Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Road So Far...


For the past three weeks I have been slowly progressing through Final Fantasy XIII. I am now proud to say I have reached hour 16 (in this blog we evaluate JRPGs in hours, not levels or chapters), but it’s been a fairly dry and dusty sort of road to follow. The first seven hours or so took me two weeks to get through. The narrative was confusing, the characters were one-dimensional, the gameplay was uninspired. Thinking about delving back in sounded as interesting as doing household chores. But last Friday night I snuggled into my couch with my controller and joined the gang back in Lake Bresha (or wherever straight and narrow road they were on at the time I last turned it off) to see just how far I could make it before falling asleep at the wheel. And surprisingly, I didn’t look up again until about six hours later. Obviously, something grabbed me. Was it the storyline? The characters? Have I fallen into a JRPG pit of mindless progression?

Weirdly enough, I love the new combat system. Guiding only one character suits me far better than controlling a party of people. The paradigm system is simple enough to manage while still allowing you the freedom to make the best choice for you and your teammates. Plus the OCD side of me likes the upgrade via Crystarium so much that I have to force myself to wait roughly three fight sequences before going back in to use my CP points (after a boss fight I jump right in-1000 CP!). I love hearing the chime of another +30 of HP added to each character. I hate capping out each character mid-chapter because then I know I won’t get to upgrade them again until the game transitions into the next one. All of your characters continue to gain CP points even if they are not currently in your party-once you join Szah and Vanille again heading towards Nautilus (for example) you will find they have enough CP points to bring them up to the levels of the active party members from the previous sequence. No level grinding! At least, not yet (the path is so linear right now there isn't anywhere to grind, anyway). I have no idea what the future beyond Chapter Seven brings because I have tried to avoid any in-depth reviews or articles. But so far the combat and upgrade systems are the key to my desire to continue playing. The narrative is getting better over time, but the dialogue is so unbelievably melodramatic that I find myself snickering instead of choking up during poignant moments. Maybe it’s just the English voice acting, but it’s so over the top that I roll my eyes every time someone says the word ‘hope’-even if they are just talking to or about Hope, one of the main characters.

After loving the FF games from the (distant) past so much because of the emotional attachments, it feels strange to like one less because of the character dynamic…

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