Saturday, April 3, 2010

BEDA 3: Final Fantasy XII

I'm planning on using this BEDA thing to my advantage over the course of this month by using it to kill two birds with one stone. So, over the next few weeks you might see some book reviews and video game reviews and other short pieces that I can add to a growing portfolio of work I use when applying for jobs. This will not be one of those blogs.

I'm currently playing Final Fantasy XIII, but I'm not to the end yet, so I don't want to jump the gun and review it before I complete the game and see it as a whole. However, playing this excellent game automatically brings to mind other Final Fantasy experiences. It just can't be helped. Even though the games take place in totally different realities and worlds, major themes persist that tie all of the games together. The summons, the items, and the chocobos really jump to mind. So I've found myself thinking about the other games in the series these past few weeks, and one thing in particular keeps coming back to me:
The overwhelming shittiness of Final Fantasy XII.

Man I really hated this game. Everything about it was awful. The battle system was the first to break away from the traditional turn-based style, and it's like the developers were so heart-broken to be moving away from their classic format that they couldn't muster the strength to come up with a better one. Without any time to consider my actions during battle, I found myself thrown into a fast-paced system with just as many options and menu screens as a turn-based battle. The menus were too long and took too much time to scroll through. Enough time for bosses to pick your allies off with ease. The AI at the time was simply not good enough to take care of itself, and so you have a team of inept jackasses casting the wrong spells and healing the wrong party members. Also, if memory serves, you had to scroll through the menu screens to select spells and items while also moving your character around the actual battle. Do I have two left thumbs, Square Enix? How could you possibly let this past the testing stage?

Also, the characters, the plot, who cares? Everything about this game was lack-luster from the get go. Our story begins in the great kingdom of Vlfnzkdy, who are at war with the Frnkrlvmy. King Zlrmnka and Duke Rzlzslzlby are at battling for the right to control the Hrklmshiroo. Or something like that. My point is, every piece of exposition in this story was abrasive. The names and places were hard to wrap your mind around, remember, or invest in at all. This coupled with bland, washed-out, beige and white scenery made for a game that was impossible to get excited about.

And I don't know who told Square Enix that villains are not important anymore, but someone needs to set them straight. When was the last time we had a major villain worth caring about in Final Fantasy history? 1996? When did VII come out? Because Sephiroth was the last great villain, and this was also the nearly undisputed greatest title in the series. Coincidence? Probably not. Oh, and I suppose if you wanted to, you could count Sin from X as the last great bad guy, but I think that's a little different. He was a giant embodiment of evil so huge and ridiculous that I think he can hardly be considered a villain. He took absolutely no time to create. Villains like Kefka and Sephiroth, maniacs bent on becoming living gods, are the kinds of villains we want in our games. XII joins VIII and IX in failing to do this.

Lastly, my final complaint about XII is that there was actually one mission in which the main character had to run around town proclaiming that a fallen prince was still alive. During this part there was a little meter at the top of the screen that showed you how many of the citizens you had convinced, and you had to reach a certain number before you could move on. How lame is that? I absolutely hated that part of the game, regardless of how short it was, and I think it took little more than that for me to condemn it completely and turn it off, never to be played again.

Anyways, all of these things come to mind for me while playing XIII because I think Square finally got their heads on straight and produced the best Final Fantasy I've played in a long time. The radically different battle system is so improved from XII that, like I said, I can't believe XII was even allowed to be released.

P.S. Writing a blog a day is gonna get hard, everybody. Expect to see me cutting some corners really, really soon. Like tomorrow maybe.

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