The Crystal Chronicles Game You Always Wanted
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 2007’s 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 game’s 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 game’s 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 DS’s 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 DS’s 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.
These multiplayer sessions can include going into dungeons with up to three friends online, or playing a number of mini-game side quests. These side quests can involve everything from setting certain enemies on fire with magic to playing “hot potato” with a bomb. Or, if you’re feeling extra competitive, you can challenge your friends to combat-based challenges. Although most of these side quests are designed to take advantage of the aforementioned multiplayer capabilities, some of them can also be played solo, if you don’t want to play online. No matter how you decide to play, these side quests are a great diversion from the main dungeon-crawling gameplay and are a great alternative to grinding if you are trying to level up your character.
Visuals in this title hit about average, with 3-D characters and environments sporting a good amount of detail. Although I was a little disappointed that some of the environments as well as the cutscenes lacked the polish that was presented in last year’s Ring of Fates. However, this is probably due to compatibility issues with the Wii, so I can understand where the downgrade comes from. Still, the look of the game keeps the cutesy style of the previous games, which is certainly nice for longtime fans.
The music in Echoes of Time is very nice and sounds a lot like the music in other Crystal Chronicles games. The voiceover in Echoes of Time is also fairly good, although it is relegated to cinema scenes, which are very sparse in this title. Still, this title follows Square Enix’s trend of providing gamers with a great soundtrack, and Echoes of Time is definitely a title worth turning the sound up for.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a great DS game. It follows in the tradition started by its predecessors, and the multiplayer mode in Echoes of Time is definitely what sells it. With plenty of dungeons and quests that you can explore, this is a title that Final Fantasy fans will appreciate spending time with. Although it is also available on the Wii, the DS version feels very familiar for seasoned veterans of the Crystal Chronicles series, and I subscribe to the philosophy “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Not as polished as 2007’s Ring of Fates, but the look of the series remains intact and character models are very cute. 3.9 Control
Although it will take awhile for those unfamiliar with the series to master the touch and button controls on the DS, veterans will feel right at home. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voiceover is sparse but of good quality. Music is exceptional and the score recalls previous Final Fantasy games. 3.9
There are plenty of dungeons and side quests here to keep you busy, and playing mini-game style quests with friends adds a good amount of replay value.
3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.