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18 February 2009

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 6/10
The story, here, isn't bad. But it won't be winning any awards, either. You've got your good guys fighting your bad guys. The good guys witness the bad guys doing something particularly heinous, one of their loved ones is affected by it. They decide that their quest for revenge will be their reason for being the ones to actually stop what the bad guys are trying to do. Just another variation, really, of the typical Final Fantasy story.
I'll give the storyline a 6 out of 10. The characters are well written, but overall, everything gets a bit predictable.

Gameplay: 5/10
I have mixed feelings about the gameplay. On the one hand, there is an in-game tutorial for just about every aspect of the game. It seems like it's programmers wanted players to understand what they're doing. Unfortunately, the specifics of the controls are just not quite intuitive. At least, not for old school, life-long gamers, like me. I've had over 20 years to get used to the A button making you jump and the B button making you attack. In this game, it's the other way around. I often find myself jumping when I want to attack, and swinging my sword when I want to jump.
Also, I'm a bit irritated that there are two different buttons to pick items up off the ground (one allows you two carry items and put them down elsewhere, one adds the items to your inventory), but out of the A, B, X, and Y buttons, not one of them pulls up the menu screen. Ever since Final Fantasy 7, one of the four buttons available to the player's right thumb has been designated for the menu screen, but not this time. It's rather frustrating.
Adding insult to injury, this game falls victim to the same irritating problem as so many of Square-Enix's other titles. Eventually, you will reach a point where you have no choice but to spend some time leveling your characters up, and saving up your money and materials for better weapons and armor than what you have already. I understand that nobody wants the game to be TOO easy, but Squenix tends to take that mentality too far. Having to take relatively so much time to strengthen your party between parts of the main story can make it difficult to maintain continuity, when playing. With Squenix games, I often find myself looking up an online walkthrough just to figure out what I have to do next, once I feel my party is strong enough to continue again. Sadly, this game is no exception.
Finally, there are a few dungeons in the game that are unnecessarily difficult to get through. If there weren't already walkthroughs posted online for this game, I probably would have given up about halfway through it. I understand that puzzles should be a bit challenging, but a few areas are just plain ridiculous.
I'm giving the game play a 5 out of 10. The control scheme is too unintuitive for me to feel comfortable scoring this game any higher than that. I'm constantly jumping when I try to attack, swinging my sword when I want to jump, and pressing the X and Y buttons when I want to pull up the menu screen, forgetting that I can only do that with the Start button.

Graphics: 8/10
I have no complaints about the graphics. The Crystal Chronicles games have developed a certain look to them, and the developers did a great job of continuing that style within the DS's graphical capabilities. Occasionally, some of the creatures can be a bit hard to read, but you already know that they're the bad guys, so it's not a big deal.
I'll give the graphics an 8 out of 10. The graphics do their job just fine. This category is really only losing points due to the fact that there is only so much you can do with the visuals on a game designed for a handheld system.

Audio: 8/10
As far as voice-acting goes, this game wasn't too bad. More often than not, when vocal dialogue is being translated from Japanese to English, the voice actors get a little too... enthusiastic. I have yet to see a case where that didn't happen at all, but it was at a minimum in this game, so I can't really complain.
Regarding the music, I never have any complaints about the music in Final Fantasy games. Nobuo Uematsu is a great composer, and he really knows how to capture the emotion of a moment. The music always fits in well with the scene that is playing out, and never overshadows the game itself. It serves as a perfect accent to the visual aspects it accompanies.
I'll give the audio an 8 out of 10. The voice acting is among some of the better that i've heard, and I have absolutely no complaints about the music.

Overall Score: 6.75/10
The story is fine. The characters are all well-written, and clearly have their own personalities. The music blends well with what's happening on-screen. The game's biggest downfall is the control scheme.

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