Like the original Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles on GameCube, Ring of Fates is a dungeon-crawling adventure that plays a little bit like a faster-paced Phantasy Star Online. You control one plucky young warrior, accompanied ideally by three like-minded friends with whom you’ll combine magic attacks and take specialised roles in the relentless combat that forms the bulk of the game.
The D-pad makes your bloke scamper around, and every other button is used for picking things up, attacking with the main weapon or using special magic attacks. There’s even a jump button, as the game features a lot of simple platforming sections, and the touch screen is used for selecting magic, using potions, accessing menus - and switching between characters if you aren’t able to enjoy the full four-player, four-cartridge experience.
There’s a lot of stuff going on and it isn’t particularly easy to control, especially when the buttons have context-sensitive functions and the more advanced actions require multiple inputs. For example, if you’re controlling two characters on your own, which you’ll probably have to at some point, combining their magic attacks involves a finger-twisting combination of two shoulder buttons, the touch screen, the D-pad and the X button - and the enemy won’t stand there waiting while you fumble up multiple levels of magical fantastic.
These frequent fiddly bits, and a general lack of friendliness that extends to not actually pausing the game when you access the menus in single-player mode, means this lovely new Crystal Chronicles can come across as the cantankerous old bugger of the action-RPG world. Clearly, Square-Enix have forgotten that first impressions count.