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Warm Fuzzies: New Crystal Chronicles draws from the best 

"I'm dead."

"Just a minute, I'll be right there. I have to kill these... things."

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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.


But like many fuzzy things, mu are flammable. Since the beginning of my adventuring career, I've possessed the power to cast the standard range of elemental spells (fire, ice, lightning) along with healing, resurrection and the more esoteric "time" spells. My safest option, allowing me to keep my distance from the evil, adorable beasts, is to sling a few fire spells in their direction.

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

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