So I’ve been struggling a bit with FFCC: Echoes of Time for the Wii. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Ever been on the fence like that? I feel like it is in my best interest to either play it now (or at least decide I’m really sure I want to play it), or trade it in now while it still has some value.
I figured it was time for a list of pros and cons!
I mentioned the shock I experienced on first firing up the game and getting a glimpse of the graphics. I don’t mind low-resolution 2D sprites in ‘retro’ feeling games, but EoT has low-resolution 3D models that are pretty hard to stomach on a big screen; I’m fairly certain they’re using the same assets as those in the DS version (and I’m kind of wishing I’d purchased the DS version, in fact).
However, the writing, such as I’ve seen of it, is pretty good. There’s a lot of weird little things going on that don’t have any impact (at least, I don’t think they do) on the gameplay or the main story. For instance, I come into a town and see a woman standing near some clothes on a clothesline. She says something about having to do the wash all over, and indeed it is looking rather gray. I walk a bit farther on, and there’re 2 children standing in front of a scolding mother, while another mother stands off to one side. Of the two kids, one is bummed that she’s not going to get dessert as punishment for getting the wash filthy. The other is totally unconcerned about what the scolding mom has to say. He displays that sense of entitlement that we see all too often in small children these days. In the meanwhile, his mother (the one off to the side) is bowing frantically and apologizing for the behavior of her son, and chatting on and on as if she has no control over her mouth. He looks like a brat, she looks like a buffoon. How often have I seen this play out in real life?
Social commentary in an RPG? I appreciate that.
But back to gameplay… the controls are strange. Not really bad, just so unconventional that they’re hard to get used to. For instance, to cast a spell, I push right on the cross-button on the WiiMote, then use the analog stick on the nunchuck to move a cursor up and down to select the spell I want to cast. Then I push down on the cross-button to bring up a targeting cursor, and use the analog stick to direct it to the enemy. When I let go, the spell fires off. That isn’t *too* bad, but you can stack spells, too. In order to do that, after moving the targeting cursor, you press A to lock it in place, then press right-cross, use analog to pick spell 2, press down-cross to bring up cursor again, use stick to lay this cursor on the first one, and then fire them both at once. And if you take too long, your first spell will auto-fire.
In all honesty this sounds more cumbersome than it really is. When you’re not running for your life it’s very easy. But as soon as things get frantic, it isn’t like you can fall back on your years of video game playing to draw on muscle memory to pull off these moves. They’re just too unique for those tracks to be laid down in your brain. And to be even more honest, I am using the ‘expert’ controls, but my thought is that whenever a game offers ‘Beginner’ and ‘Expert’ controls, you may as well just learn Expert out of the gate; otherwise you’ll have to unlearn Beginner at some point.
Maybe I should dig out the classic controller and see if that helps with the controls?
When it comes to actual fighting gameplay, a few things bug me here, too. First, this is hack and slash RPG (which I normally love) that has a LOT of jumping around frantically. I’m a little too old for frantic…it makes me irritable. The dungeons are like those you might find in a tactics game, built of blocks of different heights. When you kill a monster, treasure explodes from it, pinata style. Often this treasure will fall off a ledge, or wind up on top of a switch or even another character (you can take AI buddies into dungeons with you, or of course play multiplayer). You have to press a key to pick up loot, so this means jumping and hitting that key at the right time to grab the loot on top of stuff (or jumping off the ledge to get stuff that has dropped, then doing a series of jumps to get back to your starting position). I’ve picked up my AI buddy by mistake quite often, which while funny (me carrying her, her with a gold coin spinning on top of her head) gets frustrating after a while.
There’s also lots of box moving, lifting and tossing. This is all really imprecise. You move a box by standing next to it; you’ll autograb it and can then drag it around until you hit a button to let go. This means you’ll accidentally grab boxes constantly as you try to walk past them, yanking them out of place. With the boxes you can lift, throwing them feels really loose and iffy, and if you bump into a positioned box, you’ll knocking it out of position; the boxes seem to have very little mass (even if they can push down a rusted floor switch).
Lots of bitching, right?
At the same time, the combat feels pretty fun. Good hack and slash enjoyment. Bosses have specific weak points and you have to figure out the best way to get at them. You might hit a boss with a freeze spell then run up and jump/hack to hit a spot on their backs, for instance. You might just jump on their head and try to stay perched up there. Each boss is a bit of a puzzle, and the few I’ve seen have been really fun.
And there’s a crafting system of sorts, with lots of treasure being copper, sticks, fur, etc, that you can take to an NPC to make into weapons/armor/accessories. And a lot of gear can be socketed with gems, improving specific stats. Plus there’s this strange little “Scratch Card” system that gives you party buffs if you scratch the cards right (sorry to be vague, I’ve yet to figure that bit out). All this is stuff that I love in my RPGs.
The world is quirky and strange, the characters I’ve met have me intrigued and I want to find out what happens next. I’ve said too often that I’m mostly a narrative-driven gamer and the narrative here, while I’ve barely scratched the surface of it, calls to me. This is more of a ‘gut reaction’ than anything I can put a finger on.
So I have to decide if I can put up with the frantic jumping craziness (frantic to the point where it sometimes makes me feel queasy, motion-sickness style) and the really craptacular 3D graphics, in order to enjoy the dialog, crafting, world and button mashing combat.
Final thought: My Wii sat gathering dust for probably a year, and now suddenly I’m spending more time with it than with the PS3, XBox and PC combined. I’m not sure why that is…I’ve got great games waiting on all systems. There’s just something “cheery” about Wii games that is scratching an itch right now. I have no interest in picking up Resident Evil, Mad World or the upcoming The Conduit for it. I’m sticking to these kid-friendly, cheerful titles for now.