The DS is the definitive way of playing this game.
Before getting into the story, it's worth noting that both the DS and Wii versions of the game are exactly the same. Everything from the graphics to the gameplay, with the exception of the game's controls, is identical. Using the exact same system as Ring of Fates, the game is best when played on the DS because all of the conventions, including touch screen capabilities remain intact. The Wii version also splits the screens in two with main gameplay being on the left, with the other information being on the right. You can use the – and + buttons to make one screen bigger and the other smaller (and vice versa). Aside from the screen usage, the controls on the Wii take a bit of time to master, but considering there's no waggle experiences, that's just fine.
Like a lot of other treasure-hunting and dungeon-crawling games, the beginning of the game has you customizing your character, which automatically gives you more freedom than any of the other games did, because now you can freely choose which race and class you want the main character to be a part of. Whichever way you choose, the main story will have you coming of age on your 16th birthday, and in order to prove yourself, you have to muster enough courage to come out of the woods unharmed. After doing so and earning a crystal, your sister becomes ill and suffers from the "crystal sickness." There's only one cure for this sickness, and the only way to obtain it would be from the past. Not only is that a problem, but nobody is allowed outside the home village to begin with. Swallowing fear, the hero ventures outside in search of a cure for his sister. Little does he know that crystals no longer exist in the world outside the village.
While it isn't as heartfelt as the story in Ring of Fates, it still is solid enough to encourage you to keep playing. Most of the role-playing adventure will be had in the main castle town where you can deposit funds, recruit members, and take on new missions to gain some gil that you can use for equipment and magic-which you'll need a lot in the game. Dungeons in the game aren't randomly generated (thankfully), but the real joy in the game comes from not just the combat, but the minor platforming as well.
With the map on the bottom screen, progress in the game is actually quite simple and linear. Eventually as you get further and further into the game's many dungeons, you'll earn some new weaponry that can be further used to solve puzzles that present themselves in every dungeon. For example, eventually you'll recruit a hunter who can shoot certain targets to help venture through certain areas.
Exploration is quite a theme in the Crystal Chronicles games, but you can't explore too much without some fighting here and there. Humans who specialize on physical melee strikes are the fastest in terms of getting rid of enemies and grinding, but you'll also come across a few enemies who need more than just a physical beating. Depending on which character in the party you're using, you can also use various magic tricks (using either the stylus or shoulder buttons) to unleash some fury on the enemies. A lot of the enemies in the game leave all sorts of leftovers on the ground. Oftentimes they're just items that replenish your health and magic. Luckily, unless you just leave the room, the items don't disappear, so if you're hurting and need some refreshment, you can always come back to the items and pick them up.
The most impressive part in each dungeon is the bosses at the end. The real joy here comes from deciding how you're going to take them apart. Each boss in the game has specific weak spot, but if you continue to hack, slash, or use magic non-stop, the boss can fall that way too-albeit at a much slower rate. Killing each boss not only advances the story and completes a mission, but it leaves a ton of loot too, which you can later use to forge more equipment for later.
Echoes of Time is pretty solid alone, but the best way to play the game is with three others. The beauty of it all is that the four of you get to use whatever class you want, unlike in the original GameCube one where you all have to classes originally set for you. Also, since all the fighting takes place on the same plain, it allows for a whole lot more multitasking. Add the fact that both DS and Wii users get to play together thanks to the Pollux Engine, and you have one heck of a dungeon-crawling experience.
Depending on your tastes, Echoes of Time is a mixed bag in terms of visuals. Since it pretty much uses the exact same visual style as Ring of Fates, hardly anything was changed. The magic plates on the right side of the screen have taken different forms, but that's about it. On the Wii, if you're playing on a standard tube, the text is extremely hard to read due to the increase in resolution. If playing on an HDTV, the words are a lot clearer, but the graphics just become even grainier. On the Wii, you're technically getting a perfect port of the DS version, and when it comes to power, the DS isn't even close to the Wii.
The sound is what you'd expect from any Final Fantasy-themed game. The music is all pretty niche, and the cool thing about the Crystal Chronicles games is that everything sounds like a light-hearted medieval tune. The fair share of voice acting is here too, and nothing is extremely horrible, so it's quite an impressive package on the DS. The Wii is another story.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time combines the robust single player from Ring of Fates with the entertainment had when playing multiplayer on Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube in a less than annoying fashion. Wireless online play is a whole lot better than connecting GBA's to your GameCube, and it's indeed a welcome addition. But buyers beware, the best way to play this game is through the DS, so while both the DS and Wii versions go for about $39, the DS version is definitely the better buy.