This weekend - this entire weekend - the two of us took turns playing the game, negotiating who would get to play when in exchange for what. You played for two hours this morning, so it's my turn. You can play for a while now, but I want a turn for an hour or so before we go to bed. I put up the dishes so that's worth at least 20 minutes. Breaks were for food consumption, food purchasing, and food preparation. And a fancy dinner out on Saturday night so we didn't feel like complete and total lameasses.
In short, the game is the bastard child of oldskool Final Fantasy and Bejeweled. Wander around a little map, converse with NPC's in the extra-long flowery prose of Japanese games (Your grandfather was a very good and noble man indeed. It would be a great honor to grant his dying wishes by giving you his sword. You have proven yourself a courageous warrior and will bring much pride to your family by taking it), and go on missions. During these missions, you fight monsters: some of which are integral to the plot of the mission, others randomly encountered on the road.
This is where the game diverges from the usual RPG in an incredibly fun way that makes the game endlessly playable: during the fight, you battle your opponent by playing a puzzle game very similar to Bejewled, Diamond Mine, and other "swap two things to make up a line of three or more same things" games. Different combinations of gems provide different benefits, and each time you match up gems of certain colors, you earn mana with which you cast spells that either effect you, the board, or your opponent.
As you defeat more enemies, you earn experience and gain levels, and customize your character's skills and abilities. You earn gold for buying items and equipment, and there's mini games where you can create new items, or learn new spells that were otherwise unavailable. There's also a multiplayer version to play against other characters. Our characters are at about level 17, and from what I can tell, the levels go up well beyond the 50's. There's layer upon layer upon layer of gameplay, and so many different things to do in the RPG aspect it's sometimes hard to pick what to do next. The variables that spells and items bring into the puzzles make each fight exciting and fun.
If you have an Xbox360, PC, DS or PSP (and it's coming soon to the PS2 and Wii) get this game.
And kiss a weekend goodbye.