Thursday, February 17, 2011

final fantasy xiii, update 3

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

I think I've made it to the "20 hours in" part of the game where stuff allegedly "gets real". Most of the critics out there who have panned this game have deliberately said that their complaints stand despite the game "getting good" at this point, stating that it is no excuse for being boring early on. I have a few problems with that. First of all, any nerd capable of reviewing a game and giving it bad scores has heard of Joss Whedon. And, as any fan of Joss Whedon knows, intelligent use of the first up-to-40% of something creates incredible emotional impact. For those of you who don't know who Joss Whedon is, he's the idiot-savant responsible for such cult TV series as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and so on. Each series has rabid fans, the kind who will cut you if you say "Angel kind of looks gay". I recently re-watched the pilot episode of Firefly (arguably Whedon's best), and I realized that nothing really "happens" until about 40 minutes in. The pilot is an hour and thirty minutes,  which means that for half of the episode, you watch the backstory of characters, get to know them, get to know the world and what kind of "rules" it obeys, and you know what? It's kind of boring. That's okay, because at 40 minutes, some shizznit goes down and no matter what you do to avoid it, you will have just become the Earth's newest Firefly fan. Congratulations, and good luck trying to explain to everyone else why this is the best show ever for the rest of your life.

That hook is effective because when it happens, you understand the "rules" of this world and why you should care about what's happening. In FF13, when the story proper hits you, there's no backtracking to find out what any of it means. You care about what happens to the semi-cartoon people because you've had time to get to know them, decide which ones you like, and root for one or the other. The story is very emotion-driven, and without giving too much away, the devices that get the story moving go beyond simple get from A to B. Characters change, split up, reform, argue, joke, trust and distrust each other, and each of these gets the story moving instead of just leaving that sort of development to the plot. The is a plot, but like in my Halo review I'll save that. The music is no longer composed by Nobuo Uematsu who has done pretty much every Final Fantasy game. His music is pretty much legendary in gamemaking, and while he's not really involved anymore the team they replaced him with did more than well.

Like some of the Youtube commenters and Daniel Floyd say, gaming technology has evolved past simple 8-bit beeps, and therefore there is no need to focus on melody in game music if you don't want to. Where games like MegaMan needed strong melody because it was all you could do to make good music back then, today we can do pretty much anything. As such, the team behind FFXIII's music has made something much more cinematic and orchestral, rich with aesthetics instead of straight-up whistle-ability. Not a bad thing. In the video above, it starts slow and unimpressive, but it rolls nicely into the heavy stuff at about 0:30 if you want to just skip. That video is the boss battle theme, and it makes me want to fight bosses constantly. It compliments the "epicness" of boss battles and the emotional impact they usually have within the context of the story.

Speaking of which, the story's pretty much got me lock, stock and barrel at this point. Hang on while I Google that expression to see if I used it right. ......................................................................... Yeah, I think that's ok. It's 20-ish hours in, and I think I'm really only at the "Luke leaves Tatooine" part, which means I've got a tonnnnnnnnn of stuff left to see, and if what I've seen so far is representative of the whole, I'm in for 60 more hours of gaming bliss. Most of the characters are united at this point, with only 2 of them still "off doing their own thing". The cast of ~7 main characters commonly split up Scooby-Doo style so that you can learn to use them in different combinations in the beginning. I think I'm approaching the point where the game trusts you to pick them yourself and beat the game using your own team, like after you leave Midgar in FF7. No more story-forced teams, at least not in such quantity.Overall I'm excited to continue. Seriously I dont know what everyone's big disappointment is.

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