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Kimberley Ellis
02 May, 2008

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates Review

DS Review | Final Fantasy lite? Hardly!
When perusing the DS titles at your local retailer, it's quite easy to see that Square Enix has much love for the handheld juggernaut that is the Nintendo DS. The company has put enormous stock in the success of Nintendo's portable unit, as they are continuously churning out new titles every few months that have really set the standard for the quality of gaming available on the system. However, of all of the Square Enix titles available none come with as much hype as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates, a title that has kept gamers patiently waiting in anticipation for the past three years. While many in the past have viewed the Crystal Chronicles series as nothing more than Final Fantasy lite, gamers have been surprised to find that this Nintendo exclusive spin-off series contains an intriguingly rich folklore that could easily rival that of the original Final Fantasy mythos.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates is an RPG that plays much like other titles in the franchise, with its heavy emphasis on the hack and slash ethos of dungeon crawling gameplay that is the foundation of this fantasy series. The one major difference that can be found in this title is that it has done away with the turn-based combat system in favour of real time combat making it more of an Action/RPG title in the vein of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

Thanks to its chibi-styled art direction and text heavy conversations, you can be forgiven for thinking thatRing of Fates is something akin to typical kiddie-RPG fare - like the child friendlyKingdom Hearts, but beneath this colourful, anime-like exterior lies a game with so much depth. The story itself is highly engaging - often treading the line between scary and serious, and the game's characters are fleshed out with an amount of dialogue and exposition which is equally impressive, and shows the commitment of the development team. If you've ever played the original Crystal Chronicles game, you'll be surprised at how much larger and real this title makes the game world feel, something that the GameCube title was definitely lacking.

In Ring of Fates, you'll find yourself playing as a pair of young twins who are the keepers of mysterious, magical powers. These powers put the twins and their friends in danger, thus pushing the twins to learn how to control their special gift and become heroes. Along their journey the twins will encounter many interesting strangers with stories to tell, as well as a host of shopkeepers with helpful information and an army of evildoers hoping to take the twins out.

Upon starting up the game, you'd be hard pressed to not think that this game was worth the three years of development, which becomes mightily apparent from the first cut scene. From the get-go you are introduced to the game via a visually stunning intro which shows the graphical power that the DS harnesses when it is put in the right hands. After you've finished gushing over how fantastic the presentation of Ring of Fates is, you'll be in awe as you find that starting a game provides zero loading time. As well as the impressive CG cut scenes, the 3D engine used in the game also shows off some visual treats. From the classic Final Fantasy art style and the emotions clearly showing on the character's faces to the haze of fog that has blanketed the town, you'll soon be stunned by the top notch visuals on offer in this title.

  
The quality cutscenes of Ring of Fates make this one pocket RPG that you won't soon forget.

The quality cutscenes of Ring of Fates make this one pocket RPG that you won't soon forget.
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Not only does the game look great, it sounds great too. After playing through many Final Fantasy titles where dialogue is read, not heard, it's a welcome change to be able to hear the characters talk - making them feel as if they've come to life. At times the voice work provided by child actors can be a little irksome and detracting from the game experience, but at the end of the day it rarely tend pulls you out of the game's atmosphere and the superb environmental sound effects and musical score more than make up for the shaky voice work.

As good as the presentation is, the real meat of the game lies within its gameplay mechanics. While steering away from the turn-based mechanics - which were a staple of the series - may put off some players, it's worth noting that there is a surprising amount of depth amongst the real time combat system. Your character's melee abilities range from standard combos and the ability to grapple with enemies through to some seriously wicked moves like hanging on to flying monsters, unleash a flurry of aerial attacks and slamming your enemies into the walls of the dungeons they inhabit - which also rewards you by shaking hidden items that would be otherwise unattainable and pop them straight into your bag of precious loot. On top of this the game also comes equipped with a variety of special moves that you can perform using the touch screen. Depth is also a strong concept that comes into play once you begin to travel around with a team of AI allies. Once you have your party, you'll also find that the ability to customise the gear of your team and stacking magic spells can easily turn the tide of any battle you face.

  
With the game's AI issues, you'll find yourself working extra hard to keep your party alive.

With the game's AI issues, you'll find yourself working extra hard to keep your party alive.
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Unfortunately as fun as kitting out your team and launching into battle can be, they also prove to be the weakest link of the game. Truth be told, your AI controlled buddies aren’t the smartest or strongest beings around and it’s highly likely that you’ll want to stab each and every one of them with your stylus as your useless little team stands around and watches you die. Fortunately, as both you and your allies level up, they become more aware of the battles that rage around them. But ultimately, be prepared to die many times while your AI friends helplessly watch on - unless you feel like the constant challenge of changing around characters to keep everyone alive and kicking.

Aside from the deep single-player campaign, Ring of Fates is absolutely bursting at the seams with content. Included is a bunch of well thought out mini-games ranging from a Moogle face painting game (seriously!) which allows you to trade your masterpieces with other Rings of Fate players over a local wireless connection as well as a delightful clone of Mario Kart Sure enough, you'll find yourself easily dropping a few hours playing with friends online and if you quickly tire of the mini-games there is still a hell of a lot more multiplayer options to chew up your free time. With all of this content available, the only disappointment is that the game doesn't support play over Wi-Fi.

As long as you each have your own cartridge, up to four players can team up and create custom characters to tackle Free Mode. In Free Mode you have the ability to travel through any area of the game or can trek over to Rebena Te Ra to acquire multiplayer specific quests. What works best with these quests is that they require teams made up of members with specific classes, meaning that you'd better formulate a strategy before you're left figuring out which member of your party you'll want to resurrect first. The only thing which keeps the multiplayer side of the game from being truly great is the pesky frame rate issues which can at times make a multiplayer session very difficult to sit through.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates is easily one of the best role-playing titles on the DS at this time and possibly the best value for money title on the system as well. By taking the original GameCube concept, refining it into its present state and offering a unprecedented boat load of content in a veritable handheld package, Square Enix have made an absolute gem of a game that all DS owners should appreciate.
The Score
While the shonky AI and cumbersome controls take away from the game, there is no denying that Ring of Fates is another solid gaming experience from Square Enix. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates Content

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6 Comments
5 years ago
I'm so excited, I can't wait to get this game. It looks great
5 years ago
Iwas very "meh" about this game. I have 100 other "true" rpgs to finish. I got The world ends with you, and the whole action-rpg thing has a new appeal. VERY tempted to get copies for me and the kids now......
5 years ago
I really enjoyed this game, Its a big time hole though. I started playing at 9.30pm and next thing i knew it was 5.00am and i was on level 46. I have no trouble reccomending this game
5 years ago
Good game, but the brain dead party AI is unaceptable and unforgivable.
5 years ago
Great review, totally agree with the scoring it recieved. I really liked this game because it was a nice break away from all the more serious RPGs I had available at the time. The graphics were some of the best on the DS, the gameplay was fun and action packed and the story was a little weak but still enough to keep you wanting to know whats going to happen next. I would also recommend this game.
5 years ago
SO.. i brought it. AND DAMN....why did they design the levels with diagonal pathways. OK 3d isometric looks good and all, but the d-pad is not diagonal freindly. Doesn't help that most of the enemy seems to come at you from odd angles to hit them too. Further the lack of camera rotation hurts.

Some solid potential, but frustrations as well.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/03/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2008

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