Review by delateur
"It's an RPG alright... and a fairly decent one..."
I've read many of the 34 current reviews on here, and felt like this game warranted one more. I'd LIKE to give it a really low score, just to be dissenting and draw more reads, but unlike the single 4 I've seen on here, I actually went ahead and finished the game before I posted my review, and I'm not so jaded as to overly compare this game to every other RPG I've played in my life, so I give it a solid 7. What does 7 mean? It's worth renting, even worth finishing, but you may want to hold off on buying it right off the bat. Here's why:
Story: 7/10 - Ok, that MIGHT be a little low, but there are reasons, so hear me out. The story is very cliche. A group of kids go off to save the world. Story evolves, twists occur, saving the world means something very different at a few key points, but world is finally saved... THE END. Now how you fill in the nuances of that story is what makes it memorable or forgettable, and sadly ToS doesn't break the mold in any regard when it comes to story. The voices we've heard before (if we own other gaming systems... ...coughPS2cough...), and while they do a fine job for the most part, the overall dialogue is pretty uninspiring. FFX is pretty much the benchmark for voice in RPGs, and it's not really as good. However, there is a LOT of spoken dialogue, and that is nice. The NPC dialogue isn't bad either (typed text in bubbles, and a little voice), but overall is pretty ho-hum. The ending, to me, was pretty anti-climactic. You could tell they were trying to get some emotion worked up, but it just sort of fell flat and left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.
Gameplay: 8/10 - This score is mainly based on the battle system. It's very complex and enjoyable, and gives you quite a bit of control over who you play, and how they act. The default settings work fine for the most part, but there's the ability to customize, to play any character manually (or have up to four of you play four characters manually at the same time, if you have friends that don't mind kicking back in non-battle situations and just watching the story), upgrade weapons, cook (part of the after-battle healing), use any character as your main "walkaround" character, if you get bored with the main guy, Lloyd, learn new techniques (spells and skills), and customize your Exsphere with up to four skills that combine in various ways to give you new skills, AND combine attacks while attacking in unision (sort of a combo of a combo)! Really, kudos go out to the gameplay complexity. It's probably worth a nine, now that I think about it, but it's right in there, 8-9... good stuff!
Sound: 8/10 - With a very few exceptions, I really liked the musical score of this game. The sound effects fit well, the combatants yell out various things that actually clue you in on when they mess up or figure out a move that is really effective, as well as when they're getting beaten down, etc. There's a few tunes that started to grate on me after awhile, but most of the time, the music fit the scenarios very well and shifted seamlessly when the situations changed.
Graphics: 8/10 - Cel-shading is the way of the future, it seems. This game is very Suikoden 3-esque, although maybe slightly less detailed, but still passable. For the most part, you'll find the areas detailed enough to not make you cringe, although personally I felt the game was just a tad bland in spots. Not BAD, just not quite as pretty as I would have liked. The lighting and spell, effects, however, are both nicely done and definitely draw your attention from the somewhat drab backgrounds and battle scenes.
Replayability: 6/10 - It's an RPG. Much like a book, when you read it, you don't necessarily want to go back and re-read it right away. However, there is a New Game+ option with a grade system that works pretty well, and lets you start with various extras on your next time through. I'm trying to play it through again, just to see things I might have missed, and to get a different character the 2nd time through. It's not quite as fun, even with the New Game+ option. The minigames, I found to be few, and irritating, so that's just me... However, there is the ability to play with others, and play other characters as your "main" in battles, so this game does better than most in terms of giving you replay value.
Final Word: There are things I should mention to any prospective renter/buyer up front, as they turned me off initially and I'd like to keep you from getting frustrated. Yes, the initial interaction between players is rather childish. They smack each other around a LOT in the beginning, and more so when a certain character appears later on. However, there IS a process of growing up, maturing, and a final "aha" on the moral/philosophic path that comes to fruition, and everyone softens and matures as this takes place. So be patient. There ARE touching moments in here, and they are pulled off pretty well. The nasty beginning is there so that you grow to love the characters later on. I just don't think it was done all that well. Rent or buy? Even though this is only the 2nd real RPG for the Gamecube, I'd say rent it. It's not as endearing as Windwaker, and you'll be done in around 50 hours. If you get it close to a weekend, that's one rental period, maybe two, and I imagine most can get by without seconds, unless the GC is your only console, in which case, you might just want to buy this one, given the replay features it has.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/04
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