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Ending Talk: Final Fantasy XV

Now that it’s officially July, the requisite six months have passed since Final Fantasy XV’s release that I’m willing to discuss spoilers of the game freely.  I know a lot of people haven’t had a chance to play or finish the game, since 2016 and 2017 have been packed to the absolute brim with great game, and that kick ass train doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.  So, I will be writing about a lot of very big spoilers about everything regarding this game, other than the DLC (since I haven’t played it, and Ignis’s isn’t out yet) and this is a warning.  That said, I’m not going to get into spoilers until I put the big game cover up as an intro picture, so keep that in mind.

Now, over time, I think a few people have cooled on their approval of the game, and I can definitely see why.  Still, it was a miracle the game came out, and the fact that it was actually as good as it was, and it’s actually pretty good, that’s saying something.  Still, that ending did a lot of damage, and in a lot of different ways, so we’re going to spend the next several hundred words talking about that.  Okay, this is the last warning, unmarked spoilers like crazy coming up.

ff_xv_cover_art

Copyright Square Enix

So, Final Fantasy XV is pretty fun up until about Chapter 13.  Prompto has been knocked off of the train that the boys spend the last main chunk of the game in, and while Noctis and Gladiolus aren’t at each others throats any more, there is still a lot of tension.  It’s a shame that the Niflheim stuff isn’t open world like the Lucis stuff is, because it’s clear that all of that stuff is already made, it’s just the quests don’t work, and the map apparently isn’t done.  People glitch on to it, and there are places to drive, but there isn’t anything great.

Chapter 13, however, turns into one long, slow ass dungeon crawl, which sees the Regalia destroyed (cool), Noctis fight through a really long, solo dungeon that attempts way too many jump scares (lame) and Ignis and Gladiolus just vanish.  They apparently do their own thing, which isn’t that much cooler, but it does allow the player to skip some of the bullshit.  Then it ends with a long boss fight, some revelations, and Noctis vanishing into a crystal.  In the crystal, Bahamut tells him that he has to die to stop the Starscourge, that the Empire of Niflheim has been consumed by the Starscourge and that Ardyn is telling the truth.  Ardyn, before Noctis drops into the crystal, reveals that he’s actually related, distantly, to Noctis, and it sets up the final battle.  It also completely tears the game apart.

First, after building the Emperor up as this ruthless, unyielding bastard becomes, and I’m serious about this, a random boss fight that harries the party after they all meet up for a bit.  Seriously, he’s a boss fight that pretends to be a random enemy for a few bits of the dungeon, but is actually really tough.  It’s dumb.  Plus, thanks to the Starscourge and the daemons (along with Ardyn’s machinations) Niflheim completely falls apart and the people who had been the bad guys literally up until this moment just vanish.  It’s not the worst time that has happened (wait, Golbez is actually Cecil’s brother and we have to go to the moon and get the moon crystals, because this game is too short.  Actually, that’s not the worst, and in context, it’s kind of cool), but it’s still pretty dumb.  One of the reasons XII works so well is that the Archades Empire remains a credible threat throughout, and that since they are the bad guys.  Venat doesn’t just kill of Cidolfus or Vayne and declare himself the big bad or anything.  Hell, Vayne going rogue and merging with Venat is basically their suicide charge, since they’ve already lost and want to make sure no one wins.  It’s cool and it’s effective, and while XV does have the player follow along with Ardyn much more than with the Emperor, the game sets Ardyn up to be the Emperor’s emissary.

Sure, Ardyn is supposed to be like Kefka, and he usurps the Emperor, and that’s totally fine, but the rest of Niflheim just falls apart.  Kefka at least kills Vector when he destroys the entire World of Balance, and we, the players see all of that happen.  Ardyn and the Starscourge just basically causes the empire to fall apart before we even arrive in the city.  Worse, the whole game is sort of set up, until around Chapter 13 to be a means of taking down Niflheim.  All four of the boys have a personal stake in doing so, and while the Starsourge is cool, it’s more of a setting back drop.  It’s not important until more than halfway through the game, when Lunafreya gets offed, and it’s barely mentioned as anything before Chapter 9 as anything besides the source of the world’s monsters.  It would be if the moon in VIII suddenly became the bad guy and the source of every problem in the game, and killed Ultimecia.  Or something.  Maybe that did happen.  VIII is a weird ass game.

Anyway, most of that are just quibbles.  The real problem is the rest of the game.  Chapter 14 has Noctis wake up 10 years later, where the sun hasn’t risen since his trip into the crystal, and while it does give one great scene right before the final battle, which is one of my favorite Final Fantasy moments ever (seriously, it made me cry), it also runs into so many problems.  First, of course, it stretches suspension of disbelief, since a decade without sunlight is insane.  Especially since the sun prevents monsters from just crawling out of the ground, and the monsters we see in the World of Ruin are fucking powerful as Hell.  Level 60 and above.  Shit, Demon Wall was there.  Demon Wall is a boss.  Second, it the time difference makes the reunion feel hollow.  There are some implications that the boys knew Noctis would come back, and that they knew because of what happened in the crystal, but the way it’s set up, it’s like he’s only been gone for a few weeks.  It really seems like 10 years is only there because it being a 10 year game was one of the original promises, and to give Talcott some pay off, but Iris could have been the person to pick up Noctis.

Then, of course, we have the final battle.  It’s got a great line (get out of my chair, jester.  The King sits there), but it’s also totally alone.  The game is about the boys and their brotherhood.  It’s why they all, Noctis included, wear Kingsguard uniforms to the final battle.  Even when they fracture, it’s their mutual love and brotherhood that brings them together, and the final scene before going into Insomnia for the last time is all about how they face the final battle together, as brothers.  Also, the very opening of the game is them going up against Ifrit, at the end of the world.  It should be great, but in the end, Noctis and Ardyn have a crazy Dragon Ball Z battle through the air, then Noctis sacrifices himself to end Ardyn’s immortality, and Noctis gets to be with Lunafreya in the afterlife.

Noctis dying, weirdly, becomes the easy way out.  Instead of losing Lunafreya, instead of having to suffer alone on a throne and rebuild a kingdom out of nothing, Noctis gets to have everything.  Sure, he “dies,” but the final scene shows that he gets to be with his love and be married in the afterlife.  He doesn’t have to suffer on earth with his friends, and rebuild a broken world.  Terra doesn’t get to die in Final Fantasy VI when the magic goes away, because she has to be there to raise the children (also because you can potentially beat the game without her, you monster).  She found her place in the world, she got to have her arc, and killing her would be pointless and grim.  Here, it’s sort of the opposite.  It’s a dark game, and in this instance, Noctis gets to die instead of doing the hard work.  It’s a shame.

Still, it’s an otherwise great game.  Probably best to just ignore everything after Chapter 12, though.  Or, at least, Episode Prompto.  I hear that one is pretty good.

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Ten times huh?

Yeah, it’s been almost a month since I posted here.  I’d like to say it’s because I’ve had a wicked bad case of writer’s block, but that’s probably not entirely true.  I’d also like to blame it on my day job taking up so much of my life, but again, that’s crap.  The truth is, I really haven’t felt much like writing lately.  My brain has felt kind of taxed to the brim and I can’t really keep a creative thought in my head for more than a few minutes, so I took a break to kind of vege out for a bit.

But now I’m back and I think I’m going to need another visit from Captain Picard with this one. Square Enix President Yoichi Wada says it’ll take 10 times as long to remake Final Fantasy VII with the same level of technical quality as Final Fantasy XIII. As the article points out, that’s 30 to 40 years.  I don’t even understand the thinking behind this.

Sorry Jean-Luc, I'm not sure that's enough

Okay, I recognize what he’s trying to say.  While Final Fantasy VII is a beloved entry into the series, it’s somewhat unwieldy to develop a remake of the game with the same technical prowess as Final Fantasy XIII, especially when people are willing to buy the game now, nearly 13 years later with all the bad (but lovable) graphics and low-quality sound the game comes with.

But it would take 30+ years to craft a remake of the game is insane.  No one thinks it would take near that long and it just makes Wada’s statement disingenuous.  Sure, everyone would love to see there favorite Final Fantasy remade with lush graphics and amazing sound, but it’s not in the company’s interest and everyone knows it.  That’s what he’s trying to say, but the fact he can’t just come out say “Oy, it’s just not fucking worth it,” comes off as condescending.  Seriously, don’t lie to us.  We’re not stupid.

Speaking of our favorite Final Fantasies, the writer for Final Fantasy XII was recently told that RPGs don’t need stories (ads in link are seriously NSFW. Go here for the story at Kotaku).  She doesn’t say who told her this, but it is pretty fucking stupid to say, especially to the woman who helped craft one of the most subtle and beautiful Final Fantasy games in existence.  Epic stories are pretty much all RPGs have at the moment.  It’s pretty dumb to take that away from them.

Finally, the new Scott Pilgrim trailer is up.  Check it out on HD, it’s pretty sweet looking.

Well dammit

Apparently, I waited too long to reserve a collectors edition of Mass Effect II.  I kept putting off ordering it from Amazon when I found out my Gamestop wouldn’t move my pre-order over to the collector’s edition when the option became available until I could get my Christmas money into my bank account.  Now, the collector’s edition is sold out.  Lame.

I don’t know why I get the urge to go buy a collector’s edition, ever.  The only time I’ve ever felt justified in getting a collector’s edition anything was the special edition of the Final Fantasy XII strategy guide, simply because of that gorgeous art book that came with it.  It may be my favorite Final Fantasy, but I still don’t feel justified in spending that extra $10 for the collector’s edition of Final Fantasy XII, even if I do love the metal case it came in.

Still, I can’t say I’m not disappointed.  I know what the collector’s edition came with, and quite frankly I think it’s a bunch of junk, but the first game was one of my favorite games and the name “Mass Effect” carries with it a sense of value that makes it seem like the game really is worth $70.

Of course, I might be pissed at the fact Gamestop screwed me over.  I put down money for a pre-order and the guys there said they’d let me know when I could switch over my pre-order from regular to the collector’s edition as soon as the game was in the computer.  Apparently, Gamestop only had a handful of collector’s editions and only allowed pre-orders for them for a week.  They didn’t even bother to inform their store employees (including managers) when they could allow the pre-orders.  The guys at my Gamestop were pissed too.

Okay, I know that wasn’t too much too much, but I’m tired today and I’m writing a review of Sherlock Holmes for tomorrow.  This is fill.  Have fun!

I’m back and I’m rested

I took the past week off to rest a little bit.  Work had become really stressful and while I had some time to update over Thanksgiving break, I decided to take the time off to have a complete brain reboot.  I had just gotten way too tired and I figured that would be the best way to keep myself from going completely mad.  In the meantime, I managed to beat Dragon Age: Origins the first time, so I’ll have a review up on Thursday.  I also saw Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day, and I’ll have a review of that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of months that I’m replaying Final Fantasy XII.  Although it’s a controversial game in the series, Final Fantasy XII is my favorite Final Fantasy game.  It’s a bittersweet tale of magic and wonder, weaving dark political intrigue with traditional fantasy, dungeonpunk and some science fiction to tell a truly epic tale of love, revenge and politics.  I’ve mentioned many times that the setting really lets my imagination soar, but what really draws me in is the almost sorrowful way the game tells its story.  It has a happy ending, it is a Final Fantasy game after all, but there is a lot of  sadness in this game, and the characters are forced to sacrifice a lot.

Almost two years ago, a friend of mine once mused that all of the best stories are sad, even if they have happy endings.  I didn’t want to accept it at first, but the truth is, we don’t really accept “…and they lived happily ever after” as a legitimate ending after we’re 3 years old (because that’s the point in life we can start to ask “and then what happens?”).  I think part of the reason for this is because conflict is what makes stories interesting, and conflict will inevitably lead to some undesired outcome for at least one participant, but that’s not the real reason.  As humans, we have to sacrifice a lot to get where we are.  Not just time or money, but sometimes we have to give up things we truly love to get to a better place in our lives.  Sometimes it’s a hobby or something simple, or something important like a loved one.  When a protagonist reaches a better point without ever giving anything up, I think we feel cheated.

One of my favorite game of all time is Final Fantasy VI.  At the end, for reasons I’d rather not get into for spoilers, magic has to fade away from the world in order to save it from the psychotic clown Kefka.  It’s such a haunting and sad ending, but hopeful.  I played it when I was in high school, years and years after it came out, but it had a very profound affect on me, and it made me realize how much a heroic character will have to sacrifice to do what must be done.  After I finished that game, I had a better understanding of fiction, writing and characterization.

My three favorite games of the sixth generation of video game consoles were Jak II, Final Fantasy XII and Radiata Stories.  All of them had the heroes giving up something and sacrificing something they loved more than anything in the multiverse to do the right thing and save the world and help others.  I think that’s one of the many reasons why I loved those games.

I bought it

Dragon_Age

Yes, it's very cool

At lunch today, I made my way back home to eat some Bagel Bites and try and 5-star Rock Band’s Master Exploder on Hard.  I had considered last night to sell a couple of games to pick up the game and while looking at my damn near unplayed copies of both Gears of War games, I thought “fuck it.”  I managed to pick up the game for less than a D&D book thanks to Vintage Stock selling the game for only $50 and getting $25 from the sold games.

I played through the opening tonight, after I played through some Final Fantasy XII (I’ve got Basch now).  It’s pretty cool, but it’s a tiny bit slow.  It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it takes a bit of getting used to.  Also, at low levels, combat is pretty limited, at least for a warrior, but my friends tell me that changes pretty quickly.  It is pretty fun though.  It’s hard not to feel like a badass when, as a barely trained noble scion, I tore through a whole fucking army with nothing but my mom and a dog.

The game also has an epic feel.  It’s not as grandiose as Oblivion, but it has its own grim charm.  Because of that grimness, it was pretty easy to choose my character: a noble knight in shining armor similar to Basch fon Ronsenberg from XII.  It was a toss up between that and a pragmatic mage.  Since I was playing FFXII, I decided I wanted more heroic knights in my game.  That, and I just played a character like that in Fallout and my Shadowrun character is also going to be like that.  So, you know, a bit of variety.  I think I’ll play a vile necromancer in my next game, just to get some real variety in my gaming.

Anyway, that’s it for tonight.  I’m tired and it’s been a trying week.  Hopefully I’ll have things straightened out soon, and I’ll be back to writing long, drawn out posts for everyone.

Looking Back: Final Fantasy XII

As I said yesterday, I’m replaying Final Fantasy XII, which is probably my favorite Final Fantasy game.  I had to make a tough decision between it, and Final Fantasy VI, but XII’s awesome setting won out for me.  Still, playing the game again, it reminds me why it took me a year and a half to beat it the first time and why I didn’t play it again for so long, despite how much I loved it.

First of all, like I said, the setting is just plain awesome.  It’s everything I ever wanted in a fantasy setting.  Part steampunk, part dungeon punk, part science fiction all wrapped up in a delightfully anachronistic package.  It’s awe inspiring to watch a giant airship float majestically through the sky over a beautiful metropolis.  I’m also a fan of the political intrigue the game, which leads to a lot of moral ambiguity, which is always a good thing.

Continuing from the setting, the art direction is gorgeous.  I have a copy of the art books, since I bought the Collector’s Edition strategy guide, and I brought it to my D&D game on Saturday to give the players a sense of how I saw Arcia.  Almost everyone, who hadn’t ogled the book already, was impressed at how awesome everything was.  People even used the weapon art for to describe how their equipment worked.

The characters are also complex and interesting.  No one is truly good or evil (except for Basch, Vaan and Penelo.  They’re all truly good.  Oh yeah, Noah is a complete dick), which is kind of a change of pace, at least for Final Fantasy.  Sure, Kefka is an awesome, Ax Crazy son of a bitch, but Vayne is a bit more realistic and makes a very compelling villain.  Thanks to the game having complex characters, it makes the story a lot more compelling.

Also, the combat system is pretty cool.  It’s a nice take on the Active Time Battle system, plus it eliminates random encounters.  Combat is also simple and intuitive.

However, the game is fucking tedious.  I mean really fucking tedious.  You never have enough money, because you only get gil from selling loot, and monsters don’t always drop loot.  Power leveling is practically required to get through the game, and that’s annoying as hell.

Because I have to spend so much time grinding, it has a tendency to break the flow of the game for me.  The story itself is pretty well paced, but because I have this tendency to take huge breaks from the game, the pacing is kind of broken for me, which bothers me a lot.

Also, while the concept behind the License Board system is pretty cool, I never really have enough License Points to get anything, even after hours of grinding for LP.  My first time through, I had to get the special bracelet that doubles LP just to make sure I had enough LP to get all of the Augments, all of which are completely necessary.

Anyway, like I said yesterday, it’s a great game, but it still needs a bit of work.  It’s an Eastern RPG take on the Western RPG, and that causes some problems, but it’s still got a beautiful setting and lots of good characters.  Sure, there are some gameplay problems, but since JRPGs are basically interactive storybooks, this is a pretty good one.

Reliving the past

I got home late tonight and I’ve had insomnia, so in between listening to the Smashing Pumpkins and surfing TV Tropes while discussing the merits of a good villain with my brother, I’ve been watching episodes of Batman: the Animated Series that I never got a chance to see.  I watched “Mad Love,” which explored Harley and Joker’s incredibly abusive relationship and “Legends of the Dark Knight,” which is about a bunch of kids who talk about what they think Batman is like.

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of days, so it’s been pretty good to wax nostalgic a little bit before I head on to bed.  I’m surprised at how well these episodes have aged, as old as they are.  If anything, I think I’d appreciate the series more as an adult that I ever would have as a child.  “Mad Love” was definitely the better of the two relationships, as it explored the relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn in a very adult and responsible manner, which is good, since the Joker’s abusive nature is generally played for laughs (or sometimes played hilariously dark).

It was heartbreaking to see Harley go back to the Joker in the end, especially since he knocked her clear out of a fucking building.  I was a little surprised when they cut away when Joker backhanded Harley across the face, but it made the implication of what he did that much worse.  It was sickening to see Harley, lying broken in the alley below, gasp out “It was my fault…I didn’t get it” before she slumps into unconsciousness.  Based on the fall, and the fact her entire body goes limp, for all we know, she’s fucking dead and all she can say is “It was my fault.”  Odin’s beard that’s dark shit.

Normally, I don’t go in for “reliving the past” or looking back or whatever.  I figure life is only going to get better and I’m going to experience all sorts of cool stuff as I go through my own fucked up journey, but I’ve got to admit, it does feel good to revisit something from childhood after a day like I’ve had today.  Even though I’ve got a pretty optimistic outlook about things, even at their darkest, I can fall prone to some kind of dehumanization, and that was in spades today.  Coming back and watching Batman and how it maturely explored dark and adult themes made me feel alive.  It wasn’t so much that I was returning to a better place, but the happy memories were able to restore me to my own sense of self.  It returned a piece of me that I had lost sometime between breakfast this morning and agonizing over something that really wasn’t that important in the end.

So, enough waxing poetic, what about the geeky stuff?  Well, since I can’t afford to pick up Dragon Age, I’m replaying Final Fantasy XII, which I mentioned last week.  Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a chance to play since my unsuccessful attempt at defeating Gilgamesh’s second fight in my first game (which came after I couldn’t succeed at powerleveling Vaan in my current game), but I’m glad to say the game is just as good as I remember.  No, it’s better than I remember.  The characters are cool, the setting is beautiful and the game is a lot more fun to play than I remember.  It’s just so fucking tedious.  Oh well, it’s a good game, just needed a bit more polish I think.  It’s too late and I’m too tired to give my full report on this game, so just wait until tomorrow.  Unless I decided to go off on the few comics I’ll be able to scrounge up at the comic book store.