Fighting Final Fantasy XIII - Episode 1: This Game Has The Worst Introduction In Video Game History!

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Posted by ZombiePie (7374 posts) -

Part 1: First Impressions Are Everything

Hold your horses Nietzsche, this is a Final Fantasy game!
Hold your horses Nietzsche, this is a Final Fantasy game!

Society would like us to believe "first impressions are everything," but Square-Enix never got this memo. Final Fantasy XIII's first three hours are a lethargic affair. Snow wants to save the love of his life, Sazh has a son, Hope's mother is dead, Lightning is a tsundere, and Vanille exists. It's a bland exercise of storytelling contrivance. Final Fantasy XIII is the apotheosis of lazy writing. Beautiful window-dressing cannot hide an incoherent story populated by soulless automatons.

The fine people of Square-Enix continue to believe long-standing narrative traditions are beneath them. Serah's crystallization acts as an inciting action, but it exists in a contextless world. The scene would mean something if we knew who she was, or how she relates to the story. Instead of engaging in character building, Final Fantasy XIII meanders. It copies and pastes levels and discourages exploration. It expects you to do the legwork when it spews a bevy of technobabble. Worse, it belches shitty lines of dialogue and expects you to maintain your composure.

I refuse to believe an adult wrote these characters.
I refuse to believe an adult wrote these characters.

Undeniably, the game lacks tonal consistency. In one scene, Lightning and Sazh lament an act of genocide. In the next, Snow cracks jokes with his buddies. In its first three hours, Final Fantasy XIII acts like an aberration. The characters are inherently meaningless because the game never builds upon their actions. Nothing achieved in the first two chapters signifies anything genuine or abstract. The game presents no consistent theme, pattern, trend, or story.

I ask you, what's the purpose of the first two chapters? I need to know the answer. Mechanically speaking, the game is barren. The game can play itself. The story lacks a visible antagonist. Nothing makes sense. Locations exist without context. Characters use proper nouns wantonly. Party pairings feel forced. Nothing feels memorable, but maybe that's just me.

But I honestly doubt any of you fell in love with the game's writing.
But I honestly doubt any of you fell in love with the game's writing.

Part 2: Square-Enix Are Trolls

There are undeniable parallels between Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy VII. Both games quickly transition to action-sequences after a cinematic. Both delay introducing their primary cast members. Both initially limit the player's gameplay choices. Both take place on exploding train tracks. BUT there's one big difference. Final Fantasy VII's bombing scene is a tightly paced showcase of technical excellence; Final Fantasy XIII's introduction is a LONG three-hour slog.

Final Fantasy VII has some of the best world building in video game history. COME AT ME, IF YOU DARE! The city of Midgar is a dystopian slum. You understand that as the camera pans away from Aerith. As we tour Midgar, Shinra towers ominously in the background. In one seamless shot, the game establishes the story's two driving forces. Even more impressive is how the game frames its story without spoken dialogue.

Did I accidentally select the Polish translation? WHAT DOES THIS SENTENCE EVEN MEAN?!
Did I accidentally select the Polish translation? WHAT DOES THIS SENTENCE EVEN MEAN?!

Final Fantasy XIII's introduction is an incoherent mess. The opening narration, provided by someone we have never met, details a yet unseen apocalyptic event. We then jump cut to a train filled with unknown hooded passengers. Where are they going, and why are they on the train? We will not know for another hour. The game transitions to an unnamed female character slashing away at faceless soldiers. Who is she? Why is she fighting these soldiers? Why do I care?

Immediately, Square-Enix exploits nostalgia for Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy XIII's first environment, though beautiful, looks shockingly similar to a high-resolution Midgar. Our train even explodes in a similar fashion to Final Fantasy VII's reactor scene. It's hard to take Final Fantasy XIII's characters seriously when its introduction feels like a high-poly re-enactment of Final Fantasy VII. Snow's group is shockingly similar to Barret's AVALANCHE. Lightning's aloof and standoffish nature frames her as a female Cloud. Vanille jokes around like Cait Sith. FUCK HELL, the list of similarities is endless!

I'M NOT EXACTLY GETTING MISTY EYED OVER THIS SHIT!
I'M NOT EXACTLY GETTING MISTY EYED OVER THIS SHIT!

Around the time of Final Fantasy XIII's release, Square-Enix was full of itself. Fans were clamoring for a proper Final Fantasy VII remake, and Square was having none of it. During the promotion of Final Fantasy XIII, executives said, "Her name is Lightning because she came from a cloud." I guess that's why the first chapter attempts to placate die-hard fans, but the end result is dizzying. None of the characters have enough time to breathe and the game juxtaposes between parties at a breakneck speed. If anything, Final Fantasy XIII is an indictment against Square-Enix's worst habit. When pitted in a corner they resort to fan service.

Part 3: Nothing Makes Sense

Before we continue, there are positive takeaways I want to mention. Final Fantasy XIII has amazing production values. Despite its advancing age, the character models are spectacular, and the environments are equally impressive. Its CGI cutscenes are stunning, barring a few instances of the "Uncanny Valley." Finally, the musical score is incredible. While it lacks the staying power of its predecessors, the music perfectly blends with the game's visuals.

Yeah... let's just say the
Yeah... let's just say the "Uncanny Valley" is a problem and move on to the next subject.

Let's address why chapter one is a horrible introduction. First, what the fuck is "Cocoon?" I have finished the story, and I still don't know. Is it a city? Is it a planet? Is it a continent? Every character says "Cocoon" flippantly, as if it is of little consequence. Characters compound this problem by speaking a mile a minute and using it with other yet defined terms like "PSICOM," "I'Cie," "Pulse," and "Sanctum." Without any context, it's IMPOSSIBLE to make sense of what's being said.

There's an overwhelming amount of proper nouns in Final Fantasy XIII. At this point in the game, I understand fal'Cie are important, but what are they? Are they robots? Are they a pantheon of gods? Are they monsters that live alongside humanity? Don't even get me started about l'Cie! Everyone important to the story is either a robot or a crystallized monster! At no point do the characters stop and clue us into basic terminology. Instead, they say "fal'Cie" and "Pulse fal'Cie" as two distinct terms without explanation.

Lightning, I DARE you to try expressing more than two emotions within the next hour.
Lightning, I DARE you to try expressing more than two emotions within the next hour.

I know what a lot of you are about to say as a counter to my bellyaching. "But ZombiePie, these questions are answered in the game's codex!" This rebuttal is WEAK! The whole game doesn't make sense unless you interact with the codex. If there was ever a time to include a "fish out of water" character, now would have been it. Before any of you complain such characters are contrived tropes, I want to remind you not all tropes are bad. While many complain about Tidus, his questions immersed us in an alien world.

Final Fantasy XIII's codex is its Achilles' heel. Because the writers rely on the codex for world-building, very little of the character dialogue feels grounded in the story. It's critical for characters to interact in a role-playing game. Interplay helps to establish the characters and their pre-existing relationships. Final Fantasy XIII doesn't do that and expects you to flip through a book.

Aw man, I'm really excited to be reading a journal about one-off characters of no consequence to the story.
Aw man, I'm really excited to be reading a journal about one-off characters of no consequence to the story.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I need to get this issue off of my chest. The codex sucks. It uses dense technical language without scaffolding and supports. Furthermore, using the codex is a pain in the ass. Codex entries are divided into nebulously defined categories. For example, the entry about PSICOM is found in "COCOON SOCIETY," but named individuals who work for PSICOM are in "PEOPLE."

Part 4: Nothing Is Fun To Play!

I have been dancing around Final Fantasy XIII's gameplay because there's nothing to pick apart. The game doesn't mechanically open up for a solid ten hours. When the game's first battle commences, there are only three choosable options. The player can run a simulation, manually pick commands, or use an item. Even if you independently input attacks, there are only two selectable options.

I'm not a fan of the player's UI real-estate during battles. Look at how much of the screen has nothing to do with playing the game!
I'm not a fan of the player's UI real-estate during battles. Look at how much of the screen has nothing to do with playing the game!

To add insult to injury, Final Fantasy XIII is shockingly linear. Levels feature an entrance and exit. The sum total of your interaction with the environment is moving from these two points. Exploring your surroundings is dubious. Most optional corridors result in dead ends with treasure chests. The limited gameplay is especially insulting when the game is apt to show cinematic sequences where Lightning flies incredible distances. Per contra, when I control Lightning she's powerless to jump over knee-high walls.

Final Fantasy XIII's "Auto Battle" feature is an emblem of what modern Square-Enix thinks of its audience. Throughout the game, Square-Enix shows it doesn't trust its fans. Every gameplay feature is introduced incrementally and in painstaking detail. This sentiment especially applies to mechanics that have been franchise hallmarks for decades. Did we honestly need an independent tutorial about using items?

I also want to say, the game ending if the player character dies is FUCKING TRASH!
I also want to say, the game ending if the player character dies is FUCKING TRASH!

The tutorials in the first two chapters aren't groundbreaking. The ATB Meter, datalog, stagger meter, items, and shrouds all get handcrafted moments. Be that as it may, mechanics of consequence aren't available. Don't believe me? Experience points, leveling, character classes, paradigms, and magical abilities don't open up until chapter three. The end result is the introduction lacks a sense of progression. It's hard to feel invested when every character controls the same.

It goes without saying Final Fantasy XIII is an incredibly limited experience. For HOURS Final Fantasy XIII blocks any attempts to act out its roles. Even its defenders are apt to point out the lack of side-quests until its eleventh chapter. This limitation applies to every mechanic. The character's third class isn't usable until chapter seven; the final character summon unlocks in chapter eleven; the last level of the Crystarium opens up AFTER you beat the game. Square's design decisions are especially heinous when you realize this is a role-playing game!

And what is the deal with the battle rating system? What does it mean when I get five stars?
And what is the deal with the battle rating system? What does it mean when I get five stars?

Part 5: Dear Square, Your Fave Is Problematic - Let's Talk About Lightning

When all things are said and done, I think Lightning is unfairly maligned. Despite a reasonable recovery, she's often used as a demagogue for Final Fantasy XIII's many shortcomings. Admittedly, the first two chapters provide her a piss poor introduction. Lightning's shortage of character traits causes her actions to feel flat. Her aloof and cold personality is another example of Square-Enix copying and pasting from their company-wide design document.

A lot of my initial displeasure with Lightning can be blamed on Final Fantasy XIII's design. There are no genuine decisions to make until chapter three. For now, the only decision is whether the player wants to attack or use a potion. It also doesn't help there aren't side quests or dialogue choices. This lack of interactivity hampers any attempt to frame Lightning as a character deserving the player's attention. If I can't buy into a game's mechanics, my willingness to buy into its story is reduced.

Was Final Fantasy XIII secretly directed by Michael Bay?
Was Final Fantasy XIII secretly directed by Michael Bay?

The game's juxtapositions present another problem with Lightning's introduction. Spliced in-between her interactions with Sazh are multiple cutaways to Snow, Hope, and Vanille. These transitions are poorly paced and do the characters a disservice, Lightning especially. Allowing characters to digest events has created some of the best moments in the Final Fantasy franchise. Do I need to cite Final Fantasy VII or X as examples of this concept in action? Worse, the cutaways place Final Fantasy XIII's linear design under a massive spotlight. Transitional sequences boil down to walking through corridors, fighting trash mobs, and flipping switches.

We haven't even talked about the pacing issues with Lightning! The game delays explaining why Lightning wants to rescue her sister until chapter five! It isn't until chapter four we understand the full extent of Lightning's relationship to Snow. For fuck's sake, we wait HOURS before knowing why Lightning and Sazh were on the same train! It's IMPOSSIBLE to understand Lightning as a character because too much of her introduction is left partially developed.

The game also thinks fighting the same pack of robot dogs is
The game also thinks fighting the same pack of robot dogs is "empowering." It's not.

All we know about Lightning is she's trying to save her sister. That's her character arc for a solid ten hours. After a few verbal quips with Sazh, we learn she left the "Guardian Forces." WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? Why isn't the game explaining anything? We don't understand why Sazh and Lightning are working together. We don't know what's wrong with Serah. We have no idea what the military plans to do with Serah. Nor do we know if any of the casts' end goals are complimentary. What kind of storytelling is this shit?

Part 6: Snow Almost "Works."

What I am about to say may come as a surprise. I don't hate Snow. I especially don't hate Troy Baker's performance. The man worked his ass off to make his goofy ass lines of dialogue believable. At no point does Baker "phone it in" like some of the other performances. The man pours every ounce of his acting skill into selling Snow's abhorrently written lines, and HOT DAMN is his script atrocious.

Beyond my respect for Troy Baker, Snow's one of the few characters with an easy to follow character arc. He leads a ragtag group of rebels and intends to save the love of his life. A Final Fantasy character arc cannot get any simpler. I will concede there are undeniable gaps in Snow's characterization. We don't understand how he relates to Lightning. Nor do we understand what Snow's alliance stands for in comparison to Sanctum. On top of that, Snow's friends are trash.

They suck. They suck a lot.
They suck. They suck a lot.

The tone of Snow's introduction is beyond problematic. He continually shouts "I'm the hero." He exclaims saving Sarah is his destiny. He treats war like a fun adventure. He casually jokes with his friends while bullets whiz past his head. Need I remind you, a few minutes ago Lightning and Sazh lamented a massacre. Yeah, this game has a problem with tone.

But again, there's something to Snow's simplistic character arc I couldn't help but enjoy. He's driven by a desire to fulfill a relationship, and we can reasonably assume this is the source of his irrational behavior. It's boiler point, but it fits Snow as a character. He's not someone who thinks his plans through before acting them out. By the time the second chapter ended, I felt like I knew Snow the best. I understood his relationship with Serah meant the world to him.

You know what? Maybe I was wrong about Snow.
You know what? Maybe I was wrong about Snow.

Other issues with Snow are not his fault. The game has a terrible sense of spatial awareness. We start the game on top of a set of train tracks. Eventually, the characters find themselves in what looks like an ancient Mayan ruin. The game spends none of its time establishing where the characters are going. Even more lamentable, just as you get comfortable with a pair of characters, the game jump cuts to a different group.

Part 7: Hope Is Dead On Arrival

I feel anger directed at Lightning is misplaced because there are worse characters in Final Fantasy XIII. Case and point, Hope is the worst.He's just a terrible character. The only reason Hope exists is to fulfill Square's teenage protagonist quota. Why else does his characterization oscillate between brooding rage and newfound confidence? Hope's an amalgamation of everything wrong with modern Square-Enix. He plays up well-established anime tropes and is defined by narrative convenience rather than believability.

Someone, please do me a favor and place this boy in the nearest trash receptacle.
Someone, please do me a favor and place this boy in the nearest trash receptacle.

Hope's character-defining moment occurs in the first hour, and he grinds it into your eye until the bitter end. We watch Snow save a train full of civilians in the first chapter. After freeing them, Snow recruits some of the civilians to fight PSICOM. Hope's mother ends up joining Snow, one thing leads to another, and she dies. What the audience is meant to believe is Hope blames Snow for the death of his mother. The problem is nothing about this character arc "works." Likewise, Hope's angst, if we can call it that, is haphazardly used throughout the story.

Hope's mother willingly joins Snow. There's a scene where Hope's mother turns to assure him everything will be fine. We saw that shit! Hope saw that shit! Why doesn't he remember? Likewise, it is clear PSICOM, not Snow, is responsible for her death. After an explosion caused by PSICOM, Snow is hanging from a ledge with Hope's mother in tow. Snow loses his grip, and she falls to her death. Maybe it's me, but I don't see the justification for a Tarantino-esque revenge feud.

Female person who has borne children has questionable durability.
Female person who has borne children has questionable durability.

I have no idea what to think of Hope. Do I view him as a victim of tragedy? Then why doesn't the game spend more time surfacing his grief? Does the game want me to treat him as a potential powder keg? Then why does Hope have several sections where he acts like a well-adjusted adult? Sometimes Hope handles situations well-enough, and other times he behaves like a brooding troll. Hope only suffers from trauma when the script allows him, and this impairs the believability of his character arc.

It doesn't help Hope is the character most willing to use the game's proper nouns. A large portion of Hope's dialogue serves as exposition, and it's always difficult to process. What frustrates me is Final Fantasy XIII doesn't "earn" its proper nouns. It creates a lexicon of never before used terms and expects the player to do the legwork in finding out what they mean. There's nothing more frustrating than hearing Hope abbreviate some part of Cocoon society, and having to flip through the menu and locate definitions in the codex.

Hope is the type of person who would complain all day during a trip to Disneyland.
Hope is the type of person who would complain all day during a trip to Disneyland.

Part 8: I Feel Sorry For Whoever Voiced Vanille.

Before I talk about Vanille, I want to discuss Snow's conduct after the death of Hope's mother. The game uses a long CG cutscene to show Snow in turmoil as he watches her die. When Hope's mother asks Snow to "Get him home," there's an additional scene where Snow tries to decipher what she meant. The game makes the case Snow honoring her last wishes is crucially important. So why the fuck is Snow's next scene him smiling as he flies away on a bike?

I guess we need to talk about Vanille.
I guess we need to talk about Vanille.

For me, Vanille falls into the same category as Snow. She's a simple but flawed character that almost works. I appreciate Vanille asking for clarification on terminology. Her attempts to cheer up Hope, while cringeworthy, feel honest and genuine. My reservations stem from her narrative purpose. I was able to predict she was from Gran Pulse within an hour, and that's because there isn't a lot of nuance to her character.

Admittedly, there's something charming to how Vanille acts. She's nothing like the rest of the characters and is a breath of fresh air. Nonetheless, the novelty of Vanille is a double-edged sword. Her bubbly personality is in constant conflict with the game's tone and content. Why she gravitates to the other characters is left a mystery until the game's midpoint. Finally, she exemplifies why Square-Enix will never get better at designing female characters.

Let's be honest, her character model SUCKS!
Let's be honest, her character model SUCKS!

Even by 2009's standards, Vanille's character design is inexcusable, and how the game exploits her design is equally contemptible. Occasionally the camera is angled during cutscenes in a voyeuristic manner. On top of her questionable design, Vanille behaves as if she is in a situational comedy. Even when there are dead bodies or horrible monsters in the background, Vanille greets everything with a smile. Remember Tidus? Remember how Tidus eventually grew on you? Square wants a similar effect to apply to Vanille, and it doesn't work. In fact, it's painful to watch.

I should also mention Vanille's voice acting. Vanille's voice actor is terrible. Before you ask, it's not because of her voice actor's Austrailian accent. I looked up Vanille's voice actor and discovered she was Australian. It's the inconsistency of her accent that bothers me. Sometimes she's trying to tone down her accent, and other times she's hamming it up. Finally, why does Vanille speak French?

I want to also clarifying playing the game just as Hope and Vanille SUCKS!
I want to also clarifying playing the game just as Hope and Vanille SUCKS!

Part 9: A Game Without Stakes

A major gameplay annoyance is enemy dodging. Like its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII displays enemies in real-time. Players avoid battles by not bumping into wandering foes. Because Final Fantasy XIII takes place in narrow corridors, avoiding trash mobs is impossible. It doesn't help enemies come in packs of two or three. Even if you serpentine around one, the others are likely to pounce on you.

This problem is untenable for a reason. There's no point to the battles because they don't provide experience points. The leveling system is not available until chapter three. For FIVE HOURS you fight without a long-term reward. Enemies exist to pad out the game's length. That's all they do. Additionally, defeating foes does nothing for the characters. With everyone controlling the same, scenes start to blur.

I take back everything nice I said about Snow. He's a tool.
I take back everything nice I said about Snow. He's a tool.

Another halfbaked gameplay concept is the staggering mechanic. I eventually came around to the feature, but it's needlessly frustrating. Sometimes I was able to defeat enemies before filling up their stagger meter. Other times, the system allows you to stun lock enemies into oblivion. There's no rhyme or reason to what the mechanic provides. It also requires an immense amount of patience.

Let's return to the story. Lightning and Sazh are murdering soldiers; Snow is leading a rebellion; Hope and Vanille are flipping platform switches. See what I'm talking about? Despite the spectacular visuals, there's no grounding in the world. At some point, a sinister pillar appears and spews a villainous speech. It's a decent scene, but there's no point of reference for who is speaking and why.

What really sticks in my craw is the game's lack of context. You spend as much time controlling Vanille as you do Lightning. But I'll be damned if I told you what I accomplished during my time with Vanille. I know I fought several trash mobs and flipped dozens of platform switches. At least with Lightning and Snow, I understand they are trying to rescue Serah. Why the fuck do I spend HOURS playing "patty cake" with Hope and Vanille?

Speaking of incoherent nonsense, let's talk about Serah.
Speaking of incoherent nonsense, let's talk about Serah.

Serah's situation is where Final Fantasy XIII's story falls apart. She's cursed by an unseen "pie in the sky" diety and something bad is going to happen to her. All the game provides in terms of her storytelling is she needs to be rescued. She's a damsel in distress, but we don't know what put her in distress. There are attempts to frame the forces of Sanctum as the story's "villains" but there's no clear sense of who commands them.

Part 10: Nothing About The Ending Of Chapter Two Makes Sense

While controlling Vanille and Hope, the game reveals its version of zombies. Monsterous "Cie'th" swarm our two unlucky companions. The Cie'th are l'Cie who have failed their foci. While the game makes the case only a few humans are selected to become l'Cie, the supply of Cie'th seems endless. There's a message to be drawn here, but the game takes FOREVER to follow through.

Why is Polygon Man a boss?
Why is Polygon Man a boss?

Lightning reveals to Sazh that Serah is a l'Cie. We also discover Snow is arranged to marry Serah. Another one of my frustrations is the story's unwillingness to explain what the fal'Cie are all about. Based on the conversations of the characters, the fal'Cie act like Gods and are treated as such, but this frame of reference isn't consistent. Sometimes we see fal'Cie interfering in the story, and other times they passively perform tasks. Some fal'Cie are towering monsters, whereas others are idols worshiped by people.

Eventually, Hope and Vanille reconnect with Snow. Snow is a moron and doesn't notice Hope's visible anxiety. He also appears disinterested in investigating the dying words of Hope's mother. In the next scene, everyone conveniently finds Serah on the floor of the temple. Lightning and Snow have a verbal tiff and Serah asks the two to "save Cocoon." Serah then rises into the air and becomes a crystal. Hope, being an expert on everything important to the story, explains when a fal'Cie completes their focus they are granted eternal life.

If I had a choice between becoming being a zombie or crystal, I'd have to go with being a zombie.
If I had a choice between becoming being a zombie or crystal, I'd have to go with being a zombie.

Frustrated with his present circumstances, Snow walks up to a nearby fal'Cie. While accompanied by Sazh and Lightning, Snow encounters Anima. I've been meaning to bring this issue up, but I think Final Fantasy XIII's boss design sucks shit! The futuristic and metallic design of the fal'Cie feels uninspired and sterile. They end up having the same issue I have with the Michael Bay Transformer films. Everything looks the same and nothing feels "distinct." Worse, when the game starts pitting fal'Cie and Eidolons into quickly edited battles, it is impossible to know who's fighting who.

After defeating Anima, the game subjects us to a bizarre cinematic. A massive fal'Cie makes our party l'Cie. Chapter two ends when the branding cinematic is done. I found this cinematic, like the rest of Final Fantasy XIII, optically impressive but confusing. A recurring issue the characters have is not knowing their focus. My problem is every other l'Cie knows their focus. Even the goddamned Cieth Stones tell you their focus!

It's a nice touch Fang is included in this scene.
It's a nice touch Fang is included in this scene.

The character's completing their focus is only pertinent to the story when the script allows it. You would think knowing how to stop oneself from becoming a zombie is a pressing issue, but apparently, it isn't! Within the next chapter, everyone treats the issue as a secondary objective. Snow wants to save Serah. Sazh wants to be with his son. Hope wants to murder Snow. Vanille wants to have a picnic. In the coming chapters, we watch each of these characters futz around FOR HOURS! Sazh and Vanille even go to a fucking amusement park! FUCK THIS GAME! With that in mind, I'm calling it a day. Next episode, we have the pleasure of discussing Hope being a train wreck.

Can video games be reported for
Can video games be reported for "crimes against humanity?"

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#1 Posted by Marokai (3711 posts) -

It's kind of amazing how much of a mess FFXIII is for its opening hours. I tried to replay it last year and bounced right off of it after furiously writing a page and ahalf in my notes about how the intro to XIII is like a broken robot's attempt at recreating the opening of FFVII from memory or something.

Like, it's not even close to me how much better 7's opening is in comparison in how it introduces the conflict, who these people are, who they're working for, and why, and it's so impossible to not compare them in my head because of how similar they are. Lightning is a stern ex-soldier of very few words (named after weather phenomena while we're at it!) who's following her own agenda; also fights dumb scorpion thing with her party member Black Guy With Gun. There's an oppressive government in a dystopian futuristic city. A resistance group fighting back against it. Multiple train scenes.

NORA is just AVALANCHE but worse in every possible way and completely & utterly unrelatable in their motivations (what are they? what are their goals, specifically? why do they basically never come up again??), which seems to just be "we're in it for the lulz! Heroes need no plans! WOOOOOOO!!!" as opposed to AVALANCHE which has obvious, specific reasons to exist (Shinra is an evil energy company sucking life out of the planet and polluting it to death) with clear, easy to understand goals (blow up mako reactors = a healthier planet), with a cast that is very relatable and fairly plain looking as opposed to NORA's hideous outfits and hair-don'ts.

Not to mention, Cocoon as a setting is just utter gibberish and impossible to ever wrap your head around as a place that an actual society exists within, because you never really get to immerse yourself in any town, any NPCs, or any bit of civilization at all, whereas in 7, after the opening mission, the game takes the reigns off and allows Cloud to wander back to the group's HQ to some somber music, letting you see parts of Midgar, some of the people who live there, and the state that they're living in - total, crushing poverty as opposed to whatever futuristic nonsense Cocoon is.

On top of it all, there's like no connective tissue between any of the setpieces in the opening, or for much of the game in general, so you get a lot of "fade to black/white" abruptly ending one scene, switching to someone else, and then coming right back to the people you were with before, but oops, they crashed and ended up some place totally different! Or they fell like a thousand feet and wound up in this wacky place! Like so much of XIII, it's all weirdly detached from one scene to the next.

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#2 Posted by NietzscheCookie (122 posts) -

Great write up! I can confirm as an Australian that Vanille's accent sounded wildly inconsistent and strange.

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#3 Posted by Zeik (5185 posts) -

I honestly don't remember much about FFXIII, other than the fact that I remember not hating it nearly as much as most people, and actually kinda liking the combat. (Although you did remind me of the aggressively slow pace it is dolled out.) But I doubt I could name more than a couple meaningful events from the entire plot, and also Sazh has a chocobo in his hair.

My memory of FFXIII is pretty much of it being an entirely serviceable but forgettable experience, like a shallow summer blockbuster. I don't remember aggressively hating anything about it, but I also didn't like anything about it enough to even really consider playing its sequels. If it wasn't for the internet constantly reminding me it was the worst thing ever, or that it was part of an otherwise popular series like Final Fantasy, it would be one of those games I probably would have never thought about again after I was done, until like a decade later when something sparks a memory that it was a thing that existed.

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#4 Edited by xanadu (2033 posts) -
No Caption Provided

Im extremely here for this whole blog

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#5 Posted by chaser324 (8642 posts) -

FFXIII is a bad game, but the early part of it is the worst. All of those proper nouns being thrown around are totally inscrutable, the gameplay mechanics are all handcuffed and burdened with constant tutorials, and then there's Hope.

At least you're giving Lightning a chance though, which is good since she's still a big focus of the sequels.

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#7 Edited by Justin258 (15590 posts) -

But I honestly doubt any of you fell in love with the game's writing.

Whatever happened to Hailinel?

EDIT: I've only played about ten hours of FFXIII. I bought it from Gamestop for five or six dollars several years ago (I don't remember the exact price but it was real cheap) specifically to see if I hated it or enjoyed it. I didn't hate what I played. I thought the combat was cool, if a little braindead, and I thought it all looked pretty awesome.

As far as all the proper nouns go, I gathered that your party is in a city (Cocoon, I think) ruled over by some weird deity-like things (Fal'Cie) that pick random people to do things for them (called L'Cie) and if those people don't achieve their L'Cie, they get turned into zombies. Being able to boil it down to generic tropes doesn't actually help the narrative all that much, but it did make me not hate it.

On the other hand, I remember almost nothing about it. I remember Hope's mom dying and Hope being a garbage character. I also think Lightning's character design is actually pretty cool, though I thought it got less cool in the sequels (and I didn't play the sequels).

I've got way too many other games I'd like to play to spend time playing FFXIII, so I doubt I'll actually go back and finish it.

I've also never really thought about how much different FFXII is from FFXIII. Barring some of the basic Final Fantasy tropes and monster types (there are Cactuars and Chocobos!), XII and XIII are pretty much polar opposite games.

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#8 Posted by ArbitraryWater (15668 posts) -

While I will still maintain I didn't totally hate the game as a whole, the opening hours of Final Fantasy XIII are an indefensible flaming train-wreck of proper nouns and trash pacing. I've listened to some your podcasts with pinguino, so I know you both soured on the combat pretty hard, but I think the macro-heavy stuff with staggering is actually a lot of fun when it comes together, which is admittedly a pretty testy conditional.

We've talked about this a little, but I'm still just baffled at some of the broad-stroke rationale behind the way this game, and specifically this introduction, are designed. How little faith did the development team of this game have in the player to not introduce the concept of experience and leveling up (in FF XIII's extraordinarily straightforward leveling system) until the 3-4 hour mark? It's one of those things that makes me wonder who Square thought they were making this game for. Given some of the things the leads of FF XV were saying around the release of that game, the burden of expectations around this series just seems crushing.

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#9 Edited by beforet (3470 posts) -

What's tragic about this game is that the combat system is actually really fun and super engaging, and maybe one of the best in the series.... Once they let you actually use it. 30 hours into the game. I want to say it's around that time that every groups together and you can finally consistently have a full party. Before that, the party is split and you have no control over composition.

This is a bad game. It's taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but reading this brought a lot of things back. Man, this is a really bad game.

But Sahz? Sahz is good.

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#10 Posted by soimadeanaccount (604 posts) -

Oh boy oh boy oh boy it is here!

FFXIII is easily my third fav FF game, and unsurprisingly I have the completely opposite take on nearly everything you said!

I love FF7, it is still probably my top FF game of choice, but I think I will have to concede the title of best world to 13 over even 7! Here's the thing, after a certain point of the game I totally bought into their fancy proper noun and ridiculous naming of things...after I realize what is really going on. The exact point of the game I bought into their bullshit is during the part when Sahz and Vanille arrive at Sunleth Waterscape. I started this game around November 2016, which might have a pretty interesting influence on the way I view the story and the subtext of the game...

The linearity of the game I believe is actually a hidden strength that is easy to criticize, but I think it both avoids and solves a lot of issues. First, I don't think they could have pull off yet another slightly-less linear JRPG/FF game and have it not seem dated; considering that was pretty much the beginning of the era of open world games, and they definitely couldn't have made an open world game that could compete with the western dominance of that time. Even after all these years of development FF15 has its major ups and downs in just the open world alone, but that's another discussion. Second, its linearity pretty much forces the story forward considering the player has nothing else to do; I think that actually helps its pacing, all the criticism of the game not telling you up front what is happening could be solve by just keep on going forward, and there's nothing else for the player to do other than to move forward. The zero stake combat in the beginning hours also serve that purpose, there's no need to level, you move forward, fight, keep moving, no reason to slow down.

The combat in the beginning, is actually very classic FF with a fancy coat of paint, you attack, or use item, might use a skill or two. The auto function merely streamline that, maybe a little too slow at this stage of the game. The 2 characters/2-3 roles per character portion of the game is where I find the combat system shine. When they give you everyone and all the roles it becomes kind of a shit show. Although I do think the two starting areas of fumbling around the tower and the frozen lake go too long contributing to making the entire "introduction" go on too long.

Characters introductions are interesting, a lot of the game I feel like is about hindsight, both in some of its story, the way it is being told, and its discovery by the player; in that the player have to think back to events that happened in the earlier part of the game and realize why it was important. As such while the very beginning might seem like a jumble mess, looking back there's definitely a logic to it. I had similar misgivings about the intro of the game, I thought Snow was terrible. Lightning seemed like they are trying to hard to create "that type" of character again, and Sazh...just why is he doing this? Hope is being well...Hope, and Vanille seemed kind of one sided and obviously up to something, but in the end probably end up being my favorite character. Not sure if it was noticed, Vanille already had 3 ATB bar since the beginning of the game, while the other 4 characters start with just 2 and earn their 3rd after being marked.

With hindsight, everything sort of falls into place, most of these characters are flawed in ways that made them interesting, and their roles and pasts make them interesting pairs. Lightning and Sazh were a good duo in the beginning because they were fighting for their respective family members. Hope despite playing the unpopular character role bounces off somewhat nicely with Lightning, has some moments with Vanille, and meshes surprisingly well Snow, his internal struggle despite cringy at times, has its interesting contrasting moments. Vanille's atonement journey contrasts and fits why she forces herself to be cheerful. And then there's Snow, here's the thing, I think Snow is meant to be shit on as a stereotypical hero. I believe all of his ridiculous "I am the hero" lines are very much on purpose and it was all a build up just to shut him down...all in the name of shutting down a hero story's protagonist and showing how unrealistic a hero really is.

I don't think the critical part of the story is that complex, but the reliance on codex entries could be view as a flawed method of story telling, however I do like the codex. It updates as the game go on, letting you in on the stuff the game wants you to know. There's a hidden layer of communication between the developer and the player that I think is interesting. In a way it is upfront about there are things they are purposely keeping from you, but here are the things they definitely want you to know at this point of the game. The day by day break down and recap of events also help refreshing the player in case they need it, and help piecing the story together, again with the context of hindsight. Occasionally it also fills in the gaps of what goes on inside a character's head, however that could be argue the main game should have surface that better. Another thing with the codex is that I find the player should read it as soon as it has an update, a lot of the times it summarizes what just happened, and then nudges the player for what is coming up next, it is useful almost to a fault where if the player decides to skip it or read it later, the effect is lost. A lot of the world's "lore" is difficult to surface, Vanille, in hindsight, makes sense to be the one asking the "obvious" questions, but for everyone else they live in that world, in Cocoon, to them all the crazy names and behaviors are just everyday lives.

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#11 Posted by TwoLines (3654 posts) -

Two good things this game has going for it:

Combat (after 30 hours)

Sahz

That's it.

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#12 Posted by berfunkle (165 posts) -

I like 13 better than 15. That's praise enough in my book.

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#13 Posted by Fezrock (715 posts) -

Yay! Suffering for our entertainment!

I think its worth comparing the FFXIII codex to something like the Mass Effect trilogy codex. Both are very dense, technobabble heavy tomes. But the difference is that in Mass Effect the codex builds off what is actually said and seen in the game, and isn't needed at all to understand the story; its there for fans who really want to delve into the world and know more. Whereas, as you point out, in FFXIII the codex is needed to just understand the basic outlines of the story and it doesn't build off dialog or text in the game, its there in lieu of having it in-game.

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#14 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7483 posts) -

"Final Fantasy XIII is the apotheosis of lazy writing."

Wow, the 'glorification' of lazy writing is likely best description I have ever read of later Final Fantasy games. Someone please cross stitch that on a pillow.

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#15 Posted by steeeevil (17 posts) -

To this day my head canon is that Hope’s mom willingly got herself killed because she couldn’t stand being around her terrible whiny son any longer.

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#16 Posted by Shindig (4835 posts) -

I want a Final Fantasy where the cast are in their 40s and they're only doing it to get paid.

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#17 Posted by Crommi (401 posts) -

Vanille's design is Selphie with extra fluff. But I don't really see her clothes as particularly risky or revealing. Her outfit is more tribal/exotic compared to city-dwelling members of main cast, but shares some similarities with Fang, which makes sense. Location of the brand is 100% for fanservice, though.

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#18 Posted by Efesell (4339 posts) -

Vanilles character is one of the more consistent things about the story and something I really like once you have the full picture but like many other parts of this the in media res hurts it upfront.

I have a lot of affection for this game though, and its weird sequels.

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#19 Posted by wchigo (900 posts) -

Yeah, the whole codex thing is dumb and they really needed to dole out the combat stuff faster, as well as giving you a full party of 3. However, I REALLY enjoyed the combat after it opens up and I think that's where a lot of my fondness for XIII comes from. I honestly still feel like it's an okay game that's not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, but it doesn't try hard enough to make people like it...

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#20 Posted by BioSpock (64 posts) -

I have yet to read this entire post and I probably won't be able to provide much of a counter argument without revisiting it, but even if I'm biased because I really like the XIII trilogy (XIII-2 in particular is one of the best in the series), calling this the worst introduction in gaming history is some serious hyperbole.

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#21 Edited by soimadeanaccount (604 posts) -

FFXIII-2 is one that I really can't get behind. To me it felt like lost the thread on what 13 proper was trying to accomplish, it could have been an easy layup for them to just band aid on the things 13 didn't get to go over; in the beginning it almost felt like it was going into that direction. Then it completely mishandle the antagonist which they rely too heavily on, plus the butchering of their own "rules" in the ending for the sake of a cliff hanger (now it is a good set up I give it that) just killed the whole thing for me. I can't wait for ZP to complain about the mini games tho, I got that going for me, which is nice :p

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#22 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4179 posts) -

FFXIII's story is quite terrible. And the pace... ugh...

The combat gets real good later on when it turns into this rhytmic air juggle game. Never letting the enemy drop must be one of the most engaging RPG combat ideas i've seen. This means that you actually have to cut the meter short at times and generally spread out the attacks you do over time. So that you never let any gaps exist where the enemy drops down. Do you really need to do this? Nahhh.. But why wouldn't you? It makes every encounter with a somewhat beefy enemy 100% more engaging!

Bosses make the stagger system become fun. Because it adds this strategy layer to the combat. You want to use magic to fill it up fast, but you also need to slow the decline of the meter by using physical attacks. And right as you pop the stagger meter, you want to be able to dish out as much physical damage as you can. So you try to have 2 commando's ready as the ravager pops the stagger meter. But you also want the right debuffs to be on the enemy right as you pop the stagger meter. Basically, the stagger meter gives you this tactical thinking man's RPG beforehand, while it becomes a frenzied hack & slash game as soon as you hit the stagger limit. That said, the meter is pretty much useless for any non-boss enemy until you end up at Pulse.

While the leveling system doesn't open for the first chapters, getting those points still felt like something i should spend time on. After all,points are points and you'll eventually get to spend them. Sure, it's not a huge amount, but spending a few hours on low level enemies still adds up.

Coccoon is a small hollow planet where people live on the inside of the shell. The most obvious difference between Sanctum Fal'cie & Pulse Fal'cie is that the Sanctum ones are mostly mechanical constructs while the Pulse fal'cie resemble animalistic robots more. Apparently the Sanctum Fal'cies are more passive in nature and just do whatever is needed to keep Coccoon & it's people in a good shape, occassionally branding a l'cie to protect Coccoon. The Pulse Fal'cie are more agressive in nature and go out there to create a huge amount of L'cie to destroy Coccoon.

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#23 Edited by Zirilius (1700 posts) -

I've said it before and I'll say it again. @jeff is wrong! Hope is hands down the worst Final Fantasy character in any Final Fantasy game. I hate her more than I hate Leblanc which is a lot. He was part of the reason I took 3 years to beat this game. I'm not going to say much more bout him that you haven't already said except FUCK HOPE.

Let's get into the nitty gritty. I'm a XIII defender because I think this game actually does a lot after you get to Gran Pulse. The shitty part is that you have to force yourself to eat your veggies for the first 10 chapters before you get to the good stuff. Now that isn't to say that there isn't some okay stuff that happens before then but like you mentioned you barely have any context for the motivations of many of the characters prior to Chapter 5 and hell your still learning stuff in Chapter 10 and beyond.

I think this game does too much hand holding in the beginning parts of this game. Once you get the option to do custom chains and paradigms is when the combat for this game really opens up. Sure you can hit Auto-battle for 90% of the game but once you learn the system being able to game it with custom chains is amazing. Some of the later fights that are a bit tough on auto-battle can be trivialized by doing custom chains. Learning how to paradigm shift at critical times is also amazing. It's just a shame that even getting close to the end of the game there are still FUCKING tutorials for shit you've already probably been doing for at least 10 or more hours.

Snow is amazing in this and I agree that the portrayal from Troy Baker really sells me on the character. Despite him being kind of a dumbass he's got this earnest about him that I find infectious. He loves Serah! He wants to do right by those around him and he puts the weight of the world on his shoulders. When something goes wrong he blames himself, from what I remember, but he doesn't let his failures keep him from completing his job.

Lightning early on his a annoying but I actually grew to love her arc by the stories end. I'm having issues describing her arc without really getting into some spoilery stuff that happens later on but needless to say she's actually more nuanced then the early game lets on.

Sazh can go fuck himself. I think he's a tragic character trying to do some good but I honestly don't like him that much. Their attempts at comic relief with him fell flat for me. The unfortunate part is that he becomes a pretty critical party member later on for some fights so you can't fully ignore him.

I get your criticisms on Vanille but I didn't find her terribly annoying in this game (come talk to me if you ever play XIII-3). And I know you didn't get into the introduction of Fang yet but aside from Snow she might be favorite character in the XIII universe. Like Lightning I think they take too long to develop her character but once contextualized I think she's a great character. You can take it or leave it on the voice acting but having just come from X and X-2 I think you can appreciate Square at least tries to get people who do a decent job.

Looking forward to your later blogs as I'm curious to see if @thatpinguino turns around. I'm a bit behind on Deep Listens but hopefully with Battle for Azeroth coming out soon I'll have some podcast time while I game.

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#24 Posted by ZombiePie (7374 posts) -

Well, this blog was certainly more successful than my previous Final Fantasy outings. Regardless, it's time to keep up with tradition. For those that may be new, I always reply to user comments made within two-weeks of the publishing date of the blog. Without further ado, let's have some fun!

@marokai said:

It's kind of amazing how much of a mess FFXIII is for its opening hours. I tried to replay it last year and bounced right off of it after furiously writing a page and a half in my notes about how the intro to XIII is like a broken robot's attempt at recreating the opening of FFVII from memory or something.

As a quick experiment I installed Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and played the first hour of that game to see how it compared to Final Fantasy XIII. HOT DAMN does that game fire on all cylinders in its first act! In 12's first three hours I talked to more NPCs than I did in all of 13! There are even quests and optional tasks to complete! I'm left to believe Square knows how to create good introductions. It's just sometimes they get bogged down in creating visuals instead of compelling gameplay or characters.

This company has had thirty years to figure out an alternative to the aloof protagonist. They continue to refuse to change, and let me tell you, I'm sick of it.

Great write up! I can confirm as an Australian that Vanille's accent sounded wildly inconsistent and strange.

And y'all don't speak French form time to time? Honestly, I'm happy you left this comment. I really wanted to mention my dislike for Vanille's voice acting, but was afraid it would be interpreted incorrectly. And before anyone asks, I think Fang's voice actor is great! Fang's voice actor exudes confidence and fits her character almost perfectly. There are a few awkward lines, but overall I give her a thumbs up.

@zeik said:

I honestly don't remember much about FFXIII, other than the fact that I remember not hating it nearly as much as most people, and actually kinda liking the combat. (Although you did remind me of the aggressively slow pace it is dolled out.) But I doubt I could name more than a couple meaningful events from the entire plot, and also Sazh has a chocobo in his hair.

My memory of FFXIII is pretty much of it being an entirely serviceable but forgettable experience, like a shallow summer blockbuster. I don't remember aggressively hating anything about it, but I also didn't like anything about it enough to even really consider playing its sequels. If it wasn't for the internet constantly reminding me it was the worst thing ever, or that it was part of an otherwise popular series like Final Fantasy, it would be one of those games I probably would have never thought about again after I was done, until like a decade later when something sparks a memory that it was a thing that existed.

I do think time has not done Final Fantasy XIII any justice. At the time of its release, Final Fantasy XIII was a technical marvel and in many regards it still is. However, the careful attention to the visuals and art design is never in service of the characters or story. Despite Final Fantasy XIII borrowing Final Fantasy X's linear design, it doesn't manage to improve X's formula. The characters jump from one setting to the next and there's no sense of where they are or why. And that, at least to me, highlights the biggest problem facing Final Fantasy XIII. The Final Fantasy franchise has placed a huge emphasis on creating a wholeness to its game worlds. They feel livable. And for one reason or another, that's just not the case with Final Fantasy XIII.

I hate to say it, but in a lot of ways it reminds me of the Star Wars prequels. As the technology that created its visuals becomes dated and less impressive, you start to realize how artificial everything else is in the story.

@xanadu said:
No Caption Provided

Im extremely here for this whole blog

DEAR GOD! I am in the presence of a true Final Fantasy expert. Full disclosure, I played more of the Gran Pulse side quests than I am willing to admit, but at some point I had to walk away. I agree with most the gameplay certainly opens up, but it doesn't open up enough while the story is in play. And it KILLS ME the special abilities for the characters aren't usable until the last chapter. Those abilities are awesome and it's a damn shame I couldn't use them earlier.

FFXIII is a bad game, but the early part of it is the worst. All of those proper nouns being thrown around are totally inscrutable, the gameplay mechanics are all handcuffed and burdened with constant tutorials, and then there's Hope.

At least you're giving Lightning a chance though, which is good since she's still a big focus of the sequels.

I'm glad you mentioned it because some people push back on my comments about Final Fantasy's proper noun problems. It's unconscionable Final Fantasy XIII expects you to read its codex to understand any part of its story. That's storytelling negligence. And regarding Lightning, I would still say she recovers, but that's not to say she doesn't bottom out HARD around chapters 5-9. I found her treatment of Hope during some of the chapters grossly irresponsible and off-putting.

On the other hand, I remember almost nothing about it. I remember Hope's mom dying and Hope being a garbage character. I also think Lightning's character design is actually pretty cool, though I thought it got less cool in the sequels (and I didn't play the sequels).

I've got way too many other games I'd like to play to spend time playing FFXIII, so I doubt I'll actually go back and finish it.

I've also never really thought about how much different FFXII is from FFXIII. Barring some of the basic Final Fantasy tropes and monster types (there are Cactuars and Chocobos!), XII and XIII are pretty much polar opposite games.

It amazes me the team responsible for XII is the same team who created XIII. XII does more world building in it's opening cutscenes than FFXIII does in the whole game. How does this happen? Making a Final Fantasy isn't a secret recipe. Square's been making them for over thirty years!

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#25 Posted by Zirilius (1700 posts) -

@zombiepie: XII is really close to my favorite Final Fantasy game of all time. VI has it with nostalgia but fuck is XII so good.

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#26 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8818 posts) -

“Vanilla exists” is probably the kindest bunch of words ever said about that character.

Great write-up, Zeep.

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#28 Posted by Teddie (2110 posts) -

When FF13 came around, there was hype all over the internet and it was my first real chance to follow development of a Final Fantasy game as a fan, having only just tried out the series (and RPGS in general) with FF12 a few years prior. I really tried with this game, I felt like I had to like it, but even then I couldn't get through the entire game before turning on it and just finishing it out of obligation for all the money I spent on the collector's edition. And just for the record, the collector's edition was garbage-- the artbook just had a bunch of in-game screenshots and promotional renders of the characters.

The saddest thing about this game is that looking up all the stuff the game carelessly shoved into the codex, the actual worldbuilding and lore in 13 is great! The apparent character arcs in the game could have been great! The game is dripping with squandered potential. The impression I got from this game back when I played it was that prior to release, a machine had run through the whole game and removed any trace of soul or passion from it. I'm no fan of FF10's characters or plot, but goddamn if you can't feel the beating heart of the developers as you play through it, enough that even I can enjoy it on that charm alone. FF13 was a hollow experience that I expect I'll never go back to.

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#29 Posted by vikingdeath1 (1290 posts) -

I'm very excited to read all of this, which I will do eventually!

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#30 Posted by ZombiePie (7374 posts) -

@soimadeanaccount: As always, I want to thank you for your comment and encourage you to follow along with each episode. The world of Final Fantasy XIII is beautiful, there's no debating that. But when you stop and compare it to games that came before it, the world doesn't feel "whole." I can list a dozen named NPCs from Final Fantasy IX, but I can't do the same with Final Fantasy XIII. The game ignores every opportunity to use it's art to build a sense of a community or society. Instead, you have to read about how the world of Cocoon works using the codex. Heck, the game's shops are hidden in the save menus!

And I just never enjoyed playing Final Fantasy XIII. The bosses are cheap. the interface distracts you from the action on the screen. You never feel invested in watching the characters progress. The A.I. is dumb. And more than anything else, it's frustrating. I experienced so many "Game Over" screens because the game didn't provide me with enough control.

We've talked about this a little, but I'm still just baffled at some of the broad-stroke rationale behind the way this game, and specifically this introduction, are designed. How little faith did the development team of this game have in the player to not introduce the concept of experience and leveling up (in FF XIII's extraordinarily straightforward leveling system) until the 3-4 hour mark? It's one of those things that makes me wonder who Square thought they were making this game for. Given some of the things the leads of FF XV were saying around the release of that game, the burden of expectations around this series just seems crushing.

Something I want to talk about in one of the future blogs is my favorite part of Final Fantasy XIII. I have to say the only good thing about Final Fantasy XIII is E3 2008. That's the E3 when Microsoft ended their press conference with the same Final Fantasy teaser trailer that aired during Sony's conference two year prior. And let me tell you something, the NeoGAF forums lost their collective shit and it was the best thing ever. When you watch the conference, you can even hear audible gasps when everyone realizes Microsoft is announcing Final Fantasy XIII for the 360. It's amazing.

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@beforet said:

What's tragic about this game is that the combat system is actually really fun and super engaging, and maybe one of the best in the series.... Once they let you actually use it. 30 hours into the game. I want to say it's around that time that every groups together and you can finally consistently have a full party. Before that, the party is split and you have no control over composition.

I have to politely disagree. Everyone says "the game opens up at Gran Pulse," but it opens up in the worst way possible. Gran Pulse is a dead open world that repeats the same mission sixty times. The special abilities are broken and wildly inconsistent. Plus, when the game finally trusts you with the last levels of the Crystarium, you can only test it out against random monsters and Cieth. That's a gut punch. I'd also argue the game still feels like you're looking at meters and waiting for bars to fill up. There are long gaps between the action, and sometimes you can't take advantage of your windows of opportunity as much as you'd like.

@twolines said:

Two good things this game has going for it:

Combat (after 30 hours)

Sahz

That's it.

I want to also include Fang as a positive in this game. She's a better version of Snow without any of the baggage. You could also argue the music is good. The only problem there is the soundtrack isn't especially memorable. And the less said about the Leona Lewis song that plays at the end, the better.

I like 13 better than 15. That's praise enough in my book.

I don't know, at least Final Fantasy XV has gameplay that isn't best run as a simulation. "Auto Battle" might well be when Final Fantasy XIII jumped the shark. Square knew the combat in 13 was overwhelming and a bunch of hot nonsense, they felt inspired to include that as a selectable option. And say what you will about the characters in 15, and there's a lot to talk about, but only two of 13's primary cast "works."

@fezrock said:

Yay! Suffering for our entertainment!

I think its worth comparing the FFXIII codex to something like the Mass Effect trilogy codex. Both are very dense, technobabble heavy tomes. But the difference is that in Mass Effect the codex builds off what is actually said and seen in the game, and isn't needed at all to understand the story; its there for fans who really want to delve into the world and know more. Whereas, as you point out, in FFXIII the codex is needed to just understand the basic outlines of the story and it doesn't build off dialog or text in the game, its there in lieu of having it in-game.

I echoed the same when talking to @thatpinguino about Final Fantasy XIII'x codex. When you look at Mass Effect 1, it's "nice" knowing the exact reason why the Turians hate the humans. At the same time, it's not necessary. From Shepard's interactions with the several Turians he talks to, you know Turians do not like humans. With Final Fantasy XIII, you do not know where Cocoon is in comparison to Gran Pulse unless you read the codex.

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#31 Posted by FacelessVixen (2528 posts) -

Final Fantasy XIII is my favorite game of the series to talk shit about.

This is gonna be fun.

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#32 Posted by soimadeanaccount (604 posts) -

The world of Final Fantasy XIII is beautiful, there's no debating that. But when you stop and compare it to games that came before it, the world doesn't feel "whole." I can list a dozen named NPCs from Final Fantasy IX, but I can't do the same with Final Fantasy XIII. The game ignores every opportunity to use it's art to build a sense of a community or society. Instead, you have to read about how the world of Cocoon works using the codex. Heck, the game's shops are hidden in the save menus!

And I just never enjoyed playing Final Fantasy XIII. The bosses are cheap. the interface distracts you from the action on the screen. You never feel invested in watching the characters progress. The A.I. is dumb. And more than anything else, it's frustrating. I experienced so many "Game Over" screens because the game didn't provide me with enough control.


Everyone says "the game opens up at Gran Pulse," but it opens up in the worst way possible. Gran Pulse is a dead open world that repeats the same mission sixty times. The special abilities are broken and wildly inconsistent. Plus, when the game finally trusts you with the last levels of the Crystarium, you can only test it out against random monsters and Cieth. That's a gut punch. I'd also argue the game still feels like you're looking at meters and waiting for bars to fill up. There are long gaps between the action, and sometimes you can't take advantage of your windows of opportunity as much as you'd like.

I completely agree with the opening up to Gran Pulse is when the game turns for the worst. The cinematic is amazing, the first shot of monsters fighting each other is interesting, but the emptiness, while technically "lore friendly," was still a bit too much. They had a few choppy scenes with the characters which could have been something, but wasn't really utilize well. The two eidolon fights were poorly timed and seemingly out of no where. The time and focus spent on climbing that silly tower is weird considering the other modern buildings looking ruins were just pretty much ignored. All these make me question if the game was incomplete.

The combat spirals out of control when you have too many characters/roles than available paradigm decks. Re-equipping characters also become a chore. That equipment leveling system is way more complex and time consuming than it needs to be. All of these issues flare up when the game opens up in Gran Pulse. I am fine with the linear character progression method, but I also find locking level 10 behind end game is a bad idea and kills the momentum, the grinding also becomes completely ridiculous.

The game's quick retry battle function and the checkpoint before each fight are necessities. I am glad it is there, but I also question if it was the intent to rely on it. They get a lot of use when combined with the fact that you can only directly control one lead character, and if that one character gets knockout it is game over. 3 of the most annoying fights you pretty much have to control Vanille to have her do a specific thing and at that point of the game she is the most frail of all the characters, one of them is have her cast Doom over and over again until it instant KO or hit retry when the fight starts to go south. It is not that the combat system can't achieve good (and flashy) things, but it is so random. there were instances when I fought an identical fights multiple times and the results could vary from a landslide victory to a struggle for 10 minutes and everything in between. So many things are out of your control like movement, positioning, knock downs, timing of skills, hell even for the character you are controlling you have to trade speed (quick auto battle command) vs more time consuming manual skill selection. Basically I never felt like I am using everything at my disposal in a timely manner. If only there's a pause function, able to issue out commands for each party member, a way to individually switch characters and switch roles, hell go all the way with it and let you switch equipment also, similar to how FFX and FFXII have done before.

The weird thing is, the combat system works when there's less going on. The two members party with limited roles in the middle of the game was actually fine. The player has access to nearly all of the paradigm combinations and switching them around usually grant a counter to the situation at hands. Each fight being placed along a mostly linear path also means encounters can be use to teach the player about foes in a new area. There's usually a few fights against fodders enemies early on, then a fight with a tougher foe that needs staggering, or some enemies that could buff/debuff, and then deeper in they start mixing them up. I actually found it very clever, and it once again leans into its linear nature, it also works with how health is basically restore after each fight, so there's no attrition battle with the dungeon itself. The challenge is simply can the player overcome each fight with everything that's available as enemies get progressively mix up to create different scenarios. What they end up doing near the end however is pretty much stack enemies that are meant to exploit the things that you can't control, AoE, line type attacks, and knock downs interrupts.

Avatar image for beforet
#33 Posted by beforet (3470 posts) -

@zombiepie: Oh I wasn't saying the game got good at Pulse. I'm just saying that the act of fighting things actually got fun around there, though clearly we still disagree there. But everything else you said is spot on, especially about the game not giving you anything worthwhile to actually fight. As far as I remember (and I got every god forsaken trophy in this game so I dont think I'd forget) there is no "ultima/omega weapon" equivalent superboss in this game. Once you get to the end, you're just killing Adamantoise so that you can kill Adamantoise more efficiently.

FF13 is the worst clicker.

Avatar image for twolines
#34 Edited by TwoLines (3654 posts) -

Well, I played the game years ago, so take this with a grain of salt, but I do remember enjoying the combat during/after Gran Pulse. It never felt too overwhelming, had a good pace, and just felt snappy. And as hectic as it was sometimes, I almost always felt in control (yeah, "almost" sounds bad in this context, but there were some fights that felt cheap) and knew what I was doing. I will agree that there was a bunch of times where it was just looking at meters fill up, but I don't mind that in games. It was entertaining.

@soimadeanaccount said:
@zombiepie said:

The world of Final Fantasy XIII is beautiful, there's no debating that. But when you stop and compare it to games that came before it, the world doesn't feel "whole." I can list a dozen named NPCs from Final Fantasy IX, but I can't do the same with Final Fantasy XIII. The game ignores every opportunity to use it's art to build a sense of a community or society. Instead, you have to read about how the world of Cocoon works using the codex. Heck, the game's shops are hidden in the save menus!

And I just never enjoyed playing Final Fantasy XIII. The bosses are cheap. the interface distracts you from the action on the screen. You never feel invested in watching the characters progress. The A.I. is dumb. And more than anything else, it's frustrating. I experienced so many "Game Over" screens because the game didn't provide me with enough control.


Everyone says "the game opens up at Gran Pulse," but it opens up in the worst way possible. Gran Pulse is a dead open world that repeats the same mission sixty times. The special abilities are broken and wildly inconsistent. Plus, when the game finally trusts you with the last levels of the Crystarium, you can only test it out against random monsters and Cieth. That's a gut punch. I'd also argue the game still feels like you're looking at meters and waiting for bars to fill up. There are long gaps between the action, and sometimes you can't take advantage of your windows of opportunity as much as you'd like.

I completely agree with the opening up to Gran Pulse is when the game turns for the worst. The cinematic is amazing, the first shot of monsters fighting each other is interesting, but the emptiness, while technically "lore friendly," was still a bit too much. They had a few choppy scenes with the characters which could have been something, but wasn't really utilize well. The two eidolon fights were poorly timed and seemingly out of no where. The time and focus spent on climbing that silly tower is weird considering the other modern buildings looking ruins were just pretty much ignored. All these make me question if the game was incomplete.

The combat spirals out of control when you have too many characters/roles than available paradigm decks. Re-equipping characters also become a chore. That equipment leveling system is way more complex and time consuming than it needs to be. All of these issues flare up when the game opens up in Gran Pulse. I am fine with the linear character progression method, but I also find locking level 10 behind end game is a bad idea and kills the momentum, the grinding also becomes completely ridiculous.

The game's quick retry battle function and the checkpoint before each fight are necessities. I am glad it is there, but I also question if it was the intent to rely on it. They get a lot of use when combined with the fact that you can only directly control one lead character, and if that one character gets knockout it is game over. 3 of the most annoying fights you pretty much have to control Vanille to have her do a specific thing and at that point of the game she is the most frail of all the characters, one of them is have her cast Doom over and over again until it instant KO or hit retry when the fight starts to go south. It is not that the combat system can't achieve good (and flashy) things, but it is so random. there were instances when I fought an identical fights multiple times and the results could vary from a landslide victory to a struggle for 10 minutes and everything in between. So many things are out of your control like movement, positioning, knock downs, timing of skills, hell even for the character you are controlling you have to trade speed (quick auto battle command) vs more time consuming manual skill selection. Basically I never felt like I am using everything at my disposal in a timely manner. If only there's a pause function, able to issue out commands for each party member, a way to individually switch characters and switch roles, hell go all the way with it and let you switch equipment also, similar to how FFX and FFXII have done before.

The weird thing is, the combat system works when there's less going on. The two members party with limited roles in the middle of the game was actually fine. The player has access to nearly all of the paradigm combinations and switching them around usually grant a counter to the situation at hands. Each fight being placed along a mostly linear path also means encounters can be use to teach the player about foes in a new area. There's usually a few fights against fodders enemies early on, then a fight with a tougher foe that needs staggering, or some enemies that could buff/debuff, and then deeper in they start mixing them up. I actually found it very clever, and it once again leans into its linear nature, it also works with how health is basically restore after each fight, so there's no attrition battle with the dungeon itself. The challenge is simply can the player overcome each fight with everything that's available as enemies get progressively mix up to create different scenarios. What they end up doing near the end however is pretty much stack enemies that are meant to exploit the things that you can't control, AoE, line type attacks, and knock downs interrupts.

I wouldn't say it felt like a chore, and it wasn't too overbearing, but I see what you're getting at. Too much maintenance.

The retry function was a very smart inclusion, but the fact that the game's over when your main character falls is a bummer, I will definitely agree there.

I thought that the 2 character battles were a nice tutorial thing (that lasted too long, holy crap) but I found the 3 player battles to be far more interesting. I don't remember much more, but that note about how the game throws stuff at you that you can't control sounds very familiar. Very late game/post game stuff was kind of a mess.

Avatar image for jeffrud
#35 Posted by jeffrud (710 posts) -

I've said it already but I want to say it again: I've rarely felt more vindicated than when both you and Gino agreed the game falls off a fucking cliff once you get to Pulse.

I guess to sorta answer the question you guys posed in the podcast, my enjoyment of the game (while muted) came mostly from appreciating the novel ideas that could have been boons for a better game (auto healing after battles is nice, the paradigms lead to some potentially interesting prostrats around battles, etc) and from the Progress Quest-esque forward momentum of the pre-Pulse chapters. The game's story is laughably told and each new trip to an equally nondescript and geographically unspecified location is bewildering, but it at least goes in a direction kind of. It validates Newtonian models of causality, for a time, in that the thing inexorably marches on doing its stupid thing. But once you get to wander empty plains talking to rocks for forty hours with little to no payoff, things just sputter and fucking die.

Avatar image for zombiepie
#36 Posted by ZombiePie (7374 posts) -

"Final Fantasy XIII is the apotheosis of lazy writing."

Wow, the 'glorification' of lazy writing is likely best description I have ever read of later Final Fantasy games. Someone please cross stitch that on a pillow.

It get's worse. Oh my GOD does the writing get worse! I cannot believe how bad Hope's character arc is written! And when Hope becomes the plucky teenager that knows everything, every one of his lines makes me die inside. And how many times is Lightning going to tell him "We need hope?" It's terrible!

To this day my head canon is that Hope’s mom willingly got herself killed because she couldn’t stand being around her terrible whiny son any longer.

Mom's are tough. The part about her death that get's me is how inconsistently the game uses her death. Case and point, when Hope finally confronts Snow, as they are falling, Snow shouts out "You were the one she meant!" This is literally the only point in the story where Snow appears torn up over her death. He's never investigating what her words mean. She's just a tool for Hope and Snow to have some flashy cutscenes together.

@shindig said:

I want a Final Fantasy where the cast are in their 40s and they're only doing it to get paid.

Make a Final Fantasy game where every character is a different version of Cid Highwind!

YOU COWARDS!!!

@crommi said:

Vanille's design is Selphie with extra fluff. But I don't really see her clothes as particularly risky or revealing. Her outfit is more tribal/exotic compared to city-dwelling members of main cast, but shares some similarities with Fang, which makes sense. Location of the brand is 100% for fanservice, though.

Okay but here's another thing I want to talk about. When Fang and Vanille transform into crystals, they become naked in order to showcase their female figure. When Dajh transforms into a crystal he is fully clothed. Also, when Vanille and Fang "awaken" they go through a magical girl-esque transformation sequence where their clothes conveniently re-materialize.

To me, this show how Square-Enix is still stuck repeating the same teenage sensibilities that have held back a majority of their female characters for a better part of a decade. At least in the modern era of their games.

@efesell said:

Vanilles character is one of the more consistent things about the story and something I really like once you have the full picture but like many other parts of this the in media res hurts it upfront.

I have a lot of affection for this game though, and its weird sequels.

Full disclosure, I think Vanille should be the protagonist. I realize that would make Final Fantasy XIII a even more transparent re-tread of Final Fantasy X, but Vanille is a better character than Lightning. She has a background and history built into the mythos of the world. She's a character defined by mystery. You want to learn more about her, and her connections to the cast write themselves.

Simply put, Vanille is a better character than Lightning. I'm sorry if that's "controversial," but it's the truth. Lightning is fine as the gruff military vet you learn more about as the story goes, but as your tentpole character she's not that interesting.

@wchigo said:

Yeah, the whole codex thing is dumb and they really needed to dole out the combat stuff faster, as well as giving you a full party of 3. However, I REALLY enjoyed the combat after it opens up and I think that's where a lot of my fondness for XIII comes from. I honestly still feel like it's an okay game that's not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, but it doesn't try hard enough to make people like it...

Again, the combat feels like a simulation more often than not. It takes FOREVER to fill the stagger meter and get where you want to be in the combat. Also, not having control over your supporting characters sucks. The A.I. does not know how to take advantage of the supporting character classes, and it is moronic at best when given a "Medic." I cannot begin to list the times when an A.I. controlled Medic would use five spells of Cure on a poisoned character instead of using an Esuna. These sorts of frustrations never disappear.

@biospock said:

I have yet to read this entire post and I probably won't be able to provide much of a counter argument without revisiting it, but even if I'm biased because I really like the XIII trilogy (XIII-2 in particular is one of the best in the series), calling this the worst introduction in gaming history is some serious hyperbole.

It's one of the "worst" introductions because of how wasteful it is of the player's time. The characters don't feel properly introduced, and you have no emotional investment in the world. Hell, you don't even understand where you are or why you are fighting. Plus, the combat is horrible until chapter four. You are making no combat decisions of consequence until the first inklings of the Crystarium are introduced. Even then, the game is too restricted for its own good. For an introduction that takes two to three hours to complete, this is untenable.

Everyone keeps telling me Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a better game, but after seeing this, I'm not buying it:

Loading Video...

Moderator
Avatar image for zirilius
#37 Posted by Zirilius (1700 posts) -

@zombiepie: Final Fantasy XIII-2 is definitely a better "game" than Final Fantasy XIII but I think the core story of XIII is better than any of the later entries in the series. Final Fantasy XIII is a masterwork compared to the shit show that is Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII when it comes to story telling. Lightning Returns might have the second worst hope (with XIII being the best worst hope).

And for anyone who thinks XV is worse than XIII I beg to differ. While the story of XV requires viewing of alternative media's and feels very rushed by the end it at least adhere's to laws and rules that are clearly defined without the need to read a codex. While the anime and movie do make XV easier to play they aren't 100% essential either where as to have a basic understanding of which planet you're one or the difference between a l'cie and fal'cie are is confusing as fuck.

Avatar image for crommi
#38 Edited by Crommi (401 posts) -

XIII story feels super-tight and easy to follow compared to XIII-2, which in my opinion went too far to the opposite direction after XIII was criticized for it's linearity. Grab your notebook and get ready for some 4-dimensional fetch questing in XIII-2.

@zombiepie Someone on Gamefaqs had posted the lyrics for Crazy Chocobo, I think that's your next duet with @thatpinguino:

Gas ‘em up with the greens and let him go
Stand back, stand clear as he puts on a show
So cute yet fierce, is he from hell?
I cannot tell, yet I don’t even want to know
So you wanna be a trailblazer?
Kickin’ dirt like a hell raiser?
Take the reins, but don’t react slow
It’s time to feel the force of the chocobo

So you think you can ride this chocobo?
Got Chocobucks? You better put them on this chocobo!
Saddle up, if you think you can ride in this rodeo
Are we in hell? I don’t know… to the dirt, let’s roll!
You’re loco if you think you’re gonna hide this chocobo
Everybody’s gonna wanna ride your chocobo
It’s choco-loco style in a choco-rodeo
Gonna ride him straight through hell in this chocobo rodeo!
Yeah, let’s ride!

Gas ‘em up with the greens and let him go
Stand back, stand clear as he puts on a show
So cute yet fierce, is he from hell?
I cannot tell, yet I don’t even want to know
So you wanna be a trailblazer?
Kickin’ dirt like a hell raiser?
Take the reins, but don’t react slow
It’s time to feel the force of the chocobo


So you think you can ride this chocobo?
Got Chocobucks? You better put them on this chocobo!
Saddle up, if you think you can ride in this rodeo
Are we in hell? I don’t know… to the dirt, let’s roll!
You’re loco if you think you’re gonna hide this chocobo
Everybody’s gonna wanna ride your chocobo
It’s choco-loco style in a choco-rodeo
Gonna ride him straight through hell in this chocobo rodeo!
Yeah, let’s ride!

Avatar image for wchigo
#39 Posted by wchigo (900 posts) -

Again, the combat feels like a simulation more often than not. It takes FOREVER to fill the stagger meter and get where you want to be in the combat. Also, not having control over your supporting characters sucks. The A.I. does not know how to take advantage of the supporting character classes, and it is moronic at best when given a "Medic." I cannot begin to list the times when an A.I. controlled Medic would use five spells of Cure on a poisoned character instead of using an Esuna. These sorts of frustrations never disappear.

@zombiepie: Well, I suppose I'll agree to disagree to a certain degree. I won't necessarily argue that it can feel like a simulation, but I think you're just controlling a battle from a different viewpoint. I'd want to say you're having to look at battle at a macro level and making decisions ahead of time.

The stagger meter isn't that bad to fill if you're actively switching between a 1 Commando + 2 Ravagers and 3 Ravager set-up. You get the Commando to get a hit in to slow how quickly the stagger meter empties, then switch to 3 Ravagers to really lay into them and fill that sucker up in the blink of an eye. It's also why I said it's unfortunate you don't get a full party earlier, as you really can't get deeper into the combat before then. You should also almost always be shifting because (it's been a long time since I've played XIII so I forget the exact specifics) every other shift or something like that, it skips the shifting animation and your entire party has their ATB full immediately after the shift.

I remember them using the debuff class fairly well, but you may be right about when they're a healer. It's one of the things where you'll probably want to be the healer if you're going with a one healer set-up, but often times it's better to have something like tank + 2 healers so you can top up faster and have better control of eliminating status ailments. It's not meant as an excuse for the poor decision making of the AI.

I just really remember loving the combat; it just felt so fast and fluid when I got to the point where everything clicked and constantly shifting between different paradigms to juggle debuffing, buffing, healing, staggering and bringing the pain was such an intricate dance that it never got old to me. It also helped that I really liked 'Blinded by Light", which is up there in probably my top 5 (possibly top 3?) battle themes of all time, alongside "Reach Out To The Truth" and FFX's battle theme.

Avatar image for zombiepie
#40 Posted by ZombiePie (7374 posts) -

Boy howdy, I sure did fall off responding to my input, tomorrow should see the next episode, but if not, don't worry it will go up on the Monday after. Anyway, let's jump into my comments.

FFXIII-2 is one that I really can't get behind. To me it felt like lost the thread on what 13 proper was trying to accomplish, it could have been an easy layup for them to just band aid on the things 13 didn't get to go over; in the beginning it almost felt like it was going into that direction. Then it completely mishandle the antagonist which they rely too heavily on, plus the butchering of their own "rules" in the ending for the sake of a cliff hanger (now it is a good set up I give it that) just killed the whole thing for me. I can't wait for ZP to complain about the mini games tho, I got that going for me, which is nice :p

You and @ltsquigs can fight because he told me XIII-2 is the sequel to Final Fantasy VIII I have been begging for since this feature's inception. There's something to game's that are "so bad they are good." In Square's case, when they shoot for teh stars, and miss by a mile, it's a sight to see. But what I have been warned is the XIII sequels use the same engine, but somehow have worse production values. I find this absolutely bizarre. Since Final Fantasy X-2 Square seemingly doesn't understand how to make a sequel.

Bosses make the stagger system become fun.

Do they? Honestly, I feel like half the bosses in this game are bullshit! The Eidolon battles suck, and almost every boss in the late game is immune to every possible status effect. I would even hazard to say the bosses are my least favorite part of the gameplay. You spend what feels like hours toiling away at a boss' stagger meter only to have a short window of opportunity to deal damage. Then, you are back to the same grind two or three times. And for what? A few nice looking visuals that are covered in numbers and meters?

@zirilius said:

I've said it before and I'll say it again. @jeff is wrong! Hope is hands down the worst Final Fantasy character in any Final Fantasy game. I hate her more than I hate Leblanc which is a lot. He was part of the Snow is amazing in this and I agree that the portrayal from Troy Baker really sells me on the character. Despite him being kind of a dumbass he's got this earnest about him that I find infectious. He loves Serah! He wants to do right by those around him and he puts the weight of the world on his shoulders. When something goes wrong he blames himself, from what I remember, but he doesn't let his failures keep him from completing his job.

Lightning early on his a annoying but I actually grew to love her arc by the stories end. I'm having issues describing her arc without really getting into some spoilery stuff that happens later on but needless to say she's actually more nuanced then the early game lets on.

Sazh can go fuck himself. I think he's a tragic character trying to do some good but I honestly don't like him that much. Their attempts at comic relief with him fell flat for me. The unfortunate part is that he becomes a pretty critical party member later on for some fights so you can't fully ignore him.

I stand by your opinions about Snow and Lightning. I just wish they did more with their relationship. It feels like Lightning and Snow should have more scenes where they resolve their issues and talk out their differences, but those scenes never happen. All we see are a few arguments and then Lightning has a functional relationship with Snow. There's a lack of progression that I think would have really added a lot to the game.

I cannot, however, in good faith stand by your stance regarding Sazh. Nautulis Park is the best part of the game.

There... I SAID IT! COME AT ME!

@teddie said:

When FF13 came around, there was hype all over the internet and it was my first real chance to follow development of a Final Fantasy game as a fan, having only just tried out the series (and RPGS in general) with FF12 a few years prior. I really tried with this game, I felt like I had to like it, but even then I couldn't get through the entire game before turning on it and just finishing it out of obligation for all the money I spent on the collector's edition. And just for the record, the collector's edition was garbage-- the artbook just had a bunch of in-game screenshots and promotional renders of the characters.

The saddest thing about this game is that looking up all the stuff the game carelessly shoved into the codex, the actual worldbuilding and lore in 13 is great! The apparent character arcs in the game could have been great! The game is dripping with squandered potential. The impression I got from this game back when I played it was that prior to release, a machine had run through the whole game and removed any trace of soul or passion from it. I'm no fan of FF10's characters or plot, but goddamn if you can't feel the beating heart of the developers as you play through it, enough that even I can enjoy it on that charm alone. FF13 was a hollow experience that I expect I'll never go back to.

Like I said in a prior comment, NeoGAF's forums were HILARIOUS when Final Fantasy XIII closed Microsoft's E3 press conference. It was really a sight to see. What continues to drive me insane is how the game plops you into a new environment, and does nothing to tell you where you are. You instead need to flip through the codex and read about the environment. Which is a shame, because this game is still beautiful. It's dripping with style, but unfortunately it does nothing with its art assets.

Also, the enemy design are lazy. Am I the only one who thinks the PSICOM soldier look EXACTLY LIKE the Deepground soldiers from Dirge of Cerebus?

I'm very excited to read all of this, which I will do eventually!

Final Fantasy XIII is my favorite game of the series to talk shit about.

This is gonna be fun.

I think the title for the next episode might get me into trouble. I wont say what it is, but here's a hint:

Welcome to the
Welcome to the "Trash Boy" Hall of Fame!

Moderator
Avatar image for cybexx
#41 Posted by Cybexx (1633 posts) -

Good writeup. The thing with FFXIII is that on paper it is not that different from many other Final Fantasy games. In FFIV you can walk around the world map and get into random battles but progression is still very linear, you still have to go through that cave to get to the next area and it is not till you get the airship that you can go pretty much anywhere. You could compare that to XIII not opening up and giving you side-quests till Chapter 11.

The big difference is that XIII is the worst game in the series at world building. It never feels like your actually exploring a place filled with characters. Even when you get to Chapter 11 your not getting your side-quests from NPCs, just strange floating statues. There are no shops, you buy stuff from the save point.

I actually disagree with people that Chapter 11 is where the game "gets good". It finally allows you to assign roles to your characters and gives you sidequests but it is also where what little driving story momentum the game had takes a dive off a cliff. When I played the game I was getting through about a chapter an evening until I hit 11. Yes that chapter is basically half the game but it took me months to motivate myself to finish the chapter and move on to 12.

I actually kind of enjoy the battle system in XIII. Since your healed and check-pointed between every fight it makes the battles feel more like puzzles. For the first 10 chapters the designers know exactly what pieces you have going in so it is about figuring out how to combine all those pieces to win. It gives you no flexibility in building but at least it is kind of interesting figuring out the fights.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c295850623f7
#42 Edited by deactivated-5c295850623f7 (497 posts) -

Sorry this is super late, but I'm finally getting around to reading this series :P

Always confused with the reaction people have to Hope. He's an angsty 14 year old boy, and every angsty 14 year old boy is a massive jerk so his characterisation made sense to me.

I hated every character in 13 (even Sazh, what a waste of time his sub plot is) so having one of them plotting the murder of a few of them worked for me on a meta level. The thing I was legitimately pissed about was when Hope and Snow reconciled. Snow did get his mother killed - he used his charisma to rally a bunch of rubes into a failing mission, then afterwards, as you said, he's laughing and joking around? Fuck Snow. Hope should have stabbed him to death, would have improved the game 1000000 fold. That sub plot was the most interesting thing 13 had going for it until it was resolved. The rest is garbage.

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