Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-09-03 Nintendo DS Action/RPG E (Everyone) Square Enix

Square Enix definitely has their eyes set on the Nintendo DS, with plenty of great RPGs constantly being released for the handheld. I missed the first Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Ring of Fates as well a few months back, but I'm glad I had the chance to play it, even if the AI party members suffer from lack of that so important "I".

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates follows the story of two twins, Chelinka and Yuri. These two special children can channel magic through crystals. It's this same power that places the twins in danger.

Although at first glace Ring of Fates looks oh-so-cute with its chibi artwork and sprites, it's actually a very in-depth game, with plenty of story and lots of dialog text to read. But if you're expecting the traditional turn-based combat system, stop right there. What you get here is actually an action/RPG with real time combat.

You are able to jump onto enemies and stomp on them, grab on to flying enemies and slash at them, throw them against walls to shake items out of them, open chests by slashing them and pick up items and carry them to where they are needed.

Later on, you will find characters that will join your party and have different abilities, such as ranged attacks, making platforms appear, lighting candles and creating magicites out of crystals. Each character also has a tribal ability, which is like their special little trick. These are activated by pressing the right trigger button and using the touch screen. The action is different for every character.

Magicites are created through an alchemy mini-game where you mix components to create something new. The magicites are like charges for a particular spell, and without them, you can't cast anything. But when you do have them, you can basically stack them on enemies and activate them one after another just by pressing the right icon and positioning the circle.

However, this doesn't work so well in solo adventuring since it requires too many button presses while the enemies are sitll attacking. Multiple magic circles are best used in co-op gameplay, where only one person is able to concentrate on controlling the magicites.

In fact, during solo play your AI-controlled party members don't seem to stand out. They will fall behind, be nowhere to be seen when you need them, even fall off cliffs and jump off ledges. At least you can press the left trigger to summon them back to you, and you can always switch between characters to use their individual skills. In other words, it means you end up managing more than you should have in the first place, if only they were a little smarter. Of course, this is eliminated in the local multi-card multiplayer.

Aside from hacking and slashing, the gameplay does include plenty of environmental puzzles. There are locked doors, platforms, keys, switches, levers, and plenty of occasions to use your party members' skills to progress (for example, shooting certain targets with Gnash or unveiling hidden platforms with Al).

The boss fights are interesting and require a mix of strategy, precision and sometimes a bit of luck, and there are plenty of materials to find and moogles to discover. You can even custom paint them when you find them, if you feel artistically inclined, and share those creations with others.

In sum, Ring of Fates has plenty to keep you entertained. The story is pretty good and the gameplay isn't too bad, if you can tolerate your silly AI buddies. As usual, Square Enix spoils us with its top-notch presentation: the cutscenes are gorgeous, the music and sound effects are fantastic, and it's great to hear some voice acting for the characters.

The biggest downside is the lack of a Wi-Fi multiplayer option, which would have made it easier for everyone who owns Ring of Fates to access the multiplayer-only quests. But in the end, this is another title that will be very welcome by Final Fantasy fans.

Special thanks to Klee Kuo and Square Enix for providing a copy of this title.