Although good alone, the game is MUCH stronger with friends.
On February 9th, 2004, Square Enix released a Final Fantasy game on the Gamecube, making it the first time a Final Fantasy game has been released on a Nintendo console in about a decade. However, it's not really what fans have been hoping for. Despite this minor falter, this game is definitely worth a purchase. Read on to find out why. However, I will only be reviewing the single player campaign because I couldn't find anyone to play with.
The gameplay tries to differentiate itself from the main series while trying not to fall far from the tree. Instead of being an RPG, it's more of a dungeon crawler. You go around from area to area, bashing monsters, picking up spells and solving puzzles to get to the boss of that area. However, there is a twist that's more suited to multiplayer. You have to carry a crystal chalice (which a moogle will kindly do for you in single player) around that protects you from the health seeping miasma. In reality, this feature is one of the few that doesn't bode well, as it just seems like a way to manage the four characters then a fully fleshed out feature. The miasma streams, which must be properly aligned with the element of your chalice (changed within certain dungeons) doesn't make it any better even though it has good intentions. You also get to choose your main character for a change, giving you a bit of control over the story. Fortunately, you really feel the consequence of choosing a certain class. For example, while the agile Selkies have great focus attacks but crappy defence, the weird looking Yukes tend to have greater magic but awful defence. You also get to choose your parent's proffesion, another great gameplay feature. However, this can prevent you from getting the best weapons and armor in the game, something that doesn't seem to work. There is also a rudimentary magic system, but it just doesn't work well, mainly because you can cast spells unlimited times. The ending also seems to be gimmicky and only appears to exist for the sake of the story.
Speaking of which, the story is highly disappointing. It relies a lot on random pop ups that give you random side stories that really don't tie into the overall story arc. If that isn't bad enough, the story doesn't really flesh itself out until the very end, when it churns out backstory much too fast to actually put it all together.
The graphics in this game are both stunning and innovative. The environments are just gorgeous, showing that artists still design video games. It will all literally look like it came from a children's book in contrast to the dark, melodramatic themes of more recent Final Fantasy games. A perfect example is the final boss, which uses all the processing power of the Gamecube to produce a majestic perversion, which cannot be described by mere words and must be seen to be beheld.
The music is also very good and innovative, but is too off for everyone to enjoy. It too must give credit to the storybook feel it has rendered. I don't want to make it sound like I don't like the music, but it's Scotish, childlike feel may be too much of a shock for those who play more traditional games.
All in all, if you can find enough people with the hardware to play this game, then go ahead and play. But if you don't, then still consider renting or buying this game. This will probably be one of those games you're proud to beat.