Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time Wii
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
In many ways Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is perhaps, one of the most unusual games on the Wii. Why? Well it's essentially a DS game that's running on the Wii. In truth, it's a game that was clearly designed with the DS in mind. There are some problems as a result of this and Wii gamers will find a game that can be enjoyable but doesn't feel completely at home on the Wii. Still it's a fairly enjoyable action RPG that definitely has some value as a multiplayer experience.
Your first actions in Echoes of Time will be to create your character. You can choose to play as a masculine or feminine Clavat, Yuke, Selkie or Lilty and name your character but that's about it. The game opens with your character having just turned sixteen and is just about to take part in a coming of age ceremony, which effectively acts as a combat tutorial. The tutorial for the magic spells follows a short while later. A girl from the village, called Eryll, falls victim to crystal sickness and it's up to your character to leave the village and search for a cure. The storyline in Echoes of Time isn't its strongest point but it's inoffensive and gives you a fairly interesting reason for playing through the dozen hours of so of hack, slash and spell casting action.
The most satisfying aspect of Echoes of Time is definitely the combat. The combat is accessible and easy to get to grips with. The game does a good job showing you the finer points of it, encouraging you to mix jump and lift attacks in with the standard attacks. The battles are easy to begin with but as you get further into the game it can be really useful to have some human controlled companions to lend a hand. The magic spells can also be used in their basic form and in an impressive twist can be stacked for more powerful attacks. During the course of the game you'll level up and gain access to different weapons and items which help to keep things interesting. The various dungeons you'll find yourself in have a decent amount of puzzles which require you to lift items into place or hit switches or move blocks etc.
Those who are picking the game up to experience it simply as a single-player game won't feel as though they've had full value from the game. Like previous Crystal Chronicles titles, Echoes of Time is a game that's best enjoyed with human companions. As a single-player game it's simply a mediocre experience thanks to frustrating AI companions. You can order your AI companions to 'Just Follow Me,' 'Do Your Best,' 'Don't Use Magic,' 'Protect Yourself' and 'Go Nuts With Magic', which are certainly good options but the AI doesn't always behave as well as it should. Thankfully, you do have a few options when it comes to enjoying a multiplayer experience, which you can access from the game's save points. You can either team up with three DS gamers (each need a copy of the game) or, using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service you can play with up to three fellow players who own the Wii version. There are co-op and versus quests to undertake and the host's single-player storyline can be progressed too, which is a nice touch if a little harsh on the other players. If there's a criticism to be made of the online play it's that the action usually suffers from lag, if you're not the host, although it's rarely problematic.
There can be no getting away from the fact that this is not a good looking Wii game. In fact it's DS quality graphics running at a higher resolution. That's not to say the game doesn't have a certain degree of visual charm however but even this can't hide the basic look of the game. As this is essentially a DS game running on a Wii you have to deal with two screens. The main screen, where the action takes place, is displayed on the left side of the screen and the sub screen, which hosts the various menus, maps and other important pieces of information, is displayed on the right. The problem here is that you need to resize the screens rather too frequently (using the + and - buttons). There isn't an ideal size that you could simply leave both screens at. I think it would have been better to have reworked the design for the Wii version to make it feel more natural. That's not to say having to resize the two screens ruins the experience, but it does make the game more cumbersome than it should be.
Echoes of Time won't cause deaf gamers any real problems. The dialogue is subtitled so you'll have absolutely no problem in following the game's storyline. The game's cutscenes don't have any character portraits or names placed alongside the dialogue but this certainly doesn't cause any problems. During the main game you'll find that character portraits do accompany the dialogue, so you'll be aware of who is saying what. All of the game's tutorial messages are in text. You are shown, numerically, the damage your character causes and takes. The names of the items you pick up are displayed and you are notified when your character has levelled up and when additional abilities have been gained. During a multiplayer game you communicate to each of your companions by sending set phrases to each other. You have access to 12 set phrases and you can change these to whatever you like.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a game that's difficult to evaluate. As a single-player experience it's far from being a Final Fantasy classic but it is a decent action RPG that can be fairly enjoyable, if you can overlook the AI's foibles. As a multiplayer experience it's certainly a more worthwhile experience and when played in the right company, it's a game that many will enjoy. However, there's no getting away from the fact that it's disappointing playing what is essentially a DS game on the Wii. Some aspects of the controls are cumbersome and the game is graphically disappointing. Fans of the Crystal Chronicles games will undoubtedly be more forgiving of the weaknesses of this Wii version but I suspect that it's a game that is better suited to the DS and the Wii version is probably only going to be preferred by those who don't have access to a DS.