Yes, Nintendo fans, you missed out on Final Fantasy’s VII through XII once Square and Square Enix began to release their famed numbered series on Playstation consoles, but beginning last generation, the developer and publisher began a spinoff series exclusive to Nintendo consoles. This series, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, was a surprise, as it was an action RPG that, rather than be focused on story and a single-player campaign, invited you to bring a few friends along. The series has done well enough since its inception that this spinoff now has its own quality spinoffs!
While the original utilized a complicated (but worthwhile) combination of the GameCube along with Game Boy Advances as controllers and a place for the game’s menus and maps to show up during multiplayer, the second entry in the series came on the Nintendo DS in the form of Ring of Fates. While impressive in the sense that you had a multiplayer, Diablo/Gauntlet style action RPG on the DS, it seemed a bit unfocused at times. The game was not sure of whether it should be a single player adventure or a multiplayer one, and this hampered the experience of both. The fact that online play was a no-go and multiplayer was limited to local play was also a huge disappointment, given the DS can handle that sort of thing.
Mar. 24, 2009
Enter Echoes of Time, the latest entry in the Crystal Chronicles series. This game brings with it online play as well as local multiplayer, once again boasts four player multiplayer, a brand new story, and tons of replay value in the forms of quests, loot collecting, item and gear creation, and the ability to jump in and out of single and multiplayer through the use of save points at any time. Rather than just release the game on the DS alone though, Square Enix also ported the game over to Wii in a way that attempts to replicate the DS experience. In this review, we will take a look at how successful each iteration of the game was, and which one you should pick up (if not both).
Let’s start with the DS version of Echoes of Time. For a DS game, this looks good, with detailed (and varied) environments, loads of enemies, impressive looking spell casting, and customizable characters that reflect your changes in gear on screen. The art style is basically what Final Fantasy Tactics A2 would look like, were it in 3D and an action RPG rather than a strategy based one. There is some voice acting, cutscenes that help to tell the story, and a long quest that can be replayed multiple times thanks to the four different classes of characters, all with their own strengths, weaknesses, and exclusive equipment. Square often charges more for their DS games than other publishers, even Nintendo, but it’s tough to argue with the practice given the level of quality and production they put into the cartridge titles. Echoes of Time is an example of that, as it’s worth the $40 price tag given everything it includes as well as the care Square Enix put into developing the game world.
Fighting is basic, as you attack with the press of a button, or hold that button and release it to use a special attack. Magic is used by selecting one of your available elemental (or healing spells) on the touch screen, and then moving a circle underneath the enemy or area you want to cast it. Rather than learn new spells, you gain the ability to stack magic; move one ring of Fire onto an enemy, then lock it there and move a second ring. Cast, and you’ve now performed Fira rather than the simple Fire. You can also combine your spells with the spells of those you are playing with, which can help to make quick work of enemies and even some bosses when done right. Square Enix thankfully did away with the tiresome magic orb system, and has instead given you access to all of the spells immediately, and for use as often as you want assuming you have magic points.
In order to upgrade your spells attack or healing power, you need to collect tokens from defeated enemies. These appear with a small avatar in the center that represent certain spells or attacks, and they boost the power of that spell when you collect enough of them. You can also earn these by completing quests, and it’s a great way to make your attacks more powerful in addition to leveling.
There are plenty of weapons and items to buy outright, but you pick up tons of material that can be used to create those same things for a cheaper price, and there are also some weapons and armors that you may be able to create before you can buy them. You need a scroll to create an item, but you can find these in chests, by defeating enemies, or by purchasing them. If you’re playing with friends, you can also drop items, materials and money for your friends to use, if you happen to have need of each other’s inventory in order to create things.
You can also upgrade equipment you buy or create before you wear it by infusing it with jewels. These jewels can be found or created, and increase the power of your equipment. You create jewels by trading in your leveled up equipment for them-equipment has its own leveling system and level cap, and when it’s full it’s best to turn them into jewels and find something new. This keeps your inventory fresh and also gives you customizable equipment and various play styles, as jewels can do something as simple as cause healing items to give you back more HP, or they can make you impervious to certain elements or attacks.
The DS version of the game is a must own title, and even at $40 it’s easy to be amazed at just how much there is for you to do in this game. The addition of online multiplayer is a huge boost to the series, as you no longer need to get a bunch of friends together in one place in order to play multiplayer; the ability to drop in and out of single player at save points is also much better than the two separate save files you needed in Ring of Fates.