Friday, November 30, 2012

This Isn't Dumb, Trust Me

Hey, don't give me that look.

No, seriously.  Stop it. 

Just....just hear me out on this one.

So, alright.  I've been feeling kind of bad because the last two posts in a row were me just whining and grumbling about things instead of being enthusiastic and/or excited about something.  Or just interested in something.  Or just being positive whatsoever about something.  All that negativity isn't good, it's not healthy nor is it fun and personally I like fun.  So I was trying to find something out there on the interwebs that made me feel a pang of interest, of hopefulness, or -something- positive that I could work off of, and honestly nothing really came up initially.  I doubled back to Joystiq for the fourth time in hopes that I had missed something, or there'd be some late, great piece of news and eventually came across the image you see above and the post associated with it.  To be honest, I took a look at it and didn't really know what to think, so I did what I always do when I come to that cross-roads which is absolutely 100% not the smart thing to do - I read the comments.

All in all, it's about a 50/50 split between people saying 'it looks fucking stupid' and 'it's copying the Wii' which are both amazingly hilarious when you put them together and, as usual, it made me sigh and rub my head a little bit.  There was, however, a little useful tidbit to be gleaned from the mess, and it is the fact that the image, while indeed a patent image, is a tech patent and not a design one.  So take the look, whether you think it's stupid or simply a little strange and don't worry about it because that's not the actual design of anything.  It's a technological theory conveyed in an image in the easiest way to understand.  That's pretty much exactly what a tech patent is, since its whole goal is to give you something to wrap your mind around and the theory that this idea invokes is a rather fantastic one to me and it is the only reason why I dare speak of it in a positive light.

If you look at the two split controller designs we have now, the Wiimote/Nunchuck combo and the Move/Nav combo, you can see two attempts at a theory with their own faults and their own good points.  Nintendo's minimalist design is accessible, the accelerometer in the nunchuck makes it a viable motion tool, the actual motion control (with Motion+) is serviceable and it can technically be used multi-functionally (Not just a pointer, basically, but I refer to New Super Mario Bros.' twist controller to spin jump mechanic).  On the downside, however, being that Motion+ was an add-on that was barely imple it saw limited usage, it still wasn't totally precise and the overall lack of buttons hampered more 'advanced' ideas.  Sony's more ergonomic design was more comfortable and placed more buttons in the right areas, had the benefit of better tracking overall and had more potential from the thought-out tech.  It suffered from the poor choice in not putting an accelerometer in the Nav controller, offering less buttons overall than a controller, thus limiting its conformity and barely saw and proper implementation.

The issue both controllers suffered from was the fact that they were both not full controllers in their own right.  One analog stick per pair (while motion control all but replaced the need for a second stick, this did not factor in for usage of the second stick as a button, as some games use) less triggers (as standard seems to be two bumpers, two triggers now) and neither option offered you the ability to have a full experience without both 'component' controllers.  Essentially, neither option could offer you a full controller experience because both options are hampered by their own 'sub' controllers if you will.  (The Nunchuck and the Nav)  This, this is where the beauty of the idea, the theory, the image indicates comes in.  Imagine a Dualshock controller.  Now cut it in half.  Now imagine both halves are motion controllers.  Now imagine that you can take it apart/put it back together at your leisure because it serves as a regular controller and a motion controller at the same time.

That right there is the elegance and the actual smart area of the design.  It's forward progress in the space where nobody has been -able- to make it and it's the best of both worlds.  Let me spell it out in terms of an actual game application, though, instead of just saying "trust me, it's smart" because, well, that works better.  Let's use Skyrim as a reference despite the hilarious ineptitude Bethesda has displayed with the game and the add-on content of it, because I'm just using the core mechanics.  The 'big thing' in Skyrim is the ability, nay, the impetus to dual-wield things to destroy your enemies.  Any combination of weapons, spells or shields can be wielded together to whatever effect and the key ideal is that you are using both hands to their best effects. 

Now apply the split controller, the literal split motion controller to the idea.  You have the left portion of the Dualshock in your left hand that has you moving around, you have the right portion for menu controls like normal and when combat comes in, you can either attack as normal or you can use the motion controllers as intended and control things like that.  Prepare two different spells and fire at two different enemies at the same time because you just have to point and attack.  Bring the controllers together to merge the magic for the stronger cast while aiming at whatever it is.  Or bring up the menu with the buttons, switch to two swords or what have you and just swing and bash at whatever's near while using the analog stick to still move around as normal.  All this without a technical loss of functionality because you still have all the standard controls right there.

That, my friends, is an exciting prospect.  Unfortunately, its entire usefulness rests in whether or not Sony will adopt it as the 'standard' controller since, as both the Move and Nintendo themselves proved, providing something as an add-on or an accessory means you cannot count on it being actually used, thus defeating its entire purpose.  If, like Sixaxis, this functionality was built into the controller from the start, then it's there for developers to use as they would desire.  Yes, some will shoe-horn it in, and some will ignore it completely in lieu of going "Well, it's a normal controller", but the people that truly use it will prove that it is something of actual value.  This generation was a proof-of-concept and going forward with this idea would be a true statement of going 'next gen', since it would be a natural refinement.  We'll just have to see if they run with it, and I genuinely hope they will.  If nothing else, that is your PS4 hook right there, and if the PS4 will need anything, it will definitely be a hook.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is Also Dumb

Ever since I popped XIII-2 in after beating XIII and subsequently reviewing it, I have been trying so very hard to like it.  Because it's apparently good!  I mean, that's all I've heard about it since it came out at the start of this year and, after what was considered a 'bad game' like Final Fantasy XIII, the idea that the sequel was, then, good seemed like it had to have a -lot- done right to earn such praise.  In most cases, even when you don't particularly like a game that is praised as 'good' by the collective known as 'the internet', you can at least see why they judged such as they did, so at the very least, even if XIII is 'bad' and XIII-2 is 'decent' if not great, then hey, you've upgraded in any case, right?  So everything's sugar and rainbows no matter what, because at least, at least you're getting Final Fantasy XIII 'if it were good'.  Surely, I'm not really hammering in this point for any reason in particular.

So, before I address what is perhaps the least subtle thing I've said in the entirety of writing this blog, I would like to once again direct your attention to a recent post titled "How Final Fantasy XIII Could Have Been Better" because I pointed out three specific areas in which FFXIII came up short - Linearity, Poor Balance in terms of the Skill System and General lack of Focus with the story and elements as a whole.  I have stated, as well, in the past that the Battle System is an unusually good aspect of the game, that the Crystarium was not wholly bad and was, in fact, close to being good and that the characters, if nothing else, were fantastically established and grown throughout Final Fantasy XIII.  For XIII-2 to be praised so highly, you would think that it would at least fix a couple of the issues while strengthening the good parts, because that's generally how things work - a clear improvement gets a cheering.  And it is because of all that, that I think Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an amazing game, because it manages to take everything I just said, good and bad, and make it worse.  Frankly, I am fucking baffled and amazed at just how the hell that works.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game that knows even less about what the hell it wants to do than its predecessor and that is saying something.  Being that it's a time travel story (spoiler:  FFXIII-2 has a Time Travel story), you go into it knowing that by the end of it, absolutely goddamn nothing will make sense because nobody knows how to write a competent time travel story that isn't Chrono Trigger, and I'm sure people will argue on that one too.  That, however, doesn't excuse the absolute laziness that goes through the rest of it, hitting on the parts that aren't even directly affected by time travel dickery.  For example, and this is pretty much the biggest example and the one I've been gritting my teeth against for the entirety of today in which I put many, many hours into the game, let me tell you about Lightning.  And when I say let me tell you about Lightning, I mean I am going to openly spoil Final Fantasy XIII so if you don't want to know anything, please move on to another post, sorry for the inconvenience.  I can't very well explain the laziness in the story without explaining the story, unfortunately, and I imagine most of the folks who want to play it, really want to play it, have already and know this anyway.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 begins with Lightning in a strange land that is quickly identified as 'Valhalla' where she and Odin are fighting some dude and it's all very epic I assure you and stuff is going on.  Then one of our protagonists, Noel, is introduced and speaks to Lightning who gives him a magical moogle (I am serious) and tells him to go find Serah on the other end of a time gate.  This is important.  So, blah blah blah, Noel finds Serah and they become TIME TRAVEL BUDDIES and BLAH BLAH BLAH, none of this is actually important, really except that the gist of it is Serah says "I had a dream that Lightning was in Valhalla, so I know she's alive" and Noel says "Yeah, I was there, she is" and Serah is genuinely fucking surprised by this.  They go on to meet old friends, discuss the situation and find more evidence that lends credence to the story of the guy who literally brought a fucking magical transforming Moogle that can talk and mentions Lightning through a time gate saying he saw Lightning.  And every.  single.  time. they 'realize', with great shock that Lightning 'might' be alive in Valhalla and that maybe they can get to her through a time gate.

I wish I was kidding.  I honestly do, because this shit is offensively stupid and it detracts from the overall experience which isn't too high to begin with.  Because the game can branch, in that you can go off and dick around in many time periods at once, I assume -some- of it can be contributed to the overlap in ensuring you establish a story no matter where the player goes, but after a certain point, you're literally somewhere you can only get after Point A and Point A included a portion where this whole Lightning bullshit was talked about already, and regardless, you have to play through everything eventually, so maybe you just need to manage it a little tighter in the narrative, which, after FFXIII is a fucking -riot- to say. 

But I can't really say too much of the story or the narrative overall just yet since I haven't beaten the game.  I imagine that when I do, I'll have an entirely larger post devoted to picking it apart completely and totally because I am very annoyed.  I guess the thing that's the problem is that I just really saw potential with FFXIII and with the assurance that XIII-2 was a good game, it had earned that by capitalizing on what was good about the original.  Instead, I am greeted with something that is praised for reasons I honestly, truly cannot comprehend on any level.  I am not having fun playing the game as I was with XIII towards the middle of it.  Maybe that will change later on, as I am probably still early on in it, but I really don't know.  I know that I'm very, very over-leveled for the area I'm in, so I'm absolutely steam-rolling everything which, honestly, kind of takes away from the fun too.  Odd as that might be, being able to stomp everything, including bosses, in your path isn't even fun in XIII-2.  Perhaps not yet, but certainly not now at the very least.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mini Wii is Dumb

I wish we lived in a world where I could sit down and say "The Mini Wii is dumb" and list off its features and have the collective read it and go "Oh yeah, that is kind of dumb" without going into detail.  Because it would be so easy and this really doesn't need the kind of elaboration that I'll have to put into this post.  It is honestly baffling that this thing exists and I really don't think there's a way to actually hand-wave it whatsoever.  Don't get me wrong, it -will- be, and when pressed, such arguments will go nowhere and fast, but the important thing to realize is that there is really just no leg here to stand on.  Even from an unbiased stance, which I am clearly not unbiased, but I can see things as such, there are some major issues here and it's less about what it is than what it honestly could mean, or be implied.  If taken as a statement, which everything that isn't Nintendo yet is released to people who play games is apparently a statement of intent, then this is just yet another moment of Nintendo waving their arms frantically with no clear direction.

The easiest place to start is with the feature list of the Mini Wii so that whatever I say afterwards is in context and not me just blah blahing about how terrible shit is.  (Shit is terrible.)  As you can tell, the Mini Wii is...well, smaller.  The exact size, I don't know, but the already smaller Wii (at least, I think the latest Non-BC models were smaller) is now even smaller and I can't help but look at the picture above and suspect it's around the size of a PS3 Game Case, though perhaps a little thicker.  I'm probably way off, but the Wii is already small, so imagine that smaller and you're good to go.  Everything else, aside, it -does- look pretty neat, but I'm a sucker for Black and Red, so that would be the reason why for that.  It seems like the power and eject(?) buttons are the only buttons it has and I can't help but think that it opens from the top.  I could look it up, but honestly, it doesn't matter a whit, as that's all purely cosmetic and that really doesn't determine whether a thing is dumb or not.

Now, being as small as it is, you're probably wondering how it has the stuff that the Wii itself has, like USB Ports, a Wi-Fi receiver (but no ethernet port because whyyyyyyy), storage and the like, and if you weren't, you probably are now.  It's a valid thing to wonder about, and absolutely none of that is known to the public because why would we need to know that when it comes out in two weeks, except the whole Wi-Fi situation.  You see, the Mini Wii cannot connect to the internet.  At all.  For any reason.  Reasons that are emblazoned on Nintendo's Official Wii Page.  Reasons multi-player (like with Animal Crossing:  City Folk that came bundled with Wii Speak so you could talk to your friends while you played Animal Crossing online) or watching Netflix or similar services (which is currently being touted....what, everywhere?) or even buying/downloading Virtual Console games.  You know, the games from the past that are apparently the golden days of gaming and everything was sugar and rainbows and Nintendo games were so good we have so much nostalgia for them to this day?  The games people got really excited to be able to play again in an entirely legal way?  Yeah.  Those games.  Not on the Mini Wii.

So, alright, that's....that's fine, I guess, because it's probably really cheap, right?  Right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because the Wii is pretty cheap already so long as you're not buying all sorts of goddamn accessories for it that are vital for only one game here and there, but no, because it's $99.  Now, I was under the impression that the Wii itself, like the (new) basic one that you can go out anywhere and buy one of because everybody wanted one for a while there but not so much anymore, was selling for $99.  I was....not wrong, but the thing is, you cannot find just a Wii by itself for sale first-hand.  Every Wii for sale out there is bundled with at least a game for around $120-$130.  So take out the cost of the game, and you're basically looking at $99 for the starter kit for the Wii which is exactly what's bundled with the Mini Wii.  A Sensor Bar (which isn't optional), a Wiimote Plus (as in a Wii Remote that has Motion+ built into it already for all of five games that support it without paying the extra $20) and a Nunchuck, plus the cables that are standard which you kind of have to include unless it's the 3DS XL in places that aren't America which means that I guess they are not standard to Nintendo.

Oh, and it can't play GameCube games.  But that's not new. knew about that, right?  That Wiis made in the last year or so don't have GC backwards compatibility.  Because they don't.  I wasn't sure if you heard.  BC is kind of a sticky point for people in other cases.  Apparently not with Nintendo, I guess, but I suppose this is just me being petty at this point.

If, for whatever reason, you really really want a Mini Wii because you hate Online things and don't currently own a Wii or something, then you'll have to wait until December 7th when it launches exclusively in Canada.  Oh, I didn't mention that?  Yeah, it's Canada exclusive through the 'holiday season', so you can't buy it anywhere else.  If you'd even want to.  I mean, personally, I think you'd be better off buying a Wii that is the same cost and has a game and can connect to the internet, or even a Wii U that plays Virtual Console games and won't upscale Wii games at all or anything and you still have to play them with the Wiimote, and possibly not play them online either?  Okay, so maybe you're just better off buying a regular Wii.  If you really really want to play Wii games with the firm knowledge that you can play it online if the game supports it (protip:  it probably won't), or you just want to jump on the Virtual Console and don't want to shell out for a Wii U, then there you go.  But I guess if you want to support Nintendo completely and totally giving the finger to Online after just releasing a system that is supposed to be super-duper online friendly and don't worry that that's really conflicting signals at all then, hey.  Go for it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How Final Fantasy XIII Could Have Been Better

So yes, I know this is one of those hokey things that people with a little too much self-importance does or whatever you might think, and I don't generally like doing it, but I liked Final Fantasy XIII enough that I've actually put thought into considering how it would have been better received.  Not only by the general audience who seem to regard it mostly with disdain for reasons that are fairly obvious, but by myself, who will openly admit that I like it in spite of it.  I am in the odd position in thinking that Final Fantasy XIII does a lot of -good-, but it simply does not capitalize on that, make that shine, and instead you're left with flashes of things that are good, but are so quickly done, you can't even get a good approximation of them on a glance.  Instead, it's obsessed with doing precisely everything counter to that which, as I stated in my review, oftentimes leads to a dissonance on a level that you just cannot even plan.  I mean, when you have basically the same story done twice in your game, yet it works completely differently in both cases?  You have done something wrong.

Regardless, it's not simply enough to say "Those good things, do those more", because, as I said, a lot of players might not have gotten to said parts, or because they went so fast, it's hard to say they were even good to the people who, at the point they were in, might've just glossed over them in a race to the end of the game.  And it's hard to say that if they ran with what was good that it would've been a good game because, from what a lot of people are saying, XIII-2 does that and while I don't see that (Aside from having bigger, non-linear-ish areas), I'm....not really having a whole lot of fun with XIII-2 yet.  I'm not even in the double-digits as far as hours played yet, I don't think, so I don't have a full approximation of the game (will get to this point some other night having played more), but I can tell you that I'm longing for much of what XIII had to offer, which I'm sure comes as a strange statement to many.  Still, I feel like I can put down a few key examples of things and posit as to how changing them around would've made the game stronger overall.

Yes, yes, linearity.

That is basically -the- complaint to have about XIII and it varies from talking about the whole game, to the map design and such.  While exaggerated as these things tend to get through the internet filter, it's not false in so many words, since, well, there is almost -never- any reason to go any direction but forward.  Oftentimes, there's also no real ability to move in any direction but forward.  The only occasion where you will find yourself allowed to revisit locations you've been to in the game once already comes at the very tail-end of it in a way that feels....well, tacked on as a sort of "Okay, people probably didn't do everything in the one open-area in the game, so let's give them a way back" way.  I'll spoil it now, I guess since it doesn't really matter, but in the actual Gods-Honest end area, literally steps before you fight the final boss, you can go back to Gran Pulse if you want to run around the wilds and be free, or do some more Ci'eth Stone missions because there's goddamn 64 of them and you aren't going to be able to do them all when you get there because it launches some fuck-off hard monsters at you in some of them.

It's worth noting that when you beat the game, you can load your clear data to be dropped into this very same spot with the option of going back to a (presumably middle-of-being-destroyed) Cocoon (spoiler alert) or the aforementioned Gran Pulse through means of the same "Hey they just magically appeared" portals, thus giving you the barest hint of 'Post-game'.  You also have the highest-tier of the Crystarium unlocked when you beat it (yes, you read that right), giving you something to aspire to in terms of a system for advancement as well, which gives you a purpose beyond the Cie'th Stone missions for continuing to play.  But for pretty much every point in the game before Gran Pulse, you're technically supposed to go one way and you're kind of stuck doing it because there is literally no way to go the -other- way, as in the one you just came from.  And even after the big open Gran Pulse area, it bottles back up until you get to end-game where, as stated, you can go back to the playground if it's really that important to you to do so.

The issue with Gran Pulse itself is that it is massive, indeed, but it's pretty much only massive in comparison and that size isn't really used well at all.  As stated, there are Cie'th Stones dotting the landscape and, should you choose to undertake the missions that are offered therein, then congratulations, you get to run around for extended periods of time to the other end of the map or to a different section of it entirely or something.  Just....running the whole way there.  Eventually, you can unlock Chocobos that makes the travel time easier, but that's after you've run around for at least a dozen missions and at that point it hardly seems like an 'upgrade' in the sense that it's almost a necessity for some missions and it's actually a necessity for a few.  Regardless, it's just a large area for the sake of being large and, in the grand scheme of things, that makes it a little less large in fact, since there's whole swaths of area you don't need to, nor will you, frequent after perhaps going there once.  In all honesty, you're tossed from the 'corridor' that people make the bulk of the game out to be into a medium-sized room with landscape painted on the walls to make it seem bigger than it is.

Crystarium Overhaul

The Crystarium is, if you don't know already, the big mechanic in FFXIII through which you buy your abilities and grow your characters when you shake your fist hard enough at the screen to earn CP to spend.  Which is, of course, just me over-exaggerating how difficult it is to get CP early on, since, well, that's when you want CP.  It's a big, flashy thing to be sure, and is quite pretty to look at, though at its core it's basically just discs with bubbles on them that are connected by lines and those lines are the funnels through which you spend CP from one bubble to the next.  Yes, they're 'crystals', but the bulk of them look like bubbles, so that's what I called them.  It's a system that's built purely on its layout and that is, of course, inherently where the problem lies because it just wasn't laid out well at all.  The starting points, which is to say, the only points you get to use at all for half of the game, are designed in a way, in conjunction with the rest of the completely micro-managed game design prominent in the first half of the game, to ensure you have only x abilities, y stats, and z skills.  There is no way to 'game' the system, since all you can do is unlock what's there and then sit on an ever-growing mountain of CP until you advance the story enough (i.e. fight the next boss, or the boss after next in some cases) to open a new disc or two of the Crystarium.

In a lot of ways, the Crystarium can be likened to the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X in that it's divided in a way that gives everyone a little something unique to start with, but eventually allows everyone to pick from any class (or 'build' in FFX's case).  This seems like it can't go wrong in theory because how hard is it to take something and repurpose it in a way that's good?  Not hard at all.  (Wait for it.....wait forrrr iiiiiit...)  Unless you're Squeenix who, if you haven't paid attention, are just not good at doing the same thing twice or doing something again well.  Taking something that's supposed to promote versatility and then tailor-making each one in a way that literally prevents everyone from being versatile is literally the only way to mess it up so guess what Squeenix did!  I'm sure it's not obvious from the subtle context clues, so I'll just spell it out in the broadest, easiest terms here.  The Crystarium, at its fully unlocked potential, is made to allow your characters to be great in three classes and such so badly in the other three that it's not even an option and is, in fact, a waste of CP.

If you'll allow me to use Lightning as an example, then I'll say that of the six classes (which are Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Synergist, Saboteur and Medic), Lightning is only proficient in Commando, Ravager and Medic.  What this means is that, when you get the ability to actually buy into the Synergist, Saboteur and Sentinel trees, you're use to spending around 3,000 to 6,000 CP for a modest increase to your stats and a higher-end ability which eventually goes up to 12,000 CP, but they're on rather large discs, so the spread goes over-time.  When you look at the first disc for, say, Sentinel, it's no surprise that it starts off as a tiny disk as you're probably use to in starting off.  What -is- surprising, is that the four or five bubbles on that disk, for like HP+15, Magic +3, etc. cost the same 3,000-6,000 you're used to spending for three times that benefit.  And those small discs?  That's all there is.  To the very top of the tree.  You learn maybe a third of the skills that someone who is proficient in the class will learn and the attribute bonuses never get good.  For exorbitant CP costs all the while.

Beyond it just working out that some characters are just awful at some classes by design, the other problem with the Crystarium is that it's wholly and completely limited.  The Crystarium 'unlocks' at like four different points in the game, through which you get to go up a couple disks, to getting the 'other' primary classes, to eventually being able to go into any tree, as mentioned, to having full access to the whole of it in post-game.  Two completely arbitrary limits on a system that, again, is based on a system built around versatility is missing the entire point and is, in fact, -counter- to the point, and just shows that it wasn't thought-out well in terms of its own design.  It was thought out in terms of the 'narrative', which is what governs the first half of the game unquestionably.  There's many ways that it could've been done better without simply copying the Sphere Grid, like just....making sure everybody gets the same, but cramming it all into the post-game update if that was even necessary or something, and Squeenix just didn't think of any while the game was being made and it showed in a rather unfortunate way.

Pick a Focus (hurr hurr) and Stick With It

This, for all my praise of FFXIII's narrative and story (so, like, the Nautilus part basically) is the single-most frustrating part of the game simply because it had the chance to be the best -part- of the game and utterly and completely wasted it.  You see, Final Fantasy XIII is like a bad novel in that you don't even have to worry about the plot holes or anything, because they writers completely and totally failed to keep consistency in the important bits, the things you'll notice, that anyone with a brain will notice, and they introduce a lot of things at the start that seem cool and interesting, but are relegated to fluff because they're completely and totally overlooked and -gone- by the second half of it all.  What remains, even, is something that lacks exposition of any kind and is just....well, not good.  By and large because at that point, you simply have accepted that what is is because simply that's what it is, since the game refuses to expose any of its intimate details unto you within its own narrative.  (By the by, anything that's explained in the datalog can go fuck itself.  TALK ABOUT IT IN THE GAME.)

The most irksome thing is pretty much what the entire foundation of the game itself rests on:  the Fal'Cie and their relationship with humans.  The Fal'Cie are pretty much the primary focus of the game in a very, very roundabout what and the telling part of just how much they're not explained is that I played the entire game and I cannot tell you what a fucking Fal'Cie is.  They're 'Gods' of some sort, apparently, I got that much, but you're given no explanation into their existence other than "The Maker made them", and there's very little there to allow you to understand why the do what they do.  And what they do is turn human beings into l'Cie which are, basically slaves, for a single purpose - a 'Focus'.  Only that 'Focus' is apparently only given to l'Cie in a hazy, hard-to-remember dream that they have to then remember and then carry out.  Needless to say, a lot of l'Cie are created and few succeed in their task.  'So what happens when they fail?', I hear you ask, since there are a lot of failures.  Simple answer?  I don't fucking know.

At the start, the game sits you down and tells you that l'Cie have one of two things to look forward to:  either they complete their Focus and are granted eternal life within crystal, or they fail to complete their Focus in the time they have and they turn into monsters known as Cie'th.  Now, at this point, you probably recognize the term Cie'th because there are Cie'th stones on Pulse.  Apparently, these Cie'th stones are people who were Cie'th so long that instead of getting killed by the wildlife there that exists solely to murder you, they became stones that forever agonized their inability to complete their Focus, and that single-mindedness can be heard by other l'Cie who are close enough, which translates into you completing their Focus for them which does nothing.  They don't un-stone, they don't un-crystal, they simply float there forever and offer you the chance to re-murder the unique entity that they were supposed to kill and failed to do.  Some of them allow you to teleport to other Cie'th stones.  I don't even know what the fuck.

So, I mean, I guess l'Cie become Cie'th and then die or not die for long enough to become stones that float around for eternity.  I don't know.  I don't really even care anymore, since I am so let down by what the perception of what Fal'Cie and l'Cie were when the game started explaining them.  You see, with the way the game was describing Fal'Cie, I was expecting these all-powerful humans that could enthrall Humans, binding them with magic to a task, something like a Vampire and their ghouls.  And you know what?  Blah blah, nobody likes Vampires, but that would've been cool.  So when the game was like "Hey, we're about to go meet a Fal'Cie" I was so very, very excited.  I was wondering just what one looked like, and wondered if it would end up being the main antagonist of the game, or would be like a mid-boss or something like that.  I was incredibly curious about it, is the point, so I rushed forward to take a gander, expecting something really cool.

It was not cool.

What I ended up running into was a giant machine that I beat mercilessly to no avail because after the fight, in a cutscene, it sort of kind of transformed into something and used giant energy tentacles to brand the party and blah blah blah.  It sucked.  It was completely uninspired, and in no way, shape or form was I ready to expect a machine, and I -guess- that's a plot twist maybe or something, it still sucked.  The worst part of it?  You never see that Fal'Cie again.  In the entire game.  That's just one example of how completely and totally flubbed the whole Fal'Cie thing was in the entire game, and believe me, there are plenty, plenty more of them.  I'm sure you don't doubt that whatsoever.  And that's how just about every important plot point is handled, in that you get the barest hints of what's going on and absolutely nothing else, so that you can't even really figure out what's going on.  Not to mention that some of the things the game -does- tell you with a level of certainty are, sometimes, completely and totally circumvented by things that happen later on.  It doesn't know where it stands, so you have that much less chance of knowing that very fact yourself, and that's just poor all around.

Hilariously, I stand by my assertion that there -is- a good game within Final Fantasy XIII, but as you can see, it's buried under a mess of trouble and poor craftsmanship.  For that reason, there's just no way it can be expected to shine, and that's a real shame.  There are even a couple of other points I probably could've gone on at length over, and may yet some other night, but I think this is enough elaboration for now, since these are, in no uncertain terms, very big issues in themselves.  I suppose my only defense in stating that I liked FFXIII is that the verve I speak about the game, and the clear amount of thought I've put into it suggests that I feel deeply for it and because I can't love it for its faults, I can hate it for what it could've been but wasn't.  The funny thing is that, these issues here that I have, the vast majority of the internet (I think) will tell you have been fixed in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and that XIII-2 is fun, where XIII was not.  And it seems easy to consider, right?  I mean, they couldn't get it more wrong a second time, right?

If you said "right", then you haven't been paying attention.  But that?  That is a topic for another night.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Let's Chat About the PASBR Roster

So, I still really like PASBR and I'm quite a few characters in now, precisely ten stories down if I'm being direct and having that realization made it quite easy to figure out something else to speak on concerning the game.  One of the biggest bones of contention a lot of people are taking with the game is the roster which is all at once understandable, yet at the same time, I personally think it's fine for a first effort.  You're not going to please everybody, so your main goal is just to please -enough- people and the blend of old and new that Sony managed to pull off with PASBR is very, very good at doing just that since I don't think you can honestly show the roster to somebody who has played a lot of Playstation without them favoring at least one character, much less multiples.  PaRappa the Rapper, Sir Daniel Fortesque and Spike are really there for the old faithful at least, and then you have the new kids on the block like Nathan Drake and Cole to represent the new generation.  It does a really good job of it in my opinion, but a lot of people don't agree with me and I have to sort of wonder at the why, since some of it is more understandable than others.

The bulk of the complaints seem to be directed at Fat Princess who is certainly an outlier in the line-up compared to the rest.  At the same time, however, the game is all about honoring characters that have had a big deal with Playstation one way or another and there's no denying that for any of the other characters.  The thing with Fat Princess however is that the game -was- a big deal....when it came out in 2009 to the entirely too small audience that the PS3 had in the Digital-Onlly Scene in comparison to XBLA.  Basically back then, it was 'the' game to get since it was the new original game for PSN, only for PSN that joined a whole roster of titles that numbered in the teens, probably.  So unless you were 'there' and you got it 'then', then yes, I can understand why it's significance is lost on you, and I am really trying to not sound like a hipster, but I am failing miserably at it so just try and think of that in terms that aren't horribly condescending.  It helps that the game was pretty damn good too.  I'll need to make a mental note to do something with it in the future since I imagine a lot of people haven't experienced it.

The other real outlier here, to me, is Big Daddy since Bioshock....well, it's not a Playstation-exclusive, nor has it been entirely too Playstation-friendly, really.  I mean, yeah, it's improved some with Irrational Games buddying up with Sony for some bare-bones extra Infinite stuff (I think it supports Move?  Maybe?) plus a Bioshock Vita game that we better get, Levine, but the original Bioshock was released for PS3 a year late with a not-perfect port and Bioshock 2 was just lucky to have a simultaneous release.  Still, I guess it was a big deal when Bioshock was announced for PS3, and Big Daddy is by and large the most iconic figure from the series I would assume, even if all three games are in different times/eras or something, I honestly really haven't played a lot of Bioshock because I don't like it.  (Don't hurt me, Chance)  So he works, but he's definitely on the shakiest ice out of everybody in my opinion.  I wouldn't be too surprised if, in the case that there's a sequel (there better be) Big Daddy didn't make the roster for that one.  But that's a year or so in the future at least, so no need to think on it too much now.

So, if you're not complaining about who is on the roster, you're likely complaining about just who isn't and that's entirely fair.  There's some glaring oversights here and I'm sure we can all attribute that directly to the respective IP holders being gigantic assholes.  After all, Sony has no rights over any of the big-name Third-party characters you expect, even if their origins were on the original Playstation and helped bring the system to prominence.  Indeed, the two companies that really hold all the power here are Squeenix and Activision, neither of whom are really....known for playing nice without tons of money being involved or, in Squeenix's case, if they're really really desperate because of poor decisions in the past.  Lara Croft, every Final Fantasy character you love or hate, and possibly even Gex (you remember Gex, right?  No?  err...) are under the umbrella of Squeenix whereas Activision has their claws into Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon and are doing absolute dick with both of them.  Shut up about Skylanders, you don't even main as Spyro, he's just fodder in the game.

A theory that makes a whole hell of a lot of sense that's floating around there is that both companies were waiting for the Paid DLC portion of the post-release, since profits are much more generous for DLC than they would be for an inclusion in the base game.  I don't know if that's actually true, but look at the two companies, look at that reason, and see if you're not tempted to believe that shit at face value.  Because I am.  I am running with that and I am not stopping until someone points out conclusive proof that points to otherwise.  Or....we don't see Cloud/Squall/Lightning/Lara/Crash/Spyro/Someone show up as paid DLC.  But even then, we can just assume talks fell through and the companies just resumed being gigantic assholes.  Because they totally are.  Still, it's clear that there's going to be quite a bit of DLC for the game which I welcome whole-heartedly, and it's going to begin with Free DLC that brings Kat from Gravity Rush and Emmett Graves from Starhawk, who is also known as "That dude from Starhawk", into the fray.  Beyond that, extra costumes, stages, unlockables and the like are all expected and they'll most likely be a blend of free and paid.  I'll have a hard time resisting throwing money at whatever comes for PASBR, because I really do like it that much and I want more of it.  Looking forward to it!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale - Long Name, Fun Game

Yes, that's a giant Chop Chop Master Onion kicking a Killzone Robot thing.

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale has kind of been a thing that's on everybody's radar mostly because it's, well, a big ordeal as a game on a basic level.  Mascot fighting games aren't numerous in number and in fact is sort of a point of contention in what counts for the term, further thinning the numbers.  Regardless, the 'big boy' of the genre has been seen as Super Smash Bros. since it came out and few games have come out in the meanwhile, and fewer still that could hope to challenge for that title in the public eye.  So when PASBR was announced and showed off, there was a lot of eye-rolling and saying "Oh boy, a rip-off of Super Smash Bros., that's going to be pretty bad." and then there wasn't a lot of thought beyond that.  Yet there was some reason, I can't place just what it was, that compelled me to get it even though my time with the Beta was minimal and I walked away thinking it was 'alright'.  Having played it for the bulk of today, however, I am very, very glad that I put down the money for this game because it's certainly worth it.

Utilizing the Cross-Buy feature of the game, I've spent all my time with the Vita version of the game which is a wonderful, wonderful version of the game.  It's clear and good-looking and most importantly, the frame rate seems to be locked in the actual matches.  Maybe it was a trick of my eyes, but it seemed like one of the menus was cutting sub-30 for some reason as I went to customize one of the characters I played with, but it was only a "Blink and you'll miss it" deal and being outside of playing the game, it doesn't matter even one lick.  There are simply not enough positive things I can say about the port job that was done on this game and unless something drastically changes in the meanwhile, I daresay that it is quite nearly perfectly done.

As far as the game goes, the actual gameplay is rather fantastic as it's simple and accessible enough to pick up and understand in the span of a match and 'master' in as little as a few matches depending on the character, yet it's deep enough that there's strategy to it - not just slamming buttons.  That's what I enjoy the most, personally, because yes, slamming buttons does the job sometimes, but if you're not going to employ a little finesse then you're just wasting your time in my opinion.  Catering the the usual tenets of fighting games here, there are various types of fighters and they all rely on their own style to get you through.  Characters like Raiden and Cole (and his Evil version) are Strikers who exist to hit things in rapid succession in ways that are still not just mashing on buttons.  Then you have characters like Sackboy (yes, I've only played four characters so far, don't judge me) who aren't so adept in that and you have to rely more on trappings and the like.  Sackboy has a move that can drop a shock pad down that just waits there for someone to step on it.  He also has a move where he lays down a desk fan which pushes enemies in the opposite direction.  I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

(Side note, Sackboy also knows how to German Suplex things with the Grabinator Gloves, no I don't know what the hell)

The way the game seems to work is that every character has an Arcade Mode which is actually a Story Mode which means you have an intro that sort of explains why they're in the Tournament (Think Mortal Kombat, but nobody knows what the hell is going on) and then they have a cutscene all the way at the end with a 'rival' which is a term used loosely.  Some Rivalries are awesome and amazing, like Cole vs. Raiden which is fucking perfect A++ would praise again, and some of them are....Evil Cole versus Fat Princess.  This is a perfect way to show off the light-hearted mood the game carries overall, even with the inclusion of some moodier characters like Raiden or Kratos, and I wholeheartedly support it.  If it tried to be too serious about it, it'd be a wholly different deal, but thankfully they avoided that pitfall deftly.  Following the Rival battle, you're immediately placed into the Boss fight against Polygon Man (which is, again an -awesome- idea) and upon winning, you're treated to a little outro that basically sums up what the character has derived from it.  It's certainly not story-intensive, but it also doesn't need to be, and what little is there is done well enough that I can't fault it.

If you need some examples, I can share a couple from my experiences today.  Cole hears of a gathering of powerful people and thinks they're Conduits, so he goes to investigate to find out their intention and also see if any of them will help him defend 'the city', which could be New Marias or Empire City, I don't know.  After beating a bunch of people, he encounters Raiden who is a little hostile and puts him out, beats Polygon Man and returns to 'the city' with the knowledge that he can protect it all on his own.  Sackboy hears of a world that's devoid of inspiration, of creation, and sets out to right that wrong.  He meets up with a Little Sister who thinks he's adorable and wants to keep him but her Big Daddy is less than impressed.  Sackboy puts him down, beats Polygon Man and returns to LittleBigPlanet with a wealth of new inspiration with which to further create and better LittleBigPlanet.  (Side note:  His intro and outro are narrated by Stephen Fry as per LBP games and it's wonderful.)  As I said, it's by no means story intensive, but I don't need a cutscene after every fight where Kratos ponders why he repeatedly stabbed PaRappa the Rapper in the gut and vows to get revenge on Zeus who is sending playthings after him or I don't even know, you get where I'm going with this.

The most important thing to take away from all this is that Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is fun.  Incredibly so.  I'm sure nobody really assumed that was going to be a thing that happened, but I am here to tell you that it did.  It did just happen.  Beyond the Story Mode, there's also trials for every character to take which allows you to get a feel for them, as well as versus modes (I assume for local play mostly) and the online fare with ranked matches and the like.  And even beyond that, the game is lousy with unlockables which is to say there's a ton of them.  (That's a proper usage of 'lousy with', btw, I'm sure you knew that, but I wanted to make sure you also knew I wasn't being facetious)  Playing with a character ultimately earns you Rank Points that ranks you up for a win as well as for earning any Goal bonuses or the like (Win 25 Arcade Matches, etc. stuff like that) which increases your rank.  Each character can seemingly go to Rank 200 which I assume you might meet with -one- character that you -really- like if you're heavy into online stuff, but at the same time, it is -there- for you to aspire to with the others if you so desire.  Which means, in short, there's a whole hell of a lot of game there if you're interested.  And while I won't go to that extreme, I know that I'm going to have to actually ponder whether I want to play Persona 4 Golden or PASBR which is a decision I really didn't think I'd have to make last week.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jet Set Radiooooo!

I like the Graffiti maker..

You better believe I got in on some of that sweet sweet Jet Set Radio love as soon as it was available and indeed, it was just Tuesday night, the very first night it was available that I had the game downloaded and picked into it for the first time.  I don't remember a lot about the game in its initial release on the Dreamcast, though I own it and still have very easy access to the disk and theoretically could have, at any point, tried to connect the console to my TV and re-experienced it.  But really, it wouldn't have been the same and after looking at the crisp appearance of it on the Vita's screen, I'm equal parts glad that I waited, and equally wish I'd tried it just to see the depth of the upgrade, but no matter.  I have tasted of the sweet sweet fruit that is the Vita re-release of the game and I am happy on the whole, even though I fear some of my affection for the game might be steeped a little too heavily in nostalgia.  Not too much, of course, and not in a big way, but still, there's some things I am poking at with a frowny face because I do not like them.

First off, from a positive view-point, the game does look incredibly wonderful thanks in no small part to the art style and the use of vibrant colors that makes everything pop deliciously.  And for what it's worth, I -believe- I heard complaints that the FPS chugged a bit in the console versions, but I've not experienced anything like that which honestly surprised me a bit, as the game does get chaotic fairly early in terms of a lot of things on screen that would make it chug.  Maybe that'll change in later stages, but I'll just believe that when I see it, really, because I have faith that it's pretty well set and can't help but wonder if the slightly extended wait was simply to optimize it; if it was, it certainly worked.  And even more impressive, I think, is the way that custom graffiti (as seen above) comes out looking, for the rather rudimentary editor you're given to play with.  I couldn't add the 'ed' to the end of it, but hey, 'Kupower" is a thing if by virtue of 'Kupowered' as a word is suggesting a thing that is powered by 'Kupower'.  There, I have made a thing.  Enjoy it.

Perhaps I was not in a way to enjoy the overall sounds of Jet Set Radio when I was younger, since I didn't remember it being quite so....well, fantastic, but I love it now and that's certainly what matters.  Whether it's the upbeat, enjoyable tracks playing during the stages themselves, never managing to be monotonous despite their extended exposure, or it's the exaggerated, excited voice of Professor K as he slings down the story as it is in his own way (while making sure to yell "Jet Set Radioooooo!" whenever possible), it's all an absolute treat for the ears.  I've taken to using headphones in general when I play my Vita because of the Youtube app (since I find some videos hard to hear otherwise) and it's games like this that truly make that worth it.  I'd put some serious thought into arguing that it is, in fact, a necessity, which is certainly not something I say about most games, but a strong audio direction like this has practically begs for it and you're doing yourself a disservice by not adhering to that.

The only gripe comes in when you slowly start to realize that while Jet Set Radio is a fun game, it is not an easy game by any means.  The controls are from the past to be sure, and precision is not its strongest suit.  It's an acquired taste, of course, as we've grown beyond such things with advancement, but that does not make them -bad-, simply harder and requiring more skill to truly make your own.  I have my complaints about this, a lot of them vocally as I play the game, but I don't begrudge it as I can feel myself getting better at it with every minute that I play it, since that is simply how it works.  As I go through the levels, it's easy to tell that the things that were issues in the earlier ones become trivial tasks to perform and when the time comes that I'll be able to try them again, it will be sweet, sweet vindication as I see that skill put to work.  When that day comes, I will be ready.

For the price of free, considering you have a Playstation Plus subscription, which you almost -need- to have at this point unless you hate value, Jet Set Radio is proving to be well and truly beyond the $10 it otherwise sells for.  Maybe it's just my joy at being 'reunited' with the game as one is reunited with an old friend and I'm simply swept up in the fun of it all, but I'm having an absolute blast with it despite the minimal grumbles it causes.  But grumbling is good.  Grumbling means that I'm invested, which I clearly am.  And I'm only going to get sucked in more and more as the grooves keep coming, getting to some of the even more memorable tunes.  Perhaps I'll even get to the end this time, which I'm quite sure that I never did back on the Dreamcast, which means it's something I am looking to rectify.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks Nintendo, See You Next Year Maybe

I'm pretty sure that every time I bring up the Wii U, I state just how difficult a decision it is whether or not I want it, to the point of honestly just not knowing still this week when the console was released to the wild for public consumption.  That's because until this week, the thing was still a mystery of sorts with key bits of information about it merely left in the box to be discovered by those who doled out the cash to partake of its design.  Perhaps it was that lack of transparency that bothered me or perhaps it was a slightly higher unwillingness on my part compared to others in accepting the latest from Nintendo in whatever form it carries or even some other factor, but there had been something, something gnawing at the back of mind for the longest time now about it and I do believe I know what it is.  Or rather, what they are, as there are quite a few factors that have pushed me into a decision.

Earlier today, I was in a situation when someone who does not share an enthusiasm for video games and the like, but understands and appreciates my own verve, took a circular from some store, I believe it was Target, and fixed me with a curious look.  "What's this?", she asked, referring to the Wii U display on the front page of it, taking up an inordinate amount of space than I would've liked to see.  As I began to rattle off the basic gist of it, that it's a brand new console and its main draw is a gamepad that does this and that and the like, she nodded and took a moment when I was done before looking at me again with that same expression.  "Would that be something you'd want?"  Posed to me like that, the question seemed almost rhetorical to me, in that it took me not even a beat to answer.

"Nah.", I said.  "Not this year, at least."

It seemed odd to me that it was that easy to answer this question that has...well, not agonized me for a while, but certainly has been something I have not gone a day or a considerable amount of time thinking about.  But, armed with the knowledge that's been released in positive and negative feedback about those who have this thing in their homes, their living rooms and their hands, I can safely say that, as it is, it's just not for me.  Not in the state it's in which is one of being favorable, but not without several flaws that I'm sure nobody can really argue against -being- flaws.  And even some of the things that can be hand-waved away for....some reason are just telling of things to come that I'd rather be on the opposite end of thanks to a bit of waiting.  In any case, it's left me all a bit wary to say the least, and that's pretty much all I needed to push back the interest and the subtle cravings for the new tech that I was feeling.

Primarily, my concern had always been the library, being that I'm not one to be taken in by the next Mario game (that will never ever ever again be Super Mario RPG:  Legend of the Seven Stars, also known as the best game with Mario in it as a titular character) or the next Zelda as, indeed, I've skipped so many of those at this point I've lost count.  I'm very, very comfortable with Sony's first and second party studios generating enough exclusives that I can have my fill on those and even skip those I might not be so enthusiastic with that I'm not really hard-up for 'new' 'original' games, leaving it down to the third-party support.  And, well, seeing as the bulk of the Wii U's library consists of games I could go out and purchase now, some even for a bargain price, there's not really anything there for me being that the few titles Nintendo has to itself don't really draw much interest from me.

Beyond that, however, the hardware and the network had always been the points where Nintendo had to 'prove themselves' so to speak and honestly, they came up a bit short.  They took very, very large strides forward with the Nintendo Network ID that was never completely explained until people were unboxing their Wii U's, downloading the gigantic firmware update and setting one up for themselves.  And that, more than anything else, had me wary from the beginning to the point where I began to wonder if the NNID -was- something you generated yourself or not.  After three different pieces of hardware with the much-despised Friend Code system, you would think they would shout from the rooftops, "And here is the Nintendo Network ID page where you create your own ID name, whatever you'd like so long as it's clean, to share as you game" and just hammering that point in.  If you want to be XxLinkRulezxX, hey, you can.  You'd be utterly, utterly terrible, and that probably exists out there, but you can, and that's really something that Nintendo should have covered in no uncertain terms.

Another facet that's a bit off with the network is that there's going to be almost no unified system beyond the NNID, which means things like no platform-wide achievement/trophy system.  It seems like a little thing to harp on, and in truth it might be, but I'm honestly less concerned about not having Nintendo's equivalent to Achievements and more concerned with the message it's broadcasting.  I imagine, being new to this in a sense, Nintendo's playing it a little conservatively, keeping network things to a minimum while simply concerning themselves with running a shop and the actual Nintendo Network and that's fine I suppose, but I just expected a little more out of them.  Not fully embracing what's already out there and instead cherry-picking what they want to embrace that is out there (Digital Distribution, Online Multi-player and the like, things they'd never be interested in unless their competitors didn't also have it) seems stubborn, and it'd just be a much, much easier sell if you could just say "Yeah, it does what everyone else does, -plus-" and then you rattle off the few exclusive bits that the Wii U has to offer.  But it doesn't, and that is a problem, considering we might have six years or so of the Wii U to look forward to.

People don't like to admit it, but there is an inherent value in Achievement systems nowadays and when even mobile phones and tablets that just so happen to play phone games are incorporating Achievement systems, you just go with it.  It is a gaming thing now, much like more than two buttons, much like dual sticks (or control methods to mimic that) and the like.  Embrace it and make it your own, because, especially at launch, you want to give people reason, any reason at all, to keep playing the few games (comparatively speaking) that are out there while getting more out.  Personally, I would've liked to see what Nintendo could have made out of such a system, and in truth, I suspect we'll see it just yet.  If the 3DS has taught us anything, it's that Nintendo will be quick to cave into pressure so long as it means selling their product over another, so expect such a system to show up late to the party (much like the PS3's trophy system) if a formal price drop happens for the PS3 or 360 or, by some chance, the next version of either console is announced as well.  Anything to direct some of that thunder onto themselves while also making it a somewhat more appealing package.  I don't particularly like it, if you couldn't tell, but it's just business and that is a thing they do in business.

On the hardware side, it's rather telling that this is Nintendo's first attempt at a big, bad system like this, with reports from....what, like everyone who owns the system? that there are definite issues with it still that need to be ironed out.  Hard locks, crashes and the like, thankfully not leading to bricking in most cases, are entirely more common than is acceptable, I should say, and that's something that just can't be overlooked.  And while these crashes and locks aren't leading to system bricking, something fairly consistent is, however, and it is a very dreaded thing.  Upon plugging in your Wii U and setting it up, you will need to download a System Update if you want just about anything but play some of the games, completely offline.  Miiverse, Wii Backwards Compatibility and a slew of other things are handled and/or unlocked in the initial firmware update (as well as the whole not being able to be online with it unless you're up-to-date) and it definitely shows in the size.  There's no official word out there that I know of, but I've seen some statements claiming that the update is just under the 5 gig mark (based on bandwidth usage for those who have a cap, take that for what you will) which is absurd.  Now, folks out there seem to be saying that if you turn off the console, unplug it (which you should never do on these two fronts) or in at least one case that I read, if your internet cuts out (which is...well, not your fault), your system could very well turn into a shiny paperweight.

That is exceedingly alarming for me personally when you consider that I have a very, very shitty internet speed and, unless you buy an ethernet adapter, you're stuck with Wi-fi which is not always super good in terms of signal strength and reliability.  The absolutely insane amount of time I would need to download 5 gigs (if estimates were right, of course) almost insists that I would have a period of time in which the internet would -not- be up, cutting off the download short.  That's just based on general signal strength and the like, not that my ISP likes shutting the internet off in the wee hours of the morning sometimes for 'maintenance', usually only for 10-15 minutes or so if they do it, but, well, it's taking away any sense of reliability that exists.  Knowing that the only thing as a broad network that's waiting beyond that is Miiverse leaves one a little less than enthused as well, which is not a very good combination to have going on.  It's doubly worrying that it's something that's never really going to go away either, I imagine, since you -always- need a firmware update when you get a thing, no matter how new it is.

The final gripe I have is with the whole Gamepad thing itself, and it's just -in general-.  The battery life on the thing is a joke and it's like "well yeah, but-".  No.  No butts.  It is a controller that was built to be a wireless thing.  If you can't get more than 3.5 hours out of it on default, then you have a shitty controller, I don't care how much fancy shit is on it.  And seeing as a lot of games -aren't- actually supporting the Pro Controller that has all the same buttons and stuff as many are quick to point out in defense of the Gamepad itself, and is in fact a $40 ($50?) paperweight unless you have one of the few games that uses it, you are stuck with a system that has a shitty controller.  One that I suspect was done on purpose as many have stated that the battery on the thing is small compared to the space it's in, suggesting that an 'upgrade' is likely in the cards down the road.  Which...means that there's either a revision on the Gamepad in-coming before it's actually available for separate purchase (because remember, the only way to have a Gamepad is to have a Wii U, since it's not sold separately, and no game currently supports more than one, negating the need, for now, for another) or there's going to be an add-on that is specifically just a better battery.  Seeing as Nintendo is no stranger to either practice...well, you see where I'm going with this.  It's frankly something that I feel like Nintendo gets by scott-free on, when any other company would be berated into the ground over it at this point.

Regardless of my griping, and I know there's been a lot of it, making this sound ridiculous, but I don't have any honest ire or anything against the system.  I've just taken the bits of information that are out there (plus a couple I didn't even bring up because oh lord this is long enough already, I swear I don't actually hate Nintendo) and surmised that it's all just a little too much for me to justify actually wanting a Wii U without seeing if any of it is taken care of.  And honestly, that's enough of a concern as anything else, since you just don't -know- when it comes to Nintendo.  I don't actually see them as being a particularly user-friendly company, 3DS pandering aside, and I worry that these complaints and any others that people might have just won't actually be addressed in a meaningful way.  Perhaps I'm being a little too cynical, but we'll just have to see in the long run.  Certainly wouldn't be the first time I've had to say "Well, Nintendo proved me wrong" about something, but I'm not going to stand back and say nothing, because I'm not worried about having to say that.  I might even -welcome- it, since it'd mean that there's truly some great strides being made.  Maybe half a year or a year from now, I'll be able to look back and say "Man, I was worried over nothing", but, hey, it's equally possible that I could say "Man, it sucks that I was right".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Week The Wallet And Spare Time Died

The above (admittedly low-quality since I gave zero fucks about making it pretty) image displays the pick-ups I made today which is a lead-in to stating that the $100 I spent right there is me getting off light compared to some this week.  By spending only a meager one hundred dollars, I am getting the precise amount of entertainment I want and I am lucky that my desires, my wants, came that cheap this week.  You see, if you've been living under a rock or something, you will know that this was the week that a fucking metric ton of things came out, including but not limited to:  The above Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale (which is faring a bit better in reviews than one would assume - The bulk of the negatives being that it's 'not enough of a Smash Bros clone' which is absolutely fucking hilarious and god I hate critics) and Persona 4 Golden (a must-have for any Vita owner), as well as Hitman:  Absolution, Disney's Epic Mickey 2, and a little thing known as the Wii U which you might've heard of, I guess, plus a whole slew* of games for it.

*Slew not guaranteed quality

If that weren't enough, some of you will recall that this is also the week of Black Friday, which also means that it is the week where a bunch of people replace their brains with their wallets and their common sense with concrete-solid self-centeredness.  (Not in a wholly negative way, but I'm sure you know what I mean.  The bulk of the people shopping on Black Friday are pushy brutes who will trample you to save three dollars on something they don't even want.)  That all means that if you can truly get through this week without spending a dime on games or such, then I salute you, for you clearly have a will that is more steeled than my own.  I mean, I'm in a dangerous situation as it is - I bought those two games as is, and man was I tempted to look further for something else.  "Oh, I'm sure they have a copy of Zone of the Enders HD Collection - I really do want that Rising demo..."  "Oh, perhaps they have 999?  Or at least Virtue's Last Reward - don't wanna miss out on that."  "No, no, I cannot buy the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on PS3 or Vita yet still.  God help me, I want to, but I can't."  These and more all circulated through my head in the scant ten minutes or so that I spent within the walls of GameStop as I purchased my items and left; being extra careful to give the Wii U demo console a wide berth lest I feel compelled to play it for 'just a minute'.

Of course, if you follow my Twitter (I apologize for bringing it up so much), you might have noticed that I became less impressed with it by a fair deal when a double-tap of bad news (coupled with something I already knew) put everything to a halt.  I'm not going to speak on it too long here, as I want to do a different post for that, but suffice to say if I had made a checklist of "Ways Nintendo Can Make the Wii U Completely Unappealing To Me", then that was a lot of boxes checked all at the same time on a list that wasn't realistically very long to begin with.  On top of that, there's all sorts of reports of consoles bricking left and right because the reportedly 5 gig or so firmware update you have to download when you first power up the system was being interrupted by users and/or bad luck.  (Turning the machine off because there's no canceling the firmware update in the former, internet cutting out in the latter)  Even if I were geared up and ready to get my Mario ZombiU Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper on on the Wii U, all that would've been enough to give me pause - enough so that I think I can resist its charms even after a hands-on.  But I dare not gamble when it comes to these things because it is a fire that I'm not risking a burn with, not yet.

Regardless of whether you do somehow manage to avoid the temptations of spending this week, or you succumb to throwing green (or whatever color your money is) at a clerk for items bound by plastic shells, your free time is in a deathmatch with all that is offered this week.  Why is that, you ask, even if I don't spend a dime?  Well, that's because Playstation Plus arrived on the Vita this week in all its glory, throwing six full games, at least one of which you're guaranteed to not own on a Vita, into your lap or your hands or wherever your Vita spends the bulk of its time when you're actually playing it.  Uncharted:  Golden Abyss (which is getting a wonderful-looking Card Game Add-on at the start of December), Gravity Rush, Wipeout 2048, Mutant Blobs Attack!!!, Jet Set Radio (!) and Final Fantasy Tactics:  War of the Lions join the stable of games included in the Instant Game Collection, not replacing a single existing one in the PS3's list, meaning you have access to an entire 18 games right off the bat for your price of entry.  These Plus games are yours after you download the Vita's 2.00 Firmware Update that went live Monday Nig-

Wait.  Wait.  Did I just say Vita's 2.00 Firmware Update?  Why yes.  Yes I did.  Let's talk about the 2.00 update for a moment.

Okay, 2.00 is awesome.  When it was announced, it was just like "Oh, it's the Plus update, woo" and as it got closer and closer, little things were being said, things about folders for music and pictures and videos which is nice, and things about the browser that were very noncommittal and it was just like "Oh well, some other tweak-y stuff, that's always cool.".  And indeed, there -are- a lot of tweaks; the PSP and PSOne Emulators saw a bit of an update in terms of letting you know how to get into the Emulator options (touch the screen for a few moments) as well as adding some more control and viewing options which is always nice.  Near has once again been revamped for whatever that's worth, and most instances of "Please Wait..." for various things (the one I noticed being Trophy Synching) seems to have been phased out completely which is alright.  But the thing to take away from this update?  The singular thing that elevates it from cool to holy shit yesssss?  Open a game.  Any game.  Whatever, open your copy of Xenogears (because you should have a copy of Xenogears) or Persona 4 Golden, whatever you want, and start playing it some, then press the PS button, swipe over and find your Internet Browser bubble, open it and look up your website of choice.



That just happened.  

That just happened and it's awesome that it works now without a LiveTweet workaround.

Anyways, as I was saying, your time is being contested by these free games out there, simply waiting for you to give them a good home and a little attention and for someone like myself, that's going to be a goddamn chore.  I'm not done with Ragnarok Odyssey yet in terms of I haven't finished it, but with Persona 4 Golden in my possession, I am done with Ragnarok Odyssey for now.  Then I have a copy of PASBR for my Vita on my PS3 disk just waiting to be transferred over (at least, I believe that's how it works) which I actually intend to play because it looks neat.  The aforementioned Mutants Blobs Attack!!! has been downloaded and I put a little time into it already - it's a neat little game, I'll give it that much, but tilt sections are the worst.  On top of all that, I have Jet Set Radio downloading right this moment (and, well, for the last three hours and the next....three...hours) which you know damn well I am going to put some time into.  I do not have time for all this.  At all.  But goddamnit, I am going to make time for it all because this is prime-time right here and I haven't been this excited at being in the middle of a field of options in....well, quite a while.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

So, I've Been Slipping Lately

To make up for it, enjoy this video of someone in a Deadpool outfit having some fun with Gangnam Style.  And then briefly consider that it's entirely well within his character and ponder just how awesome that is.

In all seriousness, things have just not really gotten a whole lot better and I imagine that they will not for a while.  This is the part where I just say "Hey, bear with me" because, well, I'm trying.  It's not easy on the easiest of nights to really come out and write up something that I hope is informative, entertaining or a combination of both, and if I didn't -really- enjoy it, I probably would've stopped.  Well, no, I definitely would've stopped by now.  But I really do love having this outlet to actually sit down and clear out thoughts in my head or even make some things a little clearer in some cases, simply by typing it out and really trying to form cohesive thoughts about it.  It helps a lot, and while I hope there are people that read this blog and actually enjoy it, right now I need the outlet more than I need anything else.

Of course, there's just going to be nights where I just can't do anything with that outlet which is very, very frustrating for me, but it's not something I can change.  I can't force it, and I doubt anyone would want to read the results of if I were to attempt that feat.  It wouldn't bother me so much if the Twitter gadget on the sidebar would actually work, but with Twitter's recent updates, it seems it went and borked gadgets all around, so maybe it'll fix itself eventually, or maybe it won't.  At least I know it's not just -my- gadget, as I have looked around to see others similarly affected, but it's annoying nonetheless since I wholeheartedly doubt there are people who know my twitter exists outside of seeing it on the sidebar.  But that's another thing I just can't change.  I can just say that if I feel like I'm not up to writing, I'll probably point it out on Twitter.  It's still here and feel free to check it out if you'd like, but by no means am I trying to make it a thing you have to keep up with.

So yeah.  While I'll try to keep things fairly steady here for myself if nothing else, I can make no guarantees because, well, things just sort of happen and it's by and large not been positive lately.  I'm sure I don't have to explain how that might just not be very good for a lot of things, including writing.  I just know that low points have to even out eventually and then I can build back up and get back to fairly normal.  Between now and then, there might be some fits and starts and such, but I'll try to keep them at a minimum and I don't plan on making this the place where I go boo-hoo about things since you're not interested in hearing it and I'm not interested in sharing it.  I (mostly) just want to talk about video games here, so that's what I'll continue doing.  Though, I have been interested in watching a few movies again lately that I want to do up a Popcorn On for.  And I've wanted to do something about Burn Notice for a while...But, that's all future stuff.  For now, that's about it.  If you haven't read the Final Fantasy XIII Review, it'd be cool if you did that, since it was an effort, but no worries.  Hell, just watch the Deadpool video again if nothing else.  Because, again, it's pretty damn cool.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review - Final Fantasy XIII

I like Final Fantasy XIII.


I said it.

It is not a deep, extensive or even grand affection for the game, but it is an affection for the game, which is probably the strongest statement I can make of it.  I never thought I would be at this point, where I have both beaten the game and walked away with anything positive, but it happened and I'm honestly not sure why.  It's honestly the most confused I've been about a game in a long while because I like it and I know some reasons why, but I can't pin down the exact whole of it, leaving the question "Why don't I dislike it, then?" to which I just have absolutely no answer.  I think part of the reason for that is that in absolutely no one way is Final Fantasy XIII not an absolutely overly complex game.  That is, as you might figure, mostly a negative point against it, but it really does work in its favor, apparently, so I guess there's a silver lining to it.

If I had to boil Final Fantasy XIII down to its three biggest strengths, which is to say that is what I'm going to do here, then the first strength of the game, the one you'll notice first assuredly, is that the game is fucking gorgeous.  Yes, we're supposed to like a game of its merits and not by how pretty it is and blah blah blah, but when you're faced with a game that is as absolutely, unashamedly good to look at as Final Fantasy XIII, you can't help but appreciate it for that.  Because it's not enough that the game is beautiful to look at in cutscenes, which it honestly is and I would probably pay money to watch Final Fantasy XIII as a straight movie done purely in the FMV graphics because they are -that- good looking.  It's not enough that there is an almost wonderful level of detail actually put into the whole of things, creating lush visuals that make sense and, for the few indoor spaces, as in domestic places, that are in the game there's a certain, undeniable amount of architecture thought out, as well as some decent interior design.

The entire world that is Final Fantasy XIII is absolutely stunning to look at.  Even though the theory that a lot of games for a while there used fifteen shades of brown and little else is a little overblown, there are an unfortunately scarce few games that actually take from every little inch of the color wheel, and actually make the effort to make those colors vibrant, to make them pop and give the entire visual a constant glamour no matter what it was that you were looking at.  I made that lead-in, obviously, to say that Final Fantasy XIII does just that and is pretty much the entire basis of it being wonderful to look at.  But I try not to gush so much about that as the important bit of that which is the bit where I point out that the design of things isn't that bad, which is an important distinction to make, especially when it concerns Final Fantasy as a series and especially especially when it comes to Tetsuya "I Made A Goddamn Belt Dress" Nomura.  Yes, dude has done a lot of good stuff aside, but you're always as bad as your worst moment, thus the distinction.

Character design is actually something I'd throw out there as another positive about the game's look because, well, I really -like- the way all of the characters look.  Nobody really feels over-accessorized or anything of that sort, merely appropriately detailed and some characters are downright minimalist.  Snow, for example, has a skull cap, trench coat, gloves, pants and boots.  That is basically all there is to his design and it -works- because it's a decent look and more importantly, it fits Snow's character exceptionally.  Dude is just a simple guy who likes punching things which you all know I can certainly respect.  He's not particularly flashy, but he wants to be noticeable and memorable as the Hero who saved someone because that's just what he does.  That translates really well just by how he looks, and of course in how he acts and talks as well, but I'm not quite to that part yet.

Well, okay I am, actually.  The second strength that Final Fantasy XIII has is its characters.  One of the best things that Squeenix did with the game was setting it up like they did at the start, switching between various perspectives across the characters who eventually made it into groups.  This gave them time to introduce everyone individually and give them a backstory, a motivation and such, establishing them all as their own character.  In the long run, everyone more or less had a real start point and a real end point with tangible development between with the bulk of it being really really well done.  It did go on a little too long at the start with the whole switching stuff, or perhaps that they just switched too much, and the actual 'party' wasn't formed until.....essentially 20 hours into the game, but it's a solid concept that was done well enough that it worked out.  Especially since the arcs set up real, actual conflict within the party members in a way that was, at least, set up well, if not followed up on well enough.

I'm treading into spoiler territory now, and I do so with no shame because you either know the intricacies of Final Fantasy XIII's story (or at least the broad strokes), you don't -care- about the intricacies of the story, or you know how to skip a couple paragraphs.  The two main 'conflicts' within the party were basically the same situation told two different ways and in a spectacular show of range, it failed miserably with one execution, and was the best goddamn part of the entire game with the other.  I have absolutely zero idea how you manage that, how such a thing is even possible technically, but Squeenix managed it and if nothing else, I applaud them for their long-standing ability to have absolutely no idea what they're doing at most times apparently.  But at the same time, I'm not judging -too- harshly because, as I said, the one part is so well done that it is literally my favorite part of the whole game.

So I won't talk about that one first.  Let's talk about Hope Estheim and Snow Villiers.  This one was mostly spoiled in all the previews and such, so I won't dwell on it too much, but I do have to do -some- leading into it.  Basically, the entire game starts with a 'Purge' which is basically when the ruling government gets a bunch of people in an area and sends them to another planet, except they don't, they just straight-up murder them somewhere.  A resistance group, NORA, led by Snow just happens to know this and are on hand when stuff goes down (thanks to Lightning) and they have a chance to rescue a bunch of people about to be Purged.  Two such people are Hope and his mother, coincidentally named Nora, and when Snow asks for volunteers to help fight, Nora decides she wants to shoot things instead of being near her kid with the knowledge that they were both almost about to get killed.

Snow and the rest of Nora take on soldiers and blah blah blah when reinforcements come, wreck a bunch of stuff and Nora falls off a bridge to her death.  Hope, of course, sees this sees Snow survived and instantly decides that he has to remedy that, except he doesn't really....know how to do that.  At all.  So he just sorts of festers impotently for a while before a series of bad decisions leads him to follow Snow (with Vanille in tow) which gets him close to Snow, whom he simply does not confront in any way, shape or form.  It's incredibly awkward and by some measure, I understand that it's supposed to be, but much like the laughing scene from Final Fantasy X, it blurs the line between intended results and actual results.  This theme carries on for at least ten hours into the game, if not more, until it reaches an apex and has absolutely no payoff whatsoever because of an accident that necessitates they work together and it all just sort of melts away.  It fizzles out and is wholly unsatisfying.

This is where it gets a little more spoiler-y since I'm going to move on to points that weren't spoken of freely before the game came out.  If you take what is basically the exact same layout of "Person A accidentally causes Person B to lose a family member" and apply it to Sazh and Vanille, that works out to what I was stating is the best scene in the entire damn game.  Without getting into too much detail, Sazh has a son who, prior to the events of main-game FFXIII was turned into a l'Cie which is basically a death sentence.  Vanille is more or less the reason for that and yes, it wasn't on purpose any more than Nora's demise was Snow's fault, but they were still basically catalysts to their incidents.  Thing is, Vanille -knows- what happened - she was there after all, but while she's traveling with Sazh (just the two of them as the party split happens, which keeps every group to two people annoyingly) it....well, never comes up.  Even after Sazh tells his story of why he was on the Purge train that got derailed and started their whole little adventure, she says absolutely nothing about it.

This has all the same elements as the Hope/Snow angle in that it's established and has time to build before it comes to a boil as it were, since you are given time to know just what is going on and anticipate when it's all going to come crashing down.  It's just that, for Hope and Snow, it sort of just flops, whereas with Sazh and Vanille, it's an absolute trainwreck, but in a good way.  It's compelling, it's dramatic and it's very -real- the way he reacts when he finds out the truth.  I won't spoil that much, as it's something you honestly have to see unfold, and it's also best done when you actually have something invested in the game itself, but it unfolds in an absolutely amazing way.  It is, like I've said three times already, my favorite part in the entire game, and I think the part that legitimizes it from a story-telling perspective.  I don't know how it was done so well, only that it honestly was, and for that, I can only really applaud everyone involved.  Even knowing how it would turn out, how it would end, and what the aftermath would be, I couldn't help but be invested into it and find it as powerful as it was.

That is no small part of what I insist that FFXIII's characters are its second strong point, and perhaps even the strongest point the game has, but it's not the only part.  As I said, every character is established as their own entity which is criminally overlooked sometimes, and while some characters do border on stereotype, I would say that they all have enough depth that they're firmly not in that category.  Nobody feels flat or one-dimensional and everyone is noticeably different in behavior and outlook at the end than they were at the start, and there's not really any point in between where I questioned that change.  I admit that of the six, Hope was my least favorite and I do believe he saw the least amount of growth and development, but I even grudgingly admit that he did grow as a character through the game and with a little tweaking, could've been far better than he ended up.  Still, it's good that that's one of FFXIII's strong points because any good character is built on its battle system, its story and its characters.  Final Fantasy XIII has two of those.

Final Fantasy XIII's battle system is an odd, odd thing in that it is very focused and very well-designed under a certain group of circumstances, and then is utilized for half of the entire game improperly.  As in Squeenix, the people who made the battle system, force you through 20 hours of gameplay in which the battle system, the entire backbone of the goddamn game, is used in a way that it was not intended.  I will again refer you to the theory that Squeenix has absolutely no idea what they're doing at any given moment before moving along because I feel that is quite necessary.  For those not in the know, FFXIII's battle system is sort of a last bastion of Turn-based combat in that there is still an ATB gauge which still governs what your (controlled) character does (you can only be the leader, no one else) which you pick by auto-battle which considers the enemy and generally lines up a good variety of attacks to use, or by manually selecting abilities open to that class at the time.

Where it all changes up is that, with the class system, everyone is forced into particular roles that can only do so much.  Healers heal.  Commandos hit things.  Ravagers cast spells that hit things.  Et cetera, et cetera.  This is where the paradigm thing steps in.  You have what's known in-game as the Paradigm deck which is basically six slots with which you pick six combinations of the classes open to your characters to be at any given time.  Generally you want to stick with a good variety, make someone a Commando and someone else a Ravager, stick a Sentinel and a Medic together, etc. just so everyone plays off everyone's strengths.  It's a system about versatility that, considering it has only six slots, is a bit limited, but not incredibly so.  At any point in a battle, you hit L1 (on PS3) to open your Paradigm deck and switch, adding an element of strategy to battles.  Need a heal?  Switch to a paradigm with a Medic.  Need to build up a chain fast?  Switch to your Com/Rav paradigm or, if you're feeling lucky, Double Rav, hoping that the chain gauge doesn't deplete too fast.

You'll notice that I'm talking in terms of twos, which is what you're faced with at the start of the game through, again, about the 20-hour mark.  (Which is basically a straight-shot, as everyone says.  I mean, there's no real place that's good to grind in and actually no real reason to grind until you get to the latter half of the game, so you're really just pushed into going from plot point to plot point.)  The problem here, which is indeed a very big problem is that the Paradigm Battle System is intended for three party members.  Or, if not quite that, then it works -best- with three party members which is to say it works at all.  The system is just too...boring when you only have two people in it, or at least having three people outshines it that much that it feels flat otherwise.  When you have three party members in Final Fantasy XIII, the battle system is fun and it's interesting in that it's just interesting to look at, but you start getting a real feel for just how important all three characters and their roles are since just one difference could be the difference between getting stomped in a battle and winning unconditionally.

Again, how Squeenix was seemingly that clueless as to what was fun and what wasn't and what worked and what didn't boggles the mind completely and totally, but intentional or not, the battle system is an absolute treat in the circumstances with which it's allowed to truly shine, making it the third strength of the game.  If I didn't realize that when a small tweak in my party line-up was the difference in fighting a nearly unwinnable battle against the final boss and kicking said boss in his goddamn teeth so fast he didn't know what the fuck, then starting up Final Fantasy XIII-2 certainly made me realize it.  The game, of course, begins with only two characters using roughly the same battle system and it just serves to reaffirm my thoughts because it's boring as shit.  I'm told I'll get access to the third party member situation soon enough and it's pretty much right at the start of the game so that's fine, but the system just was not built for two people.  I cannot bury that point in any more than I have here and given that you've got to wade through so much shit as you do to get to the point where you have three people all the time, I can see why a lot of people threw the game aside in frustration.  Hell, I almost did that but in the end, I'm glad that I did.

That right there, that measure of being glad that I played the game, despite -everything- it has going against it, is why I thought it was worth it to actually attempt getting into it and reviewing it.  Even now, I've still got a lot of unresolved feelings about the game itself and I suspect a lot of them will just remain that way no matter what.  It's just such an -odd- game in that it actually -is- a good game under Squeenix's best efforts to the contrary when that's almost never the case.  Regardless of that, or perhaps -because- of that, I think it's probably one of those games that I'll never be able to completely forget which means that, by some measure, it is a fairly special game, for better or worse.  Certainly not my favorite game in the series, but I have a -lot- more opinion on it, a lot more general feelings and thoughts about it than most other games in the series, so that's saying something there.  And once again, I just have to come back to the bit where I said that I'm glad I played it, because even though I didn't love it or even like it at times, I feel like it was worth seeing it through.  I really think that says a lot more than I could hope to do otherwise.

The Good
  • The Battle System, under the right circumstances, is rather good and fast-paced
  • The Characters are all at least fairly well fleshed-out and aren't just stereotypes or one-dimensional
  • It is probably the prettiest game that came out in 2009/2010 by a wide margin
  • The Sazh/Vanille team and arc is so good by any standard, and especially against the rest of XIII
  • The music is pretty good with only a few tracks bringing it down overall
  • Character design is tastefully well done, as is the general world that FFXIII features
  • There are at least a lot of good -ideas- going on
The Bad
  • You don't get to use the Battle System properly for 20 hours
  • The overarching story is predictable and not particularly engaging unlike the character stories
  • So many missed opportunities
  • The mishandling of the game is apparent at every moment, reminding you that it honestly could've been good
  • Eidolon Fights are still stupid
  • It is just as linear as you've heard
  • It takes an absurd amount of time to 100%
Mogs Says
Final Fantasy XIII is not perfect.  It's not even close.  But it also doesn't have to be perfect or close because what it is is pretty good.  It's a good game done poorly, unfortunately, and you can only get to the point where the game is fun and interesting after a bunch of stuff that's done improperly.  It's certainly not for everyone and even not for folks who might consider themselves RPG-lovers because there is a 20-hour section of bad gameplay before it gets to how it was supposed to be, and is only then completely enjoyable.  At one point, Squeenix might have had something really really good with the game, but they wobbled it far too much and everyone suffered for it.  Still, they couldn't destroy everything good about it, and what's there and good is oftentimes great.