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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time

For: DS

A repeat success

Product: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time | Developer: Square Enix | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: RPG | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time DS, thumbnail 1
A dead cat is apologising for lying to me about how I was born, and trying to convince me to defeat an evil immortal librarian who's planning to destroy the past. After ten hours of play, this almost seems normal - a sure sign that Final Fantasy is back in town, and doing what it does best.

The seminal franchise had a string of successes on the DS last year, ranging from top-notch remakes like Final Fantasy IV to a new move in the shape of Revenant Wings, which applied classic Final Fantasy signatures - a simple role-playing structure and an operatic story - and placed them in a new format.

The Crystal Chronicles series performs a similar trick. But where Revenant Wings added a dash of strategy, this is about dungeon-mashing action. It provides a break from the long stories, slow-burning combat and lots of dialogue inherent in the main Final Fantasy strand.

This change of pace is quite refreshing. There's something of a Zelda: Phantom Hourglass-like vibe about Echoes of Time as you and your companions jump on top of enemies, perform combo slasher moves, throw items around the battlefield, and cast spells on moving targets.

You get to add a couple of buddy characters to your squad and you can tweak how they react in battles using the AI options in the menu, although they're not the smart helpers in the world.

But while it can be difficult to think on your feet initially, the simplification of the RPG elements leaves you free to concentrate on saving the world. There's no expansive spellbook, for instance, just a half dozen elemental spells, all available from the start.

There are no long lists or choices to be made when you level up, either. In fact, the only indication that your characters are levelling are little pop-ups on the screen that remind you when you've learnt a new ability. Your weapons can also level up, and there are loads of materials to collect and combine together to create useful warlike objects.

So once you've chosen between one of four races, each with its own skill - Clavat (melee), Yuke (magic), Liltie (ranged attack), or Selkie (jumping!) - you'll start to pick up the beginnings of a story.

It turns out that today's your coming-of-age ceremony, but it's cut short when a young girl in your village falls sick with a rare illness. It's up to you to travel out into the world for the first time and discover a cure. Of course, in true Final Fantasy tradition, this is just scratching the surface.

This journey not only provides a basis for much dragon-slaying and treasure-hunting, but also lets Crystal Chronicles add some puzzles to the adventuring. They mostly involve moving blocks onto switches and suchlike, but later on in the game they get much more complex.

Unfortunately, along with this complexity, they tend to get worse. It's possibly a symptom of co-development on Wii and the DS, but Echoes of Time contains a lot of curious bugs. Falling through the scenery, getting locked into rooms, and a selection of puzzles that don't seem to have a reasonable solution - these niggles start off as sporadic, but become more and more common as the game progresses.

It's not the longest Final Fantasy story you'll find on the DS, either, but it does contain a sizeable dozen or so hours of adventuring, and there are plenty of reasons to play through again - additional difficulty levels, items and secrets can only be experienced on a second run, and the action's fun enough to warrant a second go too.

There are also some superbly-conceived multiplayer modes, which not only allow you to link up with other three DS players for multi-cart play, but play three DSes together with one Wii (you each need copies of the game and a TV for this one).

The extra features make up for the flaws in the puzzling and gameplay, and beyond these are the quality of 3D graphics, audio and music as you'd expect from a game of this pedigree.

The cut-scenes are well-used, and the locations - though few in number - look fresh and play well on the DS screens. It's a combination of these factors that keep Echoes of Time well above the average.

In essence then, this is game with a lot of reasons to be proud. If the multiplayer intrigues you, if you're a fan of the series, if you have any reason at all to be interested, then you'll find Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time charming and mostly fun.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
Reviewer photo
Mike Cook | 31 March 2009
An action-role-player, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time also contains a great multiplayer mode. Only occasional bugs knock off some of the polish
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