Final Fantasy XI for the PS2 is the same game that was released on the PC last year. If you're reading this, then I assume you have access to a PC in which case I would simply advise getting the PC version (providing you meet the system requirements). Otherwise you're going to be spending money, and lots of it, to essentially turn your PS2 into a PC.

First of all let me clarify that Final Fantasy XI, in the tradition of the FF franchise, is a great game. It's an online RPG that is populated with gamers living in a virtual persistent universe. In a nutshell, you create a character and continue to upgrade him or her with more powerful weapons, magic, skills and attributes. What you choose to do in the game and how you choose to do it is totally up to you but if you want to play with the big boys you have to earn experience points to level-up your character. Leveling-up is accomplished by fighting and accepting various side-quests that are offered to you by non-playable characters.

Once you choose a character from a list of races which include humans, elvaan, tarutaru, mithra and galka, you can assign them a job such as white mage, black mage, warrior, monk and thief. There are more, higher level jobs that will avail themselves later in the game but interestingly you can change jobs if you get bored. You can also have multiple characters on the go but you have to pay a buck extra for each one. What might appeal to new fans is that there isn't a lot of micromanagement issues to concern yourself with such as eating and fatigue. Some may say this limits the depth but I say it limits the pain-in-the-ass factor.

In the beginning of the game you'll find that you have sufficient strength and skills to take on most of the enemies in your path. As if to force you to become sociable, which isn't a bad idea for most of the socially awkward nerds out there, you'll soon have to team up with other players if you want to go any further. Weapons and magic can be combined with other players for a more powerful attack. Teamwork will also come in handy during multi-enemy melee combat and for solving the odd puzzle.

What is also odd is that you can't pick your own server. You can count on getting thrown onto a server where you don't know anyone. Trying to get together with a friend is nearly impossible. Instead you'll be playing with people from around the world, including the high ranking Japanese players that have had access to this game for two years, many of which are on the PC. The interface will assist you in finding players that are at the same level. It's not a problem finding players since all the servers that I visited were well populated.

The land of Vana'diel is gorgeous to behold. The three main regions are alive with detail. Colors are vibrant and the animation is strong, smooth and steady. Since this game has existed for a few years this version is the most refined and you'll be hard-pressed to find a bug anywhere. Not to say you won't but I didn't and I was looking closely for something to complain about. I'm a bit of a bitch, what can I say? Some of the characters look a little weird, as though they are a little distorted but it's intentional. The soundtrack is powerful, catchy and inspiring. My only complaint is that it's prone to repetition.

Considering that the hard drive for this game cost $100 - and you also have to have a PS2 network adapter and a keyboard with a mouse, you can see that this isn't the kind of game you should purchase on a whim. Add to that a monthly online fee and this venture requires one sizeable investment. I admire Square Enix's resolve not to compromise their game in any way but if you already have a good PC, why waste the money?

System: PS2
Dev: Square Enix
Pub: Square Enix
Released: March 2004
Players: Multi-Online
Review by Shelby