Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates Hands-On

Whether with three other players or just by ourselves, we have a ball with this DS-based action game.

MAKUHARI, Japan--The original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was a surprise for a number of reasons. The first was its platform--the GameCube--marked a return to the FF series on a Nintendo console after many years away. Second, the game's multiplayer focus and sometimes curious mechanics had some players scratching their heads. Nonetheless, the game has spawned a sequel: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates, set to debut on the Nintendo DS in late August here in Japan. While in Tokyo to attend the 2007 Square Enix Party, we had a chance to try the single and multiplayer modes in Ring of Fates and had a lot of fun with both.

Though we actually started by checking out the four-player wireless multiplayer, it's probably best to start with the solo mode. The game is split up between single-player and multiplayer, though it does seem that you will explore some of the same areas in both modes. The single-player mode begins with a kid who is intent on becoming an adventurer and exploring the world around him. He's got a small sword at his disposal and a female pal who's looking to give him advice in the game's opening tutorial. The two begin running around town, and as you explore with them, you'll periodically run into moogles that will give you the basics on the game's mechanics.

Your basic attacks are executed with the A button. The type of attack you use will depend on your character class in multiplayer (and, presumably, later on in the single-player game), but because our hero is carrying a sword, he simply swings it with each press of the A button. Jumps are carried out with the B button, and you can pick objects, characters, and enemies up with the Y button. Picking up your teammates plays into the multiplayer aspect of the game, but in solo mode, it has its own uses against enemies. Not only can you pick up a foe and hurl him away, you can also hold him above your head and attack him while he's in your grip. You'll even be able to grab a hold of flying enemies that get too close and give them a whack with your sword. But you have to be careful because enemies will be quick to dish out damage if you wait too long and they free themselves.

When moving and battling through the world, most of the action for your character takes place on the upper screen of the DS. The lower screen is reserved for such things as an area map, showing various entrances and exits, as well as stylus access to the attacks of your weapons. Again, depending on your character class, the lower screen will vary according to your special abilities, but more on that in a bit. In addition to your standard attacks, the game will let you pull off special attacks. To do so, you press the right trigger button, thus flip-flopping the screens. From here, you can attack enemies simply by tapping on them with your stylus of finger. These special attacks are usually much more powerful than your standard attacks, and by tapping multiple foes in a row, you can quickly pull off chained attacks.

As you move through the world, you'll encounter various treasure chests, which you can crack open to find money, items, or food that you can use to restore your health. Defeated enemies will also drop things. Our limited Japanese skills meant we couldn't delve too deeply into the menus to see how you can use the various items we collected, but presumably, it will include such things as potions, antidotes, and so on.

While the solo mode in Ring of Fates serves as a nice introduction to the gameplay, the real fun is in the four-player multiplayer we also got to check out. After electing a leader, we picked up a game with three strangers then began to hack, slash, and blast our way through maps that looked similar to the maps in the solo game. Unlike the original Crystal Chronicles on GameCube, there's no need for your characters to all be onscreen at the same time, though it should be noted that you can't leave a map without all players exiting together.

In multiplayer, your character class plays a huge role in how you play the game. There are five character types: warrior, archer, white mage, black mage, and a support class. Each character type has specific roles to play in the adventures. The warrior is your typical barge-in-and-bash close-combat brute; the archer attacks with a bow and arrow at distance, as does the black mage with offensive magic; the white mage is responsible for the health and status of the other members of the party; and the support role is used to keep the magic users filled with magical orbs that power their spells.

During our multiplayer session, we chose to play as a black mage. Dealing magic requires the aforementioned color-coded orbs, with each color referring to a specific type of magic. For example, red orbs power fire spells, while blue orbs are used for ice magic. As you might expect, certain types of magic are better against certain opponents. For example, you can take down a sinister fireball monster with a well-timed blue-orb ice spell. To cast a spell, you first set the type of magic you want to use by tapping on the colored orb you wish to cast. From there, you can press and hold the X button, which will bring up an aiming icon, then release the X button to cast your spell. Or you can hold down the right trigger and cast your magic by tapping on enemies on the screen.

Each time you use an orb, it's taken away from your stash; if you run out of red orbs, you won't be able to cast any fire spells until you collect some more. Orbs do appear as pick-ups in the gameworld (often out of treasure chests), but it's much easier to have a support character on hand to make orbs for you. We didn't get a chance to try out the support role ourselves, but based on a video we watched of the game, support characters will be able to make new magic orbs using a pot that appears on the lower screen of the DS. By stirring the pot with the stylus, you'll eventually get new elemental orbs, which you can then drop into the gameworld for your mages to retrieve.

Other character classes in the game will have their own special abilities. Warriors will be able to use special attacks to plow through multiple enemies quickly, while an archer will have special arrows that will do much more damage than their typical attacks.

The ability to pick up other characters will have consequences in multiplayer. For example, you can toss folks across chasms or hop on a teammate's shoulders to access spots you couldn't normally reach. You can even stack all four characters on top of one another to reach very high spots. That sense of teamwork seems to play into all aspects of Ring of Fates' multiplayer. Whether you're standing on your teammate's shoulders or moving multiple stones in different patterns to access new areas, you'll always be working together. As the mage of our group during our demo, we were tasked with using blue magic to engage a magical bridge by pressing blue orb magic, flipping the screens with the right trigger, and drawing a line down the touch screen, which gave the entire team access to a new area of the map. Later on in the adventure, we had to light all the candles in a room with our fire spells to open a gate. Presumably, a party without a black mage in tow would be able to find another solution to the problems the game throws at you. There doesn't seem to be any reason why a team made up strictly of warriors can't go out there and bash their way to success.

Graphically, the game is quite reminiscent of the original Crystal Chronicles game, with short characters that are distinctly childlike in appearance and a colorful world to explore. Even the monsters weren't that menacing; it's tough to be intimidated when being attacked by what amounts to a squirrel. The only exception was a big robotic insect boss, which was not as tough as it looked.

In all, Ring of Fates really came alive for us during the all-too-short multiplayer experience, which was consistently fast-paced and engaging. The possibilities for different character combinations in parties means the game could be different each time you play it. The game is due for release in August in Japan and at an as-yet-unannounced date in the US.

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Discussion

49 comments
DSExpert
DSExpert

Man, sure is taking a long time to develop this game. But hey, good things come to those who wait right? I just can't WAIT till this game comes out! It looks so freaking cool !! XD

Lambing
Lambing

This game sounds great ,I hope it lives up to the standard set by its predecessor.

syncroshadow
syncroshadow

this rocks. multiplayer is going to be awesome. this better be 9.0 or over game. hell this better be game of the year for ds

icarus212001
icarus212001

hopefully square will make as many FF games on the wii cuz these new games coming out on the DS are AAA! (who knows? we might end up seeing an FF7 Wii-make? ah, if only it were true)

Osashimaru
Osashimaru

mmm wow now i just need a DS cuz this game is cool

Link2193
Link2193

I cannot wait for this game, it is going to be awesome and a massive improvement from the orginal. Crystal Bearers also looks good coming out on Wii!

Retro_Man
Retro_Man

Have to admit, this does look good. I'll pick it up when the US gets it

Smoolander
Smoolander

The multi player sounds absolutely brilliant on this. The ability of the DS to bring mobile multi player games to such a large user base is quite a wonderful thing Nintendo have pulled off.

Eraak
Eraak

I love the fact that SE have had such a great amount of support for the DS, it's lead to me rebuying most of the series on GBA/DS and now I can enjoy FFVI or III whilst I go places/on holiday etc. Now all we need are remakes of the spin offs and the old Dragon Warrior monster games

B1ack_Rayn3
B1ack_Rayn3

yes another FF to the DS!! hopefully there will be a following trend and movement towards the Wii as well.

mattmaul5488
mattmaul5488

Well,I have never been a big FF fan,but,I think I'd play this one....

lew_0911
lew_0911

I hope the solo game stays solid. I tend to play my DS alone at night since my mornings and afternoon are all about doing other things.

brokentrash
brokentrash

I can't believe I wasn't aware of the online multiplayer. That'll be such a cool feature for this game. I was keen to get this game before hand as the multiplaying adventure genre isn't really there with the DS. Now knowing about the online I'm getting it even If I have to import it from Japan.

denaz
denaz

Looking forward to this game!!

bobtheflounder
bobtheflounder

I didn't get the first one because I didn't have 3 friends who all had GBAs and link cables that wanted to come over to my house and play an RPG. Online multiplayer removes this problem, so I'll definitely pick this game up.

Nin10doFan44
Nin10doFan44

yes ... online multiplayer ... SWEET !!!

Alaskan_Ninja
Alaskan_Ninja

welcome home square-enix..... im happy more and more developers are realizing the power that nintendo has over the market and i hope they make it interface with the wii.......that would be awesome.......

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

Online multiplayer.. sweet this will make this game soo much better >:).

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

Another great sounding game from the RPG masters. I'm so proud to own a DS.

-Jad-
-Jad-

Multiplayer Online it gonna rock for sure......

LINK9900
LINK9900

i hope online mulitplayer is included my friends don't under stand the grateness that is gaming :D

ahyumifan
ahyumifan

I remember the last year of my high school days.... I used to play a lot... like we have no tomorrow once i go college. Writing on the school corkboard to find new player for the GC version. Now, seems we dont have to do that.

Rayterd
Rayterd

Wow, really looking forward to this. Has online multiplayer been confirmed or denied yet?

snoopy248
snoopy248

Crystal Cronicles is always an awesome game! I loved the GC version and I know I'm gonn love this one!

resiguy15
resiguy15

hey chedderlimbo stop complaing about the US always getting things months before japan, think about us in the UK we get things much later than anyone, FF 3 ds only came out over here a week ago and you've had it since november!!, plus the animal crossing GC game, we got that 2 years later than you!

sinceps1
sinceps1

Online is vital, or the game can rot on store shelves for all I care. The first one should've used gamecubes online...... Online sounds likely so fingers + !!

DoctorFu
DoctorFu

I really like the Final Fantasy XI art style. This looks like a real quality game!

yoshi_64
yoshi_64

I just wish it didn't lose the online mode... :(

ichigo0078
ichigo0078

I'll definitely be getting this.

StanAce
StanAce

I wonder if the Multiplayer mode is just a small segment of the Solo mode or if you can play through the entire game with friends...

Raykuza
Raykuza

Aw damn! I liked the magicite system. And the Yukes. But none of that matters now that it's 10 times easier to play multiplayer. Too much hardware was required for the GC. And _AbBaNdOn, you won't always be holding the stylus. You use the buttons to perform actions and you will probably have your right hand on the DS while doing that making it perfectly convenient to use the right trigger. No need to go hating on minorities.

StanAce
StanAce

CheddarLimbo, do realize that Square-Enix is based in Japan. It's only natural that games would be released in Japan ( in their native language ) first. Think about it this way though, if they find any bugs in the Japanese version, those bugs would probably be fixed in the North American release.

CheddarLimbo
CheddarLimbo

Ugh...I'm so sick of Square releasing in Japan, and giving the West the shaft for months.

ocdog45
ocdog45

not that excited abotu the game but ill still give it a try

SaxxyGamer18
SaxxyGamer18

Oh my heck, this is so flippin' sweet! Square-Enix is making some AWESOME games for the Wii and DS. Way to go.

okill
okill

Sounds really good.

Migaru
Migaru

looks like it's shaping up to be a must-have multiplayer game for the DS. Though I don't like the idea of magic users having to get "ammo" from supports. That means someone will be stuck with the boring job of supplying ammo

exocel
exocel

_abBaNdOn its just the same as final fnatasy 8 really, only without those annoying draw points. im really looking forward ot it, still play the first one now and again, crackin' party game.

_AbBaNdOn
_AbBaNdOn

Hmmm. Magic uses ammo?? That sounds pretty stupid. And the Right shoulder button to flip the screens is also stupid and counter intuitive. Shouldnt it have been the left shoulder button so you could hold your stylus in the right hand or click on buttons with your right hand?? Lefties are the minority. Its been almost a year since they said it was going to be released. It better be as awesome as the first one. Its THE reason I decided to buy a DS.

Willy105
Willy105

Great seeing a new Final Fantasy on Nintendo. But where is the Wii version?

white143papi
white143papi

It looks good...definitely worth looking into.

kappareign
kappareign

im hoping this is just as good as the one for cube, without all the link cable hassle. looks good so far...