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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII: Initial Impression

So the game's been out for months. So it's more linear than any to come before. So it's been reviewed and played into the ground by people willing to pony up 60 hours of their life. None of that matters to me. I skipped FFXII because it looked absolutely not worth a moment of my time. I almost did the same to FFXIII. I'll be the first to admit that I probably would never have picked it up if I hadn't gotten a great deal on it in the UK. 47 bucks for a $60 game and I got the damn thing in England. I'm gonna play it until my hands fall off and write about it here.

That doesn't mean, though, that I won't rip the thing to shreds in an effort second only to Ben "Yahtzee" Crowshaw in Zero-Punctuation. I'm going to be as brutally honest as I can here and stray from my scoring review, since, for now, I haven't finished the bloody thing.

Here we go. First, let me say that, despite their best attempt at recreating the magic that was Final Fantasy VII, Square failed on all counts, at least in the first parts. To begin with, there's no world map. -10 awesome points. You spend about 2 hours in FFVII and then you get a full glimpse of the huge world you will tread all over. You walk in a straight line ad infinitum in FFXIII. Second, there is no clear villain from the start. The opening cutscene and subsequent early play define the setting, certainly, and show that there is something we should be fighting, but what, we really don't know. Again, within 2 hours of FFVII's beginning, I know there's a guy called Sephrioth and that he's really bad and he's going to be the final boss. You just know it. Within 2 hours of FFXIII beginning, there are at least five candidate final bosses, I have no idea how to fight effectively and there is almost no clear direction for the story.

Also, and this is the real big part, the characters are not nearly as complex as they need to be. In FFVII, within 15 minutes of starting the game, there is something very, very wrong with Cloud, and you sense confliction even as you feel put off by his blase attitude. Lightning, on the other hand, is just cold, hard and downright mean. I've spent five hours with her and all I know is she wants to kill something really big and really powerful with no other reason than that she's really mad at it (and that it's cursed her to "die" when it's done with her). We know that we want to beat Sephiroth because of a broken past, something buried deep in the lore and literature of the ages. Cloud is certainly cold and has his mean points, but there is a soft side of him, a side brought out by memories of a better time. He is more human than Lightning to begin with, filled with emotions of love and hate, sadness and joy that play out even despite the much inferior graphics.

The supporting characters too lack a depth seen in past FF games. Their goals are too simple, too defined by only what is on the surface to be effective. Snow, pushed by love for his fiance and nothing else. Hope, wanting revenge and whining constantly. Vanille, who everyone seems to universally loathe and who is somehow the narrator. If anyone has even a vestige of the character of FF's past it is Sahz. He, I think, carries more confliction and interesting depth than any of the others. Why does he have a chocobo? What is his past, his reason for joining and staying with the party? There is a tension within him that none of the other characters possess. Certainly there is tension, but it doesn't run as deep or as strong as it does in Sahz. If I'm interested in unfolding any character to see the underlying layers, I want to see his. Lightning I want to see evolve the most, since Square tried to model her after Cloud, a superior character, in my opinion. Vanille I want to shut up and see that the world is not a constant positive place. Hope I want to grow a pair (I know he's like 10) and man up to both his feelings and the responsibility he now holds. Snow I want to grow complexity. He is the most one sided character where I am in the game, about 8 hours in.

Also, I want to know who the ****ing final boss is. Who am I supposed to hate? Give me someone I know that'll be: "That's gonna be a fight for the ages."


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