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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series

New DS and Wii releases under scrutiny.

The first Crystal Chronicles game, released onto the Gamecube in early 2004 was a package of mixed excellence.

Its visual symphony of joyful, expressive animations, picturesque and interesting environments and masterful, detailed character designs enriched a delightful multiplayer experience. However, with the tall requirement of committed friends, four GBAs and as many link cables on top of the usual GameCube setup, it was quite the hassle to experience it all as Square intended.

While the game enjoyed high praise from most critics and consumers alike close to launch, as the months rolled on a considerable backlash struck. Citing its rudimentary use of the GBA screen (certainly in comparison to rival Zelda Four swords) and the extremely weak single-player game, many players, given time, claimed deep and damaging flaws undermined its glossy surface.

Eurogamer pointed out some of these problems at the time saying 'it's just not a very good experience single-player' and giving the game a 5/10 for the solo adventure. For many players the meandering storyline and those inevitable frustrations that come from sharing a single screen with three other minds soured what was really a very beautiful and creative game.

Despite winning the Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize in 2003 for their work on the original title, these criticisms have clearly not been lost on the development team. Rather than attempting a straight up evolution to the original game's core ideas the company has opted to instead split the series into two streams: one focusing primarily on multiplayer, hosted on the DS, and the other focused primarily on single player for the Nintendo Wii.

Akitoshi Kawazu, Exective Producer for both new Crystal Chronicles games admits that mistakes were made with the original game. "Our primary focus with the original game was to provide a solid multiplayer experience," he says.

"When you're playing a local multiplayer game with your friends sitting around you you're not interested in or concentrating much on a story compared to if you were playing alone. In hindsight the original game's single player mode suffered greatly because of this and I think that put a lot of solo players off.

"With both of these new games we've worked extremely hard to provide an excellent single player story to play through.

In fact, with the DS game Ring of Fates you are essentially getting two games for the price of one - a very substantial single player game on top of a very substantial multiplayer game. It's been a huge effort for the staff but I think players will be very pleased with the results."