Final Fantasy XIII is exhausting.
This is due in no small part to it being available only in Japanese for the time being, of course. The breakneck pace of combat (you can just forget about the possibility of the old Wait mode of former iterations of ATB or, god forbid, actual turn-based combat) means my slow-as-Christmas Japanese literacy turns each battle into a fatiguing experience. Things are happening at a rapid real-time clip whether or not my brain is up to the task of parsing them in at real-time speeds. And then I keep getting distracted by dumb things, like the way the game’s Enhancer skill set (a combination Green Mage/Time Mage who dishes out buffs) all comes from Final Fantasy Tactics terminology, with spells like Brave, Faith, and Guts. And then I start thinking about how rad it would have been if Matsuno had directed this game. And, well, it all goes downhill from there.
But FFXIII is also exhausting because the whole game is paced exactly the same as its battle system. It just won’t let up! Its linearity has been decried far and wide, mostly (I’m guessing) by people who haven’t been playing a lot of Japanese RPGs these past, I dunno, 20 years or so and never got the memo that a significant percentage of the nation’s role-playing output is basically an amusement park ride in which the director plants his hand firmly on the small of your back and shoves you through a whimsical adventure at high speeds. A lot like America’s post-Half-Life first-person shooters, in point of fact. The main difference between FFXIII and, say, Shadow Hearts: Covenant is that you don’t have to solve any stupid puzzles along the way. (Final Fantasy got those out of its system with Final Fantasy X, which of course is the game that Covenant was shamelessly aping. God, it’s all so incestuous.) Which isn’t too say I’m entirely crazy about the tube-and-tunnel approach to RPG design of FFXIII and many, many of its kin — I prefer taking my time, thanks. “Taking your time” in FFXIII means doubling back along the path you’ve been traveling for the past x hours to fight the same enemy mobs you just beat at the exact same spawn points they previously appeared at.
This combination of Japanese text and Japanese structure fully account for my weariness with the game. I normally make it 20 hours into each Final Fantasy import before feeling satisfied that I’ve seen enough to tide me over until the U.S. version arrives, but my mixed feelings about FFXIII — I love many parts of it, but really wish I could play it my way instead of in the manner predetermined by Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama — are compelling me to throw in my hat at only half that distance into the game. (That the U.S. version hits in two months does make this an easier decision to settle on, I have to admit.) In the meantime, I’m getting a placebo fix by revisiting an old favorite on PSP: Final Fantasy VIII.
I wasn’t entirely certain I’d enjoy FFVIII ten years on. I was kind of amazed by it back in 1999, but I admit that much of that amazement probably stemmed from the times and circumstances and novelty of it all. It was the first text-heavy RPG I tackled as an import, which is to say that I thought it was so fantastic-looking that I imported both the demo and the full Japanese release. The hype for the game coincided with the heyday of the GIA, which was run by fellow shameless FFVIII mark Andrew Vestal and thus devoted ridiculous attention to every scrap of FFVIII news to trickle out of both Japan and Square EA. The game was a landmark visual achievement, and it cast aside countless hoary RPG clichés in favor of a wholly reconsidered slate of mechanics that actually made sense within the fictive context of the game’s world. Inasmuch as transforming a monster into a trading card and transmuting that card into magic spells could make sense, I suppose. FFVIII was a daring attempt to redefine how the RPG works — not unlike FFXIII is doing, a decade later.
And much like its successor, it annoyed a lot of people. That annoyance, it should be said, stemmed from reasonable places. FFVIII is burdened with a large number of concepts that just didn’t pan out like they were supposed to. It’s hampered by technology, with atrocious load times that make the frequent random encounters hair-pullingly slow. The Junction system reduces the cast to even bigger mechanical ciphers than the cast of Final Fantasy VII; with their combat skills being almost completely mutable and instantly interchangeable, they are defined almost entirely through their personalities. Which, sadly, are lacking. I tend to be less forgiving of such things now, so I booted up FFVIII on PSP last week with some trepidation.
Much to my surprise, I’m ten hours into the adventure, and I’m still loving the game. I have a feeling I’m in the minority with this, though. I fully intend to inflict my opinions upon you all… but right now, I’m at the threshold of Galbadia Garden, and if memory serves I have some hockey players to beat the crap out of shortly. Priorities, man, priorities.
21 thoughts on “Balamb’s talking ass, part 1”
Maybe it’s a good thing you stopped playing FF XIII. With the way games are these days you probably would have finished the game within the next few hours of play time.
I’m a bit bummed out that the linearity still remains after 10 hours but if the combat is as fun and frantic as I imagine I could see it as a sort of Bayonetta/God of War action game with menus.
“a significant percentage of the nation’s role-playing output is basically an amusement park ride in which the director plants his hand firmly on the small of your back and shoves you through a whimsical adventure at high speeds.”
Hey, just because I’m used to it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Also, what puzzles are you thinking of in Covenant? I mean, yeah, there’s Roger’s Magic Cube Fun Basement, but otherwise things tend to be pretty reasonably straight-forward from what I recall.
I missed out on every Final Fantasy game after Final Fantasy II (or IV, or whatever the hell you want to call it) but jumped back into the series with VIII. I also missed the FF VII hype-train entirely, so I was able to enjoy VIII on it’s own merits. Am I crazy, or did the game have you download your first Guardian from the school’s computer at the beginning of the game? I always thought that was a cool bit of world-building.
(I eventually got stuck at a save deep beneath the sea where I was trying to lure a Guardian to my party, but by the time I got to the Guardian fight I’d used up most of my magic/healing spells and items, making that boss battle near-impossible for me to win. I didn’t want to crawl all the way back to the surface without the Guardian in hand, and so the game wound up collecting dust on my shelf forvever afterwards.)
Christ, I feel like I’m at a Final Fantasy VIII-oriented therapy session now.
I still don’t get how you can knock a game wherein the protagonist says to Grigori Rasputin “bite me.” and his response is “No, it is you who will bite me!”
“…with their combat skills being almost completely mutable and instantly interchangeable…”
I-I must sort of rebut this! I always felt that because Limit breaks were so readily accessible, a lot of combat strategy could really hinge on them, giving each character a lot more individual weight. Mechanically, at least.
I mean, one could totally argue that that’s just another example of the game being horribly broken, but it made for something to consider when composing your party. If you ever really considered that sort of stuff.
While I don’t hate any Final Fantasy other than II, VIII is definitely toward the bottom in my heart. Much like Vagrant Story, I admire and respect what it did but never got the hang of the battle/leveling systems and didn’t enjoy much else about the experience.
It’s maybe worth noting that I also don’t like but admire/respect Chrono Cross, so I guess I’ve got the triple crown of anti-Parish-RPG-taste. Too bad I’ve never played Suikoden II…
“I eventually got stuck at a save deep beneath the sea where I was trying to lure a Guardian to my party, but by the time I got to the Guardian fight I’d used up most of my magic/healing spells and items, making that boss battle near-impossible for me to win. I didn’t want to crawl all the way back to the surface without the Guardian in hand, and so the game wound up collecting dust on my shelf forvever afterwards.”
Diablo’s No Encounter ability. Look into it. Honestly, I don’t think I ever went into the Deep Sea Research Facility without it equipped. I don’t even know what the enemies in there look like.
Personally, I love FFVIII. Once you completely ditch the Summons and rely almost entirely on Junctioned magic and Command abilities, the game easily becomes that snappiest and fastest of the Playstation Final Fantasy’s. Also, the Ability system is easily my favorite version, and the fact that X-2 uses it as well bumped that game up a few notches in my book.
Yeah, I couldn’t resist picking FF VIII up too. Still so good.
If Square had just included a “skip cutscene” button this would be the best Final Fantasy in 3D.
FF8 is one of those games that’ll lead to mammoth conversations/posts if you let it. If I were to keep it short though, I’d at least like to praise it for having both the best soundtrack and best endgame of the series.
“If Square had just included a “skip cutscene” button this would be the best Final Fantasy in 3D.”
With that and No Encounter… a FF with no cutscenes and no random battles. Just wandering around playing cards, turning the cards into magic spells, equipping the spells to boost stats, and then slaughtering bosses. The best 3d FF for sure.
FFVII might be my favorite entry in the series. As much as some of the characters lack personality (looking at you, Quistis) and as much as the game’s battle system makes them all undifferentiated blank slates, this helped make the game even more appealing to me. Think about it, if I don’t like say, Zell, I can metaphorically ban him from my party, never have to see him, and have pretty much no repercussion for doing so. It’s not like he’s the only thief-class character and I can therefore never steal in battle without him in my party (unlike say, FF6 forcing you to make use of certain characters for certain tasks).
“If I were to keep it short though, I’d at least like to praise it for having both the best soundtrack and best endgame of the series.”
I do like FF8 a lot, but best soundtrack??? The soundtrack is very good, of course, but it’s not even as good as FF7’s, nor is it up to the level of FF6 or FF9.
Also, addressing the Deep Sea Research facility: No Encounters doesn’t work there. It’s pretty much the one place in the game where there are fixed enemy encounters. To get to the bottom, you are required to fight many, many Tri-Faces. Which meant I never got to the bottom.
Stupid Deep Sea Research facility.
I still have my original PS1 memory card where I’m stuck at the bottom of that joint – I guess it’s too much to ask to assume that the PSN version of the game would work with an imported, old-school PS1 save file, eh?
“I always felt that because Limit breaks were so readily accessible, a lot of combat strategy could really hinge on them, giving each character a lot more individual weight. Mechanically, at least.” This would be true if some Limit Breaks weren’t so overpowered or easy to use (Renzokuken-LionHeart, Invincible Moon, Armor/Hyper Shot) compared to others (Slot, Duel).
Speaking of Limit Breaks, I had a friend who never used Aura because he didn’t like how it made it so the Limit Breaks wouldn’t do maximum damage. I always thought it was a silly hang-up of his because I felt the Aura Breaks were definitely worth it since they still did lots of damage and you didn’t have to risk being in critical HP status to use them.
“unlike say, FF6 forcing you to make use of certain characters for certain tasks” Yes, but the character in FF6 were actually interesting.
“I guess it’s too much to ask to assume that the PSN version of the game would work with an imported, old-school PS1 save file, eh?”
Actually, I’m pretty sure it will. If you have the PS3 card reader adapter, you can import PS1 and PS2 saves to virtual PS3 memory cards. And I’m pretty sure that if you play a PSN PS1 game on PS3, you use those same virtual memory cards. I may have just saved your Christmas, Bill.
“The Toastyfrog That Saved Christmas” – I can imagine the Rankin Bass special hosted by Chris Kohler.
(Also, now I have an excuse to find a PS3 card adapter. It’s gonna be nuts if this ends with me firing up a 10 year-old PS1 game save to a game I would’ve entirely forgotten about if it weren’t for this Gamespite entry.)
This certainly makes me interested in trying FF8 out in a new way.
Actually! Duel has highest potential damage of all the limit breaks. With a bit of memorization, you cycle between the first two inputs of his limit break which can each be entered in, like, .1 of a second. It’s pretty ridiculous and not all that hard. Just… Just not really fun I guess.
Useless game fact of the day.
I have to disagree about FFVIII’s characters being even less important than FFVII’s because of the Junction system. At worst, they’re the same (both differ only in limit breaks and properties like long range and inherent accuracy). The difference in my mind is that FFVIII actually incentivizes building characters (a bit), while FFVII makes doing this actively counterproductive. I usually play FFVIII by having all six characters have permanent GF junctions, which serves both to increase compatibility (not that I summon a lot, but meh) and to just make the game more interesting. And since GF’s split XP, in the long run it makes no difference, whereas materia on unused characters may as well not exist.
I was getting bored with FF8 midway through, traveling through some wasteland, but then I found that futuristic city and my interest was renewed. In that game I just did the thing where you time the button presses with Squalls gunsword and half the enemies died. I didn’t use much strategy in that game. Are the load times negated at all by the PSP, or are they hard-coded into the game for timing purposes?
Comments are closed.