"Victory....Belongs...to the DEAD SEXY!"

Whaddaya know. Namco, the excellent company that created the absoultely amazing Soul Calibur 2, brings this sucker punch to the states, pretty much blowing any FF on the Gamecube/GBA out of the water (even though that`s not saying much.)

GAMEPLAY: 9 out of 10
The gameplay is what makes this game stand out from Generic RPG Adventure No. 12342874865. The battle system, for once, stands true to the quote on the back of the box: ``One of the fiercest, most action packed battle systems ever created where up to 4 players can play simultaneously.`` The battle system is fierce and exciting indeed. Basically, to get ToS` battle system, combine a fast paced fighting game, and a RPG-strategy game. It`s basically a average RPG battle system, except with tons of fun action and no menus to bog down the action. Skills can be hotkeyed to a selected button (B, B+Control Pad, and C Stick), and then used in battle by pressing your hotkey. The problem is, you can only assign up to 6 of a character`s skills to a hotkey, and only 4 if you plan to use the C stick to hotkey a useful skill that another character has. If you wish to use more skills at once, you have to go through tedious menus, continually hotkeying different skills to different buttons in an effort to do your fill of damage. Wait a second. I said no menus to bog down the action, right? Well, you can open up a menu to use items, hotkey skills, flee, and other actions. Still, it has no detriment to the overall gameplay. Another problem is, if the player finds a skill he really likes, he could essentially use that skill and none else throughout the course of the game. Sadly, that is true, as some skills truly overpower others. Speaking of skills, characters can be so customized to your liking that it`s scary. For example, you can set Gems to your characters called ExSpheres. These each give out one of four unique abilities on each level of Exsphere, giving 16 unique EX Skills to each character. Some abilities, when combined in a certain fashion, fuse to make a Compound EX Skill, forming a new, useful ability that draws upon the power of both parent skills, while the parent skills are still working. (Yay!) Each EX Skill is attached to either the T or S skill wing. To put it simply, if a character has more S Ex Skills then T Ex Skills, then he will lean towards S, and vice versa. What effect does this have on gameplay? ALL of a character`s skills (save the base skills and special skills, like summons) are based on this wing. S skills tend to do less hits and more damage, with T doing the exact opposite. It seems that S is the more logical choice, but of course, some characters have better skills on the T side, deepening the character customization. After all this talk on battles, the puzzles must be pretty bad, yes?
Wrong. The puzzles are ingenious in most dungeons, but, of course, once in a while the game throws such a load of crap at times that you could get pissed and *gasp* actually find a FAQ on Gamefaqs. *cough Palmacoasta teleports cough* Some of them are block puzzles, but one puzzle is so ingenious it must be mentioned. The entire Ymir forest is based entirely on using a whistle upgrade to your Sorcerer's Ring (a Ring you obtain early on which gains new abilities in most every dungeon) to call animals, and have them do things you can`t do, such as throw an apple into your reach, or eat a smaller animal in your way. Also, after you clear the game once, to your surprise, when you load up your file once again, you`re given the option to play the game again by purchasing upgrades using a seemingly useless battle currency called Grade, which you can get more of by doing well in battle (I.E, no Damage taken, aerial combos, etc...). This only adds more fun to the experience. Also, side quests are plentiful in this game, adding even more fun to the experience. These also open up more story threads, compelling you to do them for the fun, and stay for the thread they give up. Also, these sidequests are a must if you want to build the perfect characters, and if you hear about them, and then fight the final boss, you`re really missing something fun. (....Hi Abbysion!)
Whew, with all the great gameplay, can the story, graphics, and sound live up to the rest of the hype?

STORY: 7 out of 10
The story to ToS is, sadly, a bit lackluster. A klutzy girl named Collette, was born into this world by an angel, and lives in the town of Iselia. Her best friends, Lloyd and Genis, have stood by her for 16 years. (Even though Genis is only 12. >_>) One day, during a lecture, the Day of Prophecy finally comes, and Collette goes to take the Trials of Heaven, with Lloyd and Genis right behind her. Along the way, they meet a hardass mercenary with a terrible secret (Kratos), Genis` sister, who, put quite aptly by Game Informer, ``seems to derive sexual pleasure from finding artifacts`` (Raine), a big breasted ninja with a strange haircut (Sheena, and wouldn`t those slow her down), a hilarious womanizer-pimp-jackass(Zelos), a small child who wields a giant axe and has had a horrible crime committed against her (Presea), and a self-shacked criminal fighting inside himself to combat his conscience and sins (Regal). From what I can tell, Regal is the best developed, with the others not developing much in the story. Lloyd, in fact, doesn`t have any character development. At all. The story seems quite boring, until you realize the fact that you`ve only played 10 hours. After the tower of Salvation, the story picks up the pace, after the discovery that changes the course of Collette`s journey forever. The main plot is rife with twists, although, notably, most could be found in other RPGs. Meh. Personally, my favorite character is Regal, with his development and all. ToS only has an ``okay`` story, although it is more bearable then some RPGs out there.

GRAPHICS: 8 of 10
The graphics in ToS also stand out from other RPGs, Gamecube or not. Featuring cel-shaded graphics, and anime cutscenes....Yes, the cutscenes. I must mention them here. On the back of the box:
``Enter a world of high quality anime cutscenes`` The important thing to note here is high QUALITY, not QUANTITY. There are about 3 cutscenes in the actual game, 4 if you count the intro. Sure, they`re pretty as hell, but where the hell are they is the question you`ll be asking for 3/4 of the game. Anyways, the graphics should be the graphics that most cel-shaded games base on. The character movement is fluid, and the facial expressions are pretty good for a game with a decidedly anime game. The monsters and dungeons are pretty, with some bosses looking absolutely amazing. (Hi, Abbysion) Although, the game sometimes falls prey to the foe recoloring scheme, but not that much. Above par graphics.

SOUND/ MUSIC: 8 of 10
The music in this game is much like John Kerry, it decides what it wants to do, then quickly changes. For example, the music in the Shadow temple is downright horrible, but whence you fight Shadow, the music gives you the exhilarating feeling that you come to expect from good RPG music. The music is pretty good, overall. The sound is where this game loses a point. Some of the voice acting is HORRIBLE (LLOYD COUGH GENIS COUGH COLLETE COUGH), but is saved by Jennifer Hale, Tara Strong, Shiloh strong, and because absolutely no one demanded it (but was glad it happened) Solid Snake! The sound/music is above average, marred by below average voice acting.

I really can`t tell you what to do here. If you`re even the slightest interested in RPGs, then rent this game, and then buy it if you like it. If you`re an absouloute loser, then you could probably beat this game in the week you have it. If you like RPGs a lot (like me), then I would buy this game. After all, if you don`t like it, you could sin by regiving. >.>

First of all, I would like to point out a blatant lie on the back of the box, stating that the game has 80 hours of gameplay. I have trained all my characters to level 100 (which is not the max level), done all the side quests, and completed the main quest, and I just barely frisked 77 hours. If you only want to complete the main quest, expect 50 hours of gameplay. Sidequests? 70 hours. Replayability is all up to you, do you want to play the game more, except you`re stronger from the beginning, or only play it once?

A great RPG on the great system, the Gamecube. For pS2 owners, you'll have to import it from Japan. :-P

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/21/04

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