Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Ring of Fates Hands-On

The Crystal Chronicles are coming to the DS. We check out the single-player action in this Square Enix role-playing game.

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Twins separate from their parents, learn of the mysterious power that resides within them, and go on to use that power to defeat evil--maybe even save the world. True to the epic nature of the long-running Final Fantasy series, Square Enix's upcoming Nintendo DS entry in the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series--dubbed Ring of Fates--hits all of the role-playing game notes you'd expect from its story: betrayal, heroism, family loyalty, and many more. The undercurrent beneath all of the drama's plot are some fun game mechanics that help keep the game moving from one big story reveal to the next.

Whether playing the single player game or four-player multiplayer, the action is always at the forefront in Ring of Fates.
Whether playing the single player game or four-player multiplayer, the action is always at the forefront in Ring of Fates.

Right off the bat, we should mention that for this preview, we were only able to play Ring of Fates solo. As you might recall, we got a brief taste of the four-person multiplayer action in our previous look at the game from last year's 2007 Square Enix Festival in Japan. While we hoped to spend some more time battling monsters with our officemates, a single preview cartridge of the game meant we had to focus our time on the game's story mode.

The story in Ring of Fates focuses on twins--Yuri and Chelinka--who, when we first encounter them, are very young children living with their father in a small village. The children are marveling at their father's strength as he chops wood in front of their house. During this display, Yuri attempts to pick up the hatchet but doesn't have much luck. Then, the father asks Yuri to attempt lifting the hatchet with his sister and, mysteriously, they are both able to lift the axe. Soon, Yuri is able to lift the axe by himself and swing it as a weapon. It quickly becomes clear that there is more to this pair than meets the eye.

With his makeshift weapon in tact, Yuri, with Chelinka in tow, heads to the local caves to practice his moves on whatever critters are unlucky enough to be in the area. The caves act as a gentle introduction to the combat controls in the game, as well as a preview of the sort of dungeon exploration and jumping puzzles that seem to make up a large part of Ring of Fates' early gameplay.

With sword in hand, Yuri's basic combat moves are handled with the A button. You can chain together a few attacks in a row in the beginning, and that number will grow as Yuri levels up. You can also perform leaping attacks by pressing B to jump and A to strike. If you hold down the A button in midair, Yuri will do a bashing attack on an opponent underneath him, which will cause more damage.

 Only in a game can kids kick this much butt in combat.
Only in a game can kids kick this much butt in combat.

Even in this early mission, you get a feel for the different types of enemies that you'll encounter in Ring of Fates. Your typical monster won't put up much of a fight and will go down with a few swipes of the sword; more troubling are the flying enemies that are not only tough to hit but will also drop spells. You quickly learn to keep moving when in combat, if only to avoid these kinds of attacks. A targeting ring that indicates where the spell is aimed will help you avoid trouble here. A handy ability when fighting flying foes is jumping up and then grabbing onto them (by pressing the Y button); while hanging on to an enemy, you can cause damage until the monster kicks you off. You can also pick up ground animals and toss them against a wall.

Beyond fighting enemies, the other aspect of Ring of Fates' gameplay is the copious amounts of puzzles that are strewn throughout the level. Some of these are simple--such as gates that require a key or magicite orbs (more about those in a bit) that you have to open. Some of the puzzles require you to find items in other areas and then double back to access a new area. Still, others will require a bit more interaction with the environment--such as moving blocks or using magic to open up new areas to explore.

Yuri's explorations eventually land him and Chelinka in a stark cave that holds only a mysterious golden coffin. Yuri, as happy-go-lucky as any RPG hero, happily begins cheering when the entire room starts shaking and--surprise!--a nasty-looking boss monster appears from the coffin. By focusing Yuri's attacks on a bright red crystal embedded in the monster's chest, we were able to take him down. Immediately afterward, Yuri and Chelinka encountered a mysterious-looking young girl who may or may not have been a ghost.

It's not always hacking and slashing; magic plays a big role in Ring of Fates' gameplay.
It's not always hacking and slashing; magic plays a big role in Ring of Fates' gameplay.

Granted, this basic combat tutorial is a breeze to get through and the puzzles themselves aren't too tough either. Still, the learning in Ring of Fates continues into the game's magic system. Remember the magicite orbs we mentioned earlier? Those act as "ammunition" for your character's magical abilities, and in addition to picking up magicite orbs off of defeated enemies, you can pick them up in town shops (along with healing potions and ethers). All of these items are saved in "pockets," which are indicated on the lower screen. You can only have so many magicite orbs at one time, though you can purchase additional pockets that will allow you to hold more items.

Magicite orbs come in a variety of "flavors," such as fire, blizzard, thunder, cure, raise, and clear. As you've probably guessed, the type of spell you cast with each orb depends on its type. Casting a spell takes a couple of steps: First you choose the type of orb you wish to cast by tapping on it on the lower screen. Then, you hold down the X button and move a targeting ring with the D pad to the area you wish to cast the spell. Once you let go of the X button, your spell will cast. Interestingly, if you have other members in your party--such as the robotic birdman Alhanalem who joins you briefly in an early mission--you can stack magical attacks on top of one another by switching between players (by tapping on their icon on the lower screen) and then repeating the spell-casting process. These stacked magical attacks cause considerably more damage when they hit, but because of the time it takes to pull one off (that targeting ring moves just a bit too slow for our taste), it's a risky venture unless your opponent is stationary.

Alhanalem has another handy use when he's in your party: As a member of the Yukes tribe, he can draw on the power of magical poles placed at key points in a dungeon or area. By pressing the right trigger, you can flip-flop the screens and then draw a line of magic out from the pole to a highlighted area in the world. A typical use for this kind of thing is to open gates, whether by lighting distant candles or causing previously invisible walkways to appear out of thin air. Another good use for allies is to stand on their shoulders so that you can access previously out-of-reach areas. Indeed, playing with a party adds some new wrinkles to gameplay that makes Ring of Fates more interesting than when going it alone. It also serves as a great example of what to expect from the game's multiplayer experience, which is fully focused on the idea of cooperation among players.

So, we've established that there's a lot to do in Ring of Fates, but what about that storyline? Well, without giving too much away, it's fair to say that early on in the game, Yuri and Chelinka suffer a critical loss that changes their lives in a fundamental way. After skipping ahead for what appears to be a good stretch of time, we meet back up with a slightly older (and definitely bigger) Yuri who's honed his combat skills during the interim. From there, it's up to Yuri and a suddenly telepathic Chelinka to head out into the world on their own to set things right.

Cooperation between characters is one of the keys to solving puzzles in the game.
Cooperation between characters is one of the keys to solving puzzles in the game.

Graphically, Ring of Fates holds up just fine on the DS. The squat kiddie character models might not appeal to everyone, but it's cool to see Yuri's armor and weapons change as you upgrade his equipment throughout the game. Although the enemies aren't that threatening-looking to begin with (who's afraid of a stripe-tailed squirrel, after all?), the boss creatures are significantly larger and look a good deal more threatening. In addition to a nice score by original Crystal Chronicles composer Kumi Tanioka, the game's audio presentation has the added bonus of including voices for the main characters during key story scenes.

With a strong storyline, plenty of action, and all that multiplayer fun, it seems Ring of Fates will have plenty packed into it when the game is released in the US in March. Stay tuned for more on the game in the coming weeks, as well as a full review once the game is out.

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Reyes_07

CANT WAIT!!!

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Raykuza

Only a few more days. I have to get my sister to get a copy too instead of mooching mine. P.S. two = 2, too = also; get it right people. Not that hard.

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Yoshilila

ok now for all those that didn't look at the homepage... in the story mode you play with the characters that are programmed for the story and you play the story (sorry i just had to say something so obvious^^) In multiplayer mode you have the choice between the free mode (which is where you run through the lvls and kill the monsters) or quest mode (here you have to do quests and you only play the quests that none of the other players and you have done so far, well atleast that's what i figured) oh and before i forget it in multiplayer mode you will be able to make your own character with the same tribes as in the GCN version (oh i just hate that you aren't able to play the characters from the story mode but if you want you can play the multiplayer mode alone to lvl so it's kinda like a single player mode also^^)

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psp8976

wow this game is going two good man i know i am going two buy it as soon it comes out oh beacueas i have it on back odear right now

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hoysoy

soo how does the multiplayer work? do u have your own character that youve worked on in some sort of single player then load n play with ur friends? or is it like a separate mode wher your forced to choose a pre-set characer? I just hope its like the GC version where u can pop ur own custom character into someone elses story

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riariases

Oh one more thing... WonkeyMan there is selkies in this... check out the red haired guy.

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riariases

since when has Square-Enix ever failed to put out one of those games that may take time (and alot of effort) to put down? its gonna be addicting i bet... when i played four play Crystal Chronicles we played all night!

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Yadish

I can't WAIT!!!!

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DungeonLeader

This game looks pretty good but the multiplayer idea was quite disipointing but it still looks fun!

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Rippy_Soul

almost time! i'm expecting FFT A2 but i'm gonna get this one two and the wii version two! ^^

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DrPerson

omg, the graphics are soo bad.

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Wonkyman

Leedslad- Crystal Chronicles doesn't have much in common with the main Final Fantasy franchise. At least the first one didn't. It's real time, and a lot of fun, in my opinion.

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leedslad

Im confused, this is not turn based combat mode is it? I thought all FFs were turn based. Could someone clarify this for me? If its real time i may purchase this.

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Wonkyman

You say "another one" as if there's been 50. This is only the second Crystal Chronicles game, and it feels like they've made a lot of changes. So settle down and give it a chance.

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Captainintendo

"ANOTHER ONE?!?!?!?! they should have let this die with the gamecube game." True dat

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Bowser05

Looks like a blast. I loved the GCN game and I can't wait for this. I just hope my friend gets this too so we can play. I never got to fully enjoy FFCC's multiplayer because of all the hardware requirements. Still, I've got this baby reserved alongside Brawl and The Force Unleashed for sure.

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yoyoman10

ANOTHER ONE?!?!?!?! they should have let this die with the gamecube game.

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ivanfred

I want this game.

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gtuga

Hope this game is as good (or even better!) as its predecessor on the cube (yea, I loved the game). I trust SquareEnix and I know they'll come out with something worth buying =)

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Bad-Chad

The original Crystal Chronicles for GC was such a huge let down. ALL WE WANTED WAS AN FF RPG!!!!! This will likely suck too. If I want to play Gauntlet, I'll play Gauntlet. The original was a 3/10 for me and this will likely be more of the same weak-assed lameness.

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wjc04c

I'm glad SE is making NEW games for the DS besides their remakes. FF RW and this game seem great....but why can't Square make a Mana game that isn't crap?

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besighyawn

Need to get through the Gamecube game first ahhh

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Marmba

K so i just borrowed my cousins copy (he imports games as he visits japan frequently) and its a pretty solid game even if i don't speak an ounce of Japaneses. If you have any questions ask away. Oh and for the guy who said the box art has wifi on it that's because you can trade moogles via wifi thats all you can do wifi

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lew_0911

Oh dear. Must have some time to pick up Revenant Wings or I'll be too swamped when this gets out.

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RobWilco

i'm definitely gonna get this game when it comes out. To bad there's no online play, though.

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snoopy248

Oh man, I want this!

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MrSaturn33

I can't wait for this game! :)

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Marmba

Yea but will you meet random people on the road like in part one?

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starfoxmcleoud

Woah! The graphics look like a GBA game! I'm surprised they don't have this for the Wii, and then four people link up their DS with the host Wii in style like FFCC for the GC. I'm sure the multiplayer will still rock like the original did. Although I have to disagree with beanofengland, the Miasma kept everyone together to enforce teamwork and not straying off to do their own thing. Crystal Chronicles was the ultimate teamwork game, that is if you had three other friends with a GBA and a link cable.

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benleslie5

Hope it's an enjoyable game.

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beanofengland

hope it lives up to the GC game, not enough people got into CC , probably because you needed a GBA as a pad, i remember buying CC and two GBA SPs on release day, what an expensive day, worth it though, cos i loved four swords for the GC. Glad the Miasma seems to be gone, it was a terrible system for forcing players to stay close to avoid camera problems, it put all my mates off and i struggled to find someone apart from my GF to play with, i wanna hear more about the Wii game though, and if it'll use DS's as pads, cos that'll rock

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kcruz25

I really hope it's as good as it looks. The four-person multi player action sounds promising.

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guidedtruth

this game hopefully will be awesome

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KALHETMAN

Next FF without Turn Base Game playability... Sad for me... /Only FF XI (On-line) is good in real time/ All HOPE in FF XIII (TURN BASE) PS3... Every time coming game to DS i am waiting is turn base for training my neurons... And FF is my love series...

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retrofraction12

neet but I really just don't like this serisy for some strange reson. FF 6 was just to good to pass up for this.

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rybread13

this game is gunna be unreal.... with the 4-player wireless multiplayer is guna be sick. ive been waiting for this game for so long and its gunna be right MINT!!

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Aeshir

Hmm. No hint at anything remotely like miasma as in FFCC on the Gamecube. Is it even going to be anything like it other than the gameplay?

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red_sovereign

whatwhat...voices for main characters during vital story scenes!!! that rox...this is definitely on my list of upcoming ds and wii games =DDD

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Wonkyman

I loved the original Crystal Chronicles for the Gamecube, so it's nice to see the series continue. Odd though, that every race is appearing in this game but the Selkies. I was a Selkie during my first playthrough and my buddy was a Yuke, and we kicked arse. I wonder if they're in this game or not.

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BlackHawkV

This game will be amazing. Glad to see everything is shaping up as well as we thought it would!

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Synchro456

Definitely a game to have :D

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arline6

I'm definitely get FFCC and Brawl next month.

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BrunoBRS

wait... *checks boxart* there IS wi fi! maybe i can join random ppl in the online too?

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bladex-983

Going to get this game and brawl... so it would be a good march

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BrunoBRS

i wish this game had online multiplayer... but it doesnt... and even so, im getting it

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Blace_07

Looks great! If only it wasn't coming out at the same time as Brawl, because even though I will be buying both, FFCC will not be touched for quite some time...