The Crystal Chronicles series has never quite achieved its potential. From baffling design decisions %26ndash; such as the original requiring not only a GameCube but also a mess of cables and a GBA for each player %26ndash; to Ring of Fates%26rsquo; curious omission of online play, Square Enix have always managed to stab themselves in the foot. Until now, that is.
Echoes of Time, playable on Wii and DS, will feature online cross-platform adventuring with an absolute minimum of fuss. What this means is that whichever version you decide to plump for %26ndash; and we%26rsquo;re hoping they%26rsquo;ll both cost the same %26ndash; you%26rsquo;ll be getting an identical experience, albeit one that%26rsquo;s magnified and slightly fuzzy if you go with the Wii game. It%26rsquo;s certainly a bold move, and we hope it pays off, because Echoes of Time really is magnificent fun.
Despite the focus on multiplayer, the game%26rsquo;s Story mode is the most substantial the series has seen, so you might not even want to team up. After an in-game friend succumbs to the ancient and mysterious %26lsquo;crystal sickness%26rsquo;, you%26rsquo;re tasked with leaving your secluded village and scouring the world in search of a cure. It%26rsquo;s standard Final Fantasy guff, sure, but simple and effectively told %26ndash; the sort of plot that works well in a combat-heavy multiplayer title such as this. Party members can be created (there%26rsquo;s a guild system much like Etrian Odyssey%26rsquo;s) or high-level mercenaries recruited as a substitute for real human beings if you%26rsquo;re short on mates.
It isn%26rsquo;t radically different to last year%26rsquo;s Ring of Fates, although the setting and plot seem far more interesting this time. Rather than being forced to play as a set character, you can now be any race or gender you wish %26ndash; and use the same hero in multiplayer. Joining or hosting a game is as simple as touching a save crystal in the single-player world, whereupon up to three friends will be dumped into your game, or you into one of theirs. Dropping out of a session is just as easy.