Final Fantasy XI

Review

posted 5/1/2004 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PS2
1987 was a questionable year. Martha Stewart first signed on with K-Mart, televangelist Jim Bakker was publicly crucified in a sex scandal, and Prozac made a calming U.S. debut. Bon Jovi was rocking billboard charts, but it was a little-known and near-bankrupt company called Squaresoft that was “Livin’ on a Prayer”. Hironobu Sakaguchi, Director of Planning and Development for Square Co., Ltd. (now Square Enix), released a last-ditch effort to save his company from impending doom. Using a bit of gallows humor in the title, his offering was dubbed “Final” Fantasy and…well, the rest is gaming history.

Twelve titles are graced with the Final Fantasy logo--not including over half-a-dozen spinoffs like Tactics and Chocobo Racing--making this franchise one of the longest running and most respected names in the business. Farming every medium from movies to mobile phones, the next move for ‘Squeenix’ was to milk the phenomenal online gaming cash cow. Consequently, Final Fantasy XI was conceived.

We reviewed FFXI for the PC in December of last year, and there have been no slowdown of events and awards for the first cross-platform, intercontinental, massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). Over 500,000 members were shelling out their hard-earned $12.95 per month before it came to the PS2, and the number of registered characters has surpassed the one million mark. Cornering markets in Japan and America, FFXI is now scheduled for a European release. Once that is done, the sun will never set on the Sony empire.

In a constantly evolving world such as Vana’diel, there is one thing there will never be a shortage of, and that is download time. After an exhaustive installation period, you will face at least another 20 minutes of file updating. That is, if you avoided trying to log in during monthly or emergency maintenance of a server. Despite the downtime (or, perhaps, because of it) players remain faithful to this Final Fantasy religion. Square Enix, with their constant updates, are continually tweaking and rebalancing original elements, while frequently injecting new gameplay content.

Instead of haphazardly tossing in a few new missions or trite tidbits of equipment, these updates strongly consider the voiced desires of the player community. In response to public outcry, Player vs. Player battles have been added, albeit in non-lethal terms, for a decidedly conflict hungry American audience. An alternate reality plane known as Dynamis exists to further challenge characters level 64 and above. And in Japan (I’m not making this up) there is clothing, equipment, and services available to carry out wedding ceremonies.

All of this open communication between the players and the producers has served to spawn over 1,000 registered Community Sites on the web. That’s a whole lotta love translated into this particular MMORPG community, which likewise translates into helpful, dedicated players building a strong online experience for one another. In games with essentially player-driven storylines, this is key.
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