by Ken Gagne

Over the years, Squaresoft has proven themselves a prolific publisher. Beginning with role-playing games, they have tackled and redefined nearly every genre since — who could forget the jaw-dropping Tobal No. 1? 

Of course, they've done it again. The sports genre will never be the same once you've played Final Fantasy Football League, a launch title for the Microtendo BoxCube. 

FFFL is a one-player game with many teams available from the various Final Fantasy titles. Choose the Returners and you'll have Terra, Sabin, and Umaro on your team; on the Avalanchers are Cloud, bad-ass Barret, and, making her triumphant return to the Final Fantasy universe, Aeris. 

Each play begins as it would in any football game — except the other team is invisible. Once the ball (here, a crystal) is hiked, players must make a mad dash for the next down. If a random encounter with a member of the opposite team occurs, the screen switches to battle mode, where action becomes turn-based. The "real-time football battle" lets players use the strengths and weaknesses of each character to their fullest extent. Mages can control the weather to their benefit, while ninja confuse and befuddle the opposing team in an attempt to take possession. There's plenty of marvelous magical mayhem, and the graphics when monsters are summoned leave nothing to be desired. If you see Titan charging to tackle you — run! 

Magical equipment can also enhance a team's chances. The Sprint Shoes, which double a character's speed, can be coupled with the rare Moogle Charm for a clear shot at the end zone. The Masmune turns even the weakest wizard into an all-star running back, while sundries such as Tents and Cabins allow for recuperative breathers during plays. These and other items can be bought in Season mode with the gold earned from victorious games. 

Being a Squaresoft game, you can count on FFFL to have not only amazing presentation and gameplay, but involving characters and storyline as well. Never has a football game been so emotionally moving. Injuries can occur at anytime and have lasting effects, such as when Rosa, the white mage quarterback, falls ill; losing her Aim ability will be a setback to any team. Players may call a time-out to embark on a side quest to heal their fallen comrades. Not all injuries are without their silver linings; Palom and Porom make strong twin defenders when turned to stone, and the necessary sacrifice of Shadow is one that will live on in many an instant replay. 

When and if players get to the end zone, their greatest battle will have just begun. Secrets will be revealed about the characters' pasts; backstabbing and side-turning may transpire; new and old friends and foes could appear. When finally the team comes together, the ultimate evil will reveal himself to block the heroes' touchdown. 

Not content with reversing America's dearth of RPGs, Square is now making the esoteric sports genre accessible to the common gamer. Final Fantasy Football League, the first Square BoxCube game, is the perfect kickoff to a new line of titles. FFFL is more than a game — it's an adventure. 

Thanks to Arc Nova and Jeanne Conrad on the staff of Video Gaming Central for suggesting this game for review.

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Video Gaming Central (CompuServe), 01-Apr-01