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Re: Final Fantasy Megathread
Old 06-24-2020, 09:53 AM   #241
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Default Re: Final Fantasy Megathread

Something interesting about X this go around is that while I have been enticed into doing some of the extra sidequest content for most of these games, that was not true for X. I love the story, the characters, the battle system. I even enjoy the Sphere Grid. But everything outside of that primary story experience and gameplay trail just is not fun or interesting or rewarding.

One major part of the problem is there isn't a lot of incentive to explore. Getting around the world is a pain due to the way it is designed. With no sense of overworld and everything being a straight line, more or less, from beginning to end it makes travelling backwards much more trouble than previous games. The story as well disincentivizes this by having a clear goal and the only way to get there is to constantly move forward. This works great when experiencing the main story itself, but to break off and do anything extra it feels like you have to rebel against the world a little more than in other games. And, of course, you don't get an airship (which in this game just functions as a set of warp points) until just before the final dungeon. This timing wouldn't be a problem itself as you don't an airship until near the end in most FF games, but this is really only method you have to go back to previous areas without spending hours walking down a single path fighting random battles (and then again going back).

Maybe this would be fine except all or most of the side activities are terrible and the objectives needed in order to get the legendary weapons are insane. The lightning "game" is the prime example. There's nothing to really figure out. Its not particularly a test of skill. There is no entertainment factor to it. It is a test only of your patience.

Comparatively, XII takes a much nicer approach to side activities, primarily hunts. Not only are they fun and interesting to battle these monsters, but traveling is so much easier. From nearly the beginning of the game you have access to warp points to easily get to different places. The world is also designed around a single city, Rabanastre, as kind of a central hub so even without the warp points its not too difficult to walk from place to place, particularly considering you can avoid enemies if you choose.

*****

On a separate point, I don't know if I ever really noticed just how big of a leap visually the series went from X to XII. I mean, I knew XII looked better as to be expected comparing an early console lifecycle game to a late lifecycle game, but still, wow. I'm playing the HD rereleases of each game and the improvement in character animations is really astounding. Facial animations particularly stands out. X was obviously trying to animate the 3D face models for facial expressions. I think XII might be be using subtle texture changes to simulate expressions? Either way, it allows for surprisingly nuanced performances from the character models.

I'm also generally a defender of the voice acting in X as the issues mainly stem from sound design and localization issues rather than the acting itself, but without those sound design and localization issues, there's not doubt that the performances in XII are allowed to stand out as a much more positive aspect of the game's story in XII.

*****

So far I still probably overall prefer X to XII based on the story and characters; I'm also more a fan of the turn based battle system to XII's Gambit system, but there's no denying XII was a big leap for the series in multiple ways.
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Re: Final Fantasy Megathread
Old 06-29-2020, 12:00 PM   #242
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Default Re: Final Fantasy Megathread

Final Fantasy XII tries really hard to have a more grounded story than prior FF games. It is Final Fantasy through a A Song of Ice and Fire lens. The main events of the story of this game occur without our party's involvement, really. Our characters spend the whole game just trying to buy-in to the game of thrones and don't really accomplish much; what little they do is almost immediately taken away in most circumstances. It is a bold move and could have paid off really well, but unfortunately the game is clearly uncomfortable exploring this narrative space and falls apart as you look closer.

The characters are bland. Balthier has charisma and maybe Vaan you could say has a personality, but everyone else are very unremarkable. Either they have no interesting features, like Penelo, or they have their one scene and then fade into the background causing the player to question what purpose they really serve in the story other than placeholder, like Basch. Even our villain is only remarkable for how bland and uninteresting he is. Vayne is set up as maybe being just a politician playing the game (seemingly successfully), but it falters in finding a place for him in our characters' stories. For a story like this to work - a story where our main party is only a bit player in the grand scheme of things - it has to be focused on characters and it has be focused on character based goals and this game just does not rise to that. Look to almost any other post NES Final Fantasy game and you'll find better character work than Final Fantasy XII.

The game almost seems to realize this as when it tries to find some sort of satisfying conclusion it falls back on the typical Final Fantasy end-of-the-world-our-characters-are-gods scenario. All of the sudden our seemingly cool-headed, politically minded (if ruthless) villain is a megalomaniacal supervillain with otherworldly powers and deific support. Suddenly our party is the sole hope for saving Ivalice in an epic battle that transcends reality.

The saving grace of Final Fantasy XII is that it does provide a more fully realized world to play in than prior games and is much more interesting to explore and complete side objectives than the prior single player effort: FFX. The Gambit system is more interesting to fiddle about with now that I'm older and have just a smidge of programming knowledge. The Zodiac job system introduced in the more recent re-release is fun. I especially like you can re-spec without issue freeing the player up from analysis paralysis and just letting you fiddle about without concern of wasting hours of playtime. It is really fun to play, but the narrative behind it falls short of just about every other FF game.

I've started FFXIII just yesterday and the contrast between these games is, of course, immediately apparent. It is the first time I played FFXIII since the first time I played FFXIII, so I'm interested in revisiting it, but I also recall not liking it very much at all. We'll see how it goes.
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Re: Final Fantasy Megathread
Old 07-06-2020, 05:55 PM   #243
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Default Re: Final Fantasy Megathread

Not done with XIII, but I think I'm close. I did not enjoy XIII the first and most recent time I played it back in 2010 (which kicked off the marathon back in the day). Now most of way through it again I still don't think I particularly enjoy it, but maybe I "don't enjoy it" a little less than I did back then.

The weird thing about FFXIII is that it yearns to be an action game and kind of feels like they made an action game, realized that Final Fantasy's are meant to be RPGs, and threw on an RPG skin over the action game. Combat is ostensibly turn based, but it actually flows like an action game. This creates some dynamic battles visually, but comes off really weird from a gameplay perspective. Big example is when your party leader dies it is game over. Anyone else dies they can revived via Phoenix Down or magic like every other game, but if the party leader dies it is done. This makes no sense from a storytelling perspective or an RPG perspective. The party leader can be anybody and is as your work your way through the story. There's no particular narrative reason why when Hope takes over for 5 minutes Lightning can't toss a Phoenix Down at him if he falls like she could when she was party leader two screens back. Gameplay wise, it really only makes sense from an action game perspective. jRPGs we're used to being able to revive anyone who dies (or is "knocked out" or whatever) in battle through magic or items or whatever. In an action game, though, if your main (and generally, only) character dies that is it.

Of course, there is also the oft discussed linearity of the game. Inevitably brought up in those conversations is, of course, that Final Fantasy games in general tend to be actually linear when you break it down. Without going down the rabbit hole of what "linearity" actually means, I think honestly the main issue with FFXIII is pacing more than linearity. It is just battle after battle after battle. There are little to no breaks or variety. And the battles blend together. There are some interesting ideas in the Paradigm system and honestly I've had fun with it. But when you get past 20 hours of doing the same thing over and over and over again it starts to get really stale. Action games can be non-stop action because they also tend to be short. In remembering this is meant to be an RPG, SE designed this game to be at least a couple of dozen hours if not more.

From a storytelling perspective I think I'm more engaged than I was last time. That's really what is keeping me pushing through is the story. I don't love it, but I am interested in experiencing it again with a slightly more positive outlook on it. That said, there are definitely some points in the game where it is narratively dishonest which is very frustrating and also a little sloppy in revealing some details. But, overall, I think I dig the cast more than I did originally and am invested in re-experiencing how it ends (which I'm not sure i particularly remember).

I hope to be done with it this week. I'll jump back into XIV for a bit to go through the (I think) 5.25 content I haven't got to yet in preparation for the delayed 5.3 content. May fiddle about and level my dragoon maybe, dunno. After that XV. I bought the Windows Edition that comes with all the fixins, so I plan to do that and watch the movie and stuff beforehand as well. See if that improves my perception of the story at all.
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