previews\ Jan 26, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Final Fantasy XI - 360 - Preview

Square-Enix’s online RPG, Final Fantasy XI, has been a staple in the MMO market for several years now, giving gamers on both the PC and the PS2 a rich and deep online gaming experience. The first MMORPG to give players a cohesive experience regardless of which system they play on, Final Fantasy XI has been a runaway success. Now, in a landmark venture between the big “M” and Square-Enix, Final Fantasy XI is coming to the XBox 360, marking not only the first time the publisher has released a title on a Microsoft console, but also the first MMORPG to hit the 360. Square-Enix has just begun the beta for the game, which is currently available with the current issue of the Official XBox Magazine; all you need to get going is an XBox Live Silver account. We at GameZone recently got our hot little hands on the beta, and the results are pretty promising. While the game is essentially the same in many ways, the 360 version will include the original game and all of the expansion packs, up to the recently announced Treasures of Aht Urhgan.

To start your quest in the beta, you must install the game onto your XBox 360 console (needless to say you will need a hard drive in order to play this game, sorry Core owners). It’s a pretty meaty install, taking roughly an hour and weighing in at a good 5 Gigs, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a hefty chunk when your hard drive is only 20 Gigs. Once that is finished, you’ll need to set up a PlayOnline account through Square-Enix’s Web site and then finally update the game in order to get into Vana’diel. All things considered, it’ll be a good couple of hours before you’ll be able to get the game off of the ground.

This version will be instantly familiar territory to anyone who’s played FFXI before. The interface is identical to the PC and PS2 versions, meaning that you can use a controller to move your character and interact, or use other accessories. If you are a hardcore PC MMO gamer and balk at the thought of a console MMO, fret not, as you can plug in your USB keyboard and mouse in order to play the game. In fact, a keyboard comes highly recommended since the game will not support the XBox Live headset, meaning that if you plan on communicating with other players (a necessity in this game) a USB keyboard is the only game in town.

One of the most impressive aspects of Final Fantasy XI has been the ability for PS2 players to play with PC gamers around the world. The 360 version will support this as well, allowing gamers from three different platforms to play together in a persistent universe.

In terms of aesthetics, Final Fantasy XI is showing its age, a fair thing to say considering that it’s approaching the four-year mark, and was originally conceived on the PS2. While the game still takes advantages of the perks associated with the XBox 360, like 720p High-Definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, it’s still not what the XBox 360 is fully capable of. However, in terms of design, the game is very endearing, with beautifully designed enemies and interesting characters that have a look that is wholly unique to the Final Fantasy series.

While it may be an older game, Final Fantasy XI has showcased its staying power for a variety of different reasons. For starters, well, it’s Final Fantasy, but it also provides players with a rich and deep experience, keeping them engaged with new content and tons of features as you progress through the game. All things considered, Final Fantasy XI is a great choice to start out the newly founded relationship between Square-Enix and Microsoft, as well as a very capable MMORPG for the online-focused XBox 360 console.

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