Twins separate from their parents, learn of the mysterious power that resides within them, and go on to use that power to defeat evil--maybe even save the world. True to the epic nature of the long-running Final Fantasy series, Square Enix's upcoming Nintendo DS entry in the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series--dubbed Ring of Fates--hits all of the role-playing game notes you'd expect from its story: betrayal, heroism, family loyalty, and many more. The undercurrent beneath all of the drama's plot are some fun game mechanics that help keep the game moving from one big story reveal to the next.
Whether playing the single player game or four-player multiplayer, the action is always at the forefront in Ring of Fates.
Right off the bat, we should mention that for this preview, we were only able to play Ring of Fates solo. As you might recall, we got a brief taste of the four-person multiplayer action in our previous look at the game from last year's 2007 Square Enix Festival in Japan. While we hoped to spend some more time battling monsters with our officemates, a single preview cartridge of the game meant we had to focus our time on the game's story mode.
The story in Ring of Fates focuses on twins--Yuri and Chelinka--who, when we first encounter them, are very young children living with their father in a small village. The children are marveling at their father's strength as he chops wood in front of their house. During this display, Yuri attempts to pick up the hatchet but doesn't have much luck. Then, the father asks Yuri to attempt lifting the hatchet with his sister and, mysteriously, they are both able to lift the axe. Soon, Yuri is able to lift the axe by himself and swing it as a weapon. It quickly becomes clear that there is more to this pair than meets the eye.
With his makeshift weapon in tact, Yuri, with Chelinka in tow, heads to the local caves to practice his moves on whatever critters are unlucky enough to be in the area. The caves act as a gentle introduction to the combat controls in the game, as well as a preview of the sort of dungeon exploration and jumping puzzles that seem to make up a large part of Ring of Fates' early gameplay.
With sword in hand, Yuri's basic combat moves are handled with the A button. You can chain together a few attacks in a row in the beginning, and that number will grow as Yuri levels up. You can also perform leaping attacks by pressing B to jump and A to strike. If you hold down the A button in midair, Yuri will do a bashing attack on an opponent underneath him, which will cause more damage.
Only in a game can kids kick this much butt in combat.
Even in this early mission, you get a feel for the different types of enemies that you'll encounter in Ring of Fates. Your typical monster won't put up much of a fight and will go down with a few swipes of the sword; more troubling are the flying enemies that are not only tough to hit but will also drop spells. You quickly learn to keep moving when in combat, if only to avoid these kinds of attacks. A targeting ring that indicates where the spell is aimed will help you avoid trouble here. A handy ability when fighting flying foes is jumping up and then grabbing onto them (by pressing the Y button); while hanging on to an enemy, you can cause damage until the monster kicks you off. You can also pick up ground animals and toss them against a wall.
Beyond fighting enemies, the other aspect of Ring of Fates' gameplay is the copious amounts of puzzles that are strewn throughout the level. Some of these are simple--such as gates that require a key or magicite orbs (more about those in a bit) that you have to open. Some of the puzzles require you to find items in other areas and then double back to access a new area. Still, others will require a bit more interaction with the environment--such as moving blocks or using magic to open up new areas to explore.