Actually hooking up with someone is stupidly easy. All you need to do is approach a save crystal, select the multiplayer option and a character of your choosing will appear in a friend’s game, or one of theirs will be dropped into yours. Playing side-by-side on both Wii and DS proved exceptionally smooth for the most part, with only the occasional bit of barely noticeable lag. Still, since we were sitting right next to each other, it makes us curious as to how online gameplay will fare.
Aside from all the rampant dungeoneering, you can stop by the town to get side quests, recruit mercenaries (high-level swords-for-hire who only tag along if you fulfil some arbitrary condition first) or to craft/buy weapons and armor for you or your AI followers. Dungeons are fairly lengthy but also quite linear, with a few too many fiddly puzzles and platforming moments to warrant the replayablity that multiplayer games demand. The inflexible isometric viewpoint doesn’t help, often obscuring players behind scenery and making jumping over chasms hard work.
Much has been made of Echoes being a cross-platform release and a lot hangs on how gamers react to this and which version they decide to stump for. Already out in Japan, Echoes has been successful on DS but the Wii release has floundered – and looking at it, it’s not hard to see why. There are two ways to look at the game: it’s either a beautiful DS title or a functional, albeit hideous, Wii one. Given the choice, which of those options sounds the most appealing? Of course, if you don't own a DS, and the Wii is your only option, you're still getting the same game, just without the platform-appropriate graphics, and the controls are a bit more sluggish without the stylus.
Regardless of platform, Echoes is easily the best Crystal Chronicles yet. As a co-op title it’s superb, encouraging teamwork at every opportunity and rewarding you with its deep, fast-paced battle system. It’s just a shame it’s not much fun to play on your own.
Apr 1, 2009