Well, it’s been busy, but I’ve been trying to find an hour or two every couple of days to work through this project. After beating XIII, I took my copy of FFVIII to get cleaned up and, while the scratches were still there, at least the FMVs didn’t freeze up and I could beat the game. Then, I went all the way back to the beginning and took out FFI.
These are hardly reviews, but I want to talk a little bit about the experience. They aren’t reviews because – and I say this with kindness – this process isn’t about other people, just me. It’s an effort to dig into the stories that were a part of my development through childhood, adolescence and even into adulthood. The music from the series changed my life and influenced my decision to learn about music, write music, and become a composer in my own right.
I owe a lot to the series, now it’s time to relive the stories. First FFVIII!
Final Fantasy VIII (PSX version)
General: Hit and miss, up and down. It might be better if it were more consistent.
Pros: The Junction system grew on me again. I really don’t like the Draw part of it, but I love crafting the perfect warriors with Flare/Aura/Haste/Curaga/Full-Life, etc… I would spend hours just finding the right spell for the right stat. And then getting the GFs learning their new abilities… oh my. The world was interesting too and had some great environments. The Trabia bombing, Edea’s parade, Fisherman’s Horizon… many cool places.
The scenes that I didn’t really like when I was younger are the scenes that I loved as an adult. I loved Timber and that whole sequence where we really meet Rinoa and the Owls. And the Fisherman’s Horizon sequence was really touching, maybe because I adore “Love Grows,” which is the FH theme.
Cons: The end felt very, very rushed. Esthar, Space, Time Compression? I wanted more build-up. Also, Time Compression is a bit ridiculous to me. Also, Ultimecia comes out of nowhere and I feel like her delivery was very rushed. I didn’t like that, but I wasn’t really involved emotionally with many of the characters (except Rinoa, I really liked her).
Can we talk about the dialogue? What a trainwreck. So much unnecessary dialogue and too many scenes dragged on. Oh, and one exclamation mark is plenty, thanks.
Final Fantasy I (PSP Version)
So many memories with this game. This was the first strategy guide that I’d ever seen. I have been six or seven years old and I have clear memories about this game in my cousins’ living room with their old NES. This and Mega Man 2. Memories are funny things…
General: Nostalgia really got me through this game. Not that it was a bad game, but its gameplay mechanics really showed their age. The PSP update is nice and reliving some of those iconic moments in higher resolution was really nice. Ah yes, the Bahamut Quest, fighting the four fiends, the Mirage Tower, and Provoka (Bikke the Pirate!).
Pros: There was so much that I’d forgotten. The giant that eats rubies, the vampire and Melmond, the whole Levistone quest and the desert caravan… it was nice to play through that again. Thankfully, the game isn’t very long (I can’t dump 60+ hours into that!) and it moves quickly. Seeing the circle of elders, beating the four fiends, and getting the airship for the first time were all very nostalgic. Nostalgia! Nostalgia! Nostalgia!
Also, I would live in every town in this game (except Melmond).
Cons: Everything that’s ever been said about this almost-30 year old game. No characters, dated gameplay, all that stuff. But you know, it was still pretty cool :)
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)
I know that I said I wasn’t going to tackle any of the sequels, but I just couldn’t resist. The more time I spent away from the world of XIII, the more I wanted to go back. Even when I listen to the soundtrack or look at fan art… I want to go back. Fortunately, my brother-in-law bought my FFXIII-2 for Christmas last year, so I thought I’d dive into the universe again. To be honest, I’m glad I did.
General: I love that universe. I love the environments, especially. The weather-affected Archylte Steppe, Academia, the Dying World, Oerba… all of it. Serah made a great protagonist, though I didn’t love Noel, or even Caius as a villain, though I loved Serah. Let’s address that.
Pros: Crikey, Serah was a great protagonist. What I loved the most about it was the conscious effort not to make her a damsel. She was soft, but tough (whereas Lightning was just tough). She wanted to find her sister and that was her raison d’etre, not finding a husband or swooning for some guy. Yes, Snow was there, but he was such a subordinate role and, to be honest, that was a really great decision by the writers. The story is really about Serah, Noel, and Caius (and arguably Yeul) and it stays that way. There are some nice cameos by Sazh and Lightning, but they don’t confuse the mission of each character.
And that brings to be to another real pro of the character development: All of the characters believe that their actions are for the right reasons, especially Caius. Sometimes, stories fall into the trap of writing the “evilest evil enemy of evil” whose motivation is weak, contrived and trite. Caius is actually acting from inside and is trying to do what he thinks is best for Yeul, who he deeply cares about. Even though I didn’t really love Caius as a villain, I appreciated him as a character, and that says something too.
Honestly, one of my very favourite elements of this game is the trivia game in Academia because it establishes the universe so well. It addresses the best parts of the culture. Here are some of the questions:
- Around 150 AF, what accessory inspired by Cocoon’s pillar was worn by people everywhere as a symbol of friendship? Cocoon charm bracelet.
- As the population on Gran Pulse increased, what business took off? Private military companies.
- Chocobo riding used to be mandatory at all private schools. However, it was cancelled indefinitely due to what kind of complaint from the parents? The chocobo smell would rub off on the students.
- The tonberry parent became a social phenomenon in 300 AF. What kind of parents doe sthe phrase refer to? Those who wield knives when talking to teachers. (my personal favourite)
Just great commentary on the culture of the universe. Amazing.
The game’s music is really excellent… to be continued.
Element-wise, it’s great. The battle system, the visuals, all that stuff.
Cons: The time travel plotline feels a bit contrived for a sequel. Very open… too open. If only you could find a middle ground between the linearity of XIII and the openness of XIII-2, you’d have a really great game. Actually, you’d have most other Final Fantasies. Somewhere between the two extremes of these games, you have a middle ground that almost every FF has done so well.
The music in this game is really excellent, but I only contextually, I feel. It doesn’t stand as well on its own, but it’s wonderful as you’re playing the game. There are some really, really great tracks though.
I feel like I’ve covered most of it. I really enjoyed the experience and, let’s be honest: I’m psyched for XIII-3. I know that a lot people rag on the XIII series-within-a-series, but it’s really well-assembled. Or at least I think so, and that’s good enough for me :)
So, where are we in the “Beat all of the Final Fantasies?”
COMPLETED: I, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, XIII
INCOMPLETE: II, III, IX, X, XII
Over halfway there! Five more!
Until next time!