Wednesday, May 19, 2010

final fantasy xiii (first impressions)

final fantasy xiii, update 3
final fantasy xiii, update 2
final fantasy xiii, update 1
final fantasy xiii, first impressions

I've been a fan of Final Fantasy since around the time I played VI or VII (I downloaded 6 and bought 7 around the same time, 10th grade which was roughly 2002). VI and VII were great games, I played X and loved it to death. I thought X-2 was tolerable. I didn't hate it like a lot of people did, but I only thought it was okay. The story was what really made X shine, and X-2 starts with a major teaser about a character from X. After this initial tease, however, it's not really talked about ever again and the story goes in its own direction for the most part. You do get to see how the world changes since the end of X, but a lot of the characters that you revisit are peripheral characters from the first one that I didn't remember. But I digest. I only rented XII and didn't really get interested enough in it to keep it for more than like a week, and I never bought XI. I'm not much of an MMO gamer. So XIII is the first game in the series that I've been really interested in playing in a while (except Crisis Core, which I liked). Early screens and videos did not really tell much about it, save for the fact that it looks something like this:

Most obviously the graphics are fantastic (yes that's what it looks like in game), and the battle system is going back to something that looks like ATB, which had me a little worried as I prefer turns. However, something I love about FF is how emotional the stories are, and this game looked like it would be playing that up as well, which was a plus. I also liked the character design for this game, which looked like it was both less ridiculous than X (I still liked X's design; ridiculous and bad are different things) and more interesting than XII. XII had a dusty color scheme and stock-looking characters, which I found lacking and that was one of the reasons I didn't give XII much playtime. The characters in XIII, however, were interesting to me. The character pictured above, Lightning (yeah...), looked like a pretty strong character and if she was indicative of XIII's cast, then I was satisfied. I just realized I'm talking about pre-release too much. Anyways I got this game the same day as Heavy Rain (Thanks Matt and Leeanne), and now I'm several hours into it.
The battle system is fresh enough to be interesting, but familiar enough for me to know my way around it. I like the system used for battle, in which your characters can adopt 'roles' which grant them specific abilities (but not stats, which are constant). You can switch these abilities on the fly, even faster than in X-2, so for example if you have your 3 fighters set up as Attacker-Striker-Striker, but you start to take damage, then you can switch to Attacker-Guard-Medic, heal up and then go back on the offensive. These 3-part setups are pre-made by you before battle and you can't switch individual roles, only select another 3-part setup called a Paradigm. I just make all possible Paradigms before a battle. I imagine that as I go on this will be harder to do, but it shouldn't be hard to pick a good set of about 5.
I like the character design for the most part, except maybe Snow and to a lesser extent Vanille. Snow is this buff guy with long blonde hair, he wears a white trenchcoat and thats fine. What bothers me about his design and what I can't get past is his stupid bandana-looking beanie thing. I don't now why but it just bothers me. Vanille's flaws are a little more obvious. She is supposed to be in her twenties I think, but she looks 16 and he outfit is sexually pandering on par with Rikku, somewhere between her outfit in X and X-2. Her personality doesn't piss me off the way it does other people, with her running around with her elbows out and making little "sounds" when doing things like jumping from one platform to another. She also has a vaguely Australian accent and is happy to the point of being kinda dumb. Their weapons, and the weapons in general don't bother me the way they did Spoony, but then the Final Fantasy weapons never really have. Yes, I realized in some of the other games that they were ridiculous, but they never really made me like the game less. Maybe there's just some suspension of disbelief going on there, or maybe I autocompensate for that kind of thing in Japanese games.

Other people have complained about the story as well. More on that in Part 2 (aka "update 1").

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