There are hundreds of these little touches, from simple single actions to more complex procedures. You can throw the switch on one of the hub city's shuttle trains for example, changing destination or putting it into 'express' mode and flooring all of the passengers. Watering Cactaurs makes them grow, throwing balloons or balls to children sends them crazy with adoration - tiny hearts popping above their heads as the game's Sim-like emotion indication system shows you just how happy you've made them.
But I'm spoiling it. The fun is finding these things, ambling around and manipulating each and every object and hot-spot you find. There's no point, really, apart from the completism of getting every medal, but it's fun finding them - a lesson which so many lazy 360 achievements could learn a great deal from.
It's not all pick up and play, though. Interspersed with the sandbox roaming and experimentation are borderline minigames, short pieces of storytelling portrayed through one-off events. The first you'll encounter is actually the very beginning of the game, throwing Layle straight into a light-gun shooting gallery game as he fends off a number of wheeling aerial monsters from that most Square-ish of transports - the airship.
There are chases too, and fishing and grape-picking and train-fare evading. There's also a slightly uncomfortable arse-wrestling scene between two bikini clad adolescents which swerves incongruously into semi-DOA territory. These games are simple but solid, although replay on demand would have been nice for all of them rather than the current few.
The one concession to Final Fantasy's RPG roots in all of this action adventure shenanigans is the material collection and item creation system. Initially it's a predictable case of monsters dropping things which can then be made into accessories, but a bit of extra depth is added once you realise that the order in which objects are mixed affects the outcome - sometimes producing an especially stat-beneficial piece rather than what was advertised.
The game is easy enough that these stats are largely ignorable if you're just here for the core story progression, but they're really there to make the day-to-day tasks and exploration easier and quicker. All shops are run by Moogles, who also deliver the post, and are therefore justified completely before they've even served a purpose.
Technical deficiencies let the side down a bit, with the camera problems inherent to so many 3D sandbox worlds rearing (and looming, and spinning) their ugly heads reasonably often. There's a fair bit of slowdown too, often at curiously calm moments, where Layle will suddenly adopt a treacle-paced walk. Areas are generally large and well connected though, so this is likely a backround loading symptom which is preferable to more level segmentation.
The map is the real chore, being a largely undetailed affair of the most rudimentary value, especially when there's so much running back and forth to be done. You'll become more familiar with areas and their connections as play progresses and areas open up or are revisited, but it's certainly confusing enough to warrant an objective pointer or compass. Oddly, given the prettiness of the environments and cutscenes, Layle is a jagged little man, his patchy animation sundered further by his blocky frame. Having him centre stage the whole time is a bit of a visual blemish.
I have to admit I didn't 'get' Crystal Chronicles at first. I dismissed it as simplistic and unchallenging, a hollow game of point and click. It needs to be played with to get the most from it - doing otherwise is like buying an awesome LEGO castle, assembling it once and then gluing it together to sit on your shelf forever - something only the most imagination-poor children would ever consider.
Don't buy this expecting an epic RPG, and consider keeping someone under the age of 12 at hand to help you justify the twee nature of the game as a whole. But there's something here which is notably absent in any number of lushly produced and scintillatingly scripted games: a real sense of fun and discovery.
7 / 10