Instead of me just continue to drone on this week, I found a special guest to help me out. I wasn't able to obtain an SNES Classic in time to give FFVI a shot. Thankfully, my good man Adriaan den Ouden was able to and has chronicled his first (yes, first ever) impressions of the game below. That left me with some time to tackle Final Fantasy XIII again, which was quite a refresher. For now, check out our experiences.
If you want to catch up on my prior pieces, here's a link to Issue 34 from last week.
Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Guest Spot by Adriaan den Ouden
I've never played Final Fantasy VI before -- don't start! -- so when the Super NES Classic came out, I thought it was a good time to give it a go. Over the years I've heard nothing but glowing praise for Squaresoft's final SNES fantasy, so it's been very interesting to see where all of it originated. And with the Super NES Classic providing the original version of the translation as opposed to the revamped Game Boy Advance version, I've been able to experience in all it's mid-90's glory. So far, it's been a bit of a muddled experience.
For starters, the translation really doesn't hold up at all. This might not seem all that surprising, but for a game as lauded as this one, it seems particularly obtuse at times. There've been a number of scenes so lacking in detail that it's difficult to follow. Context clues eventually fill in the gaps, but it takes me out of the experience rather quickly, and can often make it difficult to figure out the next objective. That said, I've found the combat system to be top notch, easily the most interesting of the series' ATB iterations (barring Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy X-2). The unique character abilities, and more importantly, the unique way they're triggered, is particularly refreshing and something missing from modern RPGs in general. I have to admit, I was incredibly surprised the first time I got to use Sabin's Blitz skill, and while Blitz is definitely a standout, every character has a unique and situationally useful skill at their disposal. At present, I'm beginning my exploration of the World of Ruin, rocking a party of Celes, Sabin, Edgar, and Relm, and I'm definitely liking how open-ended it is. I just got Odin and I've heard rumors of familiar faces in the far corners of the world. My journey continues.
Final Fantasy XIII (PC)
After debating on how to play Final Fantasy XIII, I finally opted to find a laptop that could handle it as I remembered that I was able to pick the game up cheap on Steam who knows how long ago. It wasn’t a long play session, but it was enough to get my memories kicked into gear.
After recently listening to an episode of the podcast The Right Stick that talked all about FFXIII, I finally got a better grasp of what I liked and didn't like about this game. On this episode, one of the hosts, Will, loved the game and the other, Doc Brown, did not. I had thought that my feelings were going to match up completely with Doc, as I was nodding emphatically with many of his complaints. Despite all of that, I never have considered myself a hater of the game, so it was some of Will's points that I was shocked to agree with. One of his points was that the game does a good job of not dumping all of the combat systems on you at once, a crime that many RPGs commit early on via a massive tutorial dump. FFXIII avoids this by unlocking new aspects of the game little by little, though it massively fails by skewing way too far on the other end of the spectrum and taking too long to do this. Many cite the linearity of FFXIII as one of its biggest flaws, but that part doesn't bother me as much as this slow doling out of new ideas.
It's not that the game takes hours to "get good" or gets better at Gran Pulse in chapter eleven, but it simply takes too much time to open up all of the systems. A quick refresher of the first chapter has the first few battles getting the player used to using auto battle, which is fine since it's a large part of the game, but without the extra context that comes later, such as swapping roles and setting up teams that work for the situation, it starts overly simplistic and is just boring. I agree that once the game unlocks all of the functions of battle that it is a highly strategic system that I found a lot of enjoyment in, but it just strings the training on for a little too long. I don't want to ignore the fact that spacing out new features is a good thing, just not to this level.
Of course I will still bash this game's storytelling for being more style than substance. There is way too much hidden in the codex that could have been explained in the game if a little more time had been spent on character interactions instead of flashy car jumping scenes. I'm not an expert, but I can only imagine the money sunk into this scene and how little it added to the game. Oh well, enough armchair analysis from me, but if Square Enix ever wanted me to head up a director's cut of this one, I would totally do that. Sorry that was not much on my journey, but that rant just needed to come out. After an hour of playing through the first chapter again, I still like Sazh and what the battle system turns into, but I don't see me going much further unless I can find a mod on Steam (no luck yet) that fixes some of these issues.