against them, they’re barely worth mentioning at all. This is one of the first truly special games of the current generation, and one that we’ll likely still be talking about with reverence for years to come.

This article was originally posted on www.soundonsight.org

John can generally be found wearing Cookie Monster pyjamas with a PlayStation controller in his hands, operating on a diet that consists largely of gin and pizza. His favourite things are Back to the Future, Persona 4 Golden, the soundtrack to Rocky IV, and imagining scenarios in which he's drinking space cocktails with Commander Shepard. You can follow John on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JohnDoesntDance

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

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AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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Game Reviews

‘Tamarin’ Review: Monkey Trouble

Like Yooka-Laylee before it, Tamarin flounders in its attempts to recreate its source material for a more modern audience.

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Tamarin Game Review

Developer: Chameleon Games | Publisher: Chameleon Games | Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Platformer| Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

You have to be of a certain age to recall a game like Jet Force Gemini. One of Rare’s one-off titles of the N64 era, like Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini never earned itself a sequel but was a fun sci-fi adventure for its time. It’s this same energy that Tamarin, from Chameleon Games, attempts to channel.

Made up of former Rare staff, the folks at Chameleon Games are almost certainly the best team to make an attempt at rekindling such a long dead franchise with their spiritual successor. However, as can be the case with retro throwbacks, sometimes it’s better to ask whether you should bring back an older style of gaming, rather than if you could.

As we’ve seen with games like Yooka Laylee and Mighty No. 9, it often seems that the idea of an older game or franchise being resurrected for modern audiences is better to imagine than to actually play. While the occasional Bloodstained does come along to buck the trend, more often than not we get a game which is too faithful to its sources to make a mark or too different to rekindle that old love and nostalgia.

All of which is to say that Tamarin, while very faithful to its inspirations, never quite hits the mark that brings it to the next level. Part of this is the natural aging process, particularly of the first era of 3D platformers and adventure games which spawned on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. While many of the games of that generation packed in endless hours of fun, so too have many of their mechanics aged terribly.

Tamarin Game Review

This accounts for Tamarin‘s weakest point, which is undoubtedly its combat. The shooting sections of the game, while channeling another Rare franchise that balanced cuteness with cartoonish violence, are just so mechanically terse that they drag the game down egregiously each time they crop up.

Like with Jet Force Gemini, players will spend much of Tamarin battling troubling insectoid enemies that threaten the peace of all of civilization. Also like the game which was such a clear inspiration for Chameleon, Tamarin brings back the clunky 3D aiming reticle. Not only is the shooting janky here, it feels downright unwieldy when you first get your hands on a firearm.

Though players can get the hang of it with a little effort and some reworking of how they see shooters, there seems to be little point in doing so. Tamarin‘s braindead AI and sparse few enemy types make combat feel like much of an afterthought to the experience, despite how central it is to progressing through the game.

To be fair, Tamarin does also bring some of the good from its spiritual forebear. The gradually growing arsenal of laser guns and rocket launchers does feel fun to play with, and the game is peppered with plenty of upgrades for the guns along the way. Sadly, then another of the Space Invaders style mini-games will pop up and derail things all over again.

Yes, there is a strange reference to yet another long gone gaming franchise here. Unlocking certain doors requires players to start from the center and aim the analog stick around firing at hovering, shifting rows of bugs. Again, it feels very unwieldy, and by the end most players will simply settle for spinning the analog stick wildly while firing with the machine gun for maximum ease.

Fortunately, more successful are the platforming sections. Making up the other side of Tamarin‘s coin, is a game more inspired by Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country 64 than anything else. As players travel through the outside world, gathering collectibles and gaining new abilities as they go, Tamarin shows much more variety than its combat sections.

With clear cues marked on the terrain to denote which areas require upgrades or new abilities to traverse, Tamarin is generally able to point you in the right direction across its world, though a map or minimap would help matters considerably. Though the game is split into many separate areas, they often look so similar that it can make the game hard to navigate and harder to remember where previous markers were for exploration. Even a rudimentary map feature would make this far less of an issue.

Alas, the exploration flounders on occasion as well. Jumping sometimes feels a bit too flighty and can even break the game at times, allowing players to jump off of surfaces they shouldn’t be able to normally. Further, the need to hold down a button and press another to grab certain collectibles is totally unintuitive and is another feature that seems to be more or less pointless.

As such, for all of it’s cute mascot spiritedness and lovingly attributed influences, Tamarin ultimately falls short in bringing back some of the best franchises of yesteryear. Though the effort is a valiant one, Tamarin, hampered by the flaws of the games it attempts to emulate, is just too clunky in its execution.

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Game Reviews

‘Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered’ Review: Some Games Age Like Milk

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Developer: Square-Enix | Publisher: Square-Enix | Genre: Action-RPG| Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Mobile | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

There’s a bit of a storied history between Nintendo and Square. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is an important part of that history. Or rather, the original version, released in 2003, was.

While it might seem to younger gamers like Square-Enix and Sony have always been close, Square had a different best friend for much of the 80s and 90s: Nintendo. Though a rift developed between them when Square opted to focus on CD-roms rather than cartridges for Final Fantasy VII, that rift only lasted for about 6 years. The game that signalled the end it? Well that was a new release exclusively for the GameCube: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

Though Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was released to relatively positive reviews 17 years ago, the game has not aged well. The quest of a caravan of crystal bearers to refill their crystal’s power and protect their homes from a deadly miasma, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

The first, and most considerable, problem with the game is that the quest at the heart of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is tedious and repetitive. Players ostensibly go from area to area on a world map, exploring uninteresting towns and beating lackluster dungeons. If this wasn’t enough, players are also forced to replay these levels over and over again in order to gain enough upgrades for later levels.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: all RPGs ask players to level up in order to succeed. You’re not wrong, it’s simply the structure of levelling up that makes this experience so trying. The only way to level up in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is to beat the entire level again. Players are not rewarded experience for killing enemies but instead can choose one stat to upgrade each time they complete a level. What this means is that every tiny upgrade to your character can take 10-15 minutes at a time to get.

This wouldn’t be as trying on your patience if simple, basic flaws in the game weren’t so egregious. Hit detection is incomprehensible at times because, even when your character seems to be standing right next to an enemy or boss, they often fail to connect their attacks. Even worse, rather than mapping different attacks to the face and shoulder buttons, players must cycle through them one at a time, with the attack button standing in for defense, magic, healing or food consumption.

Of course, much of this has to do with the format of the original game. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was meant to be played with link cables and Game Boy Advances connected to the GameCube. Each player would have a different bonus displayed on their GBA screens and, as such, players would work together in local multiplayer, aiding each other with their unique screen information as well as their combat skills.

Naturally the GBA had only two face buttons and two shoulder buttons, hence the layout. However, it’s been 17 years, and it’s pretty egregious that Square-Enix didn’t even think of giving players an option to rework the button layout. Doing so would make combat much more dynamic and help to fix the often clunky feeling of battling the game’s monsters.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Adding to the tedium are unskippable cutscenes all over the game. Every single time players challenge a boss, they are forced to sit through the same cutscene introducing the boss. Further, there are random events that occur on the world map which are also unskippable, even if they’re repeats of events that the player has already seen. Haplessly tapping the confirm button to skip through dialog that we’ve already heard should not be an issue in a game released in 2020.

These flaws were mostly a part of the original release as well but what’s the point of remastering a game if you haven’t fixed anything? Even the visuals in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered have failed to receive much polish. The game looks murky and fuzzy rather than sharp and clear. If Square-Enix could clean up Final Fantasy VIII for its gorgeous remaster, what stopped them here?

This is without even mentioning the loading times, which are frankly absurd for a game nearly two decades old. Again, it seems that getting this remaster out the door trumped quality control for Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, which does nothing to help the game’s case.

Though the game is markedly more fun when players join you to take on a level, even the online connectivity has serious issues. To make matters worse, if a player chooses to use the multiplayer, they’ll have to carry a chalice around themselves if no one joins them, picking it up and putting it down all through the level.

Since single player has an AI character who will carry it for you, this option could be easily added to multiplayer, disappearing when (or if) someone actually joins you. This would allow the structure of the game to remain static regardless of whether someone joins your game or not, instead of making the game harder if no one decides to pop in.

While game director Araki Ryoma has promised to address the issues with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, the game has aged so poorly that, even without the flaws of the remaster, it’s hard to recommend it to modern audiences. Sad as it is, some games are better left in the past. Such is the case with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

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