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Nintendo DS Review: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates

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It's so cute.

Really. I've never been much afraid of losing my masculine image, so let me say this with all the gleeful abandon of a high school girl: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate is as cute as a button, darn it, and it's a pretty decent game, too.

With Ring of Fates, developer Square Enix has crafted an addicting action RPG that throws me back to the days of Diablo 2. Ring of Fates is notably more cheerful than Blizzard's epic, of course, but whether I'm clicking frantically or feeling my hands cramp from holding the DS, both games possess that addicting quality I've come to fear. Realizing that I've been playing my DS for three hours straight is more than a little depressing at times.

The Crystal Chronicles series started back on the Gamecube in 2004. I've never played the original title, I'll admit, mostly because of the difficulty in doing so. Getting a game going with friends required multiple Game Boy Advances, a luxury I had neither the friends nor the patience for. Ring of Fates effectively eliminates that difficulty by moving the franchise to the DS, opening up the wide world of Wi-Fi for all sorts of co-op or party gaming. Unfortunately, the multiplayer aspect of Rings of Fate is surprisingly limited, forcing players to use the local wireless between systems in order to feed the addiction.

It's a strange move on Square Enix's part, in my opinion. The idea of being able to create a character and venture out on quests with friends in another part of the country is very appealing, particularly with the DS's inherent portability. By limiting the multiplayer to local wireless, however, I would be forced to gather my friends together and have us all game in the same room, a picture which is so dorky I don't dare think of it.

This left me with no choice but to play the single player portion of the game. Thankfully, Square Enix has crafted an adventure entertaining enough to last me through the game's ten or so hours, with character dialogue occasionally hilarious and never tedious. The hacking-and-slashing to go with it is enjoyable, as it must be, seeing as how there are only a few things you'll do during the adventure: kill, loot, and forge equipment.

It's a simple setup. I'd take my character to a new dungeon, murder a new set of monsters, steal items from their still-quivering corpses, and dash off to town with every intention of making a new weapon to do the exact same thing somewhere new. The process is made interesting by the fact that every item – hat, armor, or weapon – is individually modeled and displayed on your character, tapping into my vain desire to have the most stylish mass murderer ever.

And that's it. There's little else to the formula, though there are a few exceptions here and there. The different races in the game have different powers, some which involve new ways to destroy things while others are better suited for puzzles. The occasional bit of problem-solving does help break up all of the hacking and slashing, but only rarely did I ever get tired of killing things.

Unfortunately, the story mode is not without its quirks. Over the course of the adventure a number of warriors join your party, giving you both new ways to cause havoc and new characters with which to play dress-up. The problem here is that every one of the AI-controlled companions is the intellectual equivalent of a cardboard box. On the rare occasion that they rush forward to attack your enemy, they'll swing once and then stand there looking confused, possibly wondering why I spent so much freaking money buying them new equipment when they simply couldn't comprehend how to use it.

The other issue rests with the game's difficulty. Put simply, it's pretty easy, meaning you'll see the Game Over screen very rarely. I saw it most often during boss fights, though typically those were simple cases of me not realizing I was about to die and choosing to use a potion at the exact moment when the monster was trying to introduce its talons to my face. Still, anyone who keeps up with their equipment and pays a little more attention to their health bars should have no trouble getting through the game.

Aside from that, Square Enix has crafted a pretty enjoyable experience. The game's graphics are colorful and look very good on the handheld, the soundtrack is your typical Final Fantasy orchestration, and the game's villains are dressed absurdly enough to be interesting. And, provided you don't mind the social stigma of a bunch of people sitting around with their handhelds shoved to their faces, the multiplayer mode looks like pretty good fun. I haven't had much of a chance to experience it so far, but the little bit that I did showcased a pretty wide variety of quests that seem very well-suited for party gaming.

Just be warned: the game can be pretty addicting.

…or it might just be that I enjoy playing dress-up.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB.


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