Oh, if ever there was a game that could sum up what Final Fantasy has become, this would probably be it. It's a poetic epic that's needlessly pretentious and a bit hard to follow. And yet there's some type of charm here. No, not the stupid moments like you see above, even if there are a lot of them, but things like the characters and the more emotional moments. Underneath Lightning getting naked for absolutely no reason within the story is itself a good story. (Spoilers in that link, obviously.) Oh, and something about the battle system being all kinds of fun and junk.
But who gives a crap about that? There's story to be engrossed in, damn it! A sequel story, if I may say so myself. A sequel to a game that didn't demand a sequel. How did Square fix this? Long story short: a deus ex machina that fucks over the timeline so badly that the walking neurosis in the above picture, Serah Farron, has to team up with future-man Noel Kreiss to f-WAIT A MINUTE. Serah? Noel? You mean Sarah and Noah, Square? Really stretching the imagination with these names, huh? I kid, of course; the characters are the best part of the game. In fact, let's look at the two characters I just mentioned. Serah lost her sister to some time travel bullshit, but nobody believes a word she says. While she's right about the time travel thing, it's still very easy to feel bad about her situation and that she's simply suffering from severe PTSD. I so liked this characterization that whenever the game gave me a Quick Time Event to contribute to her character, I immediately chose the dumbest, most schizophrenic options, making her solve problems with song and yelling. Obviously, I loved every second of it.
What about Noel, though? Well, he jumps around between optimist and cynic, and his "last man of the future" backstory makes no fucking sense (amazing that people speak perfect English 700 years in the future), but you know what? I still like his character. He's put into a tough situation (that I can't talk about, lest I spoil a huge portion of the game) and, again, the game does a good job of making you relate to him emotionally. Hell, even the villain gets some sympathy outside his "Final Fantasy" moments. Granted, you also get some terrifying characters, like the Lovecraftian comic relief simply known as "Mog" or Chocolina (basically Chickenehad with titties), but you take what you get with this game. I'd have mentioned how Snow goes through the same character arc here as he did in FF13, but since the game doesn't mention it, I won't, either.
Why the glum attitude at the end of that paragraph? Well, because I have to deal with a lot of heavy Final Fantasy baggage. For instance, an utter shitload of cutscenes. So many, in fact, that I'm certain the battle system exists just so you don't think you bought Time Gal by mistake. And all of this is used to tell a story that's pretty far up its own ass. Not as far as Final Fantasy XII, but it's still up there. A lot of the time, I had no idea what was going on. Something about Lightning being trapped inside the crystal and reincarnation and blah blah blah? I know I shouldn't be using examples from the beginning of the game, but something like this sure is confusing. What's Valhalla? Who are these people? Why are they flying all over the place? Why did Noel just drop into the battle for all of five seconds? It gets so bad at points that an Alone in the Dark-esque recap is necessary at the start of each game. (The difference here, of course, is that Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn't complete shit.) Even that fails to clarify things, though, since the non-linear nature of the game makes it really hard to recap events in a way that makes any sense.
Don't misunderstand me, though; I still think the story is good. I mean, time travel's there for a reason. It's there to tell you that even the tiniest of actions, like yelling at Hope from the future, can have the largest of effects on the world, and it does a good job of demonstrating that. Traveling through all those alternate histories gives you a clear image of how humanity can screw things up or...whatever the opposite of that would be. (Clearly, I wouldn't know.) Yea, the sci-fi elements can cheapen the more emotional moments (you don't have to deal with Lightning's death, because she's in the not-future fighting Chaos Man!), but it still shines through in the end. Imagine Radiant Historia if the protagonist had post traumatic stress disorder instead of a reverse god complex. All I'm saying is that you should be aware of what you're getting into before you play this game.
Game? Fuck. I forgot this was a game and not a series of intense action scenes against tomato monsters. Where do I even start? The story takes place over 700 years, and the gameplay really backs this up. I don't mean in terms of time travel, although that does get some decent focus. There are enough side quests and activities to keep you bouncing open-endedly across the timeline, reliving certain events just to see if you can break it all. But that's not what I was talking about. What I meant was that there are a billion side-activities in the game at any given time. Gambling in cat land? Sure, why not? Or how about you take a break from that for some Moogle tossing? (For some reason, that sounds oddly racist.) That boring now? Why not go to some futuristic shithole to take a quiz on what Serah got for her 18th birthday and a Hey You, Pikachu reference? Of course, a lot of these side elements have some level of entertainment value to them, but it can certainly be overwhelming to have a new gameplay concept jammed in your face every five seconds.
This is the part of the blog where I switch over to the battle system, since that's about the only consistent gameplay element to be found here. It's pretty much the same as the Active Time Battle in its predecessor, but with a few key improvements. First of all, YOU CAN CHANGE CHARACTERS MID-BATTLE NOW. No longer will you die a cheap death because the character who died happened to be the one you were controlling at that time. Granted, switching is a menu option, unlike how I described it would be in my FF13 blog, but whatever. You'll take what you can get. Change number two, though, slightly compromises this: monsters! You can't really control them outside very specific Quick Time Events, but I'm willing to live with that. After all, you can dress them up all pretty like. For example, I gave my Golden Chocobo a guitar, which goes a long way toward explaining this monstrosity. On a more serious note, though, they do add a neat collecting element to battles. Every one's different, so it's encouraged to mix and match to see what works best.
Encouraged. Not mandatory. That's the problem I have with an otherwise cool battle system: the apathy. It's really easy to fall into a rhythm, just mashing the A button until a battle ends. Why bother swapping out paradigms and monsters for strategic purposes? The auto option is all I need. Fortunately, though, this isn't the entirety of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Sometimes, you get what I just described, and sometimes, the game bends you over so it can rip off your ass and serve it to you on a silver platter. I blame the time jumping for this. There's no set way to go through the game, so the difficulty bounces all over the place. But as I implied before, I like it higher up. This is when you have to pay attention, switching out paradigms on the fly so you don't end up in the aforementioned scenario. Of course, this, too, has its downside. The final final boss (there are, like, four of the fuckers) is said to take ten minutes to beat, and I overshot that by almost an hour. I wasn't even terribly underleveled; I had decent monsters and had unlocked all the abilities in all the classes. You can only stretch a sense of accomplishment so thin, you guys. Unless, of course, the whole point behind this was to make the battle system as cinematic and action-y as the rest of the game is. I can get behind that. I'll do so with reservations, but I'll still do it.
- I have to say that there's a great story to be found in Final Fantasy XIII-2. What might turn you off is that you have to find it.
- So many gameplay elements, so little time. (Disregarding time travel, of course.)
- The core battle systems can be cool, though. Can.
- And in the course of tradition, allow me to rattle off what I couldn't fit in elsewhere: it's probably racist that the black guy from the last game gets shoved aside until the absolute end; the music's soft, subtle, and overall pretty good; the story does a good job of bringing newer players up to speed (most of the time); the ending kinda sucks, especially with the false moral choice; the bosses make no sense; Academia will always be horrible; the Crystarium's been streamlined; and the gameplay's suited more toward short bursts, even if the story clearly isn't. Eh.
I've done the mathematicals, and have mathed this as the exact polar opposite of modern Final Fantasy.
Wow, that is not the direction I intended this game to take. I realize that I'm gonna need to clarify, and elucidate I shall. As you will recall or find out by scrolling back up, the first game in this blog is Final Fantasy XIII-2, a dumb but still very appealing button-mashing RPG. I wanted this game to be as opposite to that as possible: gritty, realistic, and not an RPG. Unfortunately, I got the exact opposite of the exact opposite of Final Fantasy XIII-2: Iron Commando: Iron Commando. (No, seriously, that's what the subtitle translates to.) It's just as button-mashy and disconnected from reality as Final Fantasy XIII-2 was. The only difference, then, is that Iron Commando isn't terribly good.
I mean, things started off reasonably enough. An evil crime syndicate has stolen a meteor from space, presumably for nefarious money purposes, and it's up to you, Chang Li (or other guy) to set things right....in English, confusing enough. Surprisingly good, if not perfect, English, too. Yea, the intro, title, and end are the Japanese bread in this video game sandwich, but all the middle is English fish and chips and whatever else this metaphor has morphed into. Now do you see how quickly this got off track? That's the Iron Commando experience. One minute, you're chasing criminals via a shitty motorcycle sequence; the next, you're fighting off Mayan warriors all named Quetzalcoatl. (Or they would be if the game had enough room for that.) It's almost fun trying to guess what incredibly insane direction the story's gonna take next. I say "almost" because I'm not really sure if the game knows what it's doing. It's the video game equivalent of dementia: funny if I describe it to you, but tragic to experience.
The tragic part comes in when you're beating up innocent animals. For no discernible reason, the hero just beats the hell out of any animal that comes his way. They're not aligned with the enemy; the dogs are most likely stray, and what evil crime syndicate would sick snakes upon their foes? I'm quite aware that the snake is packing heat, but how's a snake supposed to fire a gun in the first place? It couldn't do anything with that gun, and yet I still punched it to death. (Or, rather, I lobbed grenades at the fuckers, since I'm not manly enough to punch a snake out of thin air.) I know it's a minor thing to complain about, especially given what I'm about to say after this, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth to beat the shit out of junkyard dogs.
Fortunately, most of the games isn't punching dogs in their smug goddamn faces. Most of the time, you get to fight regular criminal people (who can take so many bullets you'd think they're all FPS protagonists), and it's mildly fun. If I haven't told you by now, it's just regular beat-em-up fare, the only real difference being the variety of weapons and firearms for shooting down
snakes super criminals. I'd say they add some strategy to the experience, but they do. Huh? Turns out you have to pay attention to the various ranges and rates of fire on these things if you want get through the game. Well appreciated, but who gives a shit about strategy? I just want to lose myself in the rhythm of beating guys up, something Iron Commando does particularly well. You even get a few terrible vehicle sections over th-
And here we run into the game's major problem: crap controls. As much fun as it is to switch up which enemy you're fighting, it's incredibly easy to get stuck between two or four of the fuckers and lose life at an obscenely fast rate. Ranged weapons certainly don't help this situation. What's that? That's not a control issue? Well, I could always use a back-kick button, but I see your point, and refute it with weapon use. Punching somebody and throwing a knife at somebody both occupy the same button, so sometimes, the game just guesses whether you want to punch the guy in front of you or shoot the guy immediately behind him. And don't get me started on those driving sections I mentioned earlier. Your range of attack is pitiful, and jumping turns you into a sitting duck. A duck sitting in the air, granted, but it makes as much sense as jumping cars. All of this adds up to a game that's difficult for all the wrong reasons. Continuing the tradition of being sort-of-the-opposite of Final Fantasy XIII-2, I'll only barely not recommend this. Also, the cat is now dead to me.
- I'm sure there's an allegory for war in punching a snake because it was holding a riffle it could never use in the first place.
- Punching things a bunch is fun enough...
- ...until the controls get in the way, that is.