|System: DS, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Mar. 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1; 2-4 online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
When the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series first launched on the GameCube, the idea was to create a Final Fantasy game with immersive, party-based multiplayer capability. While it was a good idea in theory, in order for people to play along, you needed to have a GameCube, a copy of the game, and each individual player would need a GameBoy Advance to plug into the GameCube in order for everyone to play together.
It was a convoluted system for sure, and while 2007s entry, Ring of Fates, introduced online play into the series, the online modes were separate from the rest of the game and did not present a full online mode like some might have hoped. However, with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time, it seems to have captured the multiplayer vision that the series has been trying to perfect since last generation.
The games premise is familiar, and you start off by choosing a race for your self-titled character. In the world of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, there are four races: Clavats, Lilties, Selkies, and Yukes. Each race has certain battle affinities, except for the Clavats, who are the balanced race, so if you have a gameplay style that emphasizes, magic, speed, or physical attacks, you can choose the race that fits your style.
Once you pick a race, the games story begins. You play as a youth who has just turned sixteen. You participate in a not-so-terrible coming of age ceremony, and the future is looking bright indeed for your young character. However, disaster strikes your village when a child is afflicted with the ancient disease of crystal sickness. Although no one in the village is prepared to go questing for the medicine that would cure the child, your character steps up to the plate, and a grand adventure is begun!
The main gameplay in Echoes of Time is, like its predecessors, dungeon-based. You travel from place to place in a mostly-linear fashion, though as the game presses on, you will encounter some wiggle-room. Once you enter each dungeon, you will have to solve several environmentally-based puzzles, as well as beat a whole host of bad guys, generally including a dungeon boss at the end.
The combat here uses a mixture of physical and magical attacks. The physical attacks are the easiest to execute simply by pressing the DSs A button. At higher levels, you can chain combos together, but button mashing alone will not guarantee you success in battle. In order to use magic, you will have to press on a magic orb on your bottom screen, activate it using the DSs X button, and then place the magic over your foes with the D-pad. The magic system is a little difficult to master if you are new to the series, and the dreaded stylus button shuffle is certainly a factor here, but after some practice it becomes second nature.
But of course, what really has people talking about Echoes of Time is not the story or the combat, it is the new Pollux Engine created especially for Echoes of Time. This engine was developed by Square Enix and allows people playing both the Wii version and the DS version to play together in teams of up to four. On the DS version, this works rather well; there is no real lag on the DS end when playing with someone who is using the Wii version. Dropping in and out of online quests is effortless, and even though the friend code system can make meeting up with your friends online a little arduous, it is easy enough to create and join online sessions.