Sunday, September 2, 2012
So I Heard You Wanted More Lightning
Oh...y...you didn't? Are you sure? Because Squeenix seems to think you did. In fact, I'd venture a guess to say that there are some people who do, indeed, want more and more of Final Fantasy XIII. Specifically Lightning because I am told that she is arguably the best thing about the 'saga' they've crafted for themselves. Of course I myself have....no real exposure to XIII because I don't have the time to shoehorn the original into my schedule, and considering my only desire to do so is because XIII-2 seems to be, by all accounts, really fun and I hate skipping games where I can help it, I can still wait a bit. Regardless, this is a thing that is happening no matter if you like it or not, but it does have the ring of something approaching 'ambitious' if we do not make allusions to things best left forgotten. So, of course, I will be bringing those things up eventually, but first, let's just talk about the game proper first.
Lightning Returns™: Final Fantasy XIII (Look, it's right there in the logo. I am pointing out that it's dumb.) is being claimed as the final act in the 'Lightning Saga', as in the games where Lightning as a character is relevant which infers that it will be the last thing XIII-related we'll see (Barring Versus XIII which will probably get a new name before it comes out) or anything else that we get from XIII won't revolve around Lightning in some way. Again, I don't know the games since I haven't played them, but from what I can tell, she was the protagonist of the first, the story focused very strongly on her in XIII-2 and now she's heading up this third game, what with the top-billing and everything. I won't even get into the subtle intricacies of my confusion at naming the game Lightning Returns™: Final Fantasy XIII (since that seems to be the official name, not swapped around or anything) but I assure you, they are varied and complex in nature and spending any more time on the subject will only draw you into my nit-pickery.
Of course, being the third game in a standing series, and Squeenix being the types that won't just re-use something over and over again without tweaking it like a chef with too many ingredients, Final Fantasy XIII-3 (We all know it's this and I'm getting tired of alt-coding the trademark in) is going to be a bit more of a departure from the other games than XIII-2 was from the first. You see in XIII-3 Lightning has got a goddamn world to save and can't be dealing with any of that turn-based jibba-jabba. As such, early reports indicate that XIII-3 is going full-on Action/JRPG where you'll have 'more control over Lightning than ever before'. It sounds more like Crisis Core or Kingdom Hearts in this respect and I assume that the battles will be about as real-time as they can be, though I'm not quite sure if I'm willing to expect full-on 'monsters on the field, run up to them and hit square to cut them'. Because that's -mostly- action instead of being an action hybrid of anything and if they were to go full-on action again....I would question its validity based on principle alone. And nobody would blame me.
Yes, obviously Dirge of Cerberus™: Final Fantasy VII (Would you look at that, there's fucking precedence) is the 'things which we do not speak of' (so to illustrate that, I've linked to a very good Screenshot LP of it so that you may experience the full breadth of stupidity it bears) and is kind of the thing we have to go on here. You see, Dirge was Squeenix's previous attempt to take a Final Fantasy game and turn it into an action hybrid (barring Type-0 because I'm not sure and it's not out in English and Squeenix can go fuck right off for that) and it went....poorly. No, poorly is being charitable as the game was absolute shit in a totally unrefined state. The story was a goddamned mess, it was completely superfluous fan-service that introduced the worst character in Final Fantasy VII entirely (Genesis) and, most damning of all considering it's an action game, the gameplay sucked. It was abysmal to control, it wasn't thought out within itself even (the sniper barrel is proof-positive of that) and it tried to do a lot without mastering the basics. In short, it was not fun in the slightest. This is positively worrying for the future of Lightning Returns™.
Do I have faith in Squeenix's ability to make something out of XIII-3 that is better than Dirge? I....no, I don't, really. But let's pretend that I do since I will probably be buying the game at some point in the future anyway, if just to get closure on the Lightning story that I will be opening when I finally play XIII. And because it sounds kind of neat in concept at least. Remember when I said Lightning has a goddamn world to save? Well, in Majora's Mask fashion (perhaps TWEWY fashion?) the world that XIII-3 takes place in is doomed to end after 13 days (gee, where'd that number come from) and it's all up to Lightning to prevent it. Considering that it's built around a time limit, that's what the gameplay itself centers around also: time. Everything you do takes time in some fashion; traveling costs time, battling costs time, hell if you die, you can expend time to 'rewind time' to before Lightning died to try again. I'm not sure how time works as a finite resource unless there will be some method (ala MM) to restart the time limit again. Time.
I'm cautiously optimistic about the game, as I only have the barest of exposure to the series itself with all of it trying, unsuccessfully, to color my perception one way or another. I'd like to say that when I play XIII myself, I'll be able to make my own decision on it, even if it falls in line with one of the established camps, but until then, I'm staying as neutral on it as I can be. Obviously, there's a lot of outrage about it wherever you look, but it's also sold quite, quite well, so there have to be -some- fans out there for it, and they're probably larger in number than any of us would think. Done right, Lightning Returns™ (had to, one last one for the road) has the potential to be something rather fantastic really, but that is pretty much the rub. Do we honestly think Squeenix -can- do it right? They've surprised us in the past, and still are now, so hopefully this will also be a surprise. But a pleasant one, this time. Please.