While not being as good as its predecessor, Echoes of Time provides hours of a solid action RPG and FF experience.

User Rating: 8 | Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time DS
Echoes of Time does many things differently than Rings of Fate, from both a gameplay and storytelling perspective. Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles...that's the driving force of the gameplay, which kind of waters down the fun factor especially in comparison to the first game. Rings of Fate had its share of puzzles but literally every room on the battlefied of Echoes of Time has a puzzle that requires the player to solve in order for them to proceed. None of them are particularly mind blowing but just get kind of annoying after awhile. This game also has a much different approach to magic usage...one that kind of resembles its classic use. Instead of having to collect orbs to cast spells, the amount of spells each party member can cast is totally dependant on their total amount of MP. The game also seems to focus more on stats as far as how powerful spells are...the most noticible is the cure spell. How much HP the spell restores isn't as generous as it was in Ring of Fates...or at least not from the beginning (or when combined). Potions and ether are still around to help restore your vitals but this time around they can only be used on site and cannot be stored. Remember how previously each party member had their own special ability to help solve puzzles or overcome particular obstacles? Not anymore. Instead, party members gain certain battle abilities when leveled up and how soon some learn certain ones totally depends on their race. For example, there's a new ability that allows the controlled party member to summon multiple spell rings at a given time...a Yuke will more than likely gain this ability before a Clavat. Equipment plays a bigger part in this game as well. All equipment (weapons and armor) can level up and can be equipped by any party member regardless of race (even though there are very few gender specific items). In addition to this, there are gems that can be equipped to your items as well (think FFVII materia). The affects of these gems can vary from specific stat increases to elemental advantages. The world map this time around actually allows you to move your characters from one location to another like most Final Fantasies. However, despite this fact and that you can attack on the world map, there aren't any random encounters...so, I'm not sure exactly what purpose it served. Also, there is some extra content for players to explore. There are quests that can be pursued by a single party member (usually after hearing about it from a NPC) which usually has them doing a certain number of task within a certain time limit. They also can be attempted with a friend in the multiplayer co-op and few are multiplayer only due to their competitive nature. The reward wielded from these aren't really that great (with maybe one exception) so you're really not missing out on anything if you skip them. In addition to this, all the bosses from Rings of Fate can be fought in the town library once a certain point of the game has been reached. The player basically ends up fighting all the boss in the same order that they were fought in in the original game. All of the bosses have been beefed up to present a pretty nice challenge to players...so much so, Rings of Fates' final boss is considered this game's superboss. He's no push over and be prepared to die multiple times, lol. Since, I never played the multiplayer portion of the game, I can't say much about it but I know some mercenaries can only be recruited by playing it.

Now for the story...lets first talk about the central character and the party members. The Chrono Trigger/Pokemon approach was taken...meaning the protagonist does not have a predetermined identity. Before the player starts the game, they are required to choose a race, gender, and name (either your own or from a list). This of course as you may a figured out causes your name or even your character to ever be shown/mentioned in the game's cut scenes. Party members aren't occupied by characters met in game for the most part. Instead, they are simply recruited from the recruitment station in the main town of the game...which is where you can determine the same traits as you did in the beginning for your hero and rotate who take with you. I'm not sure exactly how many party members you can have altogether, but its a lot. The reason that characters don't join your team "for the most part" because there are minor characters in the form of mercenaries that can be found and recruited around the same town at different points of the game. They usually come with one-of-a-kind equipment and their own predetermined stat alignment that differs from default recuits of the same race. The catch is, the player has to meet some sort of require of the mercenary before they'll be willing to join up. For example, there's a mercenary in the very beginning of the game that will not join you unless you have at least 100 hours of play time*.

*As a side note: Be wary of this specific mercenary because unlike the others, he start off a level 1. So unless you're willing to leave your DS on for that long, come back after playing the game for that long (which will not take you 100 hours) or are willing to hack the game...all in the name of making him a relevant party member, then I would advise you to stay away. Personally, I hacked the play time to get him and he wasn't that bad.

As far as storytelling, its definately not as indepth as Ring of Fates. Its basically: conversation...new world map location...find n' beat the boss...cut scene...conversation...etc. Of course a story is being told in between and there are expections to that pattern but that's the basic flow of the game. I feel Ring of Fates had a better story just due to the emotional detachment of the central character and how infrequently the villian is actually shown. The protagonist emotions are implied in the conversations with people but its just not the same as seeing and hearing them. The same kind of goes with the other party members...there's no real interation or bonding going on outside the battlefield do to the customary approach to them. None of the bosses or challenges the player's party faces in the game are obstacles the antagonist has placed in their way necessarily. The story itself just lacked a lot...a lot of the same things that made the first game great. That's not to say the story is bad (because it isn't) but I just expected a lot more out of a Final Fantasy. Just as with Rings of Fate, there is a New Game + and also Hard and Very Hard difficult settings to unlock. Honestly, after playing certain parts of this game (especially the Rings of Fate bosses), I wouldn't want to play this game on any other difficulty than the original one...but some of the more powerful mercenaries are obtainable on this harder difficulties, so there is an incentive.

My Breakdown:

What's Good:

- The new magic and equipment system
- Being able cast multiple spells with one character
- Being able to recuit mercenaries
- Great customization features
- A world map that can be navigated
- Has some good extra content
- Great incentives to replay the game

What's Not-So-Good:

- NPC conversations are too long and irrelevant
- The game is kind of short
- The sheer irritating cheapness of the game's super boss
- Some of the mercenaries' demands for recruitment can be a bit unreasonable
- Navigating the world map is nice but its also pointless as well
- The loot dropped by enemies really don't attribute that much when looking to gain the more powerful equipment from the customs shop

What's Bad:

- The storytelling
- Character development
- The amount of puzzles water down the game's fun

In all, Echoes of Time puts the "Action" in action RPG but it neglects the indepth storytelling that's expected from an RPG (especially a Final Fantasy). The storytelling just had a very incomplete feeling to it but the battlefields felt like a very finished and polished product. Anyone who is looking for some solid action and A LOT (but not too difficult) puzzle solving would thoroughly enjoy this game. However, anyone looking for uber action and a well told story may want to look else where.