Review by Mariner

Reviewed: 12/12/01 | Updated: 12/12/01

Excellent job system, but where's the plot?

The one we never got. It wasn’t until recently that video game companies finally started to realize that the Western world liked RPGs too. Thus, many RPGs, like Dragon Quest, Fire Emblem, Tales of Phantasia, and so forth didn’t make it over here. Obviously, due to Final Fantasy’s mind boggling popularity, this one is the most famous non English RPG. People finally got a chance to play it in English on the PSX. So how does it stack up against other RPGs, namely the two SNES games we did get? Pretty well.

Genre - RPG (Traditional)

Story - 7 - Final Fantasy is generally known for their epic stories. This one most definitely is not. The crystals are shattering, taking the elements away from the earth. Meanwhile, meteors are falling all over the place. You, an adventurer, investigate one, only to find a girl looking for her father and an old man who lost his memory. You team up of course, meeting a pirate called Faris, and eventually have to save the world. It starts out fairly decently. They didn’t tell you everything at first, and it all worked rather well. But once you got to the second and especially the third world, it seemed to fall apart. The story slowly disintegrated into mindless sub quests. In Final Fantasy 6, they solved this problem by having the sub quests deal with the characters, thus giving us some much needed characterization and all. And here’s the part that really bugs me about this game. There is practically no characterization whatsoever. Your characters aren’t at all memorable. You don’t become attached to them, you don’t learn to hate Exdeath (especially with a name like that). The only ones Square bothered to make interesting are Faris and Galuf’s granddaughter. Everyone else was typical nameless hero type people. RPGs are supposed to tell a story, and this one didn’t.

Graphics - 7 - Square spoiled a lot of people with their spiffy graphics with FF7, not to mention FF6 and Chrono Trigger. Apparently they changed after this game. The sprites used are the same as FF4. And those were pretty poor. The sad thing is, Square added larger and better sprites of each of the characters for the battle scenes. Why they couldn’t use these throughout the game is beyond me. It would help from making the game seem too dated. Other than that, though, they were pretty decent. Some of the other tile sets looked much better than FF4. The magic effects were a mixed breed, with some truly great ones to some that were, well, not so great. The graphics on the whole were pretty bad, with some impressive spots thrown in.

Sound - 8 - Like Paul McCartney, I have to admit it’s getting better. With the incredible variety of excellent themes from it’s successor that I’ve fallen in love with, it is hard to judge. But I’d say this one pulled off the sound department quite well. Many of the familiar sound effects from FF were here, which is always a good thing. A lot of the spell effects had a nice ring to them as well. There were no annoying sounds as far as I could tell. Musically, it was a mixed bag, but leaning much more on the positive side. Although there were no Opera caliber songs, Gilgamesh’s theme was excellent, along with a few others. Unfortunately, the void, one I was looking forward to, was way too upbeat. Still, many of the others made up for it, so I can’t complain. It may not be one of the best games in the audio department, but it gets the job done.

Gameplay - 9.5 - By now you may think that this game disappointed me. Although it certainly isn’t the best in the series or as great as it was hyped up to be, I certainly was not disappointed. Generally, I’m bored during the actual gameplay of an RPG, mainly waiting to see what happens next. This is definitely not the case here. Like FF6 and Lufia II, this game is fun to play, a rare occurrence in RPGs. Obviously, the reason for this is the job system. I cannot praise it enough. For those of you who don’t know, your characters take on certain jobs throughout the game. Each job has different attributes (knights have high attack power, thieves have high speed, etc) and special skills (thieves steal, monks attack empty handed, etc). As you fight battles, you will learn many of these skills, which can be used with other jobs. Thus, you can be a knight that can also steal, a samurai that can cast black magic, etc. There are plenty of jobs with plenty of different skills to learn. Also, if you master a job, you automatically gain all of their innate skills whenever you don’t have a job (I wish I knew that when I first started...). Juggling your jobs and skills was probably my favorite part of the game, and certainly beats some of Square’s other ideas. Level design was decent, although only a few were truly impressive in my mind. Boss battles were varied and exciting, and Exdeath was pretty fun. Simply put, I found all 30 hours of this game enjoyable, which doesn’t happen too often.

Challenge - 8 - This is definitely one of the hardest RPGs I’ve played. That’s the good part. The bad part is it is not consistent. There are parts that are incredibly easy and will be no problem for you at all. Then, as you breeze through those without breaking a sweat, you will suddenly find yourself in a situation where it is next to impossible to survive. So what do you do? You can try to switch your jobs around to something that helps more. Or you could level up. Which brings me to a second point. Leveling up is extremely slow and tedious. After 30 hours of playing, my characters were at level 46. Meanwhile, I can get all 14 characters from FF6 to that level in 24-25 hours. Big difference there. Monsters never seem to give you enough gp, exp, and ability points (speaking of money, I never seemed to have enough during the first half of the game. Art emulating life I suppose). And there are couple places where the normal monsters are almost impossible to beat, and you have to hope you either run away in time or don’t meet them. Exdeath is darn hard, as are many of the other bosses. Frustration may very well run rampant, and I wish you all luck playing this challenging yet playable game.

Replay - 7.5 - Surprisingly, the game does very well here. This is due mainly to the job system. You will certainly not master every job in the game, and you may want to go back and play it again focusing on different jobs. Also, you will have a better understanding of which jobs are better than others on your second way around, and so your strategy will certainly change. There are plenty of side quests and such, so getting everything might be a reason for coming back. The game is 30 hours long, however, so keep that in mind. Also, unlike most RPGs, the plot is definitely not going to be a factor for returning to the game. There are no clues that you didn’t pick up on the first time around, and very few if any memorable scenes. Still, the gameplay and challenge is there, so you may want to go for it. If not, it’s still worth it for one round.

Overall - 8.4 - Despite its many flaws, this is still a very enjoyable game. It is certainly not the mastery that many people make it out to be, but it definitely isn’t Square’s worst offering either. One could do far worse than picking up this title. The major problem with this game is its complete lack of a compelling story. Square, usually masters at telling a tale, must have forgotten about it or something. I don’t know what happened, as it doesn’t compare with 6 and 7. However, if story means little to you, then the game is worth it. It has a deep and excellent job system, a great challenge, and some other nice parts. If you can find an English translation, get this game. I’d definitely recommend it for PSX owners as well. It’s a wonderful title that, although not excellent, is a truly great addition to the SNES RPG library.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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