Review by Mykas0
"This time, "final" has a meaning."
And it is indeed a simple one: if the rest of the series is going to be like this, I strongly suggest every fan to stop buying the games. You could say that this is still Final Fantasy, with Moggles, summons, Chocobos, magic and all that, but in a deeper look, it isn't.
Starting with the graphics, they are probably the best ones I've seen in this console, even topping products such as Metal Gear Solid 3. Everything seems to be in their proper place, with weapons and gear equipped in the characters even seen in the actual field. Since there is no longer a distinction between battle and field (and I'll get back to this later in the review), this sole detail is quite enjoyable. Plus, the player is now allowed to control the camera, by using the right analog stick. This can be sometimes useful to get a good view of the action or finding items nearby, but in case your characters are near a wall or any other big static object, you won't be able to see everything in a clear view, no matter how much you try to adjust it. When in the cities, only your main character will be seen, but this also changes in the field, as your entire party is seen in there.
When it comes to sound, its quality has nothing to envy to the graphics. Every melody heard resemble the ones heard in several movies, and that turns out being quite surprising if you bear in mind that each area of the game has their own song. Like what happened in the tenth installment of the series, in every storyline moment you are able to hear the voices of every character, which is rather amusing. While such detail was awesomely performed in the Japanese version, I doubt they'll be able to lip sync the voices to the dialogues in western releases, but that's something that is yet to be seen.
The storyline is now slightly less predictable than before, and that is seen from the very first second you start playing. You are instantly thrown to the battlefield, with a party composed of several skilled members that make battles sound as easy as they look. These first moments serve as a tutorial sequence, eventually leading to your first totally unexpected scene, where the king of your country (who was about to sign a treaty to stop a war) appears dead, at the hands of the very same person who wanted to protect him. This entire sequence serves also to fill you up with the whole context of the story, and a few moments later your adventure will actually start. Are you curious about what happened to the king, and the reasons that lead your friend to kill his superior? That's something that you'll have to find out by buying the game.
Despite all these good things, what really matters in a game is its playability, right? Well, that's where the product turns to be a let down.
As previously stated in this review, now there's no difference between the field sequences of the game and the battles ones. There aren't even any more random battles, with the enemies being seen in the field and the battle menu being accessible in almost every area of the game, except for cities. When you find an enemy, you can quickly access this menu and select your controls from there, or allow them to do as they please, meaning that they will usually use their physical strikes. Fortunately there's a tool that enables you to customize the actions of your players, allowing them to heal a character if the HP drops below a certain level, attacking certain types of enemies with specific magic, using items under certain conditions, among many other possible combinations.
New abilities, conditions ("if HP < 60%", "if ally is inflicted the poison condition", "if the monster is a flying one", among others), items and magic are acquired as you advance further in the game, but you'll usually have to buy them in stores. Such thing sounds normal and old fashioned, but it isn't, with each character only being able to use a specific magic or ability after adding it to their grid.
This grid has nothing to do with the awful one seen in the tenth chapter of this same series, with the player being confronted with a chess-like board, where an unlocked square opens up to 4 other ones. Each of those square contain new possibilities for your character, featuring stuff like the ability to use certain magic (which you will need to buy in stores, before being able to use it), the chance to equip a certain sword/gun/bow/shield/accessory/whatever, several stats bonus or even new abilities.
Oddly, this junction of buying plus unlocking in order to gain something is usually too much for a player to bear, mainly since most squares require at least 20 points to unlock, and most battles award you the interesting amount of 1 point. You can, for example, hang around and find an awesome blade for your fighters, but you'll then find out that nobody can equip it yet. While this is very annoying in the case of weapons, it's worse when it comes to armor and the defending elements of your party. Eventually, you'll find yourself in a situation where your enemies cause too much damage for your characters to sustain, and whatever you do you'll find yourself in trouble.
Usually, this could be solved with massive level up sequences or getting new armor for your character. In fact, I tried that myself, but several level ups seem not to be very effective, and as for new armor... well, with the extreme lack of money that you'll be facing across the adventure, I doubt you'll have enough to properly equip your character. Let me explain: this time, the monsters no longer drop money. Instead, they sometimes may drop something, which you can then sell for a small amount of money, which is barely enough to buy anything.
This way, you'll find yourself beaten up several times, up to a point where the adventure will turn out being way too frustrating. Either if you're a newbie or a more experienced player, you will find yourself in such situation, and you'll probably stop playing. After the easy experience that the last offline adventure of Final Fantasy was, I was expecting something harder, but not something that would take a player to this level of frustration.
They also added some interesting things, though. Each town now features a board where people will ask for battle tasks, which make you go to a particular place and defeat a powerful (and unique) monster. By accomplishing them, you'll get the gratitude of the citizens and some new items. Such addition could be indeed awesome, if those small quests didn't usually made you talk to the person before actually starting them; that way, you'll notice that your current side quest of this type can only start after talking to a generic person who, oddly, is placed in the other side of the world but had time to previously go the city and file his request for help.
This leads us to another problem with the game, the frequent absence of a world map. When you are told that you should go to a certain place, such task usually requires you to travel from the biggest in-game city across all the fields (now with more powerful enemies in there) to reach a previously inaccessible area, which is rather boring, as you may suppose.
When it comes to play time, this single product has a longer one than the previous installments of the series. However, it is a not an enjoyable one, as you will be spending an huge amount of time fighting enemies over and over in order to get more points (for the grid) and and enough money to properly equip everyone. Some people may like it, but for me and many other people such change may stop this product from seeming a Final Fantasy sequel; it's more of a random action RPG to which they added that name.
So, who should get this game? In my sincere opinion, it is nice for those people who are hardcore Final Fantasy fans or fans of action RPGs. While this is indeed a good game, it's lack of relationship with the previous titles of the series (in terms of too many changes to the important aspects of the gameplay) make it uninteresting, and the reason for it having a big play time is just annoying, to the point that you may feel so frustrated that you'll want to throw the game away.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/24/06, Updated 10/25/06
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