Fighting Final Fantasy XIII - Episode 5: This Game Killed Final Fantasy AND Square-Enix!

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Posted by ZombiePie (7320 posts) -

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here are links to the previous episodes of this series. Sorry for the delay on this episode.

Part 41: The Story Is Total Nonsense

This sentence perfectly summarizes the current state of Square-Enix.
This sentence perfectly summarizes the current state of Square-Enix.

I have yet to meet a Final Fantasy XIII apologist willing to defend its story. Commonly, supporters cite the game's mechanics as a highlight. Others express affection for its art design or visuals. However, these advocates concede Final Fantasy XIII's mainline story is a dumpster fire. The cast is inconsistent; there are no memorable characters; the antagonist is ill-defined; things happen at a whim; the general plot is incomprehensible. It's a piss poor storytelling effort on Square's part especially when you consider their legacy. For years, they were the studio to count on for epic fantasy tales.

To clarify, the scaffolding for the main narrative is a patchy and frayed network. In the beginning, our motley crew lives on a planet called "Cocoon." On Cocoon, there exists a pantheon of gods called "fal'Cie." The leader of these gods, Barthandelus, wants to sacrifice humanity to the god of creation. For one reason or another, Barthandelus is tired of tending to humanity's needs. Rather than lead Cocoon through a spiritual awakening, he precipitates an act of genocide. This premise guides the story, and it is here where Final Fantasy XIII falters.

We have a solid contender for
We have a solid contender for "WORST" Cid in a Final Fantasy game.

While I understand the story's leading actors, there's no grounding on why everything unfolds the way it does. On a whim, Barthandelus assumes he can summon an omnipotent being called "The Maker." However, we never see this figure in the game. Somehow, Barthandelus is an expert on things that have never happened. Similarly, our party is intimately connected with Barthandelus' scheme. For instance, Vanille and Fang share a destiny in becoming an apocalyptic figure known as "Ragnarok." Luckily for Barthandelus, Ragnarok is one of the few deities capable of killing him, thus setting into motion the possible end of the world.

It seems like a "red thread of fate" guides every twist in Final Fantasy XIII. Regrettably, Final Fantasy XIII doesn't use the theme of "predestination" to its advantage. In fact, I would hazard to say there isn't a central idea to Final Fantasy XIII's narrative. In chapter two, the story vaguely hints at a government conspiracy. By section three, Sanctum is a pseudo-fascistic military-industrial complex. At some point, the story devolves into stopping the Apocalypse, and the game never justifies this turn of events. Before any of you accuse me of back-seat writing, let's look at Final Fantasy VII as a case study. Like Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy VII starts modestly and becomes cataclysmic by its end. However, every twist and turn in Final Fantasy VII sticks with you. Without a doubt, no one forgets Final Fantasy VII's final ac, but the same cannot be said about Final Fantasy XIII.

The talents of Square's animators are wasted on this game.
The talents of Square's animators are wasted on this game.

Case and point, I dare anyone to describe three non-cutscene character moments in Final Fantasy XIII, and I suspect this task is impossible. One reason for this problem is the game lectures you for hours and fails to set aside time for you to process new information. Likewise, the game transitions to new environments without scaffolding. There's a distinct lack of character dialogue when exploring new environments. While Final Fantasy XIII's levels are objectively beautiful, they are stunningly superficial. To illustrate, I know I spent hours at the Gapra Whitewood and Sunleth Waterscape, but I would be hard-pressed to name a single accomplishment at either location.

Therein lies another pressing issue with Final Fantasy XIII. The story haphazardly moves from one set piece to the next without breathing room. Between chapter twelve and the credits, the player witnesses four distinct environments. Each level looks different from the previous one, but there's nothing connecting these environments. Every level exists in its own little bubble. Sure, there are monsters, but they don't feel like they are part of an ecosystem. The same sentiment applies to the game's cityscapes. You'll interact with the occasional NPC, but they are a far cry from the well-renown worldbuilding of past Square-Enix games.

Part 42: What Is Happening? Why Am I Here? Who Are These People?

When we last met, our intrepid explorers affirmed a desire to defeat Barthandelus. I wish to remind you, Barthandelus said killing him would set into motion the end of the world. He wants to die. For some reason, no one in our party addresses this fact as we invade Eden. Additionally, the characters never establish what they hope to accomplish on Cocoon. When we last set foot on the planet, the characters were chased away by the planet's populace. Seriously, what the fuck are they going to do?

If you answered
If you answered "have a cutscene that looks like Michael Bay edited it," you would be correct.

Admittedly, the Siege of Eden is a marvelous affair. It's a change of pace after the game meanders on Pulse. If there is one problem, it's the editing. Final Fantasy XIII's action cutscenes feature a dizzying number of close-ups and quick cuts. Often, the cutscenes use extreme close-up as establishing shots and jump cut to a different character without warning. Similarly, these cutscenes feature an obscene amount of motion blur. The use of motion blur is especially problematic when everyone's Eidolon looks like a Michael Bay Transformer. It's undoubtedly flashy, but likely to give you a headache after ten minutes.

I'm willing to concede chapter twelve starts decently. Despite its faults, the establishing cutscene does wonders to instill an action-packed tone. Moreover, it provides much-needed worldbuilding. In an earlier cutscene, we see Cid Raines performing stately responsibilities in place of Galenth Dysley. It's far from perfect, but the story has momentum. Therefore, it's a damn shame Square builds upon your anticipation with the same godawful level design that plagues the rest of the game! With Pulse behind us, we are back to navigating linear hallways populated by trash mobs.

Are you fucking shitting me?
Are you fucking shitting me?

What a rude awakening! The corridors on Eden are as narrow as they were in chapter one, and at this point, their purpose is nakedly transparent. That is to say; the passageways force players into random encounters. To add insult to injury, the monsters on Eden are palette-swapped versions of shit you've seen before. Earlier, the game took great strides to remind us we are amidst a grand conclusion. Unfortunately, no individual part of Eden conveys this sense. I don't know about you, but linear corridors do not get my blood pumping.

The game tries to remedy this shortcoming by barraging you with nostalgia. Remember Snow's friends from the train heist? Well, they are inexplicably here and briefly cheer up Snow. On top of that, you fight Yaag Rosch twice, and Rygdea pops out of nowhere to put Cid out of his misery. At this point, the character interactions unfold at a breakneck speed. Nevertheless, these moments do not lead to anything substantial. To illustrate, after Snow has his touching moment with his friends, they are never mentioned again.

Seriously, do any of you remember the name of this asshole?
Seriously, do any of you remember the name of this asshole?

The game's superficiality is even worse when it pines for melodrama. In particular, when Rygdea takes out Cid, it treats the act as an event worth lamenting. Nevertheless, it's hard to feel emotional when Cid is barely a character in the story. The same could be said about Yaag Rosch. When Rosch sacrifices himself, the game tries to frame the moment as redemptive. Even so, this moment lacks any emotional resonance. For pity's sake, Yaag Rosch speaks for less than an hour and spends 97% of the story acting like an irredeemable bastard.

Part 43: The Gameplay Is Broken

A common complaint about my Final Fantasy XIII series pertains to my lack of commentary about its gameplay. To my defense, there's not a lot to break down. Final Fantasy XIII's menu system sticks out like a sore thumb and does not meld well with the real-time pace of the combat. Furthermore, the menus place a barrier between the player and gameplay. I especially found this to be the case whenever encountering the boss battles.

Granted, I enjoyed some of Final Fantasy XIII's gameplay exploits. Two commonly cited "cheats" are the Eidolons and character-specific abilities. Both are monstrously advantageous to use when in a pickle. If you must know, I used both to cruise through the final chapter. Nonetheless, both highlight a recurring issue in Final Fantasy XIII: this game plays dirty. Simply put, the last two levels aren't fun to play. By the time you reach the last boss, the game becomes a drawn-out exercise.

In other news, Hope STILL SUCKS!
In other news, Hope STILL SUCKS!

Littered throughout Eden are Behemoths, Juggernaughts, Adamantoises, and Vernal Harvesters. While your characters are indeed stronger, these battles are not push-overs. More than that, everything takes forever to beat. A single fight against a Tyrant takes approximately five to ten minutes, and this doubles if it summons its sword.That's a lot of wasted time on enemies that do not progress the story. All the same, Eden features just as many narrow walkways as previous environments. Thus, avoiding these battles is impossible unless you use Deceptisols.

These issues are partly why I have no problem exploiting Final Fantasy XIII's gameplay. The first exploit I found came in the form of the Eidolons. Whenever I felt like my party was about to get blasted, I summoned an Eidolon to act as a damage sponge. Equally important, when Eidolons leave, your party is reset to full health. This strategy proved critical in the latter stages of the game when facing bosses. What is more, Eidolons have finishing moves that can easily defeat non-boss enemies. Their only drawback is they reset the stagger meter when they leave the battle, but this is a minor quibble.

I love and hate that they named one of the special attacks
I love and hate that they named one of the special attacks "Highwind."

This point leads us to the most broken part of the game: the Full ATB skills. Each character has a unique attack that absorbs their entire ATB meter. You can find these attacks on one of the character's Crystariums. The nature of these attacks may differ, but the results are the same. These attacks negate any defensive bonuses enemies have during a battle. To illustrate, Hope's special attack is called "Last Resort," and does non-elemental magic damage while ignoring all resistances. Other special moves add new depth to the combat. For example, you can use a paradigm shift during Lightning's "Army of One" maneuver to exponentially increase her damage output.

There are a few limitations worth addressing. First, your A.I. controlled companions never use these abilities. When in combat, only the player-character can perform these attacks. Additionally, the game isn't clear these moves exist. The game never tutorials the "unparalleled attacks," and assumes you remember Limit Breaks from previous Final Fantasy games. Finally, the placement of these attacks on the Crystarium is bizarre. For instance, Fang and Snow are solidly the game's tanking options, but their special attacks are in their Commando skill tree. This case is one example of the late-game abilities not building upon the primary utility of the characters.

Regardless, these two mechanics make grinding and winning easier! So, what's not to like? Well, there's an elephant in the room. The game's deeper mechanics do not reward you with cinematic battles or new ways to play. These mechanics speed up the process of completing the game. Utilizing a balanced party, complemented with stylish attacks, will save you time when you go toe to toe against a boss. Lamentably, there's nothing in the game to encourage you to play this way. If you do not value your time, you could finish Final Fantasy XIII using one Commando and two Medics. The game doesn't make ridiculous parties like these nonviable. Thus, it doesn't reward you for investing in its sub-systems.

Be honest, how many of you actually used the weapon upgrading system in this game?
Be honest, how many of you actually used the weapon upgrading system in this game?

Part 44: The Late-Game Bosses Are Bullshit

Let's review the story following chapter twelve's introductory cutscene. After making a dramatic entrance, Lightning and company find the streets of Eden in a mess. Monsters from Pulse have invaded, and the city appears to be in turmoil. In a supporting cutscene, Rygdea kills Cid, and an all-out war begins. How our characters plan on stopping that war is not immediately apparent. Moreover, the game presents flashy visuals without any grounding in the world. Sure, you can walk up to random NPCs and hear a sob story, but these moments are inadequate in contextualizing the devastated cityscape.

To make matters worse, the characters never stop to think about their present circumstances. The characters blaze a path of destruction and never look back. There are no enlightening soliloquies or moments of self-actualization. Eventually, our motley crew recognizes The Calvary are mounting an attack on Sanctum. This scene does a lot to hamper your enjoyment of the characters. With the world on fire, none of them are allowed to help out those in need. You'd imagine characters like Snow or Hope would jump at the opportunity to perform heroics. Instead, the game creates stakes by manufacturing a false sense of urgency.

Then you have to deal with this asshole.
Then you have to deal with this asshole.

You end up fighting Yaag Rosch twice. Unfortunately, each battle is a colossal pain in the ass. The first fight inverts the game's staggering mechanic. Here, Yaag Rosch becomes stronger if you stagger him. While this gimmick is annoying, it pales in comparison to the second encounter. After fighting countless Tyrants, Juggernaughts, and Behemoths, Yaag Rosch again accosts your party. Worth mentioning, the level before this battle is excruciating. Seriously, why does the game make you fight twenty goddamned Behemoth Kings?

The designer of the Proudclad boss must be a sadist. Yaag Rosch can seamlessly ignore your Sentinels and is immune to every status effect. As someone who spent hours leveling up Vanille's Saboteur abilities, I felt especially insulted. Moreover, this battle is a grind in and of itself. The Proudclad spams the same attack with no noticeable cooldown. These attacks will stagger your party and prevent you from inputting commands. This problem has a domino effect because every action that does not inflict damage represents lost time. Spending three turns healing your party is lost time. Using items to alleviate ailments is lost time. Tanking for five turns is lost time.

What sadistic bastard programed this shit?
What sadistic bastard programed this shit?

The subsequent boss battles do not fare better. The final boss battle is something I can only imagine playing in the eighth circle of Hell, but the ones preceding it are equally intolerable. It's not as if there's a critical concept or conceit you need to divine to make the battles easier. The big baddies are bullshit. They stagger your party and deal a ton of damage, and there's nothing stopping them. To boot, several of them have a suit of immunities that render your support classes useless.

Furthermore, luck defines too many of the late-game bosses. Some will hit you with every status effect in the game, and others cast Doom. There's very little you can do to prepare for these attacks. If they hit, you lose. If they miss, you win. Finally, the game recycles bosses more times than I can count. Fighting the Bandersnatch and Jabberwocky twice in a row isn't fun. It's a waste of my goddamned time.

This boss is NEGATIVE FUN! I honestly thought it was hard than the boss rush at Orphan's Cradle.
This boss is NEGATIVE FUN! I honestly thought it was hard than the boss rush at Orphan's Cradle.

Conversely, let's return to the Proudclad. Often, the boss interrupts your character's animations while they are queuing up an attack. Your ATB meter resets whenever its barrage lands. I want to emphasize, you do not get your time back as you have to re-select your commands when this happens. Additionally, the Proudclad can cast several buffs on itself in one salvo. Removing these buffs removes a third of your party from dealing damage. In the end, this battle took me a solid thirty minutes to complete. Admittedly, at no point was my party in jeopardy. Simply put, it took forever to finish because I often needed to make up for lost progress.

Part 45: Every Level Is The Same

After a bit of pomp and circumstance, Yaag Rosch sacrifices himself to protect our party from a swarm of monsters. I would say more, but the game doesn't dwell on the matter for too long and transitions to a dizzying Tron-inspired landscape. Our party enters Orphan's Cradle wherein they discover the soldiers from the Calvary have become Cie'th. After a bit of fussing about, two statuesque figures greet Lightning and shift the platforms. At no point do the characters stop to question who these figures are, or what they are doing. Moreover, and I don't know why, but the writing makes a notable turn for the worse.

FFUCKING WHAT THE FUCK! WHO WROTE THIS TRASH?!
FFUCKING WHAT THE FUCK! WHO WROTE THIS TRASH?!

Wait a minute; this level looks oddly familiar.These platforms seem suspiciously identical to the platforms from before. I swear I have seen this shit before. Trust me on this, let's take a gander at some of the levels from chapter one.

Levels From Chapter OneLevel From Chapter Thirteen
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

FUCK THIS NOISE! This game's design is atrocious. This level plays the same as every environment preceding it. There's no puzzle to discern. The trash mobs play out as they did in chapter one. Orphan's Cradle is the climactic final level in the game, but nothing about it reminds you of this fact. How did Square-Enix spend five years programming this game and not realize their copy paste design was BULLSHIT? I know I spend a fair amount of my time lampooning Square, but at the end of the day, they have some of the smartest design talents in the world. You cannot tell me their staff is incapable of making levels that are more fun than walking through linear hallways. Like I said last month, it's not a secret recipe that disappeared when a Polish cafeteria lady died.

What's more, the story's final act loses virtually all of its momentum, and this misstep is by design. After shifting the platforms of Orphan's Cradle, three portals appear. One transports the party to Gran Pulse, one to Edenhall, and a final one takes you to the next level. I understand Final Fantasy XIII is a video game, but previous Final Fantasy games had better "points of no return." The best example of this is Final Fantasy IX. In that game, an epic airship battle introduces the game's final act and establishes a sense of urgency in resolving the game's story arc. Final Fantasy XIII displays three portals and asks if you want to go back and complete side missions. It's both brazen and careless game design Square-Enix is normally apt to avoid.

Oh, fuck me.
Oh, fuck me.

Honestly, I suspect Square remind you of Gran Pulse's existence out of self-preservation. They likely spent more of their resources making Gran Pulse than any other level and didn't want their hard work to be limited to one chapter. Indeed, I cannot blame them of thinking that highly of the environment. Be that as it may, providing the player with a reason to revisit Gran Pulse wouldn't have been that hard. As it stands, the portal to Gran Pulse exists for the sake of it. Should you enter it, you do so without any real reason or motivation. That said, I did, and HOLY SHIT did I regret it.

Part 46: The Optional Content Is Horrible

No matter what you think of what I'm saying, remember this one thing: do not play Final Fantasy XIII's optional content. Also, there's no sex in the champagne room. Regardless, returning to Gran Pulse is not fun and necessitates hours of mindless grinding. Likewise, most of the side quests are impossible until AFTER you beat the game. A point worth mentioning is the final levels of the Crystarium do not unlock until after you beat the last boss. As mentioned in the previous episode, this design decision is unconscionable because much of Pulse's worldbuilding is locked in the side quests.

But at least I got to kill a Tonberry. That was
But at least I got to kill a Tonberry. That was "fun."

Before any of you claim I am crying over spilled milk, I want to say something. I spent eighty-three hours playing Final Fantasy XIII. Three and a half days of my life were spent playing Final Fantasy XIII. I'm never getting those hours back. If I sound bitter, it is because I am. In spite of these hours, I have very little to show for it. If anything, I have permanently lost whole portions of my humanity.

I'm not lying about my total playtime.
I'm not lying about my total playtime.

In the previous episode, I ranted considerably about the structure of the Cei'th Stone missions so I will not be doing that here. All I will say is you spend most of your time running between sub-environments and trying to make sense of the world map. What I want to spend time discussing are the enemy encounters. More specifically, I want to pontificate about the Undying bosses. To the game's credit, these Cie'th maintain a consistent art style and add variety to the repetitious enemy encounters on Gran Pulse. Alternatively, they repeat similar enough move sets where they start to become a blur.

Even so, there's a bigger issue with these boss battles. I beat three or four of these monsters, and I cannot tell you what they add to the story. These abominations appear before you, and you fight them immediately. While they have introductory cutscenes, there's a shocking lack of expository dialogue. As a result, there's no grounding as to why these battles occur, or what impact these Cie'th have on the greater world. For pity's sake, the Codex regurgitates paragraphs of bloodless text about them being fearsome foes. For lack of a better word, these battles happen, and then they end. They are as abrupt as the directions to a Shakespearean fight scene.

The worst part of Gran Pulse is yet to come.
The worst part of Gran Pulse is yet to come.

Let's talk about the Titan Trials. Not since Final Fantasy XII, has optional content in a Final Fantasy game so thoroughly waste my time. For those of you not "in the know," the Titan Trials are a series of side quests packaged in a set of branching pathways. The problem here is that the Titan Trials call for a great deal of repetition. At a minimum, you'll run through the trails six times. The culminating bosses for each path are no slouch either. Several are harder than anything encountered in the mainline story. Finally, the reward for completing the Titan Trials is debatable. You learn more about the fal'Cie Titan, but this doesn't shed new light on the state of Gran Pulse.

Part 47: The Last Level Is Bullshit

I cannot emphasize enough, this is the last fucking level in the game, and it plays exactly like the first fucking level. How did Square-Enix think this level design was acceptable? The only way you interact with the environment is by switching the platforms. There are Cie'th to kill and treasure chests to open, but that's all you can do. For fuck's sake, at least Final Fantasy X-2 had the common courtesy to include an environmental puzzle from time to time. They were bullshit puzzles, but at least they tried!

Vanille, we've been killing Cie'th since chapter two. Why are you only now having second thoughts?
Vanille, we've been killing Cie'th since chapter two. Why are you only now having second thoughts?

The Final Fantasy franchise has a long and storied history of having the best final levels in video games. Whether we are talking about the 2D or CG-era, Square-Enix knows how to end a video game. The fact they repeat the same corridor design to Final Fantasy XIII's end is a testament to them being out of their element. Case and point, there are three mid-bosses before you encounter Barthandelus, and I have no idea how they relate to the story. I do not understand who "Wladislaus" is, nor do I know why I'm fighting them.

Top to bottom, Final Fantasy XIII is designed with no end-goal in mind. Square negligently copied their tired and true Final Fantasy design document to disastrous effect. With large swaths of Final Fantasy XIII undeveloped, many franchise tropes do not work as intended. For instance, why are two of the mid-bosses named after Lewis Carroll characters? Am I meant to parse a message from our two battles against the Bandersnatch and Jabberwocky? More so, why are we fighting these monsters? How did these beasts get here? What am I doing with my life?

What the fuck is even happening in the last five hours of this game?
What the fuck is even happening in the last five hours of this game?

I get several of you dislike it when I compare Final Fantasy XIII to Final Fantasy IX, and it is an unfair comparison for a myriad of reasons. However, there's a point I want to make. At the end of Final Fantasy IX, you fight a series of bosses known as the "Four Fiends." Each of these abominations has a reason to support Kuja in his quest to set the world on fire. Their logic is articulated to the audience before, during, and after you fight them. This format has been a template Final Fantasy has used since its inception. For some fucking reason, Final Fantasy XIII bucks this trend. It tosses four bosses at your direction with no provided context.

Eventually, I found myself in front of the door to the final boss. I stood in front of this door for a solid five minutes. In that time I wracked my brain over why I was about to kill Barthandelus. I knew I had to beat him, but the supporting details were a mystery to me. I could not figure out what prepared me for this battle. While it is apt to showcase flashy cutscenes or high-resolution character models, Final Fantasy XIII leaves whole portions of its narrative in shambles. Which leads me to my next big question:

Part 48: What The Fuck Is This Story?

Lightning... you're killing me with your
Lightning... you're killing me with your "hot takes" about the human condition.

I have groused enough about the underpinning of Final Fantasy XIII not making sense. What I want to address now is Final Fantasy XIII's nightmarish final level. To be honest with you, I have no idea what happened during the final battle against Barthandelus. At one point everyone was a Cie'th, and in the next scene, they were back to normal. It was a fever dream unlike any I have seen before, and I finished Final Fantasy VIII. I should be used to Final Fantasy games getting crazy, but in this case, I felt woefully inept.

The final battle starts innocently enough. Lightning and company approach Barthandelus' throne, and he spews his usual nonsense about bringing forth a more peaceful universe. The one complication is Barthandelus extols a ton of dialogue about Cocoon being a "fabrication." Barthandelus rationalizes his actions by claiming he's trying to free the universe from a "simulation." This story arc is the only found in this one scene, and the game never mentions it again.

FUCK NO!
FUCK NO!

I cannot preface enough how shitty the lines of dialogue are when you confront Barthandelus. Every character has to respond to Barthandelus with a dramatic retort. Sazh and Hope are the worst offenders, but the one-liners are terrible across the board. To add to the "cheese factor," the characters strikes poses as if they are actors in a Super Sentai show. Regardless, you end up fighting Barthandelus and it's a predictable slog. Worth noting, Barthandelus wants us to fight him because he believes his death will inspire "The Maker" to create a new universe. Nonetheless, no one stops to think about this point, and carries forward with the battle.

When the first battle ends, things start to get "messy." Barthandelus goads the characters to continue with their onslaught, but if that's the case, why is he fighting them in the first place? If Barthandelus and Orphan want to die, why do they pose such a challenge? Things get even more confusing when an owl flies out of nowhere, merges with Barthandelus, and transforms him into a talking sword. This flying sword declares itself "Orphan" and compliments the player for commencing the world's "redemption." I'm not lying. This scene actually happens in the game.

I'm guessing someone at Square-Enix plays the Persona games.
I'm guessing someone at Square-Enix plays the Persona games.

I have questions. I have a lot of questions. Who or what was the owl that fused with Barthandelus? Who or what is Orphan? Why does Orphan put up a fight if it wants to die? Why does Orphan wish to end the world? What's the deal with the black goo that merges the owl with Barthandelus? Are all the fal'Cie on board with Barthandelus' plan? What does turning Fang into Ragnarok have to due with Orphan? Do any of these questions have answers?

Speaking of Orphan, this may be the worst designed Final Fantasy boss. In fact, this entire battle is an overwhelming sensory overload. Remarkably, the game crams in storytelling by having Orphan bellow about the purpose of the fal'Cie. As it shrieks about the "indomitable force" of humanity, it demands Fang turn into Ragnarok. To force her into unleashing the end of the world, it lifts Vanille into the air and begins torturing her. Wanting to put a stop to this, Fang consents and betrays her friends.

I refuse to believe a grown adult wrote the lines of dialogue in this game?
I refuse to believe a grown adult wrote the lines of dialogue in this game?

It goes without saying Fang's betrayal makes no sense. Does she realize becoming Ragnarok ends the world? Isn't the better solution to attack Orphan? How is Fang going to enjoy life with Vanille if the universe doesn't exist? At any rate, when Fang betrays her friends they turn into Cie'th and start beating her up. Why did everyone turn into Cie'th? The game doesn't care to answer that question, and instead has Fang bawl about needing to "atone for her sins." The line reading is as bad as you can imagine.

Overcome with emotion; Fang turns into Ragnarok. As Ragnarok, Fang wails on Orphan who goes full masochist and welcomes the deadly blows. After that, Fang experiences a flashback and remembers every moment in the story leading up to this point. Due to these flashbacks, Fang regains her humanity and ceases being Ragnarok. Infuriated, Orphan lifts Fang into the air and demands she revert to being Ragnarok. As Orphan tortures Fang, the rest of the party magically appears unscathed and frees Fang from the clutches of Orphan. Sazh tells us the previous scene was "fal'Cie smoke and mirrors." The game then treats us to the worst line of dialogue I have seen in a AAA video game.

Can we nominate Hope for
Can we nominate Hope for "Trash Boy of the Generation?"

Everyone in our party affirms the need to defeat Orphan post-haste. It is, after all, their "destiny." However, the issue of Orphan's death summoning "The Maker" is dropped like a ton of bricks. Now, killing Orphan will release humanity from its Sisyphean torment. I honestly do not understand what is happening anymore. Ten minutes ago, killing Orphan ended the world, and now killing Orphan will save the world. Is this game secretly about saying "no" to suicide? The characters spend so much time chastizing Orphan for thinking death is a release, that's the impression I had.

Part 49: The End? Wait, There Are Sequels?

Our party has a few choice words with Orphan's final form. For one thing, they accuse it of poisoning Cocoon from within, a point not at all made during the story. Lightning plainly says humanity's real strength comes from its willingness to try new things when confronted with failure. After that, the cast collectively declares that their focus is to defeat Orphan. Wait a minute, didn't Barthandelus give them their focus? When did they learn how to change their focus on a whim? You know what? I'm not doing this play-by-play commentary about the story anymore. It's exhausting, and we are ten minutes away from the ending.

When the fuck did Snow become 50 Cent?
When the fuck did Snow become 50 Cent?

The last two boss battles are a slice of Hell. It's virtually impossible to take down Orphan's first form without buffs and debuffs. That said, Orphan can reverse status effects with relative ease, thus negating hard work and careful planning. Equally important, Orphan has an attack that automatically brings your party's HP to 1. That attack mixed with Orphan's ability to cast poison is a lethal combination. Speaking of which, Orphan casts Doom when its health is low. In short, both battles employ a flurry of cheap shit that arbitrarily makes the end of the game harder than it needs to be.

Final battles in role-playing games are meant to be empowering. After slogging through Hell and high water, your party should be robust enough to take on an army. They should have at their disposal remarkable abilities both physical and magical. For a game's end to rely this heavily on cheap bullshit is beyond disappointing. More importantly, using such tactics hampers the player's ability to enjoy their victory. When I beat Orphan, I didn't feel a sense of accomplishment. When I survived both battles, I felt like I got lucky.

Remember when boss transformations didn't suck shit in Final Fantasy games?
Remember when boss transformations didn't suck shit in Final Fantasy games?

As Orphan sinks into a pit of acid, the characters teleport to Edenhall. They seemingly overcame their destiny, but what that destiny was is never clear. As the characters are lifted into the air, Fang and Vanille fuse to form Ragnarok. While in their Ragnarok form, Fang and Vanille attempt to save humanity. To accomplish this, we watch Ragnarok tunnel into Pulse, causing lava to shoot from its mantle and into space. This lava causes everything on Cocoon to crystallize, including our party members. Fang and Vanille's sacrifice prevents Cocoon from crashing into Pulse and wiping out all life as we know it. However, Fang and Vanille return to a crystal stasis.

Who the designed these bosses? Imagine if the bosses of the Persona franchise had zero personality. That's an FF13 boss in a nutshell.
Who the designed these bosses? Imagine if the bosses of the Persona franchise had zero personality. That's an FF13 boss in a nutshell.

As we marvel over the glasswork on Cocoon, the game transitions back to Pulse. Once there, we watch Lightning and company recover from their crystal state. Lightning, Hope, Snow, and Sazh wake up and notice their brands no longer exist. What causes this miracle to happen? The world will never know. As they explore their surroundings, they find out the citizens of Cocoon evacuated to Pulse and everyone important to the story survived the ending of the game. For example, Serah and Dajh greet our remaining cast members in a dramatic display during the game's conclusion. With their friends in tow, everyone endeavors to rebuild Pulse and carve a new life in honor of Vanille and Fang's sacrifice.

Oh, and some low-rent Beyoncé knock-off starts wailing about make-up and lost relationships. Both fitting musical topics for a Final Fantasy game.

Part 50: This Is The Worst AAA Game Ever Made

The gall of Square-Enix's shortsightedness is stunning. Final Fantasy XIII spends most of its time shunting you through corridor after corridor. and to what end? Its linearity doesn't act as a scaffold for its cast of characters. The vast majority of the characters remain as bland as when they were first introduced. Do the hallways help to create a better sense of place as they did in Final Fantasy X? No, and to make matters worse, the game spends hours of your time meandering with its nonsensical plot.

I toyed around with the "New Game Plus" content and reached a stunning conclusion. After playing the game for eighty-plus hours, I couldn't tell you what I had to show for my time. I didn't have a trinket to showcase, nor could I brag about beating a stunning boss. Final Fantasy XIII is a game that happened, and it cannot un-happen. Nothing you accomplish signifies anything resolute or tangible. If anything, the entire game is a complete aberration. It physically exists, while also being indescribable.

Wait a minute, when were the planets on a collision course? When the fuck did that happen?
Wait a minute, when were the planets on a collision course? When the fuck did that happen?

I cannot frame any part of Final Fantasy XIII in a positive light. I hate its gameplay, characters, pacing, and story. I despise the gameplay because it doesn't open up until the twelfth chapter of a thirteen chapter story. When it does open up, it does so to mixed results. The class system isn't dynamic nor does it solidify the utility of the characters. The Crystarium is shockingly static and takes forever to bear fruit. While there are sub-systems and hidden depth, the results are the same. You click attacks and watch your characters flail around in a three-dimensional plane. Because of its design, you feel removed from the action and barely have an opportunity to enjoy battles as they evolve.

Characters and story usually go hand in hand in a role-playing game, but that isn't the case in Final Fantasy XIII. Our motley crew does not evolve and at no point do we have a clear understanding of their viewpoints. After spending days controlling Snow and Hope, I didn't walk away with an understanding of their outlooks on life. That's due to the game's characters being more interested in spewing one-liners than exploring their surroundings. My lack of investment in their melodrama is the result of this shortcoming.

If only this was
If only this was "good-bye." Then I would feel better about my life choices.

What about Final Fantasy XIII's story? Several JRPGs have salvaged their moribund casts with epic stories. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII's story is downright incomprehensible. It somehow transitions from being a story about leading a resistance movement to one about stopping the Apocalypse. Furthermore, nothing you accomplish in Final Fantasy XIII sticks with you. This point is incomprehensible for a Final Fantasy game. For as bizarre and zany as Final Fantasy VII, VIII, or X can be, they are undeniably memorable.

And the story meanders. It meanders and wastes your time on soulless character moments unrelated to the main story. When it finally zeroes in on its raison d'être, it becomes an unintelligible nightmare. Worse, the game puts the responsibility of contextualizing the world in your hands. Large swaths of Cocoon remain contextless unless you take the time to read bland codex entries. What is more, Final Fantasy XIII is afflicted with the worst case of "proper noun syndrome" I have ever seen. When it lectures you, it spews mountains of information with no provided wait time. Top to bottom, Final Fantasy XIII is a clear-cut case of storytelling maleficence.

This game was meant to be our introduction to the "Fabula Nova Crystallis" universe. Sequels, prequels, and mobile tie-ins were intended to build upon the accomplishments of Final Fantasy XIII. After this game launched, everything Square made acted as damage control. Furthermore, this game threw Square into a technological bottleneck. Admittedly, this game is a technical marvel. Even so, Square spent a decade wasting away in a single universe with no hope of getting out.

So, what you're saying is I have Fang and Vanille to blame for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns?
So, what you're saying is I have Fang and Vanille to blame for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns?

Square-Enix, a highly revered developer, spent five years programming this tire fire. The result is unmistakable; Square has been paying off this disaster for ten years. The days of Square-Enix releasing three Final Fantasy games per console cycle are dead. Final Fantasy XIII killed the golden era of Square. Look at their sorry ass state today. The vast majority of their income comes from Gacha games and iOS dogshit. When they do strike gold, they unlearn any positive lessons there could have been. All of you championing Octopath Traveler should think about how many times Square has been applauded for going back to their roots. For fuck's sake, the Kingdom Hearts franchise is a slow-moving car crash!

And what of the Final Fantasy franchise? It too is a walking zombie. From thirteen forward, they have continued to use their MMORPG games as a template rather than a cautionary tale for their single-player focused experiences. Furthermore, the Final Fantasy series is a laughing stock when it comes to storytelling and characters. The series is done taking risks and using characters for higher purposes. We're never going to see another Vivi or Jecht. Not with Square's current administration in-tact.

What's more, Square's quest to make Final Fantasy a multi-million dollar hit has had unintended consequences. Their stalwart JRPG series is accessible only to die-hard fans. Mainstream audiences aren't clamoring to play a new Final Fantasy game as they did with Final Fantasy VII or X. To top it all off, I don't know if Square realizes how far they missed the mark on this game. With new entries of the series focused on gameplay over story, what bones are they throwing to old-time fans?

The worst part is there's no going back. The leadership of Square have no intention of maturing with its audience, and Final Fantasy XV makes that notion all but certain. As new ideas and people approach the JRPG genre, Square thinks their old song and dance will appeal to a younger demographic that is increasingly less interested in JRPGs. In that regard, they are the Weezer and Green Day of video games. Sadly, it's not working, and their mistakes are becoming increasingly harder and harder to watch.

It pains me to say this, but the dream is dead, and none of us attended the funeral.

Until next time, peace everyone.
Until next time, peace everyone.
Moderator
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#1 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8658 posts) -

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say the dream is dead. I think Dragon Quest is proof that older RPG series can, when put into the right hands, be properly done with the reverence and joy some of them once held. I just hope it’s the example more companies try to follow.

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#2 Edited by Efesell (4083 posts) -

Story aside Lightning Returns is quite good.

XIII-2....well...

I definitely don't have such grim prospects for their storytelling. Even being made to work in the confines of an MMO I'd say XIV rivals a lot of what FF has done in the past, and had XV settled and focused on the part of that story everyone was into then it had potential too.

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#3 Edited by kid_gloves (495 posts) -

@sparky_buzzsaw I think the major difference there is that Dragon Quest still has the same exact creative leads it has always had since the beginning. DQXI isnt a return to form from new people, its another good game in a series of all good games made by the same people sticking to what they know and do best. Which company handles the development workload has shifted a few times, but enix and now square-enix really only act as publishers for that series (11 is the first single player one developed by a square-enix team).

It is easy to point out now but the loss of Sakaguchi and other prominent series stewards post FFX, and then the burning out of their other great hope in Matsuno during the development of XII, had a real profoundly negative effect on the company. Its no excuse for why other people weren't able to step up and make something good of it, but the evidence is right there that it didnt happen.

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#4 Posted by Teddie (2089 posts) -

Y'know, I've been thinking since the game came out, that the scene where they all turn into monsters and then turn back was some stupid "but the power of friendship overcomes the rules of our world we spent the entire game reiterating" moment. I don't think "it was all an illusion" is much better. And I really should thank you for allowing me to relive all the emotions I felt the first time I finished the game, because I have now realized that this game is still capable of upsetting me.

The recent news of Tabata leaving and FFXV's second DLC season being neutered is really driving home a lot of your thoughts on how the franchise is headed in a downward spiral (or maybe it's all of Square Enix, their management seems real bad). You'd think a company that literally died by the hand of Final Fantasy once would be a little more weary of letting the same thing happen again, but almost every new thing they do with the franchise reeks of "biting off more than we can chew".

Maybe take a look at World of Final Fantasy sometime for an alternate take on modern FF, it's packed with cheese but it's vibrant and fun and actually felt like Final Fantasy.

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#5 Posted by ArbitraryWater (15571 posts) -

83 hours? Ew. Gross. I think I was somewhere in the 40s when I finished my own playthrough, and part of that was basically ignoring most of Gran Pulse.

FF XIII really does feel like something of a tipping point for Square, and Final Fantasy in particular. I know opinions on this and subsequent titles are still mixed, FF XIV is apparently solid these days, and I'd personally even say XIII-2 and Lightning Returns are interesting, decidedly unconventional follow-ups to this (do not confuse "interesting" for "good") But Final Fantasy is no longer the kind of grand landmark franchise it used to be, even in the relatively diminished sphere of JRPGs. The amount of baggage the series carries is pretty ludicrous, and I have nothing but sympathy for the people who tried to turn FF XV around after a decade of it constantly being reworked.

This all said, you and I should play Type-0 because some of what I heard about its story sounds BANANAS.

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#6 Posted by Efesell (4083 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: Type 0 would have been a very interesting story I think if it hadn't had to focus on so many characters, but its forced to reduce a lot of that case to really barebones archetypes.

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#7 Edited by ArbitraryWater (15571 posts) -
@efesell said:

@arbitrarywater: Type 0 would have been a very interesting story I think if it hadn't had to focus on so many characters, but its forced to reduce a lot of that case to really barebones archetypes.

I'm mostly referring to what I've heard about the ending, which sounds like some gloriously ludicrous JRPG-ass JRPG nonsense. I've heard far more mixed things about the actual "game" part, but if I wanted to subject ZP to a well-liked recent JRPG I'd suggest we play the other JRPG spinoff about an elite class of red-clad anime students hanging out at a military academy instead.

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#8 Edited by soimadeanaccount (592 posts) -

You are part of the problem the game is representing...well we all are. FF13 to me is very much about a bunch of shitty assholes each thinking their own ways, thoughts, or methods are superior to others, and they alone have the key to directing their shitty world (or dictating a way a game should go lol) by doing shitty things. FF13 is a tale of cynicism masking itself as a pretty looking batshit insane JRPG. I don't know if it was on purpose or if they just happen to accidentally stumble upon it.

A linear dungeon over whatever shitty puzzle dungeon is a safer choice. It is possible to have a "good" puzzle dungeon, but the risk of fucking it up is great it and it could so so poorly. I don't like the cluserfuck of gameplay in the late game either, but a lot of players rave about it. The quit restart is both a nice touch and a requirement in many cases.

There's nothing unusual about Fang and Snow having their character ability in the COM tree. Fang is probably the COM-est of COM in the game. SEN is mostly a defensive class so no offensive ability there is fairly normal, which leaves Snow with COM. The typical party composition for the majority of the game is Fang, Lightning, and Hope. Which ends up kind of a bore. Snow and Vanille shows up for a few gimmick fights.

The ending is either an ass-pull of an all that ends well ending...or yet another hint of cynicism depending on your take. I didn't like that the conflict resolve itself so nicely, the crystal curse was sort of brush away which kind of cheapens the struggle of the cast, after all the Gran Pulse chapter was meant to show the futility of fighting the curse. On the other hand since it is a story everything could get solve nicely in the end...but we can't say the same for the real world. Although they did kind of retcon the ending in FFXIII-2...or else there wouldn't be another 2 games now would it!

Oh there wasn't really that many "destinty-esq" chosen hero trope in FF13 at all. At best Vanille and Fang were the only ones, the other characters just became heroes of happenstance and the game went through great length on showing how they ended up in their situations.

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#9 Posted by ZombiePie (7320 posts) -

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say the dream is dead. I think Dragon Quest is proof that older RPG series can, when put into the right hands, be properly done with the reverence and joy some of them once held. I just hope it’s the example more companies try to follow.

Oddly enough, @ltsquigs and I share the same impression of the current state of the Dragon Quest franchise, and maybe he can share more details in a post of his own. Dragon Quest is basically the "Madden of JRPGs." The series is more interested in adding length without any depth previous games haven't already attempted. You know exactly what you are getting in a new Dragon Quest game, and it's the video game equivalent of "comfort food." Nothing about it can be viewed as controversial or groundbreaking, but that's perfectly fine for anyone wanting to just play a fun time. The series is done with taking risks and given its consistent track record, there's nothing objectively wrong with that.

@efesell said:

Story aside Lightning Returns is quite good.

XIII-2....well...

I definitely don't have such grim prospects for their storytelling. Even being made to work in the confines of an MMO I'd say XIV rivals a lot of what FF has done in the past, and had XV settled and focused on the part of that story everyone was into then it had potential too.

Right... so answer this for me. When you say XIII-2 and Lightning Returns have "bad" stories do you actually mean they have "good" stories? And I think you know what I mean when I say "good." @thatpinguino and I are not above enjoy our fare share of Final Fantasy schlock. That said, my grim consternation is exclusively about Square's single-player focused portfolio. Look, I get that everyone loves Final Fantasy XIV, but I do not enjoy MMORPGs. Unless the game is the bees knees, I'm not going to have a fun time because I have a low tolerance for MMORPG trappings.

Again, maybe I need to maintain a more open-mind, but I'm doubtful.

@sparky_buzzsaw I think the major difference there is that Dragon Quest still has the same exact creative leads it has always had since the beginning. DQXI isnt a return to form from new people, its another good game in a series of all good games made by the same people sticking to what they know and do best. Which company handles the development workload has shifted a few times, but enix and now square-enix really only act as publishers for that series (11 is the first single player one developed by a square-enix team).

It is easy to point out now but the loss of Sakaguchi and other prominent series stewards post FFX, and then the burning out of their other great hope in Matsuno during the development of XII, had a real profoundly negative effect on the company. Its no excuse for why other people weren't able to step up and make something good of it, but the evidence is right there that it didnt happen.

I cannot preface enough that it is simply bizarre that Square has consistently refused to learn from the lessons of FFX and XII. I get both teams had different creative leads than Final Fantasy XIII, but that's no excuse for completely unlearning every good lesson from both games. If they wanted to create a more linear Final Fantasy experience, why not copy the level design from X? If they wanted to have real-time combat, why not embrace 12? If they wanted to reform their job-system, why not use 11? Jeez, you don't need to copy past these game, just learn from them!

FF13 is weird to look at based on what it does not have versus what it does have.

@teddie said:

Y'know, I've been thinking since the game came out, that the scene where they all turn into monsters and then turn back was some stupid "but the power of friendship overcomes the rules of our world we spent the entire game reiterating" moment. I don't think "it was all an illusion" is much better. And I really should thank you for allowing me to relive all the emotions I felt the first time I finished the game, because I have now realized that this game is still capable of upsetting me.

The recent news of Tabata leaving and FFXV's second DLC season being neutered is really driving home a lot of your thoughts on how the franchise is headed in a downward spiral (or maybe it's all of Square Enix, their management seems real bad). You'd think a company that literally died by the hand of Final Fantasy once would be a little more weary of letting the same thing happen again, but almost every new thing they do with the franchise reeks of "biting off more than we can chew".

Maybe take a look at World of Final Fantasy sometime for an alternate take on modern FF, it's packed with cheese but it's vibrant and fun and actually felt like Final Fantasy.

I think a lot of the recent news it has to do with Square wanting to cut bait on Final Fantasy XIII in general. While there were more than five degrees of separation between 15 and 13, the connection still exists. In all honesty, I feel like FF13 has placed the entire single-player games in a technological bottleneck. Admittedly, Square continues to not have a consistent direction, but I can only imagine that they have a clear sense of knowing that this current Fabula Nova Crystallis metaverse is unsustainable and needs to be ditched. To that end, I have to thank them because these games are becoming more inscrutable even though they have the production values of blockbuster hits. Personally, I want the franchise to go mainstream again. 7, 9, and 10 are personal highlights in the franchise for me.

And in terms of palate cleansers, I have a "fun" blog planned two weeks from now. If you want a "spoiler," I read the Final Fantasy manga adaptation. It's... something I really wanted to blog about.

83 hours? Ew. Gross. I think I was somewhere in the 40s when I finished my own playthrough, and part of that was basically ignoring most of Gran Pulse.

FF XIII really does feel like something of a tipping point for Square, and Final Fantasy in particular. I know opinions on this and subsequent titles are still mixed, FF XIV is apparently solid these days, and I'd personally even say XIII-2 and Lightning Returns are interesting, decidedly unconventional follow-ups to this (do not confuse "interesting" for "good") But Final Fantasy is no longer the kind of grand landmark franchise it used to be, even in the relatively diminished sphere of JRPGs. The amount of baggage the series carries is pretty ludicrous, and I have nothing but sympathy for the people who tried to turn FF XV around after a decade of it constantly being reworked.

This all said, you and I should play Type-0 because some of what I heard about its story sounds BANANAS.

83 mother effing hours. Although Steam is saying I have played FFVII for 97 hours and FFVIII for 125 hours. FFVIII is a bit of an extreme example because I have basically played the game three times, but FFVII is a bit more surprising. I get that my insistence on getting Knights of the Round added at least five hours to my playthrough, but it didn't seem to drag like FFXIII did.

Let me tell you something, @thatpinguino and I had a bit of a trip reading the reviews for Final Fantasy XIII as we played the game. EVERYONE PROMISED THINGS WOULD GET BETTER BY GRAN PULSE! THEY LIED TO US! Back to the point of the series losing its landmark status. Around the release of XII I think the series honestly lost a lot of its accessibility. Say what you will about 7, but that game is incredibly easy to jump into even if you haven't played a JRPG before. The same can be said of 9, and while the Sphere Grid takes time, 10 is a breeze if you don't consider the BS bosses.

What I find especially bizarre is the franchise continues to have the production values of big Hollywood Blockbusters, but play like games for entrenched fans. Square honestly needs to decide which side of the pendulum they want to swing toward because these half-measured steps are horrible.

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#10 Edited by Efesell (4083 posts) -

@zombiepie: XIII-2 takes the story of XIII and says you know this is all a little too straightforward we gotta complicate matters. It was very difficult to appreciate in any manner.

Lightning Returns then just feels like the unluckiest followup in an exquisite corpse.

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#11 Posted by ArbitraryWater (15571 posts) -
@efesell said:

@zombiepie: XIII-2 takes the story of XIII and says you know this is all a little too straightforward we gotta complicate matters. It was very difficult to appreciate in any manner.

Lightning Returns then just feels like the unluckiest followup in an exquisite corpse.

Oh, I don't know about that. XIII-2 is at least fun-dumb in a way that XIII isn't. The plot makes negative sense and bathes itself in as much "Because time travel" nonsense as possible, but it does have that fake ending where Snow shows up on a time-traveling motorcycle to save the day. I'm also a pretty big fan of Liam O'Brien's performance of Caius, which is delightfully overwrought.

Lightning Returns is totally insane, not only because it assumes the player gives a shit about any of the characters and events of past games, but also because it re-contextualizes them in this bizarre Majora's Mask apocalyptic setting where Lightning plays dress-up. The FF XIII trilogy does not have a strong sense of causality, to put it lightly.


What I find especially bizarre is the franchise continues to have the production values of big Hollywood Blockbusters, but play like games for entrenched fans. Square honestly needs to decide which side of the pendulum they want to swing toward because these half-measured steps are horrible.

I think one of the more bizarre parts of Final Fantasy XIII is that it feels designed like it was supposed to be an accessible, mainstream take on RPGs. You don't parcel out tutorials at a snail's pace, design levels to be ultra-linear corridors, and spend the first 5 hours doing nothing but mashing "Auto Battle" if the developers had any confidence in the player's ability or the marketability of traditional JRPG mechanics. But there's enough weird, esoteric bullshit surrounding everything and those mechanics are put out so slowly that I think only dedicated JRPG fans are willing to tolerate that nonsense in the first place.

They never quite learned their lesson either, because it sounds like you can get through a large chunk of FF XV's combat by holding the attack button and occasionally using a potion. Between that and hearing the story is still pretty incoherent even after the years of DLC, I don't know if I ever need to pick it up.

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#12 Edited by Onemanarmyy (3967 posts) -

Ahh Jabberwocky Bandersnatch.. my favorite british actor!

ZP Quote: Barthandelus rationalizes his actions by claiming he's trying to free the universe from a "simulation."

Kanye, that you?

ZP Quote: Sazh tells us the previous scene was "fal'Cie smoke and mirrors."

It's all a work brother! just a bunch of tricks!

ZP Quote: Ten minutes ago, killing Orphan ended the world, and now killing Orphan will save the world.

SERAH WANTS US TO SAVE COCCOOON.. I MEAN SHE WANTS US TO DESTROY COCCOON!!!

ZP Quote: I hate its gameplay, characters, pacing, and story.

So i guess it's safe to say that you don't agree with the 83 metascore or the three stars brad gave it? :) It's pretty funny how Brad's conclusion is pretty much the polar opposite of Zombiepie's conclusion

Brad Quote: --I genuinely loved something about every aspect, from the combat to the story to the visual design. These elements just weren't brought together and exposed as well as they should have been, to do a game of this magnitude the justice it deserves. But if nothing else, the glimmers of excellence in Final Fantasy XIII have at least convinced me that Japanese RPGs, and specifically Final Fantasy itself, haven't quite gasped their last breath just yet.

But thanks for the playthrough! I never truly grasped how bad this game actually was. I saw a thing i liked a whole lot (airjuggling) and somehow that was the thing that made me glad to end up in every encounter. Or figuring out how to hit 5 golden stars on every battle in a consistant fashion. But i guess i'm also the idiot that likes playing with Squall because i get to hit the E button as the gunblade hits for a neat explosion. And i get to input combo's with Zell's limit break. I'm easily entertained :D

As for Final Fantasy's future... They need new ideas at Square. New people. And a completely new game that is truly unshackled from all the bad decisions, overarching plots & outdated tech they made in the past. Spending time & resources on a Final Fantasy remake that will anger more people than it will please, seems like a terrible move. Personally i feel like the franchise has gone downhill after Final Fantasy X. To me Final Fantasy X is among the best RPGs on the PS2. FFXII or FFXIII were not terrible misbuys on my part, but it definitly felt like there was a huge gap in quality as i played them. I tried a few hours of Type-O and think that game is absolutely terrible.

Let's just stop the Final Fantasy franchise and make the game 'Fantasy' instead. Cactuar, Chocobo, Ifrit, Shiva , Tonberry & Gunblades are the only guests i would invite to that.

Sorry, the forums are messed up , so this is hard to read.

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#13 Edited by soimadeanaccount (592 posts) -

The early to mid part of 13 is fairly accessible and there is a decent dynamic in the gameplay. The deck switching was easy to get into and the auto actions were decent enough before all the bullshitery hits especially post grand pulse.

Caius had potential, but I think he ended up being the worst part of xiii-2. The story over reliance on him as a villain, a magic mcguffin, and a Mary sue edgelord at the same time was just too much. It is maddening that he somehow ended up with a fanbase and his re-appearance in lightning return is filled with retcon and ignoring of what he did.

The return to original theme of XIII in LR is one of its very few saving grace. In its own cumbersome way it speed through the series story beats, themes, and settings. I honestly thought the whole FNC backdrop could have worked, but they just fucked it up and was actually kind of bummed they dropped it in 15. And in its place the world building of 15 felt superficial and unexplored.

The FF movie is the common scapegoat for the series going downhill due to the financial impact it did. But depending on who you ask some would say the point of inflection was anywhere from FF6 to 13. Base on some articles and interviews there was a change in direction after X-2 where the higher ups wanted the series move on from a one and done type deal to more a sequelize/extended universe route, and I feel like SE haven't been able to grasps that; the tin foil hat conspiracy theorist suspects that there's internal push back against this direction.

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#14 Edited by Efesell (4083 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: All I can credit XIII-2 for really is Gilgamesh and the Best Best version of the Chocobo theme.

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#15 Posted by wchigo (899 posts) -

My nostalgia is dead now... RIP FFXIII.

OTOH, I've recently been watching a series on YouTube called FFVII Machinabridged and it is downright high-larious. Really makes me want to go back and play that game again, something I haven't done in well over a decade.

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#16 Posted by blackichigo (429 posts) -

I guess I'm in the minority but I actually like ff13 2. It's the only version of Final Fantasy XIII I actually enjoyed enough to finish.

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#17 Edited by NTM (11468 posts) -

I just wanted to post on here to say that, love the game or hate it, this game and its two sequels will be backward compatible on the Xbox One, and enhanced on the X. Actually, my thoughts on FF13 are that it was totally fine. I have most of the Final Fantasy games and played several hours of them all, but 13 is honestly the only one I finished.

It doesn't have anything to do with liking it more than the others though, it's just the one I found the time to get through. I played about 20 hours of XIII-2 but never finished it. My brother didn't get Lightning Returns because of the whole time thing, although him being a much bigger JRPG fan than myself, still wants to play it. I never did mind you. The only Final Fantasy I actually want to go through is 12 really.

I'm still waiting for him to finish it first.

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#18 Posted by Crommi (397 posts) -

You may have been let down by FFXIII, but there is still Hope in the sequels.

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#19 Posted by someoneproud (378 posts) -

If you think the story in XIII is bad/poorly told, do yourself a favour and don't bother with XV.

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#20 Posted by OHNOgc (21 posts) -

I'm just a lurker, but I wanted to say thanks for writing this series. I remember beating the game, thinking that it wasn't so bad...but really, it was me not wanting to admit the truth. And I probably wasn't alone, because Square-Enix practically got away with murder with the metascore the game got.

For the longest time, I felt like I needed to play every main-numbered FF because I grew up with the series (starting with 4), but XIII proved that SE couldn't be trusted to deliver a quality product, and they proved it twice in the same year with the disastrous launch of XIV. So far I haven't played XIII-2, Lightning Returns, or XV, and there's a good chance I never will.

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#21 Posted by MrGreenMan (151 posts) -

I would say Final Fantasy died a long time ago when Spirts Within movie happened. It's been a slow progressive downhill drop for them ever since then. This was an excellent read. I know some of the history of this mess of a game and honestly the drama and the mess this game produced is far more interesting than anything square-enix has produced in ages.

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#22 Posted by jeffrud (694 posts) -

I don't subscribe necessarily to auteur theory insofar as video game production goes. I do, however, subscribe to correlated events. Sakaguchi's direct guidance of the Final Fantasy series seems to have been fairly clutch to the ongoing high quality of those games. You also had Yoshinori Kitase (director on FF VI, VII, VIII and X) and Hiroyuki Ito (codirector on VI, director on IX and XII). A lot of ink has been spilled over Tetsuya Nomura's impact on the series design, but I think there's an even more obvious fall guy for FFXIII: Motomu Toriyama.

Toriyama got his start designing the cutscenes of Bahamut Lagoon and FFVII. He also designed scenaries for the latter, including "classics" like the Honey Bee Inn and the submarine chasing garbage. He also is responsible for fleshing out the timeless love story between Cloud and Aerith (timeless because something that doesn't really exist takes up no time). He would go on to design events in FFX, then direct your favorite and mine: FFX-2. If you're familiar with The 3rd Birthday, that thing also sucks.

Now it is true that Toriyama directed the entire FFXIII series of games, as well as Mobius Final Fantasy. But it was not he that solely hatched the entire Fabula Nova Crystallis. That took two people, and his co-conspirator was Kazushiga Nojima. Nojima had written scenarios from FFVII onward, and outlayed plotwork that has survived up to the present day in FFXV. His freelance work also includes the Subspace Emissary mode in Smash Brawl.

Once XII was pushed out the door, after basically driving Matsuno insane, both Toriyama and Nojima took their nonsense FNC notes and handed them to Daisuke Watanabe (scenario writer for X and effectively the closer for the plot of XII). I'm just going to block quote Wikipedia here:

He [Watanabe] was shown a rough outline of the plot until chapter eight and was asked by Toriyama to flesh things out and to correct how it would all connect. Watanabe decided how Toriyama's rudimentary cutscene ideas should play out, wrote the script and adjusted the personality of each character to emphasize what the story tried to express. He said that the Final Fantasy XIII series was an exhausting project with little time to breathe and that his feelings toward it were "complicated".

What I am suggesting here, overall, is that the franchise has been shepherded under the guidance of a bunch of hack, navel gazing writers more interested in shallow spectacle (dating back to Toriyama and his FFVII cutscenes) and following company mandate to extract microtransactions, than in actually making memorable RPGs. These lads honestly make me less wary of Nomura, whose worst fault (beyond dubious aesthetic tastes) is merely horrible project management.

tl;dr Tabata probably did the right thing to leave this dumpster fire, and Square should just hand the Final Fantasy reigns to the one man who could possibly uphold the legacy of the series: Yoko effing Taro.

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#23 Edited by soimadeanaccount (592 posts) -

If that's actually true then I see no issue with the original vision of FFXIII nor FNC.

I do not subscribe to the camp that the older games are somehow superior or of higher "quality". IV is a disappointment going back to it post VI and VII for me I felt like I was reading a children's book; and people talk about the current games not maturing... V was more gameplay focus from what I have seen. With VI and VII being personal favorite, there's no issue with the Cloud and Aeris story, it was a set up for the Cloud/Zack reveal more than for actual romance. Let's face it FF never really got the romance angle down, X probably comes the closest by the way of uniqueness in the characters' relationship and backgrounds. Now a days I prefer watching them cleverly avoiding that pitfall. The submarine shit was a 20 seconds forgettable session for better or worse. Honey Bee Inn is a much larger discussion especially influenced by today's standards which we don't have the time for.

Chapter eight of XIII was pretty much the high point of the entire game, and all the focused characters interactions before that was better than what chapter 9 has after everyone got together and seemingly becomes a mess. Everything falls apart even worse after that. If up to chapter 8 was what they really had then it very much correlate to the game was fine up until chapter 8, and afterward they ran out of materials. There might also be some underhand developer comments in Lightning's Return.

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#24 Edited by Efesell (4083 posts) -

Maybe it's because I do the Four Job Fiesta every year but oddly enough I think the narrative of V holds up more than almost any other Final Fantasy and it's for the sole reason of being designed almost entirely as a wacky Saturday morning cartoon.

Otherwise everything I've revisited has strongly been a case of Oh wow I really thought highly of this story As a Child.

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#27 Posted by ZombiePie (7320 posts) -

@efesell said:

@arbitrarywater: Type 0 would have been a very interesting story I think if it hadn't had to focus on so many characters, but its forced to reduce a lot of that case to really barebones archetypes.

I'm mostly referring to what I've heard about the ending, which sounds like some gloriously ludicrous JRPG-ass JRPG nonsense. I've heard far more mixed things about the actual "game" part, but if I wanted to subject ZP to a well-liked recent JRPG I'd suggest we play the other JRPG spinoff about an elite class of red-clad anime students hanging out at a military academy instead.

I'm going to need to have @thatpinguino chime in if Type-0 is a game we need to cover. If we end up playing thatgame, then that means Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII and Chocobo Racing are fare game, and I'm just going to say that I am NOT okay with that. The mainline series is enough. Especially if Gino wants me to play The Bouncer and Chrono Cross.

I think he wants to kill me.

The ending is either an ass-pull of an all that ends well ending...or yet another hint of cynicism depending on your take. I didn't like that the conflict resolve itself so nicely, the crystal curse was sort of brush away which kind of cheapens the struggle of the cast, after all the Gran Pulse chapter was meant to show the futility of fighting the curse. On the other hand since it is a story everything could get solve nicely in the end...but we can't say the same for the real world. Although they did kind of retcon the ending in FFXIII-2...or else there wouldn't be another 2 games now would it!

Oh there wasn't really that many "destinty-esq" chosen hero trope in FF13 at all. At best Vanille and Fang were the only ones, the other characters just became heroes of happenstance and the game went through great length on showing how they ended up in their situations.

Let's talk about 13's ending. This game's ending sucks and resolves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! All it does is plop the characters on a barren planet with no clear direction as to where they go next. PLUS, Ragnarok being a Deus Ex Machina is the cheapest shit Square has pulled in a video game since Kingdom Hearts! Likewise I don't like how the big bad in the game constantly rants about a God of creation, and you never interact or see this God in the game. It just further proof that the story has too many active plot lines. Someone at Square either should have cut the cast down, or commit to one plot line to guide the main story.

@efesell said:

@zombiepie: XIII-2 takes the story of XIII and says you know this is all a little too straightforward we gotta complicate matters. It was very difficult to appreciate in any manner.

Lightning Returns then just feels like the unluckiest followup in an exquisite corpse.

Oh, I don't know about that. XIII-2 is at least fun-dumb in a way that XIII isn't. The plot makes negative sense and bathes itself in as much "Because time travel" nonsense as possible, but it does have that fake ending where Snow shows up on a time-traveling motorcycle to save the day. I'm also a pretty big fan of Liam O'Brien's performance of Caius, which is delightfully overwrought.

Lightning Returns is totally insane, not only because it assumes the player gives a shit about any of the characters and events of past games, but also because it re-contextualizes them in this bizarre Majora's Mask apocalyptic setting where Lightning plays dress-up. The FF XIII trilogy does not have a strong sense of causality, to put it lightly.

I see there's a raging debate discussing the merits of Final Fantasy XIII-2 in my blog. I have nothing to add to this debate, but I was wondering if maybe one of you could tell me what the fuck this is:

Loading Video...

As for Final Fantasy's future... They need new ideas at Square. New people. And a completely new game that is truly unshackled from all the bad decisions, overarching plots & outdated tech they made in the past. Spending time & resources on a Final Fantasy remake that will anger more people than it will please, seems like a terrible move. Personally i feel like the franchise has gone downhill after Final Fantasy X. To me Final Fantasy X is among the best RPGs on the PS2. FFXII or FFXIII were not terrible misbuys on my part, but it definitly felt like there was a huge gap in quality as i played them. I tried a few hours of Type-O and think that game is absolutely terrible.

Let's just stop the Final Fantasy franchise and make the game 'Fantasy' instead. Cactuar, Chocobo, Ifrit, Shiva , Tonberry & Gunblades are the only guests i would invite to that.

Can we talk about yourlast sentence? The title of this franchise is "Final Fantasy." Outside of XIV, the last game that felt like it cared about crafting a fantastical world was 12, and that game came out twelve years ago! I get the franchise has always had a science-fiction undercurrent thanks in large part to Final Fantasy VII, but that game earned it. Games like Final Fantasy XIII, and XV to a certain extent, do not feel like fantastical worlds. They are skyboxes with fantasy trappings and monsters. This entire franchise is basically a lie at this point!

@wchigo said:

My nostalgia is dead now... RIP FFXIII.

OTOH, I've recently been watching a series on YouTube called FFVII Machinabridged and it is downright high-larious. Really makes me want to go back and play that game again, something I haven't done in well over a decade.

Going back to Final Fantasy VII is a tough one. As someone who played the Steam port for the purposes of taking screencaps, I can safely say that version of the game is ROUGH! But on the flipside the load times are ridiculously short. Luckily on Steam they updated the game so it has better textures. When the game launched on Steam it had terrible sound and crummy textures. That said, the Final Fantasy IX, X, and XII Steam ports are largely good.

@ntm said:

I just wanted to post on here to say that, love the game or hate it, this game and its two sequels will be backward compatible on the Xbox One, and enhanced on the X. Actually, my thoughts on FF13 are that it was totally fine. I have most of the Final Fantasy games and played several hours of them all, but 13 is honestly the only one I finished.

It doesn't have anything to do with liking it more than the others though, it's just the one I found the time to get through. I played about 20 hours of XIII-2 but never finished it. My brother didn't get Lightning Returns because of the whole time thing, although him being a much bigger JRPG fan than myself, still wants to play it. I never did mind you. The only Final Fantasy I actually want to go through is 12 really.

I'm still waiting for him to finish it first.

I see where you are coming from, and greatly respect you for sharing your thoughts, but I have one partial objection. Final fantasy XIII is not representative of what made the franchise special, nor is it a gateway game like many of its predecessors. A generation of JRPG fans were made thanks to IV, VI, VII, and X. These games opened the entire genre to people who might not have been willing to roll the dice on a JRPG had it not has Square's seal of approval. The era of Square that Final Fantasy XIII represents is not sustainable. The series painfully wants you to think it is about the characters, but each entry since 13 has had more missteps than home runs in terms of characters. The gameplay in modern-day Final Fantasy games is equally bizarre. It tries to strike a weird balance between flashy animations and deep RPG tropes. The end result is the gameplay is often unecessarily Byzantine.

I cannot help but lament that Final Fantasy 13 is not a great first impression of the series, and worse, has major accessibility problems.

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#28 Posted by wchigo (899 posts) -

So I ended up getting FF7 on PS4 the other day since it was on sale, and that version seems fine enough. There was some hitching, which was a bit odd, but otherwise it performed as expected.

Also, I remember the story making absolutely no sense, but thought Chrono Cross played fine. I also think it got a lot of undeserved hate because it wasn't the Chrono Trigger sequel everyone wanted, but it wasn't a dumpster fire. Then again, after re-visiting FFXIII by way of your blog, I'm not so sure of anything anymore, lol...

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#29 Posted by soimadeanaccount (592 posts) -

@zombiepie said:


Let's talk about 13's ending. This game's ending sucks and resolves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! All it does is plop the characters on a barren planet with no clear direction as to where they go next. PLUS, Ragnarok being a Deus Ex Machina is the cheapest shit Square has pulled in a video game since Kingdom Hearts! Likewise I don't like how the big bad in the game constantly rants about a God of creation, and you never interact or see this God in the game. It just further proof that the story has too many active plot lines. Someone at Square either should have cut the cast down, or commit to one plot line to guide the main story.

The ending solves these story points:

1. The people are now "freed" from reliance on the Fal'Cie, they have to learn to stand on their own similar to the former people of Pulse. Which is a big plot point of the game.

2. The sacrifice of the people of Cocoon in the name of summoning the God of creation is halted. When the Fal'Cie are gone Cocoon is suppose to plummet and taking everyone in it with them which would summon the God of creation. The catch 22 situation between killing and not killing the Fal'Cie, but saved by Vanille and Fang.

3. The L'Cie curse is removed from the remaining cast along with Serah and Dajh, and everything is fine and dandy...supposedly. The cast's ticking time bomb removed without reason.

Cocoon being saved and humans having to live on Pulse I kind of saw coming. The crystal pillar is kind of an ass pull, but Vanille and Fang get their redemption arc resolve, and that transition back to the title screen is kind of neat, so I am ok with that. The crystal curse being remove all willy nilly for apparently no reason at all I don't really like; although an explanation shows up in FFXIII-2, which started out pretty decent although with some retcon, but then they fumble even worse than before which makes the whole thing terrible again. As for the God of Creation...well it is a thing in Lightning Returns.

Not sure how far down the rabbit hole you still want to go with the XIII series with XIII-2 and LR. I am not sure if you ever got over the controller issue with these games also. You can play XIII-2 with keyboard and mouse, there are some issues with it, but it is doable. However I am going to say playing LR with keyboard and mouse is an impossible task, so if you can't make that jump, don't bother. Furthermore if you aren't going to play LR then there's really no need to play XIII-2 either.

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#33 Edited by jackelbeaver (201 posts) -

I love the game but it’s not really a final fantasy game and i didnt figure out how to play it “properly” until xiii-2’s requiem of the goddess dlc which FORCES you to figure out how to 5 star a challenging boss or you can’t see the true ending.

The game played properly is incredibly fast paced and unique, but they don’t really teach you the combat properly and i fully bounced off of this game at launch and didnt actually get into it until last year where I watched Lewd Dolphin’s run of the game at agdq and saw that there was something to it. (I highly recommend this run, it demonstrates the game in a much better light)

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#34 Posted by ZombiePie (7320 posts) -

@crommi said:

You may have been let down by FFXIII, but there is still Hope in the sequels.

What did I ever do to deserve these sorts of hot takes? The saddest part about it, the writing in Final Fantasy XIII is worse than your comment.

If you think the story in XIII is bad/poorly told, do yourself a favour and don't bother with XV.

I have been playing Final Fantasy XII side-by-side with Mr. Rorie and he is not the biggest fan of Final Fantasy XV's story. I think what gets me most of all is you have to watch a movie to know who any of the characters are or what's going on.

@ohnogc said:

I'm just a lurker, but I wanted to say thanks for writing this series. I remember beating the game, thinking that it wasn't so bad...but really, it was me not wanting to admit the truth. And I probably wasn't alone, because Square-Enix practically got away with murder with the metascore the game got.

For the longest time, I felt like I needed to play every main-numbered FF because I grew up with the series (starting with 4), but XIII proved that SE couldn't be trusted to deliver a quality product, and they proved it twice in the same year with the disastrous launch of XIV. So far I haven't played XIII-2, Lightning Returns, or XV, and there's a good chance I never will.

Going back and reading the reviews for Final Fantasy XIII when it released was a trip. A lot of reviewers certainly wanted to give the game a lower score, but didn't out of nostalgia. Everyone back in the day cites the bland cast and linear level design as major negatives, but struggle to list any positives. Some tried to frame Gran Pulse as a positive, but also recognize its short-comings. What is especially funny is that many of these reviewers also went on to review XIII-2 and Lightning Returns, and they did not hold back any punches that time around. Kevin VanOrd's reviews for the XIII sequels are a legitimate great read if you haven't read them already.

I would say Final Fantasy died a long time ago when Spirts Within movie happened. It's been a slow progressive downhill drop for them ever since then. This was an excellent read. I know some of the history of this mess of a game and honestly the drama and the mess this game produced is far more interesting than anything square-enix has produced in ages.

But what about Final Fantasy X and XII? Those games came out AFTER Spirits Within and show how much potential the franchise is capable of, and with the same creative leads that have led this company straight to Hell. Admittedly, Final Fantasy XII is an anomaly and probably shouldn't count given that it's production cycle was so thoroughly fucked it burnt out many of the creative minds that made it special.

@efesell said:

Maybe it's because I do the Four Job Fiesta every year but oddly enough I think the narrative of V holds up more than almost any other Final Fantasy and it's for the sole reason of being designed almost entirely as a wacky Saturday morning cartoon.

Otherwise everything I've revisited has strongly been a case of Oh wow I really thought highly of this story As a Child.

@thatpinguino is in the pro-Final Fantasy V camp as well. I will say, there's something to the 8 and 16-bit era of the Final Fantasy games that was lost in translation. Additionally, and Final Fantasy V is one of the better examples of this, I WANT to play a Final Fantasy game with a narrow scope and a feel-good story. Final Fantasy V is a guilty pleasure, in large part because it has very little aspirations to convey a dramatic story, but that's to its benefit. The characters are memorable and it's an overall fun time. Likewise, it's irreverent and silly tone lends itself to multiple playthroughs which is not something you can say about the more melodramatic games.

I love the game but it’s not really a final fantasy game and i didnt figure out how to play it “properly” until xiii-2’s requiem of the goddess dlc which FORCES you to figure out how to 5 star a challenging boss or you can’t see the true ending.

The game played properly is incredibly fast paced and unique, but they don’t really teach you the combat properly and i fully bounced off of this game at launch and didnt actually get into it until last year where I watched Lewd Dolphin’s run of the game at agdq and saw that there was something to it. (I highly recommend this run, it demonstrates the game in a much better light)

Right, the star-ranking system. Another mechanic the game just drops on you and doesn't properly explain. Otherwise, I get what you are saying, but where I start to push back is player "motivation." You can certainly play Final Fantasy XIII at a faster pace, but the game does not provide incentives for you to do so. Sure, I could air-juggle monsters into oblivion, but I could also just slop through every battle with one commando and three medics. When the game does not make sloppy play nonviable, it does not encourage you to play it the "right way."

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#35 Posted by someoneproud (378 posts) -

@zombiepie: Even if you watch the film, the anime, play all the dlc and the carbuncle "demo" and search for every scrap of info in the game it just barely makes sense. Even then the story is pretty cliche (which I don't mind too much personally) but it's so poorly told and I've REALLY tried to dig up as much as possible. If you do play it, make sure to do the tutorial thingy as that's where 90% of the world history and scene setting lives. Sounds hyperbolic I know but trust me. Urgh.

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#36 Posted by jackelbeaver (201 posts) -


Right, the star-ranking system. Another mechanic the game just drops on you and doesn't properly explain. Otherwise, I get what you are saying, but where I start to push back is player "motivation." You can certainly play Final Fantasy XIII at a faster pace, but the game does not provide incentives for you to do so. Sure, I could air-juggle monsters into oblivion, but I could also just slop through every battle with one commando and three medics. When the game does not make sloppy play nonviable, it does not encourage you to play it the "right way."

That just means they needed to do another pass on the communication with the player. You do get incentivized when you realize you can 2 cycle bosses. The mechanics used properly (Which again, they unfortunately don't fully teach until a DLC in the second game) make it feel like a completely different experience to the clumsy first time through. You get ranking and stars after each battle, which effect your rewards as well. Like with Sonic, speed is it's own reward.

It's sort of like the Style Ranking in Devil May Cry games. They (usually) don't effect gameplay in any way, but you get better rewards out of it and the game gives you better rankings. It also just feels good to be able to be in sync with the battle system and just obliterating challenging enemies in a few turns.

The hidden mechanics that made a difference for me:
1) Paradigm Refresh!!

Every 13th second if you switch paradigms your ATB bar is jammed up to full, so if you just finished an attack and then switch you instantly get another attack. It is so strong that it basically doubles your output. Part of the strategy to maximizing this is putting one or two doubles on your paradigm deck so you can keep pushing Ravager stagger building out or Commando damage. Also keep in mind that your meter normally fills while you're doing a Paradigm Shift, so using the first (full length per battle) shift after using your first bar is recommended. You basically want to shift as often as "breathing" and you'll be able to press an advantage.

2) Stagger Combo!

Once you get a monster into a stagger, you need to keep building up the number before the bar drains to multiply your damage as high as 10x for 999.0 Stagger Combo. You can no longer maintain stagger, instead you want to use abilities which build Combo fast. This is where Eidolons really come in handy. They're very good at getting Combo maxed out and then you have to make sure to use the Vehicle Mode with enough bar left to get a full 10x damage bonus off of it.

3) Buffs & Debuffs Matter. ALOT.

You also want to make sure to have buffs and debuffs on, as they actually are incredibly powerful, unlike most jrpgs, and you can use them on bosses, again unlike most jrpgs. You also want to figure out how stuff like Army of One actually works. You can do damage with it but it's really useful for capitalizing on a stagger state, though each character's special attack has it's own use. Army of One is good in the Staggered phase, and if you switch to Commando as it's starting you can add the Commando Damage Buff to all it's attacks. Quake can also help alot.

4) Auto-Attack is a tool and Attack should primarily be used to set up a Repeat command.

Basically Auto-Attack is good for throwing out something generic quickly since there is no wait command. This is good on your first turn or when you have a full meter and haven't figured out a good rhythm for the enemy type yet. You really only have about 5 or so attacks with elemental differences between the main ones, and then your special move, but you're not really going to be playing this like a normal FF game, your magic is there to make an enemy weak to normal attacks. Additionally, Libra abilities will make your Auto-Attack AND your allies pick better moves based on actual enemy weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It's one tool in your set, and it's every bit as important as the Attack/Repeat, Techniques, and Items menu items. Think of it like Dante's pistols. It's something good to throw out quick, but you don't want to rely on it or you won't really see much gains in Stagger or Combo building.

5) You really don't need to fight every monster.

The hallway is criticized for being a linear design in a JRPG but it has some more to it. You have level caps per chapter and bosses give you a ton of EXP, so why fight every enemy? When you know what you're doing (reasons 1-4 here) you can beat any boss by just weapon upgrades, accessory upgrades, and good tactics alone (It's a good idea to check a guide on the most efficient way to build weapons so you don't waste your materials and multipliers while building your gear up). Other than when they're guarding a chest, you can usually just sneak by using the radar or a shroud (These are hard to come by but are useful). I have alot of fun with the dodges in the first 10 chapters of the game because there's alot of nuance to pulling them off. It keeps the pace up when you're only fighting necessary battles or enemies that you've got the jump on intentionally, rather than doing the normal RPG thing of clearing out a floor before moving on.

The game's incredibly fast paced and has alot of depth to it that come from smart play and fast reactions and planning. It has a ton of depth and while they don't really tell you that stuff properly (at least until a later game) the existence of this stuff is why there are people like me who absolutely love the combat. It's there and when you read up on it you can get a ton out of this game. It's a style of combat that exists nowhere else and it's a shame because I'd love to see more games build off of this combat engine.

I joke that it's the DMC of turn based JRPG's but really it's not TOO dissimilar. (Think about watching Brad struggle through DMC1 and then Pat from 2BF blitz through it with high rankings effortlessly.) This game actually has a level of mastery that really turns it into a full on better experience and it's a shame they don't do enough to force players to learn what they're doing wrong. There's so much there and it took me 7 years to give the game another shot, but I'm glad I did and I'm glad I learned what I was doing when I did. It is probably the most fun I've had in a JRPG and sadly it's a type of twitch reaction fun I can't really replicate in menu based JRPG's outside of this specific sub-series.

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#37 Posted by faridmon (111 posts) -

Having played 13 when it came out (but not have completed), i honestly don't recall having much of a problem with its linearity. People tend to firget FF games have always been a corridor simulation, with 10 being the biggest offender, yet people have a hard on for just laying on thick when 13 comes around. Linearity wasn't even its top 10 fault of this game.

To a certain degree, I agree with the rest of your complaints. The story is utter nonsense, the dialogue made me want to gauge my eyes and the characters were both awfully designed and even worse developed. Having said, guess what, FF games' stories have always been bad, albeit their set-ups and closings have been epic-ally designed.

The problem with 13 is that the devs went way too ambitious with their visions. Keep in mind Square at the time wanted to create many spin offs that helped fledged the game's story and fill out the holes in 13's set-piece which didn't made sense. the world is ending? Well, a Movie was supposed to flash that. Versus was to explain some of the political's and world building, etc. That never came to fruition because of higher ups. I honestly applaud the dev in question for making this game and the blame should lie anywhere else.

Thats my 2 cents.

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#38 Edited by DrM2theJ (181 posts) -

I'm not going to defend Final Fantasy XIII, a game which I have a platinum trophy for.

Regardless, these two mechanics make grinding and winning easier! So, what's not to like? Well, there's an elephant in the room. The game's deeper mechanics do not reward you with cinematic battles or new ways to play. These mechanics speed up the process of completing the game. Utilizing a balanced party, complemented with stylish attacks, will save you time when you go toe to toe against a boss. Lamentably, there's nothing in the game to encourage you to play this way. If you do not value your time, you could finish Final Fantasy XIII using one Commando and two Medics. The game doesn't make ridiculous parties like these nonviable. Thus, it doesn't reward you for investing in its sub-systems.

Yeah, I mean, the "reward" for understanding the deeper mechanics is that defeating hard enemies takes less time. Now, whether that's a satisfying reward to you is subjective. But that's essentially it, yup.

That said, that depth to the combat system in Final Fantasy XIII is essentially not explained in any direct way. The reward for figuring it out (or, actually, reading up on it externally) is dramatically more efficient enemy encounters where you finish in a fraction of the time it otherwise would have taken. And don't take this as me complimenting the game--it is absurd how it gives you essentially zero indication of what the most effective paradigms and strategies are going to be.

So while it's true that there's "freedom" to choose whatever type of party for a lot of the pre-endgame stuff, the reality is that you're best off looking up what the best paradigms are online and then using those. Because it makes the endgame enemies go much faster. It doesn't trivialize the endgame bosses, but it does make them go a lot more smoothly.

I remember exactly the moment I hit this wall in FFXIII. It was that fight on the bridge against Barthandalus. It was ridiculously hard for me, so I went and read up on how to get good and that's when I realized that actually the only true enemy in this game is the almost completely unexplained combat system and gameplay mechanics.

As for why I have a platinum trophy, it turns out that once I found out that stuff, a lot of the combat came down to finesse--paradigm shifting at exactly the right moment, setting up the perfect launches, shit like that--which I actually found fun. Hence actually going through the entirety of the Gran Pulse post-game stuff.

It's not even a skill or practice thing, really. It was just timing and enjoying playing a game as a ridiculously overpowered superhero, basically. Oh, and it was pretty cool looking at the time.

I personally think it would be fun to read what you think of XIII-2 given all this. I enjoyed the gameplay in that game, and I enjoyed how it did the classic "time travel retcon" routine. The story is atrocious, though. Like, even worse than FFXIII. So maybe it's worth seeing for that.

Still don't have the platinum for that game. Probably never will. Oh well!

(Oh yeah and then there's Lightning Returns which I didn't even finish... it has some interesting stuff in it too, though!)

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#39 Edited by BioSpock (63 posts) -

I'm just going to put it out there that XIII-2 is a top 5 Final Fantasy game. And Lightning Returns, despite mostly a huge mess story wise, it really interesting tonally and has great gameplay.

So yes, there are sequels. And Final Fantasy isn't dead.

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#40 Posted by Murdoku (23 posts) -

If i write one of these about Saints Row can i also get the front page ?

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#41 Posted by Onemanarmyy (3967 posts) -

@jackelbeaver: This is a quality post that reminds me why i kept playing this game despite the narrrative failings.

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#42 Posted by TheRealTurk (364 posts) -

@zombiepie

Final Fantasy XIII marked the point where Final Fantasy - The Brand began actively interfering with the quality of Final Fantasy - The Game. The release of a new Final Fantasy has always seen a massive amount of hype and marketing blitz, particularly in Japan, but XIII was the first time I remember it feeling like all the tie-ins were overwhelming the core product. This is really true of FFXV. That game could have been really good if they hadn't buried critical character and plot points in various comic books and OVAs to the extent that the actual plot in the shipped game was more or less incomprehensible.

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