Better than its predecessor, Echoes of Time incorporates elements from Ring of Fates and sports new improvements.
This is my first game review ever, so bare with me.
When you first play the game, you'll have the opportunity to create your own race and clan, something you could not do in Echoes of Time's predecessor, Ring of Fates. After you select your character of choice, you'll be shown a short clip and will begin your adventure in a village within a forest. Your coming-of-age "ceremony" introduces you to what you can look for in the rest of the game. And that is lots of loot, dungeons and bosses, and lots of hacking and slashing.
The controls fit quite nicely for the DS, but is rather frustrating on the Wii. The gameplay features lots of dungeon crawling hack-n-slash which can seem sometimes slow, and repetitive after a while, but Echoes of Time throws in some occasional, somewhat challenging puzzles to keep you at bay. There are always the boss battles here and there and the many things you can do and accomplish within the game that really helps this game's replayability. Fans of Ring of Fates will find themselves truly enjoying Echoes of Time, and newcomers will not have to purchase Ring of Fates to comprehend the storyline. Echoes of Time is very accomodating for both the seasoned player and newbies that have never tried the series (nor are familiar with Final Fantasy.) So even if you're a newbie confused with the next thing to do, the chronicles will help you out. The storyline for Echoes of Time brings in elements from Ring of Fate's storyline and fuses in new concepts, making it very understandable for relatively new players and experienced ones. In other words, you won't feel confused or left out in anything if you simply picked up a copy of Echoes of Time without playing Ring of Fates.
One major improvement from Ring of Fates is the increased character customization capabilities. Unlike it's previous game, Echoes of Time allows the player to customize their equipment and create custom weapons. You will also be granted the ability to switch between characters in your guild. In Ring of Fates, it almost felt slightly restricted. The increased character customization really affect the game in a positive way, and players from its predecessors will feel a welcome relief. The very limited customization possibilities featured in Ring of Fates really turned down the potential of the game, so the extra things you can do to your character here is very nice, indeed. This is, yet again, another accomplishment you can achieve in this game. Epic, invincible armor ftw.
The puzzles that can be found within dungeons and out of dungeons lean towards the easier side but can still be fun for seasoned gamers. Newcomers will feel both somewhat challenged but not overwhelmed.
The general layout of the menus and settings are very easy to pick up and find, and you will able to multitask while battling monsters quite easily once you get the hang of it. One great, promising thing is the dungeons. As you progress through the game and storyline, more dungeons and places to explore become available, and most of them have a somewhat diverse terrain. The storyline isn't the best aspect of this game, let me tell you that. It's quite interesting at times but there could have been much more depth to make you want to go deeper into the game. But I'm not saying it's bad... Not at all. The storyline does, indeed, connect to the gameplay and locations quite nicely.
But adventuring with Al characters can become frustrating especially when you need them to cooperate most. They will often get stuck on certain platforms, will not jump multiple platforms, and will usually just fight. There is a very limited number of Al options you can set, making your adventure a whole lot easier if you connected with someone via Wi-Fi or team up with a friend. Echoes of Time really shines the brightest when played with multiple players. You will be able to cooperate and pass through difficult stages, and is a nice relief from your Al characters. It's very simple to communicate with one another during battle if you need help, and playing online brings out a really fresh new experience, even though you're still simply just doing same old dungeon crawling. The extended experience, you'll find, is much much more enjoyable than playing alone or with Al characters. Although while visiting other worlds, lag may present itself, it's still enjoyable nonetheless. This lag is very much evident when visiting other friends' worlds, and may really weaken the whole experience. The DS-to-Wii connectivity is a very interesting concept via the Pollux engine and was a nice addition. But at least hosting with friends in the same room will be a blast with very minimal lag.
The things you can do aside from the dungeon crawling, will be organizing things in the Ye Olde Storage Shoppe, or creating, customizing, or upgrading weapons and equipment. There are scratch cards and quests that will also prolong the experience for you. You'll always have equipment to upgrade, or to max your character, that make this game very ideal for one that's looking for a longlasting game. Ambitious gamers looking to accomplish everything, will find themselves with a lot of things to achieve. And there are just enough side activities for you, that keep this game from being slow.
The music is nice, and is always a pleasure to my ears. The remixes and traditional Final Fantasy audio brings nostalgia. You will also have the option of having Stereo or Mono. You will have additional options to lower or raise the volume on the effects, voices, and the actual music. There are also options for the control pad, virtual keyboard, and Nintendo Wi-Fi connection settings.
The graphics are fairly average for a Final Fantasy game (on the DS), but the cutscenes have some odd little specks.... And during multiplayer co-op, I sometimes found the other player to look very distorted and pixelated. But everything else I found fine. The visuals are at an average but it feels just right for a game like this.
The very worst aspect of this game, that may be the very best aspect of this game for some, is the repetition of the gameplay. 3/4 of the time you will be exploring through various dungeons and traveling and talking to various people based accordingly on the storyline. But there, like I mentioned earlier before, the puzzles and boss battles that may cease the repitition that may present itself as you progress through the game.
The actual length of the game is slightly disappointing... And although you can progress through the story once more w/ Hard and Very Hard difficulties, it's filled with the same story, monsters, quests, bosses, etc. The only thing that changes is the monster's difficulty and the loot. Only certain types of items will drop in certain difficulties which makes this yet another item on the checklist for those perfectionists.
It's basically a much more improved and refined version of Ring of Fates, an already decent game for fans of dungeon crawling. It's not spectacular, but it's better than your average game and a very worthy title to pick up.
Echoes of Time is a must-buy for fans of the previous game, Ring of Fates, or lovers of hack-n-slash dungeon crawlers in general. It really begins to be enjoyable when you play with friends or people around the world via Wi-Fi. It's a really worthy game to add to your DS collection and people will find themselves immersed in the gameplay and other side-activities like questing and making custom weapons. Although it has its faults, it compromises with a promising storyline, multiplayer capabilities, and endless dungeon crawling.