Ring of Fates was Square Enix’s follow-up to their Gamecube title: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. After receiving fairly good reviews, Square has returned to tweak the multiplayer features with a greater emphasis on combat in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time. Though the gameplay is similar, the ability to play with your friends over a Wi-Fi connection on both the DS and Wii versions is a welcome addition to the series. Echoes of Time combines the best of Ring of Fates and its Crystal Chronicles Gamecube brethren into a fun, light-hearted RPG for both casual and experienced players.
The story tells the tale of a young hero who reaches his or her sixteenth birthday. According to village customs, every young villager participates in a special ceremony by defeating hordes of monsters in the dark forest that surrounds the village. The victorious are crowned with a glowing crystal found in a forest clearing guarded by Sherlotta, a fellow villager. However, a village girl falls gravely ill on the brink of the village’s celebration that sends the hero on a mission to acquire the items needed for a cure.
Combat in Echoes of Time is similar to the earlier Ring of Fates DS title. You can attack, pick up and drop and jump in the open field in battle. There are four tribes are available: Clavats, Yukes, Selkies and the Lilties. You can engage the enemy with standard attacks, charge attacks (powerful attack that leaves you temporarily vulnerable) or magic attacks by acquiring various spells. This time around, you can either grab your friends or partner up with the A.I. to form a party. At the start, you can customize your party with as many warriors, mages or tribe kinsmen and kinswomen as you like. Towns and villages hold save crystals with most locations situated around a trotted path on the world map. A diary is kept by the main character that contains the chronology of events and adventures throughout the game.
You can assign different tactics for your A.I. party members in battle that includes Protect Yourself, Do Your Best, Just Follow Me and Go Nuts With Magic. You can add and drop party members at the Adventurers’ Guild in town prior to your quest. For multiplayer coop, you can team up with your friends via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection. You can easily communicate with your party members with a communication panel that features phrases like “Attack Together”, “I’ll take this one” and “Hit it”. Phrases are customizable with a total of twelve phrases available for you to create your own unique message.
Echoes of Time allows you, just like its predecessors, to pick up and drop items, barrels and enemies at will. This is necessary on various quests to solve puzzles and unlock doors. Fighting enemies helps not only to gain experience but also helps you to acquire materials to place custom orders in town. By doing this, you save lots of money that would otherwise be spent on scrolls and materials at Custom Fabrications.
Visually, the game has polished character designs and detailed environments. After a short run, the Wii version is essentially a ported DS game. The graphics are only slightly improved with a rather mediocre control scheme using the Wii remote. Between the Wii and DS version, the latter is preferable as Echoes of Time was originally designed with Nintendo’s handheld in mind. The soundtrack is soothing and accompanies the game quite well with its light hearted and relaxed musical tunes.
Regrettably, the A.I. party members are more trouble than they are worth as they will often miss platform jumps, fall into lava pits and stand around idly while your enemies are attacking you. Echoes of Time shines in the multiplayer aspect as the single player adventure mode is very short-lived. Regarding the portability and the convenience to play with your friends, both Wii and DS owners can connect online with one another for quests. However, I personally recommend the DS version as the Wii online interface to join other quests is not very user-friendly at all.
Echoes of Time is a fun hack n’ slash multiplayer game. The game improves upon its Ring of Fates predecessor with a greater emphasis on multiplayer combat and teamwork. Though the Wii version leaves much to be desired, the game is still a solid title on the DS to be enjoyed with friends. Square Enix’s efforts to allow both DS and Wii players to connect and play together are admirable, but one that definitely needs to be tweaked concerning the Wii’s control scheme. Echoes of Time should keep fans happy for some time until the arrival of the upcoming Wii title, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers.