"Just a minute, I'll be right there. I have to kill these... things."
The things in question are cute, furry orange creatures with fox-like tails. Called mu, they aren't very dangerous. They mainly hop around, pouncing on me at inopportune moments. But a gang of them murdered my friend, and I don't want to resurrect him until the threat is gone.
Mu, like most monsters, can be vanquished in a variety of ways. There's the standard beatdown, which is accomplished while standing next to them (and thereby allowing them to beat me back). I can also jump on top of them, whacking at them beneath me. And (perhaps most entertainingly) there's the grab-and-bash, which involves picking up a monster and whacking them against a nearby wall.
After charring a few mu and watching them scurry around in flames, I turn my attention to my adventuring companion. He is wandering through the fantasy forest as a pale and translucent ghost. One resurrection spell later and we're both back in the game-he on the TV's single screen and me on the DS's two. When you're killed while questing, there's nothing like having a friend nearby to bring you back.
THE GOOD: Echoes works as both a single-player and a multi-player game, which is rare, especially among role-playing and handheld games. The original Crystal Chronicles only clicked when a group of friends got together in the same room with several hundred dollars worth of hardware. Last year's follow-up, Ring of Fates, took the opposite approach, and was essentially a solo game with a few co-op mini-game missions mixed in. Echoes of Time has the best of both styles. It's fully enjoyable as a single-player adventure, but as many as four players can collaborate, either in the same room or online, working through the game's main quest while developing their individual characters.
THE BAD: Echoes is a DS game at heart, and the graphics for the Wii's version are identical to the ones on the handheld system-which means they're cruder than even the standard Wii graphics. Most of the game's environments are generic playgrounds built of square-cornered blocks that have nothing in common with Final Fantasy's usual enchanted, twisty landscapes. The plain designing isn't helped by a camera that refuses to move around obstacles and a color scheme that doesn't differentiate between layers of depth.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Echoes of Time eschews the complex plot and lavish graphics of most Final Fantasy games in favor of a simple real-time role-playing adventure that lets several players simultaneously share in the action.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time ★★★✩✩
Rated Everyone 10+; Wii, DS