Review by StealthyWarrior

Reviewed: 12/31/03

Best Game In Series Just Got Slower

I must confess I only recently began playing Final Fantasy; I had started two years ago with an emulated version of Final Fantasy IV. I was won over immediately. That may bring up a question of any bias toward the Final Fantasy series I may have during the review and to that I say: Of course there is a bias, this is a review about how I enjoyed the game and how it may relate to your tastes. With that said. . .

Gameplay- 9/10

Simple RPG menu mechanics is the style used, with a touch of Active Time Battle to make the battles more ''exciting.'' Certainly nothing revolutionary during our times, but who looks for that when playing a classic game? There isn't much to say about minigames because there really aren't any (aside from the fighting colliseum) of which to speak. But, it works perfectly for what it is, and I certainly won't dock it for that.

The one aspect of gameplay that bears mentioning is a minor irritant, but a consistant one: loading times. Completely obnoxious, too slow, and come on, this is a 16 bit game on a 32 bit system. The beautiful CG in place at the beginning and the end do not count as an ''upgrade.'' That's simply fan service. And Square has proven that it can port 16 bit games and have them run perfectly well, but on this one, the ball was dropped.

Story 10/10

The story is really the clinching aspect of any Final Fantasy game (save XI) and this one is the best of all. Comedy, tragedy, sci fi. . .this is the first Final Fantasy to really incorporate all these aspects in a cohesive well written story with clearly defined, loveable characters. Oh, and the Opera Scene. . .allow yourself to be completely absorbed in the game and you will be swept away by this, the most beautifully done scene in any Final Fantasy game.

Then there's the villain.

Kefka rates up there with one of my favorite villains of all time. No, not just in video games, but in any medium. He is simply too charismatic to not enjoy hating him. Superbly done, I could easily imagine Jim Carrey playing that role to a hilt. And I'll keep on imagining as it will never happen.

Graphics- 10/10

This is about as good as a 16 bit game gets. Really I should base this on visuals because the variety of what you'll see in this game is amazing. The amount of emotion the sprites can convey can lift your spirits as you laugh along with them, and possibly milk a tear during the more emotional moments. The locals vary nicely from a futuristic tech world, to bright green pasutures and a rolling river.

Sound/Music 10/10

The Best of the Final Fantasy music. It's the best in 16 Bit MIDI, and will certainly stir you. You will be roused, saddened, and tickled as the music completely enhances every scene to heights few games ever reach. Nobuo Uematsu's masterpiece of emotion.

In terms of the sound effects, well, there's not much to them, just your typical magic chimes, swords sounding like paper being torn, and Kefka's slightly altered laugh.

Aside from Kefka's laugh nothing else has really been changed or enhanced from the original version either graphically or aurally.

Replayability 8/10

If you choose not to use Gamefaqs to tear through the game on your initial run it may only take you 20 hours to get through, but there's so much more to experience. There are new characters to find and extra storylines to be seen. And as mentioned before there's the colliseum with which to fight. And as with all games in the series since the third, several summons to collect.

There are so many different scenarios you could run through in this game since different character groupings result in different scenes, (and one major decision is made about 3/4's into the gamee) that you could easily play this game throughout several times. The game is time consuming, though, and replaying it certainly depends on how much time you have available.

A Brief Word on the CG

Great fan service, but that's all it is. It simply highlights some of the more memorable scenes of the game in a montage. There are three scenes in all, two only available to you at the end, and all three share a few scenes. Considering the detail of the CG and the cost of it, I'm still very impressed, and it's nice to see these characters fleshed out. But the CG adds nothing to the game.

Overall 9/10

The absolute best Final Fantasy has to offer. I would absolutely love to see a completely upgraded version of this, with full CG cutscenes, but, as with my dream of a Jim Carrey Kefka, I won't hold my breath. The only drawback to this game are the mind numbing loading times between the menu screen, the main screen, and just about any screen to another screen.

This game will be coming out very shortly in the very affordable Greatest Hits version of Final Fantasy Anthology. This is a needed addition to any Final Fantasy Fan's library.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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