People around the world are aspiring to take their lives in new and productive directions: working out more, learning a new language, joining a book club, or picking up cooking. I’m doing none of those things, but I’m going to play my first Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy XIII.
Yes, that’s right, Final Fantasy XIII. A game that even fans of the series are kind of ambivalent about. A game that allegedly takes the better part of 20 hours to introduce every gameplay concept and open up. A game that, if the internet’s thoughts about it are to be believed, contains one of the more irritating characters of the generation in Hope.
“You’re making a horrible mistake,” you say. “You haven’t played any Final Fantasy games, and this is where you start?” It’s too late to stop me — the game disc is sitting on my desk and I’ve removed the shrink wrap. There’s no turning back now.
There is a method to my madness. For all of the complaints I’ve heard about Final Fantasy XIII, most seem to agree that it’s got the best battle system of the series. Aside from not owning a PlayStation or PlayStation 2, what’s kept me from the series and other JRPGs is that the battle systems have always looked monotonous, at least from a distance. I didn’t make it all the way through Skies of Arcadia Legends, but I distinctly remember the random turn-based battles being boring, at least to my 13-year-old self. Final Fantasy XIII, with its auto-controlled, Active Time, Paradigm Shift, formation-dependent (in case it isn’t already clear, I’m reading from Wikipedia) battle system, promises to make battles something more than a chore I’ve got to grind through. The hand-holding, while infuriating to veterans, may be exactly what I need to ease my way into the series.
It also helps that the world they’ve created (Fabula Nova Crystallis, if you will) seems like a world I want to explore, and of course, it looks beautiful. Series fans in the know will probably die a bit reading this, but the futuristic, big-swords-and-guns Final Fantasy games, from a purely aesthetic perspective, have always intrigued me the most.
Just to give you a sense of what I’m bringing to the table (and in the process ensuring I’m publishing as many inaccuracies as possible), here’s a list of some more stuff I think I know about Final Fantasy XIII:
- Lightning is the pretty lady with the gun/sword who plays the part (or probably more fairly, one of the many parts) of brooding main character.
- Hope is the kid who, if memory serves, is irrationally mad at Lightning for the majority of the game.
- There’s also that girl who’s the star of Final Fantasy XIII–2.
- There’s that black guy with an afro and chick (the bird kind) friend.
- There’s some sweet Metal Gear-looking robots.
- The main characters are all infected/inflicted with something.
- It starts on a train.
- The combat system is more about setting up tactics and A.I. routines than active control over characters.
- Most of the female characters are wearing impractical, unnecessarily-revealing outfits, and some of them will probably look underage in a way that makes me a bit uncomfortable even though I know this is all fictional and totally Japanese.
I should say that, as cynical as this all must sound, I really am going into this with an open mind. If I’d already decided that Final Fantasy XIII is a stupid waste of time, I wouldn’t have bought it, I wouldn’t be about to insert it into my PlayStation®3 Computer Entertainment System, and I certainly wouldn’t be endeavouring to write a months-long diary of my experience playing it.
And with that, I’ve put this horrible life decision into writing (on the internet, no less), so there’s no turning back. I’ll check in soon with my initial thoughts and/or concerns.