A feast for Final Fantasy freaks

Game Room

April 29, 2004|By Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter | Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

If you're a Final Fantasy fan with some coin to spare, you're in for a treat.

Mow a few lawns, work an extra shift, sell something you don't need - do whatever you have to do to get your hands on some extra cash. You'll need about a hundred bucks to pick up Final Fantasy XI and the extra hard drive. If you want to play online - and you will - you'll also need a network adaptor and a broadband Internet connection. (Dial-up works, but oh, those download times!)

Technically, you can get by without a keyboard, but the virtual one in the game is sloppy and hard to use, so you might as well grab one of those, too. And after a 30-day free trial, you'll have to pony up $12.95 per month to stay online - plus another buck for each additional character you choose to play as.

It's a significant investment. Is it worth it? For FF freaks, the answer is a very enthusiastic "yes!"

FFXI is the game that never ends. The story unfolds in the world of Vana'diel, a land once under the domination of hordes of man-beasts who destroyed cities and set civilization back centuries. The people of Vana'diel eventually united and conquered the man-beasts, but the damage had been done. Now, the forces of darkness are expanding again. A call goes out for adventurers - hey, that's you! - willing to set forth and find out what's happening.

Missions are handed out by individuals or city governments. As you work within the multi-player universe, you'll encounter many familiar FF elements, from airships to chocobos to moogles.

The goal, as with every multi-player online game, is to build your character from a 20-pound weakling into the baddest boy on the block. You create your representative from one of five races and six classes. Don't worry about getting stuck. You can change any time, and more classes - like ninja and dragoon - will open up the more you play.

From there, your job is to kill monsters, accept quests, kill monsters, make items, meet other gamers, kill monsters and kill monsters.

You'll have some help doing that. Vana'diel is divided into three nations. As you play, under certain circumstances you'll be building up points for the home team - kind of like representing your country in the Warfare Olympics. Periodically, points are tallied and territories are deemed to be under the control of a particular nation. The upshot? You get access to goods and services unavailable to players from other countries. To the victor go the spoils.

Technologically, the extra 40-gigabytes hard drive is a simple plug-and-play addition that slips into the spot in the back of your PlayStation 2 that always made you wonder, "What's that for?" Even if you don't plan to play online, the hard drive is a worthy accessory, delivering extra speed and storage space to create vast worlds and new adventures - some of the areas in FFXI take 15 to 20 minutes to traverse in real time. FFXI isn't the only game that will use the technology. Sony has announced that there will be new HDD-only for SOCOM II and the soon-to-be-released Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain. Additionally, even without subscribing to the online game, you can register in the PlayOnline lobby for free in order to get and send e-mail, chat, manage buddy lists and, of course, get plenty of info about FFXI.

FINAL RATING:

Jon says: Darn! Just as I get ready to start college, here comes something that will suck up what little free time I have on my hands. A+

Chip says: I'm looking forward to going online and messing around with Jon's character while he's in class. Heh heh. A+

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