The quality of the textures go a long way towards making up for the sometimes uninspired and simple geometry that makes up both the towns and the world outside, but they can't prevent some environments from looking flatout bland. This isn't helped by the fact that it often takes some time for certain details of the environment (like bushes, trees and even NPCs) to load, so they'll suddenly pop into place out of nowhere. This makes some areas look more barren than they were designed to be. On the plus side, enemies looks really nice and detailed.
Thanks for the really good review, .59.
Regarding the "pop in" as you mentioned, well, its a heck of alot better than FFXI, I can say.
I love this game, it pains me to see so many people bash it, though I knew from the moment I sat down with it that the average FF player will hate it.
Jusy give it a chance people, please?
And regarding the "I didn't like the demo" comment; throw the damn demo away! The full game is nothing like it!
The gambits don't make the game play itself, it enhances the game by taking alot of the busywork out of the battle system. Plus, you can interrupt a character's action and tell them to do something else on the fly. Which is something that you will likely have to do, unless you micro-manage your gambits for each battle.
Also, for those who think that you can set your gambits, go into a fight and your characters will do everything for you... I'd really like to see you try it. Honestly, the system isn't so foolproof that your team will stay focused on just one enemy. Ever played an mmorpg? Familiar with the term "aggro"? Enemies in XII do the same thing, so and unattended party will quickly pull aggro from any nearby enemy, whereas your characters will quickly become unfocused and target whatever enemy is nearest, and to make a long story short: you will die.
Just because the gambits cause certain actions to initiate automatically, it does not mean your party doesn't need you to direct them.
And, if you really feel that you hate the gambits so much, you can turn them off. You can't make the gameplay totally turnbased, but if played in Wait Mode, the game will pause when you open your menu to do something. The end result is something like Baldur's Gate on the PC.
And as for the storyline being linear. Sure it is, what Final Fantasy didn't have a linear storyline? Some are moreso than others, but you can't call any of them totally a-linear. If you have a completely non linear rpg, you end up with something like the Saga series (Romancing, Unlimited, Frontier, etc) and that's not how I want a Final Fantasy to be.
And something I'd like to point out about the gameworld, and how there is nearly a seamless transition from area to area. This is how Square originally wanted Final Fantasy X to be. I have long since lost the video and still images of the original alpha version of FFX, before it was scrapped and remade (Amano even designed a different logo for the game, and Tidus was brunette). At that time, the game was played in third person, and there was a seamless transition from not only area to area, but area to town as well. Unfortunately, at the time Square wasn't able to get the PS2 to render the graphics on the fly like that, just like how they originally wanted to use the PS2's "emotion engine" to render all the characters portraits in tons of polygons throughout the whole game. For interesting trivia, FFXII's characters are made up of a fraction of X's polygons, but their facial animations are stunning.
I can't wait to get my US game, though I have to wait until tomorrow. I spent 178 hours on the import, I wonder how much I'll put in on this one. Poor VP 2 is getting shelved...