Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Final Fantasy Series Retrospective


Today we're going to be taking a look at the Final Fantasy series in retrospective form. What are our memories of the series? Which chapters stand the test of time? Read on to find out.

Final Fantasy, by James Smyth - “The Beginning”

The first Final Fantasy is the only one that can really be called a final fantasy. Before the name was worn out with Super Bowl numerations like XIV, it had an intoxicating level of romance. It made you think that no matter how many fantasies as you'd enjoyed, as many magical worlds as had moved you, this was the last one, and it would satisfy you so much you'd be ready to spend the rest of your life in the real world. (By the way, for creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, the name signified that it was his last shot at making games, and if this one had failed as well, he would have thrown down his controller for the last time and gone back to college.)

I got my first faceful of this game, and thus RPGs, when I was 6. It was one of the first times I visited my childhood best friend's house, and he was in the middle of playing...well, he was buying HEAL potions one at a time, to be specific. After that he went to the desert to unearth the airship. Along the way he picked a fight with some earthworms. Tried to use some insta-kill spells - ZAP!, QUAK, XXXX, - they all failed. (It turns out they could never possibly work because of bad programming.) Eventually the Fighter and Master pummeled the worms into submission, but my friend had to HEAL up. So he opened the menu screen, which had its own program with separate music and load times and everything.

I liked the fantasy vibe, and I liked that if you told a character to hit someone, he'd say "Your wish is my command!" and just do it for you, which was less stressful than Mario. Mixing and matching your own team seemed really cool, and I imagined playing the game a hundred times to get all the permutations. The music took me to such a happy place that a few years later I'd bang out those tunes one key at a time on the piano and imagine I was an Uematsu-in-training. I really liked that all the names were FOUR LTRS LONG AND CPTL(ZD), which was like primitive cyberpunk. And of course I was a fan of the 15 Puzzle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng7KxX034sU).

That said, no one gets to really play a game on a friend's system, so I didn't get my shot at the title until I downloaded it at age 13. But that was for the best. By then I was enough in love with Square that the inconveniences seemed endearing, like "roughing it" in the gaming world. Because the game couldn't re-target a character's attack if a team member ahead of him killed the monster he was aiming for, that character's would fall to the ground useless - he'd swing and miss and the game would say "Ineffective" - and to be honest I loved it because it forced me to think more economically and estimate
just how many blows each monster would require.

What made the game a winner for me as a retro gamer, though, was not its quirks but rather how badass it all still was. Warriors toting ORBS come from nowhere and flatten everything evil in their path. Unlike most RPGs, no one taunts them for being weak early on. They never get flustered, and they never even talk. After their class changes, their body dimensions are more adult than any other characters' for the next ten years. When there's no one left to fight in the present, they go 2000 years back in time and whoop everyone's asses again. The more feminine aesthetic of future games isn't bad in any way - there's room for everything on the rainbow - but after you've experienced that enough times, a masculine game like this one feels like a breath of fresh air.




Final Fantasy II, by Jericho Ricardi - “Now With A Storyline”

The NES sequel to Final Fantasy never saw official release outside of Japan until many years after release. It is a huge departure from the first game in numerous ways; for one, the level-building system has been replaced by a SaGa-like character-building system. You gain stats depending on actions taken in battle (for instance, taking damage makes characters slowly increase HP). This is actually pretty cool in my view and certainly less boring than standard level-building. The problem here is that you gain stats REALLY SLOWLY from normal combat unless you have your characters beat each other up; doing this causes stats to rocket and quickly diminishes the challenge of the game. Had they taken out the component of being able to beat up your characters and made stats increase faster from fighting actual enemies, the game would have been better off. As it is, due to these vast changes from the FF norm, this game is kind of a black sheep of the series; much like Zelda 2 in last month's Zelda Retrospective, right now I'm talking about this game because no one else wanted to.

All of that said, it isn't a bad game. Not at all. It's the first Final Fantasy game to have real characters in it; unlike the nameless archetypes of FFI and FFIII, this game has characters with names and personalities, objectives and struggles. The variety of environments is greater than FFI, and the game is, in general, more advanced visually and structurally. The thing likely keeping this game from being remembered fondly by anyone is that most people who play it don't get through it. Even with power levelling, the game gets extremely difficult later on. It isn't uncommon to get attacked by large groups of enemies late in the game, and enemies throw around instant-death spells like they're going out of style. ...which they are, because this is the last time things like that appeared in an FF with any regularity.


I have a few memories of the game; the biggest is actually enjoying it when I played the NES version in 2001. Enough so that I played it a second time - the Dawn of Souls version years later. The super-high difficulty brings lots of memories of dying with it. I also fondly remember one-shotting the final boss with the Blood Sword (perhaps that's a glitch?), then immediately resetting and fighting him the straight-up way to win for real. No FF game should ever have a final boss that you can one-shot. Decent game on its own, black sheep in an otherwise-great early series for Final Fantasy.



Final Fantasy III, by Nick Vogt - “I Think I Fought A Dragon”

I played Final Fantasy III on the DS. The DS version was a remake of the original FFIII and they completely overhauled the game. Square added new, fancy graphics and everything. One thing in particular that I remember about FFIII is how goddamn difficult it is. Because of the hard time I had with FFIII I didn’t get far in it. That wasn’t the only reason, though. I’ve never really liked handheld games. Sure, back when I only owned a gameboy I liked handheld stuff. But, gameboy was my only way to play games back then. And I mostly played games in my house. I’ve never liked playing videogames “on the go.” So I didn’t play my DS much at all. I can’t play videogames or read while in a car without getting a near migraine so that might be another reason I never got into handheld games.

    What I remember most about FFIII is that it is simple. The story is simple and the characters are pretty basic. What I like most about the other Final Fantasy games I’ve played is that they are the opposite. They have involved stories and over-the-top characters. But, Square was able to make simplicity work with FFIII. I realize the game is simple because it’s very old and back in the day they had to keep it simple since the technology to make complex games just didn’t exist. FFIII still feels like a Final Fantasy game even though it’s no frills. The dungeons still feel like adventures. The boss fights feel like epic struggles. And the world feels huge and diverse, too. That’s cool because I believe the overworld of FFIII is pretty damn small. 

    My most prominent memories of this game are playing it when during a year off between high school and college. I was looking for a job at the time* and kind of feeling sorry for myself since all my friends were in college and I was not. I used to apply for jobs and then, feeling defeated, I’d sit in the kitchen of my Mom’s apartment and play DS. I remember fighting this dragon boss one time while dudes were doing work on the roof of the apartment. They were listening to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” on repeat and singing to it. I turned off the sound on my DS to hear them better. I beat the dragon and realized I was late to go pick up my sister.

* -  I had to take a year off before I went to college because Emerson screwed me over and gave me no financial aid. That led to me going to the College Of Santa Fe which led to me going to Hampshire (my adventures in undergrad…). During that year off I did eventually find a job (go me!) at this deli Blue Moon. That was one of the cooler jobs I’ve had. It’s where the Deli Mane was born essentially. We named the Deli “Awesome Town.” And I got to be the Chief Of Fire Safety of Awesome Town (go me!)


Final Fantasy IV, by Aaron Cox - “To Be A Paladin”

What I think of when I recall Final Fantasy IV is the game’s ultimate moment, Cecil’s ascension. It’s only the halfway point of the game and there’s so much more to be done, but every scene in the game has been leading up to this moment. The Dark Knight finds himself unable to make a difference in a world rapidly growing out of control. All of his connections to the past are gone. His station in life. His best friend. Even his lover. Shipwrecked, he’s given one last chance to affect change. Cecil has to face a beast with dominion over the undead. He’s backed by two children and an old man, his weakest team since travelling with a bard and a kindergartner. Just one death won’t stop this beast, and you’re forced to fight him again while even weaker. Topple Scarmiglione and the Dark Knight faces himself. Accepting his darkness and embracing the light, the Paladin is born. You now have the strength to get back what you’ve lost and make the world a better place than how you entered it. I say you, because it was the player experiencing all that Cecil experienced. Really taking on a role like that in a video game wasn’t all that common in 1991, and I imagine it was a first-time experience for many of us. Fortunately not the last, either.




Final Fantasy V, by James Smyth - “Mambo No. 5”

This one's another breath of fresh air. It was light and bouncy and fun to play with. Is that enough to entice you?

If not, keep reading. By light and bouncy, I mean it felt like its theme song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxORj8wsd_I), which in turn calls to mind a sunny, crisp, dewy morning after a night of camping. And all the nature on display in the graphics (which also looked like our old classmate FFIV came back to visit four inches taller) made the game feel like a decent substitute for being outside; the game's publicity shots also allude to that.

Sure, FFV's plot is simple enough that it would've worked as a silent movie; one fan said "I loved the plot when I played the game in Japanese. I don't know Japanese...so I could imagine they were saying really deep and meaningful things." But silent movies can win Oscars in 2012, and straightforward games like this one can still put gamers in a good mood.

Especially when the game is this fun to play. Each character has 22 classes (26 in the Game Boy Advance version) which unlock as you get more Crystal shards. The classes are actually called Jobs, which even helps you feel like you're "working", and which together with the names and environments makes me think this game took place in Germany. The system is like Final Fantasy Tactics - a job's innate abilities expand as you spend more time with it, and when you change jobs you can choose skills to carry over.

Each job has innate stat bonuses and penalties that are laid on top of your base experience level. You can mix and match to fight particular bosses, and when you get to the final boss, you realize that going jobless (a "freelancer") now gives you better stats and more versatility than anything else! You can think about how to customize your characters the entire way, and that means no boredom. The items your chemist can brew are really useful and add another dimension to battles. Also, besides the linear plot, there are plenty of sidequests to find as the game moves along (they're not just stacked together at the end), making the game even more of a freewheeling adventure.

There is one thing from this game and this game alone that will love on forever. I mean live on forever. That's Gilgamesh, the original humorous recurring rival, and his battle music, which maxes out the virility of synthesizers from 1992: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgZsvJZ_ivg). Take this, brother.

May it serve you well.


Final Fantasy VI, by Aaron Cox - “The End of the World”

You lost. In just about every other RPG I had played back then, your goal was to save the world. Protect the innocent, defeat the bad guys, save the world. Everything was going so well. A confused main(ish) character starting to find herself, an amazing opera scene, even the war that had dominated the storyline coming to a halt. Sure, a big ol’ chunk 'o land had just shot into the sky, but there wasn’t much of value there in the first place. Great opportunity to storm the Floating Continent, engage in an epic battle against the antagonists, and finally bring things to an end. Save the world. ...except that isn’t how it goes down. The big bad gets taken out by a character whom you’ve been taking more seriously every time you see him. Kefka alters the balance of existence, attains power akin to a god... and destroys the world. You can forget the dramatic escape, even waiting until the last 5 seconds for your ninja pal doesn’t change your airship being ripped apart in the sky. The planet itself shares the same fate. This can’t be fixed. Untold numbers of innocents are dead, and the bad guy has become untouchable. You lost.
...time to pick up the pieces and fight back.

Final Fantasy VII, by Nick Vogt – “Cloud Life”

Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy game I played. It was also probably my first RPG, too. I was in 5th or 6th grade and my good friend Evan had the game and--as little kids are want to do—he would always tell me about it. I remember one day at recess hanging out on the geodesic dome and Evan told me “Yeah and there’s this one point where you have to dress up like a girl!”
    I’ve always liked things that are different and progressive or edgy--or whatever we want to call it--so I guess that’s why after hearing Evan talk about the cross-dressing in FFVII I really wanted the game. I originally owned it on PC since I didn’t have a Playstation at the time. I can clearly remember driving home from Mediaplay in Amherst with a copy of the game in hand. The PC version was super glitchy (probably because my computer didn’t have the right specs to run it) and I think eventually got to a point where it wouldn’t work at all. My aunt had bought me a PS1 around that time (the cool PS1. The little one), so I somehow convinced my parents to buy FFVII again. This time for PS1.
    I played that game all the time. The story was just so damn involving and the characters were so interesting to me that I couldn’t put it down. It was the first videogame I played that was like a TV show. I spent a good deal of my childhood watching Saturday morning cartoons (until going to Kung Fu on Saturdays changed my couch potato ways) and the FFVII plot and characters were so cool I think that’s why it appealed to me. I mean, there’s a talking lion in the game and a giant stuffed animal with a little cat-imp riding it. And there’s a dude with a gun for an arm! And there are giant swords, too! And hot girls a young, pubescent boy will love. My Dad saw a picture of Tifa in the strategy guide I used to have (which I think I read more than I played the game if you can believe that) and was like “wow. These games are getting really good…” I think he said the same thing when he saw the girls in Grand Theft Auto IV many years later.
    I did not beat this game. I have never beaten a Final Fantasy game. While I have a hard time beating any videogame nowadays* I didn’t have that short attention span back then. I broke my PS1 which forced me to stop playing FFVII. Well, it’s more complicated than that. Allow me to explain…
Through yet another act of super diplomacy with my parents** I convinced them to buy me a rare copy of Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22. This copy was rare because it was the Japanese copy. The game wasn’t out in America at the time. As such I had to get this device to essentially hack my PS1 so it could play Japanese games. Now, if you hack a system to play an out-of-region game it’s usually via software (forgive me if I didn’t use the correct technical terms there because I don’t care). But, to hack my PS1 I had to do a hardware thingy. It was this little plastic tab I had to glue into the machine. That tab would pop up all the time and scratched the fuck out of all my games. FFVII was one of the games it ruined.
    Despite three failed attempts to play FFVII (on PC, PS1, and later PS3) I still love the game. Sure, it’s a classic and rare copies of it sell for much money on Amazon. But, that’s not the only reason I like it. I think a lot of people just think, “Oh, it’s a classic” like how people think of classic books. No shade to anyone or any book, but I have actual experiences with the game that make it meaningful to me. I think I value FFVII even more because of those failed attempts to beat it. And not only that, but I love it because of the time I spent with all its characters fighting against mutant alien things (is that what Jenova is? I’m still unclear on that…) on a boat while my father yelled for me to come downstairs and eat some pancakes.

* - Since I’ve become more interested in stuff like writing and music (and since I’ve started drinking a lot more coffee), my videogame attention span is pretty low. It’s hard for me to vege out unless I’m high on something. And, in that state, I can’t really bring myself to focus on a game’s story. So, I mostly play fighting games these days since they’re (for me) the most easily played while on one.

** - Every time I wanted anything it was an act of diplomacy with my parents. They were especially against me playing games, but action figures and other useless shit I wanted was always a battle. My mom hated videogames a lot. How I managed to convince them to spend one hundred dollars on some terrible imported Street Fighter rip off DBZ game and the shitty device to hack my PS1 is something I still don’t understand. I’m thankful my parents didn’t give me everything I wanted because (at the risk of sounding curmudgeon-like) the kids are way too spoiled these days. 

Final Fantasy VIII, by Nick Vogt - “Guardian Forces, Not Girlfriends”

    I don't like Final Fantasy VIII that much. Square seemed to be really trying to capitalize on the success of Seven’s futuristic world and emo plot with this game. What makes Final Fantasy good is how, for the most part, the games are never completely serious. Well, there are very serious moments, but they’re balanced out by whimsical shit like goofy characters and weird ass situations. Final Fantasy VIII takes itself very seriously and that’s apparent from the opening cutscene. I think that opening movie looks very nice, but it’s clear this game is going to be very heavy. Unfortunately, that kind of storytelling does not work for Final Fantasy and let me tell you why: these games’ stories never really make that much sense. Trying to play off a crazy, convoluted RPG plot involving Sci Fi elements and fantasy and over-the-top anime characters as high art or as actual serious storytelling does not work.
    Now, I value Final Fantasy games’ storytelling a lot. But, the stories aren’t something we should take totally seriously. I am not going to put Final Fantasy’s story up there with Mad Men or Slaughterhouse Five or The Left Hand Of Darkness or anything like that. These games’ stories have always seemed like crazy ass dreams to me and I’ve liked that. So, Final Fantasy VIII just didn’t work for me story-wise.
    Not only that, but the ultra-technical system they had to customize characters was too much for me. My brain tends to look at lots of numbers and stats and think, “Math? Fuck that.” The other Final Fantasy titles I’ve played never felt like they were making me do math problems to level up and upgrade my guys. Eight did though.
    I am not a hater completely though. The summons in Final Fantasy have always been something I liked, and Eight’s “GF” (Guardian Force, not Girlfriend) system was an interesting experiment. I like how much of an emphasis the game put on summons. I remember reading the strategy guide with this dude Gavin in the library at Sanderson Elementary school. It was back in 6th grade. Looking at all the creatures you could summon (they had a list in the back of the guide with stats and pictures and stuff) was awesome. I was playing Pokemon something fierce at the time so a bunch of monsters really appealed to me. But, Monsters have always appealed to me even before I played Pokemon and they still appeal to me now that Pokemon is a thing of my past.
    Speaking of the GFs (and speaking of Pokemon, actually) you could name the Guardian Forces in this game which was cool. I remember playing FFVIII with my friend Luke and we named Shiva “Whore.” This is actually how I learned the word “whore” is spelled with a “W.” Thank you Square for teaching me how to spell.


Final Fantasy IX, by Nick Vogt - “Visit Another Dimension Every So Often”

This is my favorite Final Fantasy game. When FFIX came out it was as if Square had learned from their mistakes with Eight. This game’s story and characters took the Final Fantasy series back to a more playful, more cartoony, less emo direction. Sure there are emo existential crisis moments in this, but they don’t feel nearly as unwieldy as those in Eight.
    Nine’s characters are also my favorite in the entire Final Fantasy series. They are all unique and what I think I like best about them is that they are all only sortahuman. Zidane has a monkey tail, Steiner is like a caricature of a knight, Vivi is a living doll, there’s a girl with horns, there’s a rat (or maybe a lizard rat?) woman, there’s some big dude with red hair who looks a bit like a troll…The only character who is really that human is the princess Garnet. And she’s actually my least favorite. There’s a scene with her cutting her hair in this game, which is really the only lame moment. I remember standing up and yelling at my TV the fist time I saw that. I literally yelled, “Why are you wasting my time with this!” Well, not those exact words. But, something to that effect. I suppose my interest in monsters, difference and outsiders is what made me like Square’s choice to make all of Nine’s characters total weirdoes.
    Another cool feature of Nine was the “Trance” system. If a character takes enough damage in this game they essentially go Super Saiyan. They turn into this weird, pink super character. Every Final Fantasy has its own way of doing “Limit Breaks,” but Trance is my favorite. It just seems like the most inventive way to handle it. Seeing your characters go into trance mode is just cool.
    Something I really liked back when I was playing the game that I don’t like in retrospect is the card game. At the time card games were all the rage. Every single kids’ franchise had a trading card game so I guess it made sense to Square to include that in FFIX. I suppose the young Nick was swept up in the card game fever of that time too. But, the card game is just not fun at all. Playing card games in a videogame is never fun and FFIX’s is probably the most boring of all. It has something to do with lining up arrows and comparing numbers or something. It’s just lame. I could launch into a rant here. I could go off about how all card games are lame and are designed to take all the kids’ money (well, their parents’ money) but, I’ll refrain. For your sake.
    Nine’s story is also one of my favorite Final Fantasy stories. Alternate dimensions are cool and maybe even real (?)* and Final Fantasy exploring that is awesome. I guess a number of videogames have featured alternate dimensions, but FFIX only really brings it in at the end, which is an interesting choice. That reveal in FFIX wasn’t so much a plot twist as a way to open up the world of the story and even connect it to the other Final Fantasy games.

* - Okay, I don’t believe in anything “occult” or “new age” at all really. But, Alternate Dimensions are a cool concept. Not only that, but there are actual scientists who believe they’re real. I’m dead serious. Quantum Physics is some crazy shit. Plus, I like the idea of alternate dimensions because of this magazine article I read a long time ago. It was in some science magazine for kids (and I bet they blew hella kids’ minds with that article not just mine…) and it basically said, “imagine that every time you make a choice an alternate dimension opens up. It’s like different paths and you choose to take one. You make your choice in this dimension, but in the alternate dimension you made the other choice.” Does that make sense? I like that because I like to think there are alternate dimensions where I made different choices and they led to me doing cooler things. I’m not unhappy now (I’m thankful for what I’ve got, believe me) but, that’s a wild thought. 

Final Fantasy X, by Jericho Ricardi – “Unoriginal Sin”

Speaking of Final Fantasy titles being connected, this game has a weird connection to FFVII in the form of a kid named Shinra, the future founder of a power company. The biggest thing that stands out about this game is that it is a massive improvement in both visuals and sound over the previous games in the series. Indeed, the main thing I remember about this game is the impressive soundtrack, featuring some of the best tracks in the entire series – especially when it comes to battle themes. FFIX was looking pretty dated when it came out for the PSX, as the new PS2 was leagues above it in graphical power, and as a result Final Fantasy X was hotly anticipated.

To this day, Final Fantasy X gets more accolades than any other game in the series – with the exception of FFVII – and it isn't without merit. This game is a work of art in a lot of ways and is unique in premise and style. The problem is that neither the plot nor the main character are particularly compelling, which is what a game like this needs to thrive. The game is also nearly as linear as Final Fantasy XIII at times, but it never seems to get called out for it.

This game is beautiful; it's full of moments that stick with you. Unfortunately, most of these moments are visual or auditory rather than emotional. Still, this game is certainly in the upper echelon of the series, and it helped the PS2 achieve an upward trajectory against the competition back in 2001. My biggest memory of the game? How blue it is. There's a lot of ocean in this game. As someone who loves the ocean, this makes for some game visuals that I won't forget.



Final Fantasy XII, by Jericho Ricardi – “Dalmascan Waltz”

The latter-day Final Fantasies tend to draw the lion's share of criticism about the series. At times this is certainly deserved (there's a reason why we aren't talking about number 14 here, besides that no one I know played it), but FFXII isn't one of those instances. Yes, FFXII has issues – an incoherent plot, a forced main character – Vaan – who exudes neither “main” nor “character” and seems like he was just shoehorned in to give the game its requisite “blonde surfer dude / teenage idiot”. Literally every other character in the game is more interesting than he is, particularly Balthier and Ashe, who both also bring the sex appeal to this game in a way that no other FF really has (though Eight tried). And of course, there is a main story that is over too quickly if you speed through it and isn't particularly compelling. However, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

This game transpires in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics, and it captures that world exceptionally well. The music and the look of the environments all have that “FFT flavor” and it adds a great deal to this game. While FFX and FFXIII are both linear games, this one – sandwiched between the two in the past decade – is incredibly non-linear. There's a main story to follow, but the game encourages you to go off the beaten path and undertake missions; this is not unlike some of the more popular WRPGs of the past few years like Mass Effect.

I spent 230 hours playing this game when I went through it in 2007, which is about fifty times more than I spend on the average game and vastly more than I've spent on any other FF game. In those 230 hours I did basically everything the game had to offer. The main story may be lacking, but the abundance of sidequests is possibly the highest of any main series FF game. They bring back all kinds of characters from the rest of the series – from Ultros to Gilgamesh – in fun little side-stories. The Espers (summons) in the game are also callbacks to other Final Fantasy games. Most of them are villains from other games, from FFT's Queklain to FFIV's Zeromus. Yep, Zeromus. The coolness of this game is off the charts. The dialogue is also very strong – unsurprising, considering the development team for this game shares members with Vagrant Story – and blows away the dialogue of most of the rest of the series. Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Balthier. The bad-to-the-bone sky pirate is one of the greatest characters in the series, and was a permanent fixture on my team. His hairstyle and way of speaking are reminiscent of Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and that only adds to his cool factor.




Final Fantasy XIII, by Jericho Ricardi - “The Most Hated On Out Of All Those Who Get Hated On”

FFXIII has drawn huge amounts of criticism from FF fans over the past couple of years. This criticism is warranted in a lot of ways - I wrote a review taking a critical look at the game, warts and all. Right now I'm going to talk about what I liked from this fundamentally flawed RPG, though. The first thing I remember about playing it are the amazing graphics. They are, hands-down, the best graphics I have ever seen in a game. The otherworldly environments are vibrant and leap off of the screen. The music is pretty decent, as well. The dialogue, story, and most of the characters all leave a hell of a lot to be desired, though. One particularly strong character is the uber-likable Sazh, a Han Solo esque dashing rogue. Not to be an archetype, he has his fair share of problems and struggles throughout the story; if anyone in this story can draw sympathy from the audience, it's him.

Unfortunately, for the good aspects of the game there's a lot of bad. The linearity doesn't help, turning most of the game into a hallway. The “second half” of the game gives you an overworld to explore that breaks the linearity, but until that point the linearity does get in the way of the awe I felt from the environments. It's hard to feel the full effect of the awe when you're boxed into one particular direction you can go in at any time.

Still, there are some seriously awe-inspiring scenes in this game that are as memorable as anything in the series. Sunleth Waterscape, with its sunlit, dewy meadows, is amazing and it's too bad you only go there for a short period of time. The massive plains of Gran Pulse stretch as far as you can see, and wild beasts stomp and fly to and fro everywhere you look; it's like stepping into an ancient world that has yet to be tamed. There are several crystalline areas in the game and they're all visually striking. However, the title of “most memorable” for me has to go to Oerba, a post-apocalyptic ancient city on the edge of a shimmering snow expanse. Not just visually impressive, this place tells a -story- by merely being there in the game. It's chilling to run through an ancient city, passing a defunct subway car on the way. While  chilling, it is also a very peaceful location – serene, even. The music there also plays a big part in how memorable it is. Oerba harkens back to some of the great Final Fantasy locales of old, and if you believe the critics about FFXIII, well... it's almost a microcosm of the game itself that Oerba is the ruins of a once-wondrous city.



That wraps up the Final Fantasy Retrospective.

Check out the other retrospectives from our distinguished panel HERE.

5 comments:

  1. We did it!!!

    Good stuff, everyone.

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  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huQoDlHmqrE

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  3. "I suppose my interest in monsters, difference and outsiders is what made me like Square's choice to make all of Nine's characters total weirdoes." I really like that.

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    1. "it's almost a microcosm of the game itself that Oerba is the ruins of a once-wondrous city." Great last line.

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  4. " Playing card games in a videogame is never fun"

    You clearly didn't get into Triple Triad from VIII much

    ReplyDelete