Pros: Great replay value, Real Time Battle System, Amazing Storyline
Cons: Many Glitches
I'll tell you now, this is one of the most underrated games ever. It needed more advertising, and it could've been a lot bigger, because it's an amazing game ^_^. The storyline is enveloping, the characters have radical personalities that will pull you along, and the gameplay is great. A real time battle system, something that should be used MUCH more often. And you can't go wrong with 86 endings either ^_^.
Something this game has a lot of ^_^. The story has many plot twists and turns, plus it changes depending on how you play the game. It's portrayed so well through the characters, that it manipulates your feelings as you play. Your heart will drop at times, you'll smile or even burst out laughing at times, because you've turned into the characters best friends, and you fully understand them. The antagonists are ruthless, and you will develop a hate for them as they destroy what becomes dear to you in this wonderful story.
The characters are well thought out, diverse and original. They all have some little quirks that are completely unique to them. They all have very different personalities, ranging from the over calm, strong, too-sure-of-himself attitude of Dias, and the ultra-hyper, little kid feeling of Precis. They all respond in their own way, using their own means. As you begin to further understand the characters, you begin to further understand the story.
This is where this game excelled above all else. The gameplay was fun and deeply involving, though simple in concept.
Battles. The battles were done with an amazingly fun real time battle system. You control one of the four characters and move around the battle area, attacking, casting spells, using killer moves, using items, and generally beating the life out of every enemy you encounter. It actually makes the battles fun, no more "click, click, click *annoying battle music plays and you're done*" This requires more thought and skill, but adds a new layer to the game.
Item Creation System. The item creation system was another amazing aspect. There are hundreds of possible combinations of actions using certain items in different ways to make new items/weapons/armor. You require skills to perform them well, and you must train to get the most out of it. It adds a lot of depth to the game, as you could easily waste an hour or two just making stuff up in the item creation system.
Skill System. The skill system was another great idea. As you level up you gain skill points, more as you progress. You can then use these on the skills of your choice, making them better at certain item creations, while adding strength to different battle attributes of the characters. Many battle skills can also be learned and mastered with this system.
Private Actions. Private actions are sequences that occur before you enter each town. Participating in these adds new depths to the character personalities and can drastically change the relationship levels towards your characters. They are fun and deep, taking the story further.
Relationships. Ever wanted to hook up your favorite guy and your favorite girl in a game before? Here's your chance. Manipulating the characters by Private actions, item creation, item usage or writing them a book can decide which characters pair up in the end to give you one of the 86 different endings ^_^.
This game has more replay value than any other RPG I've encountered. First of all, there is well over 150 hours worth of normal gameplay (assuming you do everything), including a secret dungeon and characters, without any replay. Then on top of it, there's an immense replay value. You can choose from one of two characters to see through the story, each with their own point of view. They both have different pasts, and different secrets that reveal as the game progresses. There are many secret characters, and as you can only have 8 characters in one game, but there are 10 characters total, this ensures that you'll want to try them all ^_^.You can replay, setting up different characters for one another, or using characters you haven't used before to get new endings. With 86 of them, you can have a lot of fun with this ^_^. Also, after you've beaten it once, if you unlocked enough of the sound clips (unlocking them happens when they are heard, which means you'll need to use everything with every character) you can obtain extra difficulty levels, and they REALLY add on to the intensity.
Ok, they aren't great for todays standards, but when it was made they were fairly good. Even still, the backgrounds, battle animations and world graphics were done very well. The battle animations are very vibrant and colourful, yet looking effective to their cause. It all runs smoothly, and is only slightly pixelated. Still, this is not the game's strong point.
The sound in this game was very effective. Most of the voice acting was very good, and added to the battles. The sound effects were very effective, and made great clangs, clashes and explosions, much as you would expect to hear. They were realistic and well done. The music was for the most part beautiful. Great scores with happy, upbeat songs, and depressing, slow melodic songs. They added great amounts to the depth of this game because of the effect they added, and the manipulation they gave. Great.
Aside from some corny voice acting (some, most was good) and slightly pixelated pictures, there was only one con, but it's a "doosie". The freezes. It is indescribable in words how frustrating it is to go through certain areas of the game for _hours_ without saving only to have the game go black and need to be reset. It's enough you make you want to snap the game in half, and I'm sure it's been done. The glitches like this are horribly common, and incredibly aggravating. You must save twice as often as you can, in order so that you do not lose anything. Don't get me wrong, it wont freeze on you every 2 minutes, it only froze on me 3 times in over 150 hours of gameplay, but when it happens, be prepared to get mad. Especially if it happens in the secret dungeon....No save points for hours _+ glitches can be a deadly combination. Also, freezing is not the only glitch. There is also some blurring in different menus, and pictures being of the wrong person. At least these don't interfere with the game.
It would've been an easy five if it wasn't for the glitches. But who knows, maybe you'll luck out and get one of the blessed discs that doesn't have glitches? It's happened. Consider yourself lucky if you do. But the amazing gameplay, replay and story outweigh the glitches by far, and so I give it a strong 4.