Review by Scirel
"This is supposed to be better than the PS/2 Final Fantasys?"
Let me start with my unusual history while playing the FF series. I first got a PS2 a few years ago after nintendo failed to bring even a few RPGs to my gamecube. Hearing about FFX a while before, I got the system and the game the year after it was released. I enjoyed it very much, both gameplay and storywise. Of course, a few parts were corny, such as some of Tidus's emotional outbursts and the laughing scene, but overall it was enjoyable. I don`t see how such minor moments could ruin the game for someone.
When I found myself very much enjoying FFX, I picked up 7 and 8 and played 7 first. I found 7 to be a decent RPG. not as good as X, but that was probably because the people in serious situations looked like Lego Minifigs. Still, it was a solid RPG in both gameplay and story, so I moved on to 8.
Now for 8. Ah, FF8. By this time, all over the internet, I have heard horrible stories of how "bad" FF8 was. I went in with cautious trepidation, expecting to return my used copy by the end of the next week. However, I found what would be one of my favorite games. Sure, the draw system was a bit tedious, but it was unique and it wasn`t horrible. I heard stories about how you were "required" to use summons so many times in this game to get though it, when I only used them for bosses and found the game to be of a satisfying difficulty.
I then found the game FF9. Surely, with all the glowing praise surrounding it as a throwback to the "glory days" of the FF of yore, it would be a game like no other, making me rethink my opinion of the others. Haha! no. Instead, I found a fairly mediocre game with rediculousy ugly charachter designs that I got bored with after the first few hours.
It is with this mentality that I bought FF4 for the GBA this year. It was finally time to see if all of this talk from the #@R|)(0r3 FF gamers that the SNES series was better than a house made of gold buried on top of an oil field was true. And thusly, we get to the real review.
Let me start with the most superficial part of any game, the graphics. For this game, you could wonder why this couldn`t have been ported to the GBC before. Seriously, the graphics in Mario 3 for the NES are better than these supposedly 16-bit pixels. But that could have been set aside if it were not for other discrepancies.
First, the charachter art. I don`t know if it was intentional, but the artist looked like he was trying to copy the look of old oil paintings in the charachters. Unfortunately, they all look emaciated, with way too much shadow everywhere you could put shadow, and the result is someone trying to force too much detail into a system that they thought couldn`t handle it. However, other SNES ports like Tales of Phantasia(which I will refer to later again) have far better graphics and charachter portraits worthy of SNES quality.
In battle, the monsters are drawn vivdly, yet the battle sprites are short and squat, making supposedly serious battles between seemingly "giant" people who are realistically drawn and your squashed cahrachters who are the same size as your human enemies outside of battle impossible to take seriously.
I know this game is from the SNES era, but my SNES downstairs has games with far, far better grahpics than this, including super mario world. There is no excuse for an accumulation of such poor graphics, especially in a port.
First of all, I will talk about the battle system. Slowdown, and lots of it. Believe it or not, in a game with such little graphics intensity as this, there is a ton of slowdown in battle for some unknown reason. This is complicated by the fact that once the ATB gague fills, the turn order is anyone's guess and the commands you dole out to charachters, which are extremely similar in the beginning of the game, may go to the wrong person. Aside from that, fighting in and of itself is good. You have your standard FF spells and weapons, and bosses will throw out all kids of various tricks and weaknesses you have to exploit.
Unfortunately, the gameplay outside of battle is nowhere near as good. when you finally obtain your airship, you'll notice what's on the world map. Or rather, what isn`t. Around 80% of the whole map is covered in water. Not water that you can explore, just open, empty ocean. On the few islands that you spend the game on your path is fairly linear, with little to do other than go to the next area.(Which makes sense, since charachter development is eschewed for charachters discussing how to get to the next dungeon). You will go to two other "maps" in the game, but they are even more empty than the main one, with wide areas to serve as nothing but more places for you to get lose in as you follow occasionally vague diretions.
There are some sidequests to get the best weapons, which brings up the score a bit, but the requirements to get into the ultra secret sideuqest dungeon fully are so absurd that after you beat the game it is reserved for only the most diehard fans of the game.
Story and charachters:
This is the part of the game which really gets me thinking... about how people can possibly consider it above the Sony games. One definitely has the right not to enjoy those stories and charachters, but one must admit they at the very least exist and the stories are constructed fairly well, and that the charachters of those games change, either in the eyes of the player or the party, over the course of it.
However, to do this, a charachter must not just be a trait and an obscure backstory that responds to a situation slightly differently. The charachter must be explored, which unfortunately does not happen to a single one in this game.
First of all, Cliches. Yes, this game is ripe with them, as many RPGs are. However, unlike most, I have little problem with them as long as they are used in a new way or an interesting way that develops a charachters. In other words, not just the same old song, but the same song with a new beat. However, not in this game. Several cliches are used not once, not twice, but several times over the course of the game with little explanation. The plot has absolutely zero depth or detail in that when something happens, it happens very quickly with no buildup or aftermath and is quickly forgotten as the charachters move on with their crystal quest. Plot devices are introduced, used, and forgotten in the blink of an eye, and the few mysteries the game has are quickly and easily explained near the end of the game.
Clearly, Square did not have much direction in how to handle the story. It is almost as if the charachters themselves had the mentality of some RPG players I know.
"I don`t care what is happening here, just let me get to the next dungeon", could describe the mentality of the charachters throught the game, who talk about little else. the story is tossed aside and plays second bannana to getting to the end of the game, regardless of what that end is.
Now as for the villains, whatever is done to the heroes, they get far worse. at the ery least, and I do mean Least, the heroes get a few sentances in their rushed introductions and exits explaining their loose motives. However, the villains don`t even get that much. They are the epitome of 1980's saturday morning TV villains, evil for the sake of evil with no reason behind it, and not even any secondary traits besides being evil.
The introduction in the beginning of this review was supposed to eliminate two preconcieved notions about me. One, that I am a complete newbie to gaming. This is not true in any way, as I got an NES on my 5th birthday and have been gaming ever since.(I got my driver's liscence a few years ago).
The second notion is that I liked the games I did purely for hype. This is impossible as the only hype I heard for FF8 was negative, and I bought and played each game well after it's initial release date.
Take this review however you feel, but I suggest you at least get this out of it: Don`t be scaredto like a game, or anything, for that matter because of the "cool" crowd and their opinions. Try something for yourself before praising or disparaging it. After my playing of this game, I honestly cannot reccomend it too anyone without rose colored nostalgia glasses, but if you are truly interested, go ahead and try it, and make an opinion for yourself.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/01/06
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