Sunday, 9 June 2013

Talking about Final Fantasy

Laguna was always the coolest part of Final Fantasy VIII. I mean, okay, he dumped Squall in an orphanage, but come on, Squall was always on a mood killing downer! I mean, remember when they thought Seifer was dead, and everyone's like "Sure, he was bad, but he was one of us..." and Squall is thinking to himself "Man, I wonder if this is how they'll talk about me when I'm dead....blah blah blah me me me" and then throws a hissy fit and runs away into Galbadia Garden....just one example of about a million that justify Laguna running off to be president of the most advanced and hidden society in the FF8 world!

Iono about you, but I was kinda hoping that Squall was lost in the time compression at the end of the game, stupid Rinoa, why'd you save him? I suppose she did kinda owe him one after the whole space/Adel (, Ultimecia was possessing Adel...who then possessed Rinoa....I...possessionception! must go deeper!) thing....okay, I'll give her that one. Besides, don't want his father Laguna, President of Esthar, the worlds most powerful country, and his sister Ellone, the worlds most powerful can-make-a-person-travel-back-in-time-and-live-out-their-ancestors-life-amancer (a living breathing animus?) after you knowing that you could have saved their Squall..

So yeah, I haven't ever really talked about Final Fantasy here, or anywhere, for a good long time...mostly because there hasn't been a good Final Fantasy since what, 2001? (Fuck you XI, XII, XIII, XIII-2, VIV and the soon to be released but no doubt spectacularly crap XIII-3...yeah, because that's what people want, a second sequel to the worst single player final fantasy of all time....well, except for FFV...which I'll get onto shortly) That was when Final Fantasy X came out, which, to this day, is still the only video game that has ever made me cry. (I'm not going to spoil it for you, go get the game, play it through and tell me that the end does not make you leak some liquid pride...if it doesn't, well then, you've just got no soul whatsoever) So, yeah, for that reason it's hard to talk about the newer ones because it basically degenerates into "holy fucking zombie christ! these games are terrible!" because they are, they've gone from titles centred around story telling to ones of "ooh! pretty lights! OOH PRETTIER LIGHTS!" basically, titles focused purely on graphical powers and little else, very much style over substance (though that said, they don't really have all that much style either).

So, old FF games are where it is at! My favourite? Well, and I might get some flack for this...but it has to be IX....I like it! My favourite parts in FF games were the parts where there was darkness, but it was over-masked with hope and happiness. For example, the train scenes in FF8 with Selphie, you ever look at those scenes properly? She's singing a song about how much she likes trains and how she's hoping they'll take her away and she can spend her life living on trains. It's a really happy, go-lucky kind of scene, because Selphie is the proto-typical manic pixie girl...and then you realise she wants to spend her life on trains so she can keep on moving away from her half remembered (because of those damn GFs) past in Edea's orphanage. All the characters in FF8 are like that, but it's only Selphie who overcomes it with cheerfulness. Squall becomes a stoic, Zell becomes neurotically defensive, Quistis becomes a bitch, Seifer becomes an angry man, the only other case that could be made would be for Irvine and Ellone, but even they just become detached. Selphie has a dark childhood and overcomes it by by being carefree. But that is just a part in FF8, in FF9 it is basically the entire theme. Zidane is searching for a way to find his real home, but he realises, even before the game begins, that home is where you make it, and bad things can happen to a person, but there's no reason to ever really let it get to you. The past has already happened and can't be changed, all you can do is try and make it a better future. And he does this all throughout the game. Look at when Blank sacrifices himself to save Zidane. The others want to go back in and try to save him, Zidane acknowledges nothing can be done at this point, and that going back would only end up nullifying that sacrifice, but also that he's sure there's a way to save Blank somewhere out there. It's that looking forward, instead of back, that I really admire about the game. The desire to accept the past and not let it break you down, because hey, you'll be spending most of your life in the future right?

My favourite used to be VII though, because it was the first Final Fantasy that I played, and you know what they say about first loves and all that...but yeah, I love that game, as my memory cards full of saves *just of that game* will testify to...because I don't know, it was the first RPG that I ever played, before then I'd only played platformers, or fighting games or puzzle games, games that were you know, you pick up a pad, play for a couple of hours and then you bugger off and go do something else. VII was the first game that had another "world" to explore in it. There was more to do other than go from point a to point b whilst collecting rings or coins, or screaming fatality whilst ripping out johnny cage's spine (yeah, my mum and step dad used to watch me play this, and laugh at the violence, and encourage more...I think I was six at the time....I always wanted to play Disney games, but they were like "no! you're playing mortal kombat!"...seriously...probably why I've never really been much of an MK fan). There were stories to be experienced, and secrets to be found and it was just a ridiculously rewarding adventure. And it is a cliché to say that FFVII is what got me into RPGs, but it is, and from there I went on to play all the FFs up to that point, and all of them afterwards...but the three that I just couldn't stand (the mmos aside, which I don't consider real final fantasys) are V, XII and XIII (and its sequels).

FFV, for me, was just boring. I realise that this is probably going to be the most subjective answer I'll be giving here.  It was boring and I wanted to punch the main character so bad and I don't even know why. It should've been great, it even had pirates in it! But it just wasn't, it was just a bland, by the numbers adventure and it bored the living crap out of me. I've never been able to get past the first couple of hours playing it without wanting to eat my own eyeballs out of boredom. I put it in my list of worst final fantasy's because I even cared more about the story in XIII than I did for FFVs...and that's fucking incredible, you know?

FFXII....I....hate....Ivalice....for those of you who don't know, originally Ivalice was a fucking cool setting. It was the location for both the original Final Fantasy Tactics and also one of Square's greatest titles, Vagrant Story, and originally, Ivalice was a pretty grim-dark place, full of political intrigue and was very renaissance Europe-y, but with magic instead of technology. There were all powerful churches, there were regicides and political assassinations, there were very interesting grey aligned characters who were neither all that good or all that evil either...that changed, I think originally with the release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on the Gameboy advance, where Ivalice became the middle east as imagined by Disney, i.e. it was full of cutesy animal-people, the political intrigue was gone, all the shades of grey morality were gone, the church was still around, but its sole function was to "judge" people, nothing deeper. It was the grossest bastardisation of a universe since Lucas decided that "you know what people really want? Fucking Phantom Menace!" and now that I think about it...that's actually probably where the desire to change Ivalice sprung from (it came out a couple of years after phantom menace). So anyway, Final Fantasy XII kept this new, bastardised version of the once great and interesting Ivalice and did fuck all to improve upon it (oh, actually, side-note, the GBA version turned out to be a kids dream, so, can be excused i suppose...however, the sequel and FF12 never contained that framing device, and the designer Nomura (not the original designer btw) has said that it's actually canon now, i.e. the real thing...fucking....yeah). And then, to compound the issue, and to allow the fight scenes to be more spectacular (it didn't really work out all that well) they took away control of the other members in your party. Yep, they fought by themselves. Sure, you could give them basic commands like "use a healing potion at 50% life" or whatever, outside of battle...but here's the thing, they came up with the idea to do so after Kingdom Hearts came out. And Kingdom Hearts did it right, their fights were manic, over the top affairs, with lots of movement, lots of action, so it made sense to relegate goofy and donald (or the disney character helping you at the time) to AI FFXII, the fights were slow and stolid, and the AI controlling your party was fucking dumber than a fox in a barrel of sardines. And the characters were laughably shit and uninteresting. The "main" character, Ashe, was basically Aladdin but without the wit, style or amusing monkey sidekick. He had all the personality of a sponge left out in the sun too long. And the entire cast were like that, with the possible exception of Balthier, who was pretty fucking pimp, I'll give them that one, but even then he was only pimp in relation to the other characters. In most other FF games, he wouldn't even be in the top 10 characters of that game.

Final Fantasy XIII...where to begin with this terrible piece of flaming shit...well, lets start off with the story because...there isn't one, well no, that's not entirely true, there is, but it is a short one and it is stretched far beyond breaking point. It's a one and a half, two hour at most movie plot that's been made to last for...I don't know. I stopped playing after the first disc because I'd spent eight hours playing and not a damned thing had happened worth mentioning...there wasn't even any dramatic hooks to keep you in there, you know, no mystery to keep you playing. Honestly, the first disc, the entire disc, felt like a bloody tutorial, and the second disc started off that way, so I just put it to one side, said "fuck it, you know, I got more entertaining shit to do" and then I went and watched the paint dry that I'd put on the grass growing in the yard. Then there were the characters, how Ali Hillis gets work is beyond me because she is the aural equivalent of kristen stewart's face...she can not alter her voice to display emotion and I get that that's meant to be Lightning's whole spiel, that she is an emotionally dead soldier, but then there's scenes where the action takes place before she's dead inside, and scenes where it's meant to show her ice heart melting, and Hillis just fucks it up, portraying it as emotionally dead as ever. You could argue that she or the director just messed up, but no, go play Mass Effect, she's the exact same way with Liara, as monotone, as void of nuance and expression as an air raid siren, just carrying on with the same tone and pitch no matter what's taking place, mistaking volume for variety....and that's one character...all the characters are like that. All incredibly limited performers who're just putting very little effort into the work, just happy to pick up the paycheck at the end of the day. Ok, so terrible story, terrible voice actors, at least the game play might save it? right? wrong. they kept the worst part of the preceding Final Fantasy which was the automated battle, but, in a twist, automated them even more! So now, you're in control of the character even less! Just what people wanted! Which is why they made a sequel! And a sequel to that! Because Square-Enix has not a solitary clue of what the fuck to do anymore! Like, have you seen what they're doing with the Deus Ex franchise? iOs games yaaay! and Legacy of Kain....multi-player title! with confirmed stripped down story and puzzle elements! woo hoo! What's really bad about it though is that their fans are vocal, very much so, and yet they deliberately antagonise them, releasing shit they don't want, or shit they do but "modernised" or "changed to fit a wider audience". It doesn't make sense to shaft your old and loyal customers to chase new ones, if you're going to change aspects of a world you do it over time, you don't burn your bridge whilst you're still on it. Anyway, whatever, moving on

Actually, before we do I've got to give a special mention to FFX-2....I actually liked this game. It wasn't a traditional final fantasy, by any means, but the characters were fun, the game style was fun, the story was amusing, and it had freaking dance numbers, whats not to like?! The ending....I mentioned before how FFX is the only game that has ever made me cry, properly, with real emotion...well, if you 100% X-2, it completely destroys the reason for the FFX ending and all its feels. Again, I won't spoil it, but if you do go and take my advice and play FFX to experience the ending, stop there, don't pick up X-2, and certainly don't play it enough to see the real ending, it just ruins the whole thing.

So originally, this was just going to be a link to that black mages song and a quip about how awesome laguna is....instead I've basically wrote an essay about how much I love Final Fantasy (and hate some of it too, lets be fair)...and that's cool, the lesson to take away from this I think is the lesson from FF9, you can't change what has been done, but you can change what you are going to do about, I really wish I hadn't said such a corny comment, but there it is, it's been done, and it's not like I can go back and delete it...well I could at this point, but nope, I'm too far gone now, it'll have to stay...anyway, I could stay and write more about final fantasy (i didn't even talk about the mmos and why they're all kinds of wrong!)...but honestly, I don't think I should have wrote this, the time its take and I don't really have the time to be wasting, but then time is fun to waste :D anyway...back to real work!

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