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January 6, 2013

Final Fantasy 13-2: Good Morning, Kupo! (Part 0)



*sigh* Well.  Here we go.

I’m reminded of the words of fellow blogger Chihuahua Zero (whose blog you should be reading) on a post I made a while back: “That’s a part of being a critic: loving something and then taking it down.”  And it’s true.  I love video games.  I love the worlds they make.  I love the skill and creativity that goes into them -- the writing, coding-wise or story-wise, that makes them amazing.

But my love only goes so far.  It stops very abruptly right here.  Right now.

Part 0: The Prologue
(Or: Let’s Play the Numbers Game)

I mentioned this earlier, but I just want to make it known that I didn’t buy the game of my own will.  My brother grabbed a used copy of it as part of a GameStop sale a while back, and since then he’d been bugging me to try it (knowing full well that I consider vanilla 13 to be on par with drinking antifreeze).  But he kept prodding and pestering, and I figured I couldn’t insult 13-2 if I never played it.  Best case scenario, the touted improvements would make it more tolerable than its predecessor.  Worst case scenario, it’s something to blog about.

So I’ve been playing it for quite a while.  I don’t know how close I am to the end, but I know I’ve put in more than a few hours.  What do I think of it?  Well…

…Are there any astronomy buffs around these parts?


There’s this unit of measurement called an astronomical unit, you see.  It’s kind of a shorthand way of denoting the distance between Earth and the sun.  And it’s a pretty long distance, as you’d expect; we’re talking about 92.956 x 10^6 miles here.  For a point of reference, it takes a ray of light about 8 minutes to get from the sun to the earth, and that’s saying something.  But an astronomical unit -- AU for short -- is still a pretty valid means of measure, as I understand it.  It’s certainly better at measuring the distance between planets in our solar system than just miles.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, let’s say I had to give 13-2 a score.  If I did, it would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of -92.956 x 10^6 AU.

I’m not just saying this as a confessed hater of FF13.  I’m not just saying this to troll the fans.  I’m not just saying this as someone who’s become embittered by the franchise -- mostly because I was all right with Final Fantasy until 13 happened.  Final Fantasy 13-2 is, by far, the worst game I have ever played in my life.  And I played THIS:


A question for you, readers: what are the two most fundamental parts of a good role-playing game?  A game designed to be an adventure and take you on a tale you live through and affect with your characters' action and the player's wit?  I mean the two parts that are the basest, simplest, catch-all elements of a game?  Think about it for a second.  Here, have some ellipses in the meantime.

...

Yes, that’s right: the story and the gameplay.  If one of them is strong, then it can compensate for its weaker half.  Or if both of them are excellent, you’ve got a contender for several personal “Best of” lists.  But of course, games that fail on both accounts are complete failures, period.  And guess which category this game falls under?
 
So yes, on a basic level 13-2 is (in my opinion, although one could argue in my favor as well, given the evidence) a failure.  But it’s a failure on every minute level that comprises both elements.  From a story perspective, the characters, the narrative, the technique, and the world-building are all a mess; hell, the internal logic of the game is missing, convoluted, or just plain WRONG from scene-to-scene, let alone from one game to the next.  And when you manage to screw up what little there was to understand in vanilla 13, you really should consider giving the hell up.  And the gameplay?  No hope there, in spite of virtually every reviewer glossing over it.  Battles are a pain, the “open worlds” aren’t quite as such, customization is baffling, the monster-raising system is half-assed, and I’m eager to introduce Mog’s creator to the business end of a well-sharpened halberd.  


I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me Final Fantasy 13-2 isn’t a game anymore.  It just isn’t.  A “game” implies that you’re having fun, or being entertained, or given some sort of satisfaction.  No, 13-2 is a struggle to get through.  Awful battles lead to awful cutscenes, and awful cutscenes lead to awful battles.  Each time I play, I can only do so for a short while before getting a splitting headache, a bodily reaction to anything that I find particularly bad.  I remember believing at one point that “This game can’t get any worse, right?”  Now I realize how naïve I was.  Now every time I turn on the game, I go, “Oh God, what’s gonna happen this time?”  And then something truly awful will happen, almost on cue, and I’ll say “Oh God.  That…that didn’t just happen, did it?  This is just a joke, right?”  And then I’ll wish I was playing Persona 4 instead.  Ah, Persona 4.  Sometimes memories of you are the only things that get me through the harsh winter nights.

“All right, we get it!” you shout, slamming a palm against your keyboard.  “You hate 13-2!  That much is obvious.  So if it’s so bad, why do you keep playing it?”  Honestly, I can’t say I have a good answer.  I’ve explained before that I don’t believe in the “so bad it’s good” mentality, and that certainly doesn’t apply to this game.  So I suppose you could call it a sick fascination; there’s a part of me that wants to see exactly how bad it can get -- if it can scrape the barrel so thoroughly that it shreds through to the other side, with hundreds of splinters lodged in its fingertips.  But at the same time, you could argue it’s a matter of pride.

Between me and my brother, I’m the RPG ace.  Barring the occasional -- but irritatingly frequent -- erasure of my save file, I’m the one who ends up clearing RPGs when he gets stuck on a boss.  Xenosaga III, Mega Man X: Command Mission, Grandia III…hell, it took him an hour to beat the last boss of FF8, and I had it done in about five minutes.  And don’t even get me started on Atlus’ RPGs, which are among the hardest I’ve encountered yet -- hard, but far from impossible if you know what you’re doing.  But I didn’t beat FF13 -- not for lack of trying, though, and certainly not because I was under-leveled or didn’t fully exploit the customization.  I could handle, and even steamroll, every enemy that came my way…except for the second form of the last boss (who in the interest of spoilers will be substituted with a picture of this guy):


Basically, it took advantage of the game’s fatal flaw, in that death to the leader -- i.e. the player character -- meant an instant game-over regardless of the party’s status.  (This is a gameplay element shared by FF13 and Persona 4, but P4 handled it much better; party members will absorb deathblows for you and thus give you lots of second-chances.)  Naturally, the last boss decides that -- after you’ve killed its first form with about three million HP and likely a fifteen-minute battle, it can decide to target and instantly kill your leader whenever it feels like it.  To be fair, you can prevent instand-death using a certain equipment setup, but that would not only require me to sacrifice my current and fully-functional setup, but backtrack to parts unknown, blow my gil on a pair of items completely unmentioned, and upgrade them so that they could completely protect me instead of maybe kinda sorta cover me if I click my heels together and do a backflip.  So after taking one too many screw-yous from the game, I stopped.  I popped the game out of the Xbox and gave up.  I’d lost the drive to see the story’s resolution long, long ago; I was only playing the game out of courtesy and a mechanical need to add a notch to my belt, not because I cared about Lightning or her world or whether or not she’d make it out alive.  At that point, I probably wanted her to die more than the main villain.

So you can consider 13-2 an obligation of sorts.  It’s a matter of a gamer’s pride, in the sense that -- barring some cheap ability in the endgame -- I’m beating that game.  But it’s also an obligation in the sense that I’m going to play it, and report my findings here on Cross-Up.  I want people to see, and know what Squeenix hath wrought.  Gamer or not, I want people -- you, your friends, whoever -- to know that this is here.  It’s not just a way for me to whine about a game I don’t like.  It’s a record -- a verifiable textbook on how NOT to write a story.  Say what you will about FF8, 9, 10, 10-2, 11, 12, even 13 or 14 -- this is where the series reaches an all-time low.  Of course, given what’son the horizon there’s still plenty of time for that to change.  But we’ll just have to see how it goes.


...I don't exactly have high hopes.

In any case, 13-2.  I’ll be making some posts on this one.  In fact, I’m almost tempted to make an entire new tab just to provide an archive of how not to tell a story, or make a game, or what have you.  But for now, this’ll do just fine.  I’m going to discuss -- and dissect -- this game as thoroughly as I can in the weeks to come.  And if you’re in the mood for some laughs (in the sense that you’ll be saying “wait, what?”), or a bit of goofy education, then I’ll be sure to provide.

So look forward to more coming soon.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go smoke the combined weight of every gram of debris in the asteroid belt in cigarettes.  

Part 1 -- time to fly.

9 comments:

  1. I honestly can't believe you had the stomach to play this game, lol. FF has gone downhill since 9, IMO. New ones are just made out of obligation, it seems.

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  2. I assure you, if I didn't have every intention of seeing the game through to its end for this blog, then I would have given up after the first hour.


    This game has enough power to break me, and any rational man in kind. See, I was playing through it a couple of days ago, and I'd finally reached the end of a certain subplot. To say that it's a terrible subplot should be pretty obvious, but (unless you've played it for yourself, which I SINCERELY hope you haven't) the resolution to said subplot is just...awful. So much so that I just sat there in front of the TV for a while, staring at the screen, with hands clasped in front of my mouth as if to pray -- or as if to prevent myself from touching the controller. And I stayed like that for minutes.


    I guess what I'm getting at is that this game might be the end of me. I don't know about you, but when I watch/read/play something terrible, I get these headaches out of pure frustration. 13-2 is probably going to make my brain tear into dozens of gooey chunks.

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  3. That Random Game BloggerJanuary 7, 2013 at 6:14 AM

    I have this game on my sitting on my shelf for the last year or two, still haven't played it

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  4. Then unless you played (and enjoyed) the original FF13, you might want to consider leaving it there.

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  5. That Random Game BloggerJanuary 7, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Played FF 13, didn't hate it, didn't like it.


    I'll probably play 13-2 when I muster the courage to.

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  6. Then may God be with you.

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  7. It is a brave thing you do.


    I as well have that dreaded game sitting on my shelf, waiting to disappoint me. Biding its time.


    Godspeed, Voltech.

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  8. I thank you, my comrade. Where I go, no light can reach; upon my return, I may not be the man you once knew, but a husk laden with madness and corruption.


    Pray not for me -- for what I do, I do in the name of duty.

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  9. Your a stronger gamer than I am. Sadly, I have yet to play any of the Final Fantasy games, but I cannot stand forcing myself through a bad game, unless I know it will be worth it. I salute your willpower.

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