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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time was released in the US in March 2009 for both the DS and the Wii. While not a sequel to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates, it does follow the conventions set down by previous Crystal Chronicles games. No, they aren't ground breaking, but they sure are fun.
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The hero or heroine, whose race and gender you decide, start out on their 16th birthday. They have to go into the woods and face a set of challenges so they can become an adult. There's a crystal in the woods (there's ALWAYS a crystal!) that is supposed to be the last of its kind in the world.
After the ordeal, a young girl in the village gets sick (crystal sickness, yeah, original) and the hero/heroine has to set forth to find the cure. This is just the beginning mind you, there is a whole bunch of stuff you have to do, but it gives away too many spoilers. Just know that the crystal is broken and the hero/heroine has to find the pieces to restore the people to the town.
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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is similar in gameplay to Ring of Fates. You control the hero/heroine of your choice around the world with the d-pad. This works well some of the time, although walking at an angle can be annoying. Besides talking to folks in the villages and towns, you move across the world map to separate areas (that will all open up when made available) and you can access them with the A button.
The controls are a simple combination of X-Y-A-B for magic, holding, attacking and jumping.
Combat is in real time and consists mostly of hack and slash. However, you don't have to go it alone. You can create a party of up to four members (or recruit members to be on your team) so you can have help. You can even switch between characters in combat. This is really handy because if your hero/heroine dies, you can just play as another character until you can revive them and you won't have to go back to the beginning of a dungeon. Each race has certain powers and weapons that they specialize in using, so having a group with one of each is a good idea.
Weapons can be leveled up by using them, bought or powered up by customizing them. The level of control you have over upgrading is welcome. You can even change costumes, which is funny.
Magic is probably the most fun aspect of the whole game. You don't have to wait to learn new spells (only more powerful spells) , as you come equipped with all the basics. Each character can use magic to different amounts of effectiveness. The utilization of the touch screen (selecting the magic) and then moving it with the d-pad to the target feels really good and makes battles more interesting then simply whacking something with a sword.
While there are a lot of dungeons, most of them are very similar. They have a bunch of enemies that don't re-spawn, simple puzzles and a boss at the end.
There is also a multiplayer option. You can play with friends locally or use the DS with a Wi-Fi connection to connect to other players worldwide. However, unless you are the one hosting the game you will not be able to save your progress. If you aren't playing locally, you can chat via the touch screen.
One of the only problems I found is there is only room for one save file, and that's kind of annoying.
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Graphics and Sound
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time graphics look very similar to Ring of Fates. The rendering looks decent and the character design is pretty and everything is in 3D, but it isn't blocky like old PSX games. The backgrounds look pretty nice too, although it's nothing we haven't seen before on the DS.
Sound wise, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a mixed bag. The music is standard RPG fare. Not as sweeping as some, but it severs its purpose. The enemy sound effects work well, however, the hero (if you choose to be a human) sounds like an man on steroids and not a 16 year old boy. It's a little disconcerting to have him jumping around and grunting. I think a Japanese voice option would have been nice.
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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is fun. It's not going to blow your mind or make you look a video games in a new and wonderful light, but it will provide a good chunk of entertainment. It's not terribly long, but with the multiplayer option the re-play value is quite high. I had a blast playing it on my own. Some of the dungeons can get repetitive, but all in all it's a good time.
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While I think I prefer the story from Ring of Fates, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a good game. It's not great, but if you want something with fun and slightly meaty combat, check it out. If only Avalon Code had combat like this *sigh*.
A collection of reviews for various Final Fantasy games.