Ok, so its taken me forever to get round to playing this properly, but now I am done with GTA4 I've gone back to it with avengence. I'm a couple of hours into Disk 3 now and the game has gotten frankly awesome.
It has taken nearly two disks to hit epic level, but in retrospect it was necessary to set the whole thing up. I was under the impression that the game was an above average JRPG, not fantastic but still a lot of fun for a fan, then I hit the end of Disk 2 (Experimental Staff and the fallout from that on Disk 3 relating to Gohtza for anyone who has played) and the whole game hit epic level. It suckered me in completely. I was made me expect one thing then the game threw something else entirely, putting everything and everyone it had established over the story so far into turrmoil.
I was waiting for the usual Final Fantasy approach to these type of things: Setup the characters and plot, and setup the villain with the evil plan that you have to stop at the end of the game before they can take over/destroy/rule the world. Whilst the game had done that well, it hadn't really impressed upon me the seriousness of the evil plan or what it could mean for the game world, aside from within the opening cutscene (and even then it was explained away as potentially a fluke). Then the game kicked that approach to the side and had matters spiral out of the character's control, and the villain execute his evil plot - the extent of which had been neither revealed nor was expected by me.
In many ways it reminds me of BSG at this point. It spent nearly two whole disks setting up plots and subplots, establishing the characters and the various factions within the game, then does something completely unexpected and epic at a critical point within the story. Throwing everything into turmoil as it does so, and leaving a lot of characters in very hard places. It's very very clever and absolutely fantastic to utilise as a storyline tool, adding a new dimension to the often predictability of these sorts of games.
The game also makes use of both ingame and pre-rendered cutscenes, the latter of which has been a point of contention of late within some parts of the RPG community. Frankly, this game proves that contention wrong. Ingame cutscenes work well throughout the majority of the game, but I can state with absolute certainty that they would not have been good enough to properly utilise at the point in the game I have just passed - they can't be big enough, pretty enough, or indeed 'epic' enough.
Overall, I would definately recommend this game. If you're an FF fan, you will certainly enjoy it, and I think that most RPG fans would enjoy it too. It is a little slow to get going, and can at points make you feel that it is less of a game than it actually is. But when it gets going it really gets going, and will certainly take you on a ride when it does. I won't be putting this game down now until I'm done with it.
"Perhaps this is what I have always wished for since that day. The loss and destruction of all. That's right, one must destroy before creating. In that case, if my conscience becomes a hindrance to me, then I will simply erase it. I have no other choice but to move forward....therefore!" - Lelouch vi Britannia/Zero, Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
Forever an eXile and proud of it!