Square Enix has made some outlandish choices in the past, but none as strange as their decision to port Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time to the Wii. While the home console version wasn't all that impressive, its portable partner is a much more enjoyable experience.
With the original Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles on Gamecube, Square-Enix created one of the first games to make the use of the connectivity between Gamecube and the GameBoy Advance, allowing each player to use their own personal screen and controller combined. With the Wii and DS featuring similar connectivity, Square Enix have once again explored the possibilities, this time with one game for each system. Though the connectivity between the two is something of a mish-mash of various ideas, the Nintendo DS version proves to be one of the best dungeon crawlers on the system and reigns supreme over its big brother.
Many players will pick this game up expecting an enjoyable single-player experience, and in that regard the game performs adequately, but it's the multiplayer modes where Echoes of Time really starts to shine. It's the first Nintendo game ever to allow online multiplayer between two different consoles, and the result is quite spectacular. Sadly, the same can't be said for the AI characters, who fail to heal themselves or you, collect items or even attack enemies unless you command them directly. When playing with your console-owning friends at least you can shout at them; if playing alone, your AI teammates will soon grow accustomed to such abuse.
The previous game in the Crystal Chronicles sub-genre, the DS's Ring of Fates, suffered compared to its brethren due to a reduced focus on the dungeon-crawling elements that made other games in the series so enjoyable. Echoes of Time goes all-out to rectify this, and if you were left unsatisfied by Ring of Fates you should find this new title more than satiates your desire for top-notch subterranean exploration, though it is worth advising it sometimes comes at the expense of story quality.
Graphically-speaking, Echoes of Time is as good as it gets on Nintendo DS, with vibrant characters and excellent animation, and it delivers on an audio level too, offering the richly orchestrated music and fantastic voiceovers players have come to expect from the Final Fantasy series. Your eyes and ears will be exceptionally grateful from the moment you start your journey to its final battle.
The Wii version suffered from being an obvious port of the DS version, yet here in its native form the game excels, perfectly tailored to the console's capabilities. The touch-screen control in particular is superlative, offering total precision, something the Wii version's Remote control sadly lacked. Square Enix of course have more than enough practice developing for DS so it shouldn't be a surprise that the game performs best on the little handheld, but Echoes of Time fits in perfectly with the company's rich heritage of pushing hardware to its limits when crafting each game.
Far exceeding its DS and Gamecube ancestors, as well as a huge portion of the DS's catalogue, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a superb game for fans of RPGs as well as anyone eager to explore the unique Wii to DS connectivity offered here. If you own both consoles, we'd recommend picking up the portable version without a shadow of a doubt; it may be the first time a handheld game has outshone its home console equivalent, and for that is surely worthy of a purchase.