Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Interview - Chatting new life for the spinoff with Ryoma Araki
Originally released under somewhat strange circumstances in 2003, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was quite a bit different from most RPGs released at the time. A multiplayer-focused action RPG that memorably used GBA link cables - up to 4 friends could co-operatively play through dungeons, coordinate attacks, combine magic, and designate who gets the task of carrying the chalice around for protection.
It's been a long time coming since the initial remaster announcement in 2018, but Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition is finally set to release later this month for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices. Ahead of its launch, we had a chance to ask some questions to producer Ryoma Araki about the game and the Crystal Chronicles sub-series.
RPG Site: How did the decision to revisit and re-release Crystal Chronicles come about?
Ryoma Araki: Square Enix are very proactive about developing new games, but at the same time we also put a lot of effort into remasters and remakes so more people can know about our older games. As a part of that philosophy, I deliberately chose this game to re-do when the time came to start up a new project. The original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was released in the same year that I joined Square Enix. At the time I was making GameCube games at another developer and I was very impressed by the craftsmanship and ability of the team that developed the original. It was actually the game that led me to come knocking at Square Enix, so it has strong significance for me personally.
In addition, I have been working on online games for around 10 years now, so it also fits with a personal theme I have to create games that people can all come together and enjoy. These various factors came together and led to me deciding on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles as the theme to get the project off the ground.
RPG Site: Can you briefly explain in more full detail how online multiplayer works in the remaster? For instance, can I take my character and join any other player in a session? Can I team up with one group of people one night, and then a different group of people another night? As I recall, in the original, all characters were saved to a single GameCube memory card...
Ryoma Araki: The multiplayer mode supports online cross-platform play, freeing you from the need to do fiddly analog preparations with cables or memory transfers etc. and allowing quick and easy matchmaking. Players can just invite their friends along, regardless of the hardware they are playing on, or you can also choose to be matched with a new caravan online.
RPG Site: A big topic of conversation has been about local multiplayer - was it the user interface that prevented local multiplayer from being implemented, or something else?
Ryoma Araki: For this release, online cross-platform play functionality has made it possible to play multiplayer games with people in any situation, regardless of the hardware they are using. Three of the four platforms the game is available on are portable systems (Nintendo Switch, and iOS and Android devices), so even if all four players on the team have different hardware, they can still get together and play in the same room like in the old days, but they can also play together when apart.
We decided to do it this way because we felt that being able to play with people across different hardware would provide a higher-value gameplay experience than deliberately limiting it to a specific platform would. Hopefully, people can see this as making it quick and easy to get into multiplayer without worrying about the technology behind it.
RPG Site: You could argue that in its style, FFCC was ahead of its time and almost better-suited for online than the multi-screen stuff we got back in the GameCube. Have you found the transition to new hardware and online has supported this idea?
Ryoma Araki: I do feel that it is a game that matches well with what modern gamers want. The fundamental game design actually stands up well without having to do anything to change it, but thanks to the spread of online infrastructure and advances in technology, I think that this version is able to capitalise even further on what made the original great, by bringing players together to adventure and create new memories.
RPG Site: Do you have any stand-out memories from the original Crystal Chronicles - either from development, or indeed as a player?
Ryoma Araki: I was on the player side when the original game came out and played it with my work colleagues. Back in those days, it was pretty difficult getting the environment set up in order to play multiplayer. It was particularly hard work getting all the required cables together… and sometimes I would miss the chance to also save my file after playing with friends too. Those have all become great memories now though!
RPG Site: This is the first Crystal Chronicles title to make appearances on non-Nintendo platforms; for many years it was the 'Nintendo Final Fantasy' franchise... how would you pitch the game to players on PlayStation who haven't experienced and know little about CC, but know FF well from its PS outings?
Ryoma Araki: This is indeed the first Crystal Chronicles game for PlayStation players. I hope they can enjoy a FINAL FANTASY setting that is quite different from the mainline games in the series, as well as the casual multiplayer action RPG gameplay. I can promise that new players will have a very different experience to the mainline Final Fantasy titles!
RPG Site: What is it that you think makes a Crystal Chronicles game what it is? It's become quite a unique flavor of FF, after all - and not every entry has been multiplayer-driven, as of course, we had The Crystal Bearers which was structured more like a traditional FF.
Ryoma Araki: My answer is more focused on this particular Crystal Chronicles game rather than the series as a whole, but I think the big draw is the multiplayer gameplay that can be enjoyed on a casual basis. A Final Fantasy where you play and have fun together with other players in a different way to a competitive game has quite a unique place for itself, and I think it is great how communities can form and have fun around the game.
RPG Site: Was there ever an interest in adding anything to this remake to connect it to any of the other FFCC titles more fully? Be that in story nods or in design...
Ryoma Araki: We did not want to damage the feel of the story and try to fix something that was not broken, so we deliberately avoided making any new additions. This remake takes the good bits of the original and re-arranges them slightly to work in the modern context, as well as improve playability and add breadth to the game, so the fundamental core of it remains the same as the first game. In that sense, I think that we have achieved what we initially set out to do with this title.
RPG Site: Do you have an interest in the CC series having more new entries in the future? Or even in remastering other games in the series?
Ryoma Araki: We are still working towards the release of this Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition for the end of August, so after it’s launched I think I would like to kick back and relax on a warm tropical island somewhere down south for a break!
RPG Site: There are a few platforms absent from this release - notably PC, where there's been a lot of FF releases. And of course Xbox, too. If this is successful, is there a desire to look into putting this remaster on other platforms?
Ryoma Araki: I really do hope it is successful! We don’t have any particular plans at the moment, but I hope that fans will continue supporting this series in future so we can introduce the world of Crystal Chronicles to more and more budding adventurers!
RPG Site: Thank you for your time.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition is set to release on August 27 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices. For more information, you can check out character and content updates [1, 2], as well as a Features Trailer and Lite version announcement.