This game fortunately has a playstyle to make it decent. However, it has terrible flaws in its interface. I'm only going to review the single player experience because there's no way I'm going to get a bunch of Game Boy Advance SP's and connectors for the Gamecube to play it in multiplayer. First of all, no one has a personality and your lead is mute; the story is basically detoxifying a poisonous planet using special trees for every year in the game. Fortunately, there are cutscenes that are well-paced in order to make it tolerable. The graphics are pretty good; the character designs and spell animations are good to look at. The sound is pretty decent with several Final Fantasy types of themes though none selected were too great in my opinion.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles has a class system and a family trade system. The trade system is dull because it just indicates what kind of item/service you'll get every year from your hometown, such as alchemists getting equipment designs. You can get different (if any) services in some towns, which brings up a tedious problem. This problem is that not every town has a blacksmith to forge your designs. Even if you chose it as a family trade, you would still need someone to buy these designs from or get materials to forge with and not every town has these items; it can take a while to just get to the town in order to forge or buy equipment designs.
The class system is basically set up for speed (quicker focus attacks), defense, offense, or magic (quicker/stronger spells). Fortunately, magic can be used to stun enemies, even if it is not strong. I liked the aspect of casting Holy against undead enemies to materialize them in order for me to kill them in a handful of hits instead of 18. The magic in this game is found in dungeons from the magicite defeated enemies drop and is only temporary; you'll have to reclaim it each time you enter a dungeon.
This game has 3 types of attacks: your generic 3 hit combo (that you time), your focus attack which takes time to charge but is stronger than your 3 hit combo, and your magic attacks. The good part about Crystal Chronicles' playstyle is that it does not feel repetitive; you have to know when to charge your attacks (you stay in one place) and when to move. The usefulness of the defense command is nice because it lets you dodge attacks when you time it right.
There is also a chalice system. You have to be in range of your chalice's safe zone from the poison but fortunately, a moogle carries it for you although eventually he gets tired, which can be a bit of a chore, so you might want to carry it for yourself at times when you are not fighting enemies in the dungeon. I never understood the concept of teleporting out of a map in the areas where you change the element of the chalice (this provides status anomaly resistance as well as a means to go to new areas by choosing the correct element at the menu of a completed dungeon) because you would start at the beginning and would have to reclaim your artifacts (the ones you found in that specific dungeon run, not those that you kept from previous dungeons) and magicite (to use for your magic) that you claimed in the dungeon; it should have been used as a save point.
There are other problems with this game. First of all, the interface is terrible. There are no maps on the screen and the dungeons can have impossible puzzles or mazes at times. The Lynari Desert was the worst because it was very long, a labyrinth to navigate, and has you cast specific spells on all sorts of random objects in order to progress. Second of all, you cannot save mid-dungeon, but fortunately, the game lets you redo boss fights if you lose. Third, buying equipment designs from shops is the worst. You do not know which class it will affect, let alone how powerful it is and if you have the materials to forge it, probably making you waste money. I also do not get why you cannot store these equipment designs/forge materials in your caravan as you travel since you'll never use them mid-battle; it takes up space you do not need, cluttering up your item menus. This could have been easily avoided by making the equipment designs and forge materials into special items in the same way that the artifacts were exempt from wasting limited item space.
I liked the artifact system because it feels like a dilemma to decide on which artifact to keep after finishing the dungeon. The magic system can be interesting once you have artifacts to let you use more commands (you start off with only 2 to use excluding your mandatory attack and defense), meaning you can fuse your magic in order to make it more powerful or have a different effect.
Overall, this game is pretty much a toss-up. The battle system can be fun but the interface is bad, the game has a decent class system but lacks an interesting story, and the magic system is nice although the chalice system does not work well.
Update On May 25, 2009: I would give this a 1.5 now because it took me a couple hours to navigate that final dungeon and defeat the 1st 2 forms of the final boss. The final form killed me before I had time to recover with Cure magic, forcing me to use items to heal immediately. However, when you continue after losing, you do not get back the items you used nor the memories you can use as magic in this last battle. When you add this to the lack of saving mid-dungeons, you're better off just watching a youtube video of someone who powerleveled for the fight and getting the mediocre ending.