Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo DS
  • Developer:
    • Square Enix
  • Publisher:
    • Square Enix
  • Released:
    • JP 01/29/2009
    • US 03/24/2009
    • UK 03/27/2009
Score: 70%

This review was published on 05/04/2009.

The game starts you off within the protagonist's reoccurring dream, a dream that consists of a creepy old man who approaches a young girl, only to laugh menacingly. Is this a dark premonition or a sick fantasy? You be the judge. Upon waking up, you learn that some girl in the village gets "crystal sickness," and the cure can only be found outside the forest that the village occupies, of which no one is allowed to leave for some arbitrary reason. Sure enough, the main character insists on leaving, law or no law. It all sounds like another cookie-cutter RPG plot to me.

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Before you get to play, you must choose one of four races to play as, and each is proficient at something or other. They're the usual bunch for a game bearing the Crystal Chronicles name: Clavats (humans), Yukes, Selkies, and Lilties. You are able to create additional characters out of these races, and have three of them with you at any one time, controlled by the AI. Predictably, the AI is unbearably bad, so you will want to avoid doing this if you can help it. It also defeats the purpose of the game: being able to play an action RPG with your friends, Secret of Mana style. That's right; you can play the story mode cooperatively with up to three other players, online or offline. It isn't difficult to see that this is the game's main strength.

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No matter what race you chose, you'll always have access to six basic spells: Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Cure, Raise, and Clear (heals all negative status ailments). The controls for casting spells are a little awkward, but it ends up working better than you'd expect. If you cast two (or three) different spells on the same spot, they will combine to form more powerful magic. That's how you'll access stuff like Fira, Firaga, and so on. Magic doesn't just harm your enemies, either; spells like blizzard will have a chance of freezing your foes, for instance. Your proficiency in a given element will level up by collecting elemental tokens that enemies sometimes drop. It's a flexible little magic system that makes the act of casting spells enjoyable and maybe even a little worthwhile.

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All equipment will arbitrarily level up through combat, including armor. This increases their strengths, and when they reach level 3, you can make jewels out of them. Don't ask me why this works; this is the world of Final Fantasy we're on about here. Every piece of gear will have slots to which you can outfit with these jewels, and this provides additional effects. Shops will periodically stock up on better gear as you advance the game, but the real way to boost your arsenal lies within creating items from all the raw materials you find on your journey. What hampers this process is the fact that you need to have a scroll for each and every item you wish to create. As limiting as that may sound, the game does provide you with a plethora of scrolls, so you still have a lot of options in what to make. A nice touch is how all equipment will show up on your character's avatar. Not a big deal, you just don't see this in most Final Fantasy games.

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Amidst the dungeon crawling, there is a lot of 3D platforming and puzzle solving. Most of it is terrible, especially with the lack of camera control. They taunt your inability to move the camera by continuously placing tall objects in front of your field of view. Puzzles feel shoddily put together, only serving to hamper you without providing any delight or intrigue in exchange. What's worse, if you're going it solo, the AI of your partners will be flabbergasted at any terrain that isn't flat ground, especially when bottomless pits are involved. There's also an odd habit the developers have with placing water in almost every dungeon you go to. Actions are limited when you're swimming, and you need to annoyingly dive down to grab any item drops that may have fallen into the water. I appreciate the thought, but if they're going to bother with ripping off Mario and Zelda, they should at least do it right.

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Oddly enough, there is a separate, yet nearly identical version of this game available for the Wii. It is possible to connect the Wii version to three DS games, so that one person may enjoy the luxury of playing it on a big screen TV. In theory, any other player connected to the Wii will be able to share this luxury, unless they wander too far away from player one, in which case, they'll have to look at their tiny DS screens. This odd set-up harkens back to the very first Crystal Chronicles game released on the GameCube, only a bit more accessible now that we have the magic of wireless connectivity. Still, I can't see the appeal in going for this set-up. Sacrificing portability for a slightly sharper screen hardly seems worth it.

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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is probably the most accessible game in all of the Crystal Chronicles series. Nearly all of the annoying things that invalidated the other games have been taken care of, leaving behind a perfect way to relive Secret of Mana in a more modern iteration. That is, if you have friends who own the game. Online play is a good feature if you can tolerate playing with strangers; however, I feel that the true appeal of a game like this is derived from playing with real friends, face-to-face. If you can get three of your friends to buy this game and play it with you, then, by all means, go for it. If not, then you might want to skip this one, as it doesn't provide enough on its own to warrant a purchase.

Word Count: 999