Thursday, September 23, 2010

Final Fantasy Smackdown: VII

And so we arrive at this one.

This game gets off easy with a lot of people for the same reason Final Fantasy VIII gets off easy with me. Nostalgia. This game was the first Final Fantasy on the PS1, and for a lot of people it was their introduction not only into Final Fantasy, but possibly JRPGs in general. This game, this game has a ridiculous number of flaws, but because of the warm fuzzies associated with it, a lot of people will defend it tooth and nail.

So unless I upset the might and powerful internet let me say this.

This is not the worst Final Fantasy I have ever played.

We'll get to that one.

This is however, well.... Depressingly bad at times.

However, having said that, I must admit the game did do one thing right. Materia. The combat in Final Fantasy VII is actually pretty fun, and as a result it doesn't feel as repetitive as it could. The materia system allows for a lot of customization with your characters, including some things that weren't quite possible in previous Final Fantasies. If you really want to you can set up a tanking Black Mage, or you could make everyone well balanced so you can have high damage output without having any squishies. Certain characters do tend toward certain rolls, but you can easily switch things around to alternate who does what. This makes the game genuinely fun. The game can actually feel really different each time you play it just from using different materia sets.

So what's wrong with it?

The storyline, is one of the worst I've ever seen in a game, and that's saying a lot. I mean.... I've played games that end by the final boss falling off a cliff, BEFORE you fight him. Anti-climatic.

But this. This is a mess.

Honestly the story is largely awful because of two very specific characters. Sephiroth, and Cloud.

Let's start with Sephiroth, the villain of the story. Apparently he was originally a good guy, and the game does a bit of build up about how he used to be this really awesome hero, and prequels confirm that he might not have been a total pushover. However, then he finds out he was born from Jenova, reads books in a library for a few days and then goes.

"Whelp! Looks like it's time to destroy the world!"

And proceeds to commit arson, somehow fails to destroy the hero's town in a JRPG. I mean what the heck? It's the hero's hometown. How can you not destroy it!? I mean blowing up the hero's hometown is like the cornerstone of villainy. It's an easy cop out for why the hero would go chasing them, so villains always do it, but somehow despite setting the entire town on fire, Sephiroth does not manage to quite destroy the town, as it's still quite alive and well later in the game. Funny that.

Well okay so he misses one mark of villainy, surely he do something else impressive.

So he proceeds to run to a power plant or something to rip his mother's head out of it. It makes sense in context. Okay it makes sense in context if you're drunk or high. Anyways, he proceeds to prove he's awesome by going ahead and killing off the hero's girlfriend!

Except she lives.

Don't worry though, he'll kill of the cooler mentory guy to the hero and.

Oh wait he lived too.

Oh hey he's fighting the hero in the flashback, of course Sephiroth is going to win and... Oh wait, he lost.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the villain we're supposed to take seriously. He somehow failed to burn down a town, managed to somehow miss hitting any vital organs with his massive sword against named characters, and then lost to the hero at level 1.

I can't be the only one who's really unimpressed here.

Maybe though, the villain is going to come back later and do something totally impressive!

So later he shows up and killed a giant snake! Oh wait, I killed six of those on the way here.

Well, I guess it's mildly impressive.

Later, he proves he's awesome, by killing a bunch of bureaucrats who... can't... fight... back. Alright is he actually the villain, or is he just a parody of one? I mean is this just Japan's private joke.

"Okay okay okay. So I got this idea, for a guy who looks like a girl, who fails at every act of villainy ever. And, we'll totally say he's the real villain with a straight face and see how they react!"

"They liked him."

"Wait what!?"

Well okay, so our villain so far has been beaten by the hero at level 1, and killed some paper pushers. Surely he'll do something impressive later!

Like kill the leader of a group of mercenaries who is not actually all that super strong.... and got better later.

Or kill a party member! Who... fully intended to die.... in order to cast a spell. And her death means he loses and can't do anything else for the rest of the game.....

Ladies and gentlemen, our villain. Killer of defenseless secretaries, and people who are committing ritual suicide.

I mean, just wow.

Well okay, let's take a look at our hero!

Ah yes Cloud. The guy who looks like a blue lego man. Well that's not quite fair. A lego man would have more of a personality.

Yes, Cloud only comes in two modes. You suck mode. And Cloud sucks mode.

In you suck Mode, Cloud will be abuse and jerkish to any other character that shows even the slightest amount of care for him, because how dare they have the audacity to have human emotions. He takes a little girl's college funds for crying out loud. He then refuses to acknowledge anyone else as being capable of anything even remotely resembling competency, which makes even less since since mode two happens.

Yes the Cloud Sucks mode. Where Cloud is filled with self hate about his own inability, how he fails time and time again. He fails to become SOLDIER, he fails to become a proper clone, he fails to die instead of the awesome character, he fails to save his first girlfriend, he fails to then throw a phoenix down on her, he fails to not hand over the plot coupon that would let the villain actually do something without a good reason, he fails to be interesting, he just plain fails.

Honestly I know why Cloud is the hero. He's the only hero in all of existence that Sephiroth would have ever stood a chance against. Anyone else would have ended the game before the first disc.


So you know what. Imagine if just for a moment.

Imagine if we had Zack as the main character, with some emotional baggage about letting Cloud die when that platoon of soldiers happened.

Now imagine if Jenova was the main villain, and we got to see her slowly warping and controlling Sephiroth, using him as a puppet. (Actually looking at it this way makes his evil actions a lot more believable.)

Just, take a moment, and think about how that might turn out.

And I'll leave you with that thought.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Final Fantasy Smackdown: VIII

Okay, this blog has been delayed for a couple of reasons. First off, better games than this one had come out in the last two weeks. Playing these took priority.

Secondly, I am really not looking forward to this review.

Let me start, by alienating most other people, by saying that, I do not hate Final Fantasy VIII. IN truth it had a special place in my heart, as this is technically the first Final Fantasy game I had ever played. Not the first JRPG, but before this my idea of a JRPG was closer to Dragon Warrior. Anyways, as a result, this game gets a sort of special nostalgia filter for me.

However, this is not the place for pleasant memories, and this game had some serious flaws in it. Though, those flaws do at time get well, blown out of proportion. This is not the worst Final Fantasy ever (Oh we will get to that one) neither is is even the worst Final Fantasy on the PS1. (We'll get to that one too.) It is however an interesting case.

Part of the problem is the storyline. The storyline is actually, somewhat decent. The villain even has an interesting backstory. The problem comes though, in that a good chunk of this interesting part, was left out of just the game. This may just be part of Japan hating America, but apparently a good chunk of FFVIII's story was in some kind of guide about the game that was never released properly in America. I've read a few wikis on some of this information recently, and it's actually really interesting, and does explain a few things in the game that confused me. Though it brings up a very big question.

WHY WAS THIS NOT IN THE GAME!?

Something that A LOT of games tend to forget, especially the Final Fantasy series is that the game needs to stand on its own. If the game is not well thought out to a single player playing the game by itself then the game is well, not that greatly explained. There are, A LOT of games that fall into this trap, and some of them are actually fun, in fat there are a few I even love, but. That does not excuse this. EXPLAIN YOUR DANG PLOTLINES! If you're not going to put it in the game, at least put it in the instructions manual.

Though granted for the life of me I don't know anyone else who has ever even looked at those, and even I've stopped reading them since games started including unskippable tutorials. I mean, I don't mind a tutorial if you can skip it, but being told the most basic button controls for an hour at the start of every new game really does kill the replay value of some games.

And Final Fantasy VIII is heavy on the tutorials. Granted, when you're halfway through the game, and still hitting tutorials it does at least make some of them optional but.

I KNOW HOW TO PLAY SHUT UP!

This Final Fantasy though, it does have an interesting stat and level up system, that probably will require some explaining your first time through though. I dunno though, I find it's better to experiment and learn for myself how it works.

Essentially, in this game you can "junction" magic to various stats in order to raise them. This actually has the effect of making the game ridiculously easy, especially if you teach yourself the card enemy and refine card skills early? Why? Because it lets you get absurd amounts of absurdly powerful spells really early in the game. Also, card enemy ends the battle without giving you any exp, and the enemies level with you. Meaning, it's more than possible to have a level 10 characters with level 100 stats, and this is actually less time consuming than leveling normally. It gets even worse with draw points being ridiculously plentiful. There are two islands in the game that are for some reason full of ultima, flare and holy draw points, allowing you to easily stock 100 of each on every character in just a few minutes. Between this and cards, you never have to actually use draw in battle which seems was the tactic meant for you to gain spells. In short, this game is ridiculously easy to break fast and break hard. This is probably the easiest Final Fantasy in existence, and despite being four discs once you know how to use junctioning it's probably one of the fastest to playthrough as you can speed through all the bosses. And then it gets worse. The Bonus Boss, Omega Weapon, seems like he might be tough at first, until you realize just how easy this game is to take and break over your knee.

Squall is usually required in your party, and while not the most broken he does have 255% accuracy. Even when blinded, you will NEVER miss. Then his limit break always has a chance of triggering a second limit break. If you upgrade him to his ultimate weapon, then you may trigger Lionheart, with which the exception of the final boss and Omega Weapon will end any battle in one round. In the final boss it will most likely knock her into her next form.

Zell. Zell is the ultimate game breaker because of his limit break. There are all kinds of seemingly ridiculous moves you can enter for massive damage that are time consuming but, he's actually easier to just use his two most basic moves. You can enter them with such speed that you can wrack up hundreds of thousands of damage easily in one use. I believe fans have dubbed this technique Armageddon Fist. If you're gonna go after the Omega Weapon this is how I recommend taking him out.

Rinoa. Rinoa is well. Those islands with flare and ultima? They also have meteor. Junction 100 meteors to Rinoa's magic stat, don't junction anything else. Have someone else casts Aura on her, use Angel Wings. Watch as she hits the boss for about 50k each round. (Maybe up to 100k I forget)

Selphie: While random chance, there are certain things you can do to rig her limit break to come out as The End which results in an automatic victory except against undead.

Irvine: Ehhhh I personally hate using his limit break. It's easy to break, but requires spending a lot of resources on ammo, and I hate spending gil and using items but he can pump out damage.

Quistis: Probably the least broken in the game, but she can easily dish out 9999 with a single attack, and honestly you can have her a few healing commands and use her Mighty Guard to basically make her the defensive person who keeps your party from dying. Give her 100 auras to make sure everyone else can spam limit breaks.

It takes very little effort to break this game, which thankfully eliminates the need for grinding, something I hate, so which is why I will like it.

But of course, let us go ahead and get to the part of the story everyone hates.

TIME TRAVEL!

You must go back in time to compress time so you can go forward to the future.

What really?

Yeah it makes no sense whatsoever, but as far as time travel plots go, do they ever? And as for Ultimecia and her time compression thing, ehhh it's not really going to make sense unless you read the extra material which was once more.... Not in the actual game. How annoying. But you know what as FF villains go. At least her master plan doesn't involve her mother, or marrying a party member for lulz.

Honestly, the game is alright. If you stop trying to explain things and just sit down for the ride it's not bad. Master story? Not quite. But it did give us something that was at least different as for as stat development goes. So honestly, I think it's worth a play. Is it going to be one of my favorite games of all time? Hell no. Needs more awesome for that. Selphie and Quistis try, but they're no Zidane Freaking Tribal.

Though Selphie does like trains.

I'd honestly rate this game as average, which in today's market is A LOT higher than most critically acclaimed games. The storyline needs some explaining, and some of the characters aren't that likable, but you know what it's better than the one before it.

So it is fun.

BUT THAT DOES NOT JUSTIFY NOT EXPLAINING WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?

Sqeenix! Explain your dang games, IN THE GAME.

That is all.