Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates - Review  

Ringing Some Bells
by Anna Marie Neufeld

Less than 20 Hours
+ Light, Easy Story
+ Good use of all characters
- Awkward difficulty
- Does nothing new
Click here for scoring definitions 

   It is no surprise when a game that requires a $100 or more peripheral per player is unsuccessful, but what happens when that series takes what was done well and puts it into a single DS game? Square Enix answers that with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates. Gone is the ever-annoying chalice (or the much cursed "mana bucket" depending who is asked) and the more severe limitations, and what is added is a short but well done game with a solid story, light music and graphics, and little else to write home about.

   The battle system is simple and easy to grasp. That may not make it easy to be comfortable with, because half of the combat is driven with the directional pad, while the other half is accessed through the touch screen; this division of attention can be somewhat limiting. Once the characters are inside a dungeon, battles are real-time as enemies will pop up in a variety of static locations within each room. Leave the room, and the monsters are reset. Each character has a distinct type of attack, such as sword or bow, with combo attacks increasing parallel to a character's levels. Aside from physical attacks, all characters can use magicite of all varieties such as fire, ice, cure, and raise. These magics are used both in combat and to unlock a variety of puzzles within each dungeon. In addition to their own attacks, each character, based upon their race, has a skill, evenly split between combat-related and puzzle-related. Those with combat skills can unleash devastating attacks upon their foes, while those with puzzle skills aid in the exploration of dungeons, giving the player new routes to explore as time goes on. It is a fun system which can be played in short bursts or longer periods of time.

   The music fits the theme of the game and sets the emotional stage well, but does not do much besides its job, being vey unmemorable. The sound effects on the other hand are mildly annoying, often happening so frequently it is hard to hear anything else. The visuals are cute, fun, and light, suiting the DS very well but they clash a little with the story told. Overall, both of these aspects do their respective jobs adequately but clearly do not attempt to push any boundaries. While not every game is going to be groundbreaking, some differentiation from the crowd really would not have hurt the game's quality.

Boss Fighting a Boss

   The biggest problem Ring of Fates has is the unbalanced difficulty. Progressing through the dungeons is not a significant challenge, simply using common sense and the abilities of the characters will get a player through. However, the bosses at the end of each dungeon seem ridiculously difficult in comparison to the regular enemies faced. Generally, defeating bosses requires either a very specific strategy which often is not immediately apparent, or a tactic combining lots of brute force and cure/resurrection magic, with the AI-controlled allies doing little to contribute. That being said, even if each boss takes a couple tries to defeat, the game does not take more than ten to twelve hours. It may be short but mostly sweet, so the lack of length is no detraction.

   The interface is both approachble and accessible. All magic spells are accessible from the touch screen and can be triggered with either the face buttons or the stylus. Equipment can be compared for strengths at the time of purchasing, and creating new pieces over buying them is mostly painless and definitely advantageous. Armour and weapons created can have up to three special bonuses attached to them, with better bonuses being attributed to the rarer items. Localization is well done, with no discernable errors; though the story is not epic, a good translation was needed to hold it together and it was done well.

   The story of the game is surprisingly deep for such a fluffy-looking and feeling game. The story is surprisingly deep for such a fluffy-looking game; it is of excellent quality and is the highlight of the experience. It is hard to really pin down the originality of the game because there really isn't any. Though the story is well done, all the characters' archetypes have been in countless RPGs, races were from the previous Crystal Chronicles game and no doubt will be seen again. The magic and equipment is all standard Final Fantasy fare. Whether this will be seen as a draw or a detraction depends on the player.

Caption Using Puzzle Skills

   In addition to the single-player storyline, there is also a local network multiplayer option which requires each player to have a DS and their own copy of the game. While in this mode, up to four players can work together, and with this combined power may complete a variety of quests. It's a nice interlude from the main story but unfortunately is severely limited by the fact that it is local only.

   Ring of Fates is a slightly above normal dungeon crawler that does a couple things well and the rest on a less than stellar scale. That does not make it a bad game, merely one that is average in nearly all senses of the word. Fans of the Crystal Chronicles series will definitely want to give this game a try, especially since it's definitely not going to bog a player down. Those looking for a light-hearted, short game would find a fair amount of fun awaiting them, but those seeking a deeper game with complexity and long play time should steer clear.

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