I've been playing through the first few hours of all the main series Final Fantasy games in order this year, but I'm going to have to jump from 10 to 12 here, skipping 11 entirely, as it appears that Square accidentally gave the name to their multiplayer spinoff. They could've called it Final Fantasy Online, Final World of Fantasy, or Final Fantasy: MMO Gaiden, but nope they slapped the name Final Fantasy XI on it and waited for the fans to come to them as they always do, eager to get them all signed up for that monthly fee.
So no, I'm not playing that one.
IT MEANS THAT IT'S ALL MY FAULT!
Final Fantasy XIII's lack of gameplay and nonsensical plot, their painfully cheap and amateurish looking mobile ports and spin-offs, the way they're making their Western developers focus more on online features, the way they turned Final Fantasy XIV into a pit to flush their money away into (and then blamed the Western market for under-performing because Tomb Raider didn't outsell Call of Duty), they way they're making Breath of Fire 6 into a casual mobile game.... wait, that one's Capcom. But all those other things are all my fault, because I've had this survey sitting on my shelf for years and I didn't send it to them!
I could've told them to knock it off before they even started and saved them from travelling this dark road.
So anyway, I should probably put Final Fantasy XII on then.
The video actually begins with a parade in the streets of the city of Rabanastre to celebrate the wedding of Princess Ashe of Dalmasca and Prince Rasler of Nabradia. But the mood is soon ruined entirely by news that the Empire of Archadia begun an invasion of the Prince's homeland and he departs with all these troops you see above to defend Nalbina Fortress.
I think I got all of that right.
Don't take that as a criticism though, I'd totally watch this movie.
It's quite a big difference from the beginning of Final Fantasy X, which was more or less entirely focused on a single blitzball player as he went around chatting to fans and signing their balls.
Man, this narrator really does like to have some fun with his capitalisation. Actually I know what this narration reminds me of now: the start of Final Fantasy Tactics! It's probably not a coincidence seeing as they both take place in the land of Ivalice, a place where heroes are more concerned with the fate of nations than they are with beach volleyball.
My first task is to move the right analog stick to rotate the camera, which is harder than you'd expect considering the camera controls are inverted and there's no way to turn that off. I can forgive them though, as this is this is actually the first main series Final Fantasy game to let the player turn the camera themselves.
The coloured arcs on screen indicate who's aiming at who by the way, with blue referring to my team and red being the enemy. I can't actually remember ever seeing that in a game before and it's working out pretty well so far.
Onwards men, to... wherever it is we're going!
A FEW CORRIDORS LATER.
But who would assassinate our King before he could officially surrender? It doesn't seem like the Empire would get much out of it, seeing as they already had everything they wanted, he came here to surrender to them.
But nope, he's gone to the dark side and the player character is dead, so now the game's got to set up a new protagonist. It'll be interesting to see who it'll be now that they've gotten their typical male teenage hero out of way.
A COUPLE OF YEARS LATER.
Though I suppose it is quite a pretty sewer. There's not much to say about this fight really, I select targets, walk Vaan close to them, and he goes and hits them until they die.
Well the game certainly has a world map, but it doesn't look like I'll be doing much travelling across it. It seems Square threw that idea of an overworld away for good back in the PlayStation era.
Our substitute hero's a bit of a thief class, so he at least gets to enjoy stealing the purses from some genuine assholes for once. He's saving up to buy an airship and become a sky pirate you see.
He clearly has too many 'a's in his name for such a short word though, so from now on I'll be calling him Aladdin Skywalker instead.
Well I had to go down the street to drop by Migelo's place, who sent me back up the street to find a guy called Kytes and I eventually found him in this tavern. Not that I had to go looking really as the game kindly marks where I need to be on my map. So that's where I'm at and why I'm at where I am.
This Rogue Tomato has been harassing couriers in the Estersand and there's a bounty for whoever takes him down. Which will of course be me.
Thankfully accepting this job means I get a permit to travel through the city gates, so I won't end up in a Final Fantasy VII situation of being trapped in the starting city for hours.
Incidentally the game has skippable and pausable cutscenes, which deserves to be mentioned because it's awesome.
AND SO I JOURNEYED A FEW STEPS ONWARDS TO THE ESTERSAND.
This is what the game has in place of the traditional overworld by the way: a network of connected levels. Personally I'm fine with it, as they've given me the freedom to stretch my legs and perhaps stray further out than I should be going at this point in the game, which is all I really ask for.
The combat's still on the 'mostly automated' side, but overall this has definitely just taken a huge step up from my experience with Final Fantasy X as far as I'm concerned.
And thus began the epic final battle between the street rat and the cute little tomato man... which played out entirely by itself while I watched.
|Final Fantasy X (PS2)|
Though not by too much... I mean, it's still got a girl with little wings on her back walking around like that's totally normal.
First though he needs a way inside the palace and that's where his old friend Old Dalan comes in. The guy actually has the key to get me in, but to use it I first need to charge it up with magic.
Vaan's friend Penelo has kindly volunteered to join the team and she has brought with her knowledge of the all-powerful Gambit function. She didn't bring much knowledge though, just enough to let me turn the feature on. Basically so far all it means is that she joins in when I attack anything.
By the way, it may seem like I could just walk straight forward from here to reach my glowing yellow goal in the distance, but there's almost certainly an invisible wall blocking me and forcing me to travel through to a different area first. I'm having to navigate by the minimap here just to figure out where I'm allowed to go.
This strikes me as kind of a dumb quest to put at the beginning of the game, seeing as they've used their CGI budget to set up this epic story of royal marriages, wars between nations, traitorous soldiers and a city living under occupation, and it seemed like my backup protagonist was finally going to get involved with it... and then it's sent me out into the bloody desert looking at rocks instead.
It just feels like a pointless filler quest really.
WAY TOO LONG LATER.
I sold a few wolf pelts etc. while I was here and this somehow unlocked the 'bazaar' option, where I found I was able to buy two potions for the price of one. And then the button disappeared as quickly as it arrived, its job done for the day.
They've brought back multiple equipment slots, so I can carry a sword, shield, helmet, armour and an accessory. But I can't just equip and use something I've bought straight away! Nope, that'd be stupid.
Now I'm tempted to go off and kill 20 something more enemies to get that as well.
It's just a shame that getting around this bloody city takes so long. Those icons gathered around the middle right point to the shops, so they're all in one place at least, but to leave the city or save the game I have to travel through two areas with two exits.
And my interest is running on low right now after all that glowing stone business.
This building is the Clan Centurio Hall, which apparently has something to do with hunting monsters, though I'm not sure. I just wandered in here while looking for openable doors on the map. It's funny how the game gives so much attention to monster hunting so early, as I can imagine players getting bored of all that sun rock bullshit and going off to hunt instead for a bit. And then for a bit more. And then eventually they find they're massively overlevelled and the main questline holds no further challenge for them.
Anyway, to the secret palace entrance in the sewers!
SEWER LEVEL SCREENSHOTS REMOVED FOR YOUR BENEFIT.
Hopefully not too many times though.
SOON, IN THE PALACE TREASURE ROOM.
C'mon man, this isn't Indiana Jones, you're not going to wither away and die if you take the wrong item out of the room, fill your pockets! Take everything that isn't nailed down! Take something for fuck's sake!
The guy on the left is Balthier (played by Gideon Emery from Battlefield 3 and Dragon Age II) and he claims to be 'the leading man'. Which sounds awesome to me, because I've been waiting hours for one to show up.
Like Penelo, Balthier arrives with knowledge of Gambits, only he understands the system a whole lot better. In fact I even get a screen to edit the things now!
Each character has a number of slots in which they can place a command and a target, which is then carried out automatically in battle. For instance 'Ally: HP < 70%' is triggered when one of the other characters in the party has less than 70% health, making Fran cast cure on that character next chance she gets. It's going to be a drain on her mana, but that recharges when I walk around so I'm not so bothered. ALSO DID I MENTION THAT MANA RECHARGES WHEN I WALK AROUND HOLY SHIT THAT IS AWESOME!
Uh, anyway if no one needs healing, Fran then looks at the next command on the list, which is at this point is set to 'put arrows into the enemy that I am currently attacking'.
Which basically means that I don't even have to manually select enemies anymore. I don't have to do anything in combat anymore. I can just run around like an idiot and everything on screen should eventually die regardless.
I am now entirely superfluous.
EVENTUALLY, AFTER A BOSS FIGHT.
Oh wait, hang on, Vaan's been poisoned! I'll have to switch between my characters, select him, and tell to cast the Poisona spell on himself next time his action bar is filled. Don't worry, I'll give him another Gambit slot soon and I can set that up to be automatic next time.
Well this seems like a good spot for a conclusion, so I'll finish by briefly talking about what I really thought about Final Fantasy XII.
The game is kind of like Final Fantasy X's freaky mirror universe counterpart, which does everything exactly opposite.
- FFX stuck me in tiny areas and didn't let me take three steps without dropping me into another bloody cutscene or battle, but the battle system was really good. FFXII on the other hand gave me a massive city and the surrounding area to run around in almost from the start and monster hunting sidequests to do, but the battle system seems to be a little... hands off.
- FFX seems to be focused on one athlete's personal issues, while FFXII appears to be about people caught in a huge political struggle.
- FFX's art design and music typically feels like it belongs to the series. FFXII not so much (it's the first main FF game without an Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack).
- FFX's world shuns technology, FFXII's world embraces its high-tech flying machines.
- FFX's Sphere Grid starts off as a long linear line of upgrades obfuscated in a complex indecipherable squiggle. FFXII's Licence Board is plainly simple, yet lets you upgrade your character in any direction from the start.
- FFX's lead character is an irritating teenager with a whiny voice, FFXII's lead character... uh, well I guess it's not always opposite.
I think overall though, this one suits my tastes a lot more. An interesting story, likeable characters and a bit of freedom can inspire me to put up with tedious gameplay, while the best battle system in the world isn't going to make me put up with a game that seems to resent that it has to let the player steer every now and again. In fact I honestly want to keep playing this some more, so FFXII gets a shiny star.
Though of course all my opinions are based on the first few hours of gameplay and are therefore nearly worthless.
Well that's the end of my Final Fantasy posts, at least until the day a PS3 with a copy of Final Fantasy XIII included mysteriously appears at my door with a note saying "Suffer like I did" attached to the box. But you should totally leave comments on all the games that I did play, like this one for instance!