I bought and played this game knowing full well the criticism, reviews and controversy that surrounded it. I knew full well that it wasn't a mainstay Final Fantasy and that it was completely different than anyone expected or wanted. And when I finally finished it, I was pleasantly surprised. It was due time for a change of pace in the Final Fantasy series. If the series kept going continuously through their same old rpg-standard routine, it would eventually get boring, despite all the 'new' enhancements and features they claim to be adding to each and every new installment. You have to respect a company willing to put their showcase series on the edge by changing it radically. So how did it do in my opinion? Not half bad, so let's get to the actual review:
Graphics:Graphics - 19/20
Second to Metroid Prime 1 and 2, the graphics in this game are jaw-dropping beautiful. Each of the character models, although not entirely realistic, are detailed enough to even see the individual furs on the arms of the Yukes and the belt buckles of the Selkies. With up to 32 different characters to choose from to play with, you won't find yourself bored with any one character look. Although fixed, the graphical environments are beautiful and highly detailed. Of major note are the Rebena Te Ra and Cornall Curach levels, where the detail of the ruins and the majectic water/reflection effects of the swamp shine in the game. Some people say this game is a hack on the graphics of Final Fantasy 9, but I will dispute that statement. They only copied designs of only 17 FF9 enemies that I saw. ONLY 17, the rest are either re-designed enemies or completely new. In fact, I dare say, they went back to FF9 and made its graphics into what they should have been. (The PSX was showing its age with that game, ie. slowdowns.) The rest of the graphics, including characters, backdrops and spells were entirely new and fresh and not taken from FF9 (which, if you'll remember, had static, pre-made backgrounds). The only fault I see is the lack of awesome spell animations, only when you get to the higher end of the elemental spells do you get to see some impressive spell animation. But those graphics are usually reserved for Multiplayer games, which is a pity. Another fault, or rather a nitpick, is that I would have liked to have a 'rotate camera' function when the game is paused. I would have loved to look around my character when I paused the game. To give me a better sense of where I was and where I wanted to go next. But alas, can't have it all. Despite those two nitpicks, this game gets a near flawless score on Graphics.
Play Control:Play Control - 20/20
The control scheme was fairly intuitive, and simple enough that it could be converted to a Gameboy control pad. It took me a while to get the Menu Button and the Mog drop/pick chalice button straightened out, but after that, it was easy pickins'. The response time seems fluid and the actions smooth, so no problem there. Some people say its a hassle to be in a protective bubble, forcing them to make stuttering movements. I find that this is not the case with this game. they simply have not tested the boundries of their 'protective sphere.' You can get just on the edge of it, until you get that shimmering effect, and you still won't be hurt. So just test the boundries of your protective bubble and you will find that you can run and go as fast as you want through a level, just be wary when Mog says he's tired!
Music and Sound:Music and Sound - 18/20
Well, I've read many reviews of people complaining that the music isn't inspired, its not innovative and nothing stands out. My opinion is, its not supposed to stand out! If you take into consideration what background music is really supposed to be, its only supposed to provide support and mood to a subject. (in this case, a game level) So, this music merely accomplished just that, and nothing more. True, they do sometimes fade into the background and are not noticed at times, but the music is still there, giving mood and feeling to a level. To the snooty elegance of the Moschet Manor, to the somber tunes at Cornall Curach; you still get a very clear feeling of what that place is supposed to mean, emotionally, in the game. The sound effects are another amazing category. Sometimes, I've come across games where I know they are using re-hashed and stock sound effects. However, it seems that they went out and created all their sound effects from scratch specifically for this game. And that's a major plus. Every enemy has a specific cry and voice, while every surface has a footstep walking tone when your character crosses its surface. Very solid scores in both areas. However, I will agree, the boss music leaves a bit more to be desired, but alas, can't have it all.
Gameplay:Gameplay - 19/20
Ah, the meat of the game, I'm going to split it up into two sections:
Although I've only played this game a couple times on multiplayer, I can immediately see its appeal. You literally act as a cohesive 'team' when playing with other players. Always talking, bickering, cussing out and negotiating with each other on what to do, where to stand, who to attack, what to pick up, who is going to hold the chalice and when to agree on casting a spell fusion. Its great fun and makes the game immensely easy. In fact, up until cycle 3, the game isn't even a challenge with two players or more. However, it sure is darn fun to bring down a cycle 3 boss with 3 or 4 players shouting at each other and forming strategies to take it down! The artifact system really gets brutal in multiplayer when you have multiple people vying for the best artifact and when a magic user gets that magic +5 artifact taken from him! On the downside, we all aren't made of money. The cost of multiplayer is steep. One Gamecube, one FF:CC game, 2-4 Gameboy links, 2-4 Gameboy units. It gets quite taxing on your money reserves, but despite that, the multiplayer experience in FF: CC cannot be beat!
You face a long, hard road in single player, with only a moogle companion to keep you company. (the moogle is rather useless other than carrying the chalice for you) Its not entirely bad, since the challenge of the game itself, is not impossible. In fact, the game isn't really that difficult, even on cycle 3 in every area. The basic gist of the game is to collect 3 drops of myrrh every year. Collecting a drop of myrrh will advance the current year by 1/3 until all 3 are collected and you are sent off on another year to collect more myrrh. As you beat each level's boss, depending on your bonus points and how well you did on that level, you get to choose from one of 8 artifacts to raise your stats. This is a way of 'leveling up' in this game. Which takes an immense amount of time, but is not entirely necessary to beat the last boss. (you really only need 60 Strength, 60 Defense and around 45 Magic stats to put up a reasonable battle against the last boss) The enemies are static and not random encounters and they mostly drop the same thing every time they are defeated, which makes accumulation of a specific type of item (when you are in the process of creating great weapons and armor for yourself) much easier. Speaking of that, they brought back the item/weapon creation aspect of Final Fantasy X where you have to collect materials to build your own equipment, which is a nice change of pace, instead of just 'buying' equipment. Which leads to your family profession, depending on if your family is a blacksmith, tailor, merchant or alchemist, they can make or give you many useful things during the course of the game. (the other four family professions seem just about useless) But my advice to those who want to play alone, DO create at least 3 other characters whose family professions are ONE of the above mentioned. And play with those characters too. Why? Because the more those characters are happy with the relationship with their dad, the more the other characters will benefit from that dad's profession. So for example, if I had a Blacksmith father with a smiley face on his Clavat son, he will have the best skills to make just about ANY equipement/weapon/item in the entire game, which all the other characters can then utilize. So fill your town with various family professions to take advantage of them and be sure to use those characters, the father won't increase in skill if you don't send stuff back home with that character. I could basically go on and on about the gameplay but I'll stop it there. I am just going to end it saying this: This is a VERY SLOW PACED GAME compared to most other Final Fantasy games currently on the market. Do NOT come to this game if you plan on enjoying a good story, here, gameplay is the focus of its trials.
Replay:Replay - 10/20
Like most Final Fantasies, there is a lot of replay value, however, not as much as one would like. This is probably due to the fact that it was geared more towards multiplayer and they can't fit too many secrets in with the interest in keeping it fairly simple for a multiplayer game. However, there are over 50 artifacts to collect, 23 mog stamps and 8 characters to fully max out in stats. However, unless you have a lot of buddies to keep playing with you, it probably might get old fast. Sadly. Oh well.
Overall:Overall - 86/100
This is a solid Final Fantasy game that takes the series in a fresh new direction. Its a new change of pace that is sorely needed for this franchise. Because too much of a good thing can be bad. I'm glad Squaresoft Enix is willing to take a chance and innovate the gameplay for a showcase title. As stated earlier, this game is very slow paced and is not for those who are Final Fantasy purists (you know who you are (will most likely vote this review as crap too!)), but this game is not really meant for them. This game is meant for those who want to try something different and for those who have liked Secret of Mana and its sequels. For those expecting it to be like every other Final Fantasy, rent it first before buying. However, for those who want a game that they can take their leisurely time with and enjoy every moment of it and simply want another game to add to their collection with fun and deep gameplay, buy it. Its worth it, even if you will be traveling a lone caravan.
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