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Musai avatar 7:30 AM on 03.17.2010
Weddings, bad reviews, and why FFXIII is a good game.


Whoops, this is actually a screen for Time Crisis 14: Chicks In The Sky With Gunblades Shoot Things. Sorry!

It's been a while, hasn't it, d-toid? According to the window I have open, cataloguing my posts, the last time I posted anything was before the new year. Whoops. I suppose that I should probably mention that my girlfriend and I got married on the 6th of February. So aside from that, I've also applied for creative writing at the school that I already have an undergrad in linguistics from. I've also been trying to find a job and deal with some other personal stuff; so as you can see I have more than enough excuses to not post lately. For months I've kept meaning to find something to post only to have it taken away from me due to any random number of miscellaneous ideas floating through my head. But today, I felt that I had something to say that needs to be said.

Final Fantasy XIII is a good game.

You can call this a review of a review if you want, that doesn't bother me. In fact, it's what I'm going for. Let me start with this disclaimer, though I suspect after viewing the content of this post, no one will believe me. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fanboy. While I have enjoyed many games in the Final Fantasy series, I am not blind to their faults and shortcomings. I complained in FFX after they took my world map away and gave everyone shitty English voices. I complained that it was hard to find groups in FFXI. I complained that the gambit system was broken in XII, likewise, I have similar complaints regarding XIII, I'll get to them in a moment, however, as a former staff reviewer for RPGamer.com, and an amateur reviewer now, I don't feel it deserves the bad reviews it's been getting, including the shocker on this site; a 4/10. Now I've always been against a 10 scale for game reviews, given our tendencies to equate a “good” game with a passing grade in school - 60, in my case, or 6/10, but that doesn't apply in this case. 4/10, 2/5 stars, whatever. What I take issue with is the content of the poor scoring reviews, and the implication that FFXIII is on par with games like Olympic Winter Games 2010, or Rogue Warrior. In my experience, scores that low are reserved for when there is something actually broken with the game. Buggy AI, glitchy sound, things that barely qualify it as a game.

FF XIII doesn't even fall close to “below 6” territory. 6-10 becomes a matter of opinion. If you're giving a game below 6, you better have a damn good reason besides “well,_I_ didn't like it...” yet this seems to be true of the reviews with poor review scores. Comments like “I'm going to tear this game limb-from-limb” really have no place in a review that at its core, exists to help gamers decide what to spend their money on.

So then, here is MY Final Fantasy XIII mini review. Keep in mind, I've not finished with the game yet but that doesn't seem to be an issue in game reviews these days, given that a certain site's reviewer had not finished the game before bashing it. I'll assume if you're reading this, you're familiar with the game's terminology. As of chapter 7:

Like:

Combat: Frantic and fast paced, almost to the point where I'd call it an action-RPG. All the roles feel unique and fresh, and switching to the correct roles at the right time is the key to winning battles. Controlling one character is necessary to preserve the pace of combat, though it is a shame you can't control who you want until the end of the game, or so I'm told. Once you get through the early game tedium, the battle system really clicks. Summons in particular are not only eye candy, but definitely useful, if used properly. How? Simple: summons operate on the same rules as players do. If you summon them when the enemy is already staggered, and if you use the element the enemy is actually weak to, you'll see some impressive damage numbers. If you just summon them at random times, they'll be next to worthless.

Some of the characters, most of the time: Now, I'll get to what I mean by most in a second, but a few of the characters of the characters are (mostly) likable, chief among them Sazh whose outlook is often a stark contrast to other party members. But again, I'll get to that in a minute.

Scratching the surface: Final Fantasy XIII is not a game that feeds you its story on a silver platter. In the first few hours of the game I was ready to write the story off. I found it, as many of the negative reviews have said, to be virtually nonexistent. Then I started reading the Datalog entries, and I was rewarded with an amazingly detailed backstory, summaries of who people are and what the various terms the characters use mean, monster descriptions, and so on. Is the story straightforward? Absolutely not. Is it well presented? Not really. Is it still there? Definitely. Did low review score reviewers bother? Doesn't look like it.

Linearity: Let me get one thing straight. Final Fantasy XIII is unabashedly, a linear game. Is it as linear as you're led to believe? Probably. Is this a bad thing? Not really, but it can be depending on how you come at it. If you review this from the perspective of linear games, such as most JRPGs, other Final Fantasy games, or games like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden and God of War, XIII is a great game. Yet I've been seeing reviewers throwing linear around as an insult when it should be something to be praised. It's almost like everyone was expecting XIII to have a structure as non-linear as the Fallout games or GTA. It's as if I review a slide in comparison to the sandbox next to it. You don't compare slides to sandboxes, you compare it to other slides. XIII is no more or less linear than any modern JRPG. Marking it down for that is simply unprofessional.

Dislike:

Whiny characters: I can understand, even appreciate character evolution. However, when I only actually like two characters in the whole cast, there's a problem. Okay, it might change as it goes on, but I can only watch Hope whine so many times early-game before I write him off entirely.

Forever is a long time: Some battles take forever. This isn't because of poor paradigm choices or underpowered characters, it's just that some monsters have ridiculous amounts of HP and abnormally high stagger gauges.

Game over man, Game over! : Come on guys, seriously? If an insta-kill happens to tag my main character, it's game over? What, do the other party members just decide to go on strike? Is it so impossible for us to suddenly assume control of another leader when one bites it? Ending the game just doesn't make sense when your main character drops.

Vanille: She's so bad she deserves her own bullet point. The character is annoying, the design is annoying, and even the Aussie they got to mimic her very Japanese squeals and assorted sounds is annoying. Any time she's on screen, I feel like I'm watching a car crash in slow motion.

If you put a gun to my head for the number score, I'd say 3.5/5 stars. It's not perfect but by no means is it THE WORST RPG IN HISTORY OF RPGS OMG. At least, that's how certain people played it up. It also makes my top 5 FF games, and it's easily the best modern FF to date.


So there you have it. But then again, my opinion doesn't matter as much as professional reviewers' opinions do. Because having a fancy title in front of your name like editor means your opinions are worth that much more, on this site more than anything, since they essentially have a big say in how many people actually read c-blogs. I can say that we need a watchdog to internally regulate the quality of the reviews in our journalism, but who's going to take me seriously unless I run a website and have fancy titles next to my name?

...Better get started on that site design.

-Musai

 
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