It’s not every day that you hear about a game being ported from console to handheld, let alone the other way around. That’s why when Square Enix announced their plans to do this with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time many started scratching their heads. For starters, whatever happened to that other Crystal Chronicles games known as The Crystal Bearers, and was the rationality sound in porting this Nintendo DS game to the Wii? Whatever the answers, one thing’s for sure: it certainly wasn’t for the better, at least in the Wii version's case.
The idea of DS-Wii connectivity is one that developers seldom incorporate in their titles. With that in mind, Square Enix set out to develop a title for both the Wii and DS that hinged solely upon connectivity – a concept that the last set of Crystal Chronicle games explored. Ultimately, the connectivity between the two games didn’t turn out all that great; while the Nintendo DS version proves to be one of the best dungeon crawlers on the system, the Wii version feels shallow and thus devaluates the want to use the connectivity.
You may think we were exaggerating a bit when we called this game a port, but, quite simply, the home console version of Echoes of Time is a like-for-like replica of DS version. The only notable additions are a rather bothersome loading sequence, a couple of Wii-specific controls tacked on, and a slightly interesting layout. For the layout, it seems that when creating this Wii version Square Enix just decided to slap the DS’ versions touchscreen menu on the side of the main combat screen, instead of adapting it to suit the Wii better.
The only major difference for the Wii version worth mentioning is that the game’s two windows of activity can be resized on-the-fly by using the and keys. The Wii’s motion abilities are only really available for clicking on icons and entering text on the right screen – a lazy emulation of the DS’ bottom screen. After taking away these slight tweaks to the Wii version, we are left with a game that retains the same visuals, story, gameplay and sound of the DS title it was based on. All in all, we found it quite disappointing to see how much potential was thrown out the window with the console outing.
Lazy DS conversions asides, the core game itself is quite amazing; if you’re a fan of past games in the series, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time should be in your library. Those who played Rings of Fate may have walked away a little disappointed due to the lack of emphasis put on the dungeon crawling aspects, so, with that in mind, the developers set out to solve this problem – doing a marvellous job in the end. Although the depth of the story suffered in the process, the gameplay has been improved and is even more enjoyable in this installation of the series.
Another thing the game does a wonderful job of doing is staying true to the roots of the franchise. Right from the start you’ll have to select who to be from one of the game’s four races, and then go immediately into the nearest town’s guild to recruit as many allies as you see fit. The amount of content and options offered in the game is absolutely superb, and, at the end of the day, it’s what gives the gameplay its sheer enjoyability.
Unfortunately, it’s still quite evident that Echoes of Time was made specifically for the Nintendo DS – the Wii version seems nothing but a quick cash-in for Square Enix. The stylus controls present in the Nintendo DSouting are absolutely top-notch and pushes the system to its max, but the transition from handheld to console just didn’t work out at all. Using IR controls in place of the stylus is an absolutely pain; it isn’t nearly as precise as the stylus. So if you own both a Nintendo DS and a Wii, it should be quite obvious as to which version is the one to pick up.
Though the single player experience is impressive on the DS, and to some extent on Wii, the game was quite clearly designed with multiplayer in mind. Whether you’re using a Nintendo DS or Wii, the result is the same – a spectacular online experience. Although, if for some reason you can’t get together with other human players, prepare for some of the most idiotic AI teammates ever. For one, AI teammates won't pick up their own items, heal themselves, heal teammates, resurrect or cure other members from death or status effects; they won't engage in platforming puzzles, or even attack enemies unless following your lead. It’s definitely not quite the experience many were hoping for – more like a sheep herding sim – but if you have friends, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
When it comes to the visuals of the game, Echoes of Time is a DS game that has had the Wii logo slapped on the box; it isn’t all that hot seeing as it uses the same engine as the Nintendo DS version. When you compare the games to each of their system’s library of software, it won’t take long to discover that Echoes of Time is not only on the best Nintendo DS games, but at the same time, one with the most satisfying voiceover and soundtrack, while on the Wii, however, the music is slightly below par, and, seeing as we rate games according to their respective platforms, you’ll realize that even though the games are identical in content and appearance, the Nintendo DS version reigns superior over the shoddy Wii attempt.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a great dungeon crawling game that is not only superior to its predecessor, but one of the best titles on the Nintendo DS. The same certainly cannot be said about its console counterpart: practically identical to the DS outing, the console version is nothing but a quick cash-in for Square Enix. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be difficult to see that the Nintendo DS version is certainly the way to go if you’re planning on picking up the game. Unless you don’t have a DS, you shouldn’t really consider spending your money on this one.