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Lightning Returns: One Last Battle


I donít think Iíve had an existential crisis this bad since I watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon and legitimately wanted to bash my head against something until everything went black.† Just thought Iíd throw that out there to set the tone.

So.† In a few weeks, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 is going to be on store shelves and ready for purchase and digestion by gamers all over the states.† And frankly, Iím ecstatic -- not about the game, of course.† At long last, this so-called, ill-advised, and poorly-executed (in my humble opinion, of course <3) ďLightning SagaĒ is finally going to come to an end.† For the foreseeable future, at least; I get the feeling this isnít the last weíll be seeing of Miss Farron, even beyond an appearance in a hypothetical third Dissidiagame.† Itís safe to assume sheíll be popping up in the new Kingdom Hearts.† Iím really looking forward to seeing the ever-energetic Sora talking to someone who's shown an emotion less than half a dozen times over some eighty hours' worth of canon. †And when she does, it comes off as kind of creepy.

Brrr. †Think I just got the chills.

But like I said, Iím ecstatic.† Iím happy.† FF13 was the game that ďbrokeĒ the franchise for me -- a game so bad that it makes Transformers look good.† (At least they have the good grace to end in three hours or less; FF13 made empty promises of getting good eventually, asking players to tough it out for about twenty hours.)† And as if that wasnít bad enough, FF13-2 was significantly worse; I not only consider it the WORST game Iíve ever played, but so unbelievably bad that it makes vanilla 13 look good.† That level of failure is like going up to 18.0 on the Richter scale.† So at least by this time next year, itíll all be over.

And that just brings up a new problem.† The Lightning Saga is coming to an end in terms of production.† But in terms of this story?† In terms of this one-sided rivalry of mine?† Itís not over.

Lightningís calling me out.† Calling me to the ultimate ring.

Iím going to go ahead and assume youíre at least vaguely familiar with my work.† If youíre not, then Iíll be brief.† I can and have written multiple posts dissecting the previous two games in this so-called Lightning Saga.† Iíve used my unreasonably large head to reason and argue that Squeenixís golden girl is (by way of incompetent writing and blind glorification) actually the villain of her saga, and more likely to destroy her world instead of save itÖor if not that, then at least be responsible for everything thatís gone wrong with the saga.† Simply put, if there was no Lightning, there would be no conflict.† Period.

I have a hard time supporting or even liking a game if its main character is complete garbage.† But thatís precisely what Lightning is to me -- and even if she wasnít in the ďSagaĒ, that would still leave two games with barely-there gameplay, a world that might as well be painted on, a story that the common ostrich would call stupid, and a level of gravitas that makes the ďseriousĒ tale that much sillier, and threatens to strangle the player with hands that would make Hellboy feel inadequate.† If I was ever going to play the betrayal card, it would be for these games -- and merely the fact that a third game is just weeks away from release makes me want to choke on my rage.

But I know how this goes.† I have a very strong hunch that my brotherís going to grab the game, because he grabbed the other two -- and thanks to LR having an action-oriented bent, he has an even better reason to give it a shot.† More to the point, I have a very strong hunch that heís going to ask me to play through the game, even though he knows how much I loathe the ďSagaĒ.† I suspect on some level he wants to see me play through it, since Iíve beaten plenty of RPGs he couldnít -- or more appropriately, because he wants to see me suffer as revenge for that one time I tainted his shake with mayonnaise and pickle juice as per the greatest April Foolís Day ever.

He wants me to see it through to the end.† And now thereís a part of me that wants to do the same.

I havenít beaten a single game in this ďSagaĒ yet, but not for lack of trying; I threw up my hands when dealing with the last boss of vanilla 13 (random chance that heíll instantly kill my leader and force a Game Over?† Do not want), and it took all of my willpower to keep myself from taking a jackhammer to 13-2 when it expected me to do a time-wasting fetch quest after suffering through a cockamamie subplot -- which paradoxically might have gotten more attention in the story than the main plot.† So on one level, clearing LR is a chance to reclaim my honor, and reassert my pride as a gamer.

Setting matters of pride (the greatest sin of all!) aside, I canít shake the feeling that how I approach LR could say certain things about my character -- as a gamer or otherwise.† Iíve been burned twice by this ďSagaĒ, and badly.† But the Final Fantasy brand used to mean something to me.† FF10 was a fun little romp that, while certainly not perfect, is still something I donít mind admitting I like.† I spent many more hours than I should have creating an unbeatable task force in FF8, and got a kick out of the proceedings that followed.† FF7 was my first, and in a lot of ways it opened my mind -- not just to the potential of video games, but the possibility of one day dreaming up my own tales of heroes.† Iím no die-hard fan, but I donít have to be.† The series already had its effect on me.

With this howling hydra that Squeenix calls The Lightning Saga well in our midst, I have to admit that Iíve decided to sever ties to the franchise that once inspired me, and once counted on.† But itís not something I did with ease.† In fact, even now I feel kind of guilty about making such a bold declaration.† ďIs it really okay to turn my back on them?Ē I asked myself.† ďWhat if they turn it around with the next game?Ē I wondered.† ďCan I really call myself fair and just if I heap on the hate?Ē† I thought.† Indeed, hating a game that I never even touch would make me the worst sort of person -- something very near one of the fabled and reviled ďnostalgiatardsĒ that dwell in the annals of darkness.†

And as you can guess, I have a personal stake in the matter.† If the hydra really is coming my way, I have my doubts that I can just turn my back on it.† Call it perversion if you will, because itís probably something very close to it.† I have to know how the story ends; if I didnít, I would have spoiled the ending for myself a long time ago.† I want to believe that thereís still a tiny glimmer of hope, some minute fragment that makes the ďSagaĒ worthwhile.† I want to play the game, and by some miracle have it offer something substantial to me.† Something thatíll put my mind at ease, and heal the scars left by its gnashing heads.

I donít want to be afraid to play another Final Fantasy game.† But the fact that I feel that way in the first place has me worried.

Iím beginning to think that my instincts are a lot better than I give myself credit for.† I was worried about DmC, and you just have to spot the tactical omission of the subtitle to know how I feel about that.† I had my suspicions about Beyond: Two Souls, and wouldnít you know it, everything that I suspected would be a problem became a problem.† And when I was wrong, I was wrong in the worst way possible; The Last of Us went past just being a not-quite-worthy GOTY contender and became something not-even-mediocre, popular opinion be damned.† So is there a chance that Lightningís Last Hurrah will give me what Iím looking for in a game?† Yes.† Will it deliver?† Sign after sign after sign seems to suggest that I should stay the hell away, to the point where Iím afraid the demo alone will scare me off. †It wouldn't be the first time a demo has given me warning signals.

Like I said, Iím not a die-hard FF fan.† But isnít this the exact same thought process thousands of other gamers have gone through?† Havenít they been burned by a FF game in the past, but bought the next one anyway because thereís a chance the new one will recapture the magic?† What kind of message would I be sending if I gave Squeenix the satisfaction in knowing that I played one of their post-Sakaguchi games?† What kind of standard would I be setting for myself if I caved after saying ďNo more Final FantasyĒ and played the sequel to a game that was effectively the cringe-worthy Apology Edition to a game that made me want to cry tears of blood?† Wouldnít caving in make me part of the problem, and not the solution?

And beyond all that, I have my doubts Iíd be playing the game for the right reasons.† I can tell you right now that Iím not the type who buys into the ďturn your brain offĒ practice of entertainment; if you have to turn your brain off to enjoy something, then the story doesnít deserve to be enjoyed.† So whether the game is good or bad, I expect that if I play it (or rage-quit and watch the rest through an LP, as I did with 13-2), Iíll likely be posting my needlessly in-depth thoughts of it across the internet.† And frankly, I wonder if thatís the only reason Iím interested in the game.† Do I want to play it because I want closure on multiple levels?† Do I want to play it so I can put another notch on my gamer belt?† Do I want to play it just so I can revel smugly over how bad the game is, or how bad the franchise has gotten?† Do I want to play it just so I can have something to complain about, or prove that Iím right?† Do I have any intention of engaging with the game on its terms -- as a game designed to be rewarding in some form -- or just as proof that the jokeís still being told by Squeenix?

ÖItís very possible that Iím over-thinking this.† I do that sometimes.

Letís be real here.† The days when Final Fantasy and its creators -- Squaresoft, Square-Enix or otherwise -- ruled the roost have long since past.† If I want a consistently-good franchise, I have the Tales Series.† If I want a once-in-a-blue-moon but oh-so-satisfying release, Iíve got Atlus.† If I want one-off games that come out of nowhere but hit like Muhammad Ali with rocket boosters in his gloves, Iíve got Lost Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Ni no Kuni.† And those are just the JRPGs.† I have a feeling that Squeenix thinks itís doing something revolutionary by making a FF gamethatís action-oriented -- and as such, I have a feeling that their vision is being distorted by the vacuum they make their games in.

I donít think Iím going to lose any sleep over another bad FF game.† Nor will that be the case if (or when) I swear off the series for real, despite its best efforts to pull me back in.† But in order to bring this story to an end, I have to drop down into the coal mines one last time -- to go deep into the bowels of the earth, and say goodbye to the stars above.† The question is, do I have the willpower for it?† Do I have the justified reasons to give it one more shot?† Do I have the courage to ride with the devil?

ÖKamen Rider W reference.† Yes.

Iím going to go ahead and assume that thereís no clear-cut answer to all of these questions, so Iíll clam up here.† And Iíll let you all weigh in on the subject.† Should I take the plunge?† How should I approach this game?† Is anyone else struggling with the decision?† Ever felt the same way?† By all means, go on and chat it up in the comments.

As for me?† Well, Iíd say something about getting ready to weather the storm, but thatís way too obvious of a pun, donít you think?

- Thanks for reading! And remember -- if you want to see more content from me, anytime, anywhere, be sure to check out my blog. Give it a read, so we can all become heroes! http://cross-up.blogspot.com/

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About Voltechone of us since 10:40 PM on 02.06.2012

Long-time gamer, aspiring writer, and frequent bearer of an afro. As an eternal optimist, I like to both look on the bright side of things and see the better parts of games; as a result, I love a game with a good story and awesome characters...and anything that lets me punch the heresy out of my enemies.

I'm a big fan of Atlus' games, and I've enjoyed my fair share of fighters and RPGs. Just...please, keep Final Fantasy XIII out of my sight. It never ends well for anyone involved.

You can check out some of my game musinga/stories/random stuff at my other blog, Cross-Up. I've also got a TV Tropes thingamajig, and a web serial novel, too. Maybe my stuff here and there will be the start of things to come. Hopefully good things, but things all the same.

Be a hero. Check 'em out.

Cross-Up -- head here for posts on games, movies, and more
My Troper profile
My Facebook page
My Twitter thingamajig

I Hraet You -- the over-the-top web serial novel...of love, maybe