While movement, attacks, jumping, lifting, and spell casting is handled with the D-pad and face buttons. Selecting magical spells and items, checking the map, switching between characters, coordinating magical assaults, and utilizing special abilities is all done with the touch screen. Going between the two input methods can be problematic when melee with a tough group of foes is in full-swing, but it's doesn't have an overly negative impact on the gameplay. Once again, the magic system allows you to have team-mates pile spells on top of another for added effect. This process is more intuitive when playing with human comrades, but it's still functional with the dim A.I.
On the whole, Square Enix has been pumping out some impressive looking games on Nintendo's handheld system, and Ring of Fates doesn't disappoint. The highly detailed 3D graphics and beautifully rendered cutscenes are among the best to be found on the DS. A keen effort clearly went into packing-in a large number of extra finishing touches throughout all areas of the game, and the effort yields a superb handheld translation of the GameCube original's visual style. This attention to detail - hell, even the characters themselves change visually, when swapping out new equipment - is duly noted and much appreciated. Unfortunately, the game's high-caliber graphics have a dark side: lag. The framerate drops slightly when there's a lot happening on-screen. This was a rare occurrence in the singe player campaign, but it's an omnipresent problem in multiplayer mode.
Lag aside, playing with friends using the DS' local wireless function offers a mostly fulfilling experience, though you'll still need four copies of the game and four DS systems. As a group, each player will create his own character, and you can then free-play different dungeon locations or choose to accept specific side-quests. It's somewhat different from the solo-campaign, which is the game's main focus, but it's a good time nonetheless. Even with a few irritants, Ring of Fates excels in practically every area where FFCC on the GC did not. It's definitely the action-RPG dungeon crawler to own on the DS.
Bottom Line: With a new story, intriguing characters, and ample gameplay updates, Ring of Fates overwhelmingly captures the good aspects and proves on the bad areas of the GC original in handheld form.
Recommendation: Buy it. Plowing through fantasy dungeons with fisticuffs and wizardry on the DS doesn't get much better than this.
Nathan Meunier is a robot made of meat. He's also a freelance writer with an unhealthy video game obsession.