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bakasama avatar 12:19 AM on 03.10.2010  (server time)
FFXIII: Thank you Internet trolls, you made me love this game!

I had some things to say about my playthrough of Dragon Quest 5 and some other retro Japanese games I had never gotten around to, and bits about coding my own rudimentary games, but I never seem to update here very often. Seriously I just wanted to write a few things down about day 1 of FFXIII.

Beloved game series, even a series as disjointed as Final Fantasy, seem to be a mixed bag now. At some point these series were new and groundbreaking, but some franchises release so infrequently that every one becomes an event, and purchasers are fueled by nostalgia for the old and hope or fear at what is to come. I was pretty hopeful for FFXIII, even though I groaned at the overall "let's make a FFVII remake, but not really" vibe I seemed to get from following the game's development.

I read Dale North's loves and not so loves and felt that they were pretty balanced. I started to gladly anticipate the game, and even contemplated importing it, since with native subtitles I can usually understand most Japanese media pretty easily. I held off due to the cost of that method though, although I could probably use the practice.

However, at some point, I let the trolls get to me. "This game is just trying to cash in on graphics", "this game is too linear", especially after the Japanese release, complaint after complaint about the game just bogged me down. I guess I can blame that on where I go to read game chatter outside of Destructoid. 2ch, 4chan, and SA aren't really the best places to read about games sometimes, you get troll points for shitting on everything and professing to like just about anything loses cred there.

What turned me around ultimately, was that I don't have any PS3 games right now and I don't want to exhaust my portable games before PAX, and that a beta code for FFXIV was included. I'm going to buy the game eventually anyway, I might as well get some perks out of it!

I'm glad I did.

In short, my expectations were almost lowered to the point that just the game turning on sounded appealing and above what people expected of the game. Frankly, having them firmly grounded sort of helped. It's easy to catch the hype train to disappointmentville, especially when a game like this comes out. There are flaws, but not so much so that you feel compelled to turn off the game or return it. I don't think the linearity is any worse than FFX so far. I think it's been long enough since that game was released that a lot of people have forgotten that the "arrow to the exit" was the huge controversy at the time. And it *was* fairly linear until maybe the last quarter of the game where you got the airship. I haven't completed this thing obviously, so you know maybe it doesn't open up at all, but I never really felt that FFX opened up much either.

I didn't expect to be so wowed by the battle system though. I guess seeing the demos and stuff in motion were just confusing, because there's a lot on the screen that happens and until you start messing with it yourself it is hard to really follow. The one thing someone could have told me was how much it borrowed from FFXII, which was my favorite setting (Ivalice) with probably the most innovative battle system I could think of for a Final Fantasy thus far.

Depending on who you talk to, the Gambit system was either the best thing or the worst piece of shit to ever grace a Final Fantasy game. It was basically ATB, but instead of having to mash A to attack all those weak enemies you don't care about, it just attacked them for you, you could set macros to hit enemies with their weaknesses, you could set up people to automatically cure wounded party members. It was still too limited to be a substitute for anyone with an understanding of RPG mechanics and tactics. It was admittedly, extremely slow in the beginning, when you only had one or two actions anyone could actually perform. Since the game I had completed right before FFXII was Star Ocean 3, the ability to program my party members' AI was a godsend.

This system is basically Gambit, but with common actions predefined for you and the necessity of having to mash X to make it all happen. (I guess people didn't feel involved enough in FFXII and didn't see it as saving our controllers from RPG X button death). Since the characters's experience goes towards filling out predefined roles instead of a huge non specialized license grid, optimal actions are easier to predict programatically. Someone specced to heal is going to want to heal, for instance. Instead of having to construct a gambit of "when enemies are clustered, use an AoE attack", the game already has one, it just does it. This is good, although slow in the beginning much like FFXII. I can forsee the game ratcheting up the challenge a bit more and it's more about defining your own paradigms and specifying manual actions you want characters to do.

With that, I am spent. I've gone from "meh" to "completely ready to strap myself to the couch and beat this game" in a span of less than 24 hours. I just wanted to share!

If I don't post again, see you at PAX East!

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