Posted by meronpan on April 10, 2010
If you really enjoyed FFXIII, this is probably not a post that’ll sit well with you. I pass no judgment if you thought it was great… in fact I’d be a little envious since I have been playing the series for so long and am sad that this installment failed to match up to my expectations. If you’d like to commiserate on how FFXIII fell short of glory, well, let’s get started… (major spoilers!)
A little bit on where I’m coming from… My first Final Fantasy experience was with the english release on NES. My uncle had it and until I was able to get my own copy, I poured over the Nintendo Power strategy guide, taking in every last detail of the adventures of BORS, TOTH, JED and LEE.
Since then I’ve partaken in as much Final Fantasy as I could get my hands on… FFIV (II) was amazing, FFVI (III) perhaps had too many characters for my liking, but a memorable and great experience. For IIj, IIIj and V I tried out fan translations, then also played the official english releases when they came out. I must’ve put in over 300 hours in VII, mindlessly conquering weapons or acquiring golden chocobos… on multiple occasions… ^^;;;
VIII and IX had their own charm, X sat well with me. X-2 reeked of fan service from the get go and fulfilled my expectations ^^; I played XI for awhile before I became addicted to wow. XII I’m not sure because I played the japanese release and the story was a bit complicated for my reading comprehension at the time. :P
So that brings us to XIII… I wanted to run down the list of Final Fantasies over the years because, well, XIII ranks in as my least favorite Final Fantasy of all time. Where to begin…
This can easily make or break any game I play, but for a final fantasy, it’s particularly important. Why? Because personally, JRPGs are nothing if not a story with some gameplay thrown on top. Unlike western RPGs where you shape the character’s personality and actions, in JRPGs you’re generally being told a story – when you get control of a character you are simply seeing the narrative from that character’s point of view. You’re not making any big decisions that shape the character’s motives or personality.
XIII was unable to engage me with its characters nor its plot. Names didn’t help… Lightning? Hope? Snow? Definitely got me off on the wrong foot. Trying to ignore names I actually was initially able to interest myself in Lightning… stoic, ruthless, cares for her sister. Not really original, but nothing is original nowadays so that was fine. But then she starts getting all concerned for Hope. I just couldn’t buy it. Her whole change of heart and failure to make Hope confront his idiotic need for vengeance just seemed stupid.
Gah, and Hope! He’s such a little bitch. He was being taken away to be exterminated by the government, his mom tries to fight to protect him, government ship blasts the shit out of her and snow, snow tries to save her but can’t. Who does he get mad at? Oh, snow of course! Brilliant! … … -_- His dumb operation nora, his dumb feelings, his dumb weakness… yeah he’s a kid but that didn’t make him any less annoying. I think I ended up cringing every time he opened his mouth to speak.
Didn’t think it could get worse, but the insanely cheesy use of his name with Lightning’s monologue… talking to Hope… about hope? Seriously? Not one translator raised their hand and said, “Are you insane, this sounds horrible!”? I pray that at least in the Japanese release she said, 希望 (kibou == hope).
The conflicts the characters go through made sense… a whole world against you, your life ticking away, feelings of despair… but the whole thing with eidolons appearing every time you wavered? I’m sorry, but it gets old pretty quick seeing each and every character go through the exact same emotional swing and have the exact same outcome. Get sad, defeat a monster, OK, ready to go!
To make things worse that whole theme repeats itself ad nauseam even outside the whole eidolon thing. omg, what do we do? I give up. No wait, we have to keep going! As long as we fight true to our hearts! … … over and over and over again. -_- Somehow they managed to make me completely jaded to the characters’ plights. Eventually everyone just feels bipolar. orz we’re doomed one minute and fight no matter the cost, save cocoon! the next.
So many nice plot hooks that I feel they just didn’t execute well. They should’ve kept Hope’s mother in the party for a lot longer. Like at least a quarter of the game or something – make the player care about her. Maybe then Hope losing his mind and acting like an idiot would be more acceptable when she died (though while we’re at it, it would be a lot better to rewrite him to make sense :P). But no, she dies minutes after we’re introduced to her… opportunity wasted.
Likewise with the whole Pulse excursion. The party gets back to a world that Vanielle and Fang haven’t seen for hundreds of years, another home of Fal’cie… yet do you uncover anything interesting about the Fal’cie or lore in general? No! You arrive at a creepy city that’s been abandoned for who knows how many years simply to hop on a ship right back to cocoon. No cool reveal or anything. Old fal’cie man appears and tells you he’s gonna screw cocoon with your help or not, but what else is new? orz
Blegh and the ending. You return to cocoon to stop the cavalry from killing orphan… but it turns out they were never gonna be able to do that anyway. So instead the party pushes forward… and kills orphan themselves! Oh wait, isn’t that what old fal’cie man wanted? o.O Basically the moral is… never think things through, and leave everything to fate. Yay. There was absolutely no prior plot development to indicate that Fang/Vanielle would have any control of themselves when they turned into Ragnarok. Pretty damn lucky if you ask me. …and Lightning and company didn’t even seem to have any idea that that was their plan… so what were *they* gonna do to save cocoon from falling to its doom?! -_-
Top things off with everyone being released from crystal… except fang and vanielle?! oh how convenient. Now we can feel sad for our lost heroines. Except I have no feelings for those characters. So instead it’s just dumb.
Also, can anyone explain to me how cocoon was saved? You’ve got a world that’s prejudiced against Pulse that is now without power/food/light (or at least, I thought that’s what we we learned about the cocoon fal’cie)… and their only alternative is to go down to Pulse. Which is full of dreadful monsters. And other fal’cie. Sooooo… how is that good? Ok, maybe better than the previous fal’cie rule, but… just say’in.
Oh, and can anyone explain Vanielle’s accent to me? It seemed weirdly artificial because I couldn’t match it up to an accent I’ve heard before.
I think my dislike of the characters spawned disdain of the plot… which made me hate the characters more… spiraled out of control leaving me with a story based game with a lame story. But surely the gameplay can save it right?!
…or perhaps it could be the worst combat system in the history of Final Fantasy. Maybe I just suck at it so I’m frustrated?
Well, as it stands, I just cannot fathom why they made it game over when the party leader dies. Yeah yeah, you can retry from immediately before you get in the encounter, but the more important thing is that you’ve taken away an important tension builder/dimension of strategy from battle.
Though all battles become mind numbingly repetitious in all Final Fantasies, at least the previous iterations allowed for the epic comeback. You’re fighting a crazy mob, hanging on by a sliver by reviving members left and right… nope, can’t have that anymore! Leader dies, you have to try again. You’re forced to keep the leader topped off.
Because of this bosses can’t do instakill attacks that would kill any party member… oh wait, except the last boss can. ARGH! Before I had my strategy worked out I was in a particularly long attempt when all of a sudden, *BAM* insta-death. Game over. Such a stupid gimmick. Luckily I had cherub crown or whatever and was able to upgrade it enough for 50% death resistance. But what if I didn’t? I woulda had to go back and farm? *sigh*
Maybe the developers envisioned players breaking out of the traditional model and getting into a rapid trial and error cycle… well, ok… but unfortunately you lose the tension of that first battle against the unknown. After the Nth time you’re fighting a boss, you know his weaknesses, you know the strategy, what items to equip… now it’s just mindless execution. I dunno, but I place at least some value in trying to get through a fight on my first attempt.
Continuing down the line of thought that players should try different strategies in rapid succession… if that was the case, why the hell doesn’t the game remember the paradigms you’ve set up for your battle team?! It is extremely annoying to have to reconfigure all your paradigms every time you switch in a new member. Are you not supposed to switch around your party members or something? -_-
XII went out on a limb with the gambit system but at least there you actually switch over and control your other party members. XIII you’re out of luck, all AI. Well, that seems pretty simplistic but let’s roll with it on the assumption that the developers want the players to focus on higher level tactics. That’s how I tried to approach the system but I still get extremely frustrated because I can’t execute one of the most simplistic strategies out there: DON’T STAND TOGETHER WHEN AN AOE IS COMING. It is infuriating to have your party stand around like idiots while a king behemoth lands aoe after aoe. Yes, I can just skip the battle if my characters are underpowered… but I could totally roll this mob if it was just 1 person soaking up damage instead of 3 -_- Sure there are other ways to mitigate the threat in this situation, but the point is that I’ve been robbed of an obvious, logical strategy.
AI also started screwing me towards the end of the game when my healer kept pushing out esuna instead of healing my leader who was at half or lower health. They’ve made a retarded system where leader death is game over… made it so that you can’t control your other party members… and your healer doesn’t keep the leader’s HP topped off?!?!? I coulda sworn I didn’t have that problem earlier in the game, but in the end it was happening more and more often and I’d have to go to a wasteful dual-healer set up so I could personally heal myself.
It is also frustrating to be going from easy 20 second battles to 5 minute failures from one instant to the next. For example it just seems odd that I can roll over an entire group of tough mobs with a preemptive strike, then die the next battle when a behemoth catches me with two thundagas.
Can anyone explain to me why the interface is so horrible? I constantly skip over nodes to more efficiently build up my characters so when I’m going back to fill in those skipped nodes… it is infuriating that pressing A takes me to the node at the very top of grid (or whatever you call it)! Left at the top, I now have to use the extremely awkward controls to navigate back down to where I was filling in orbs. Note to designers: 3D interfaces suck when you can’t accurately specify what direction you want to move in!
and… you can’t max out your characters until you beat the game? Seriously? Whose genius idea was that? Pretty sure it was just a stupid marketing ploy to lure players into the mindless post game grind (not that I have anything against mindless grinds. Do ’em all the time :P). Newsflash: Players who love your game will do all the extra stuff without any artificial barriers. I wonder if the developers realized the game was bad and were looking for ways to get people to play more…
It’s been awhile since Final Fantasy has featured characters that equip a full set of armor, but I think this is a new record in terms of (the lack of) complexity. No defense stats? Just bonuses from weapons and accessories? I guess that’s not necessarily bad but it just feels too simplistic…
…And couple that with the insane equipment leveling… Great, a laundry list of strangely named components with hidden multiplier stats? Yay. It is such a chore to level things up efficiently. And why is there a separate menu for upgrading and shopping?! Adding insult to injury, after you exit one, you can’t immediately open up the other one because there’s a weird delay before “Press A” pops up orz
You know, I was firmly against all the outcry of linearity before I started playing. After all JRPG’s story telling ultimately makes them linear. I had no problem with streamlining the maps to purify the experience. But with all the other faults this ended up bothering me too.
In the beginning of the game I was totally in love with it. This was the ultimate JRPG – they wanted to tell you a story so you just walk down the path pressing A to win. No needless distractions exploring every last corner of a dungeon, just a pure story telling experience. Well, the problem with that is if the story is no good you’ve lost your suspension of disbelief and now the whole experience just feels terrible artificial and poorly crafted.
Somehow none of the songs stuck with me. I remember there being some vocal tracks but I honestly can’t even remember the melody right now.
And the final battle? I think there was some generic orchestral piece but again, not memorable at all. Did they even use the crystal room theme once?
No, I didn’t hate everything ^^; What I really loved from the beginning was the feeling of wonder and discovery. The beautiful graphics and locales really take you away to another world. All the weird terminology and lore really had me excited. (now if only they did something with it all! orz)
Paradigm system – though combat in general didn’t sit well with me, I did think the paradigm system worked alright. Combined with the AI I think this may be the first time I’ve been able to use buffs/debuffs without the hassle of micromanagement.
Explicit end game – while I hated the artificial limit to leveling I did like that they were actually thinking about end game grinding and put in that final save. Would have preferred new game+ though -_-
So what went wrong?
I wonder if it’s just me getting older and being more less inclined to suspend disbelief. Or was the game really that much worse than previous Final Fantasies? As an engineer I thrive on logic. Things must make sense. They must be consistent. When you break away from these expectations, you better have some good reasons to do so. Or provide something else for me to latch on to for amusement. Things simply can’t be epic if they’re stupid. Well, they can be epically stupid, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the goal.
At the end of the day, I just didn’t have fun. Perhaps if I didn’t suck so bad at the combat I would’ve just had a mediocre experience and could’ve turned a blind eye to all the plot stuff that didn’t make sense or annoyed me… Instead I had a rough time here and there and it was insult to injury. Why’d I dump 48 hours into it? Well, because it being Final Fantasy, I had an obligation to finish it ^^;
Squaresoft… what happened ;_; Just… too cheesy, too much focus on the fluff. Felt like they’ve totally forgotten what makes a great Final Fantasy/JRPG. Not really sure why they’re so hesitant to make an FFVII remake. It sure would’ve been a lot better than this -_-
bleh. Bottom line… people have different tastes… as I mentioned at top, I’m actually envious of those of you that liked the game. So really for all my ranting… I’m just sad I went in wanting to love this game so much… and ended up so disappointed.