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After having been absent from Nintendo game systems for more than a decade, dating from the 1994 Super NES release of Final Fantasy VI and the North American debut of the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series on the Gamecube. Since then, however, several additional Crystal Chronicles titles have found their way to Nintendo consoles, including March 2009's Echoes of Time, an action-RPG developed for both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. Or should I say, an action-RPG developed for the Nintendo DS that also just happens to have been released on the Wii.
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Graphics and Sound
From the very moment you first boot this up and lay eyes upon the unique dual-screen presentation, it becomes crystal clear that the Wii version of Echoes of Time is nothing more than an afterthought. This is a DS game that has been adapted to run on the Wii. The graphics, sound effects and everything are clearly DS quality, and that's simply not acceptable. Roughly half the screen goes completely unused during gameplay, and the font is often times so small that it's hard to read. Fortunately, the size of each screen can be adjusted by using the + and - buttons, the music is good and the voice acting (what little there is, anyway) is light years better than Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates.
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Speaking of Ring of Fates, the gameplay in Echoes of Time is quite similar to that DS title. Both games are action-RPGs that contain a great deal of puzzle-solving platform elements. You battle enemies in real-time combat, gain experience and level up over time. There have been a few changes for the better, though. For one thing, magic is no longer an expendable item; rather, characters now use MP to fire off spells. Sadly, though, the platforming elements can be as frustrating as ever. One thing that does make a welcome return is item customization, which allows you to enhance or build new weapons and armor and even changes your character's appearance.
The Wii version of Echoes of Time requires use of both the Wiimote and the nunchuck attachment. The nunchuck control stick is used to move, the A button is used to talk or attack, B is used to jump, C is used to dive or cast magic and Z is used to pick up items (which takes some getting used to). The controls are more complex than that, but the game features quality tutorials to help out along the way. On the whole, the control works well, with the only noticeable problem being the remote pointer. When activated and pointed at the screen, it can interfere with other actions--for example, if you're facing a shop keeper and hit A to try and talk to him, it might not work. Best to use the Wiimote control pad to select spells and characters instead.
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The story of Echoes of Time is pretty good. It starts off slowly, but realistically. The hero of the game first needs to undergo a ritual of passage into adulthood. Afterwards, in order to obtain a medicine needed to save a girl from his/her village, the protagonist agrees to do a favor for a mysterious old man at a nearby city library. However, the results of that errand turns the hero's world upside down, and forces him/her to undergo a journey to try and make things right. It's well written and certainly the most engaging plot in a Crystal Chronicles game since the original.
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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a fine game on the Nintendo DS, but the Wii version is clearly a half-hearted conversion. The game wasn't really optimized for the Wii at all--the developers did add the ability to make masks out of Wii-Mii faces, but that doesn't really add anything to the experience. So in the end, what you have here is essentially a direct port of a DS game, sans the ability to play on the go and even watch TV while you explore and level-up. Echoes of Time is decent and likely worth a rental, but if you have a choice of system, definitely go for the DS version instead.