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March 22, 2013

Final Fantasy 13-2: Good Morning, Kupo! (Part 8)

Confession time: I’m really wary of my ability to make a good setting.

I’ve had this complex for years now.  Characters I can do, and enjoy doing.  Themes?  I can work with those.  Plot?  Give me enough time, and I can pound something out.  Setting?  Nope, nope nope nope -- you’re asking the wrong guy. 

This may be a case of me being too modest, but then again I’ve always been nervous about coming up with my own settings (and my technique in general, but we’ll set that aside for now).  Can I build a fantastic world?  Can I make it unique?  Can I weave in a framework and details?  Can I keep those details straight?  Can I even write a scene well?  There’s no doubt that I’m better at writing than I’ve ever been -- and I’ll be saying the same a year from now -- but considering what’s out there, I can’t help but get a little pensive.  Especially considering all the points that go into building a setting; I’d like to think that one day I’ll have to put some serious work into leveling up my geography skills.

Is it possible for me to get better?  Of course.  That’s pretty much a given; the fact that I’m willing to both admit my weakness and start envisioning what I need to do means that what might be my weakest point now could become my strongest (and then I’ll start faltering in another area, just to balance things out).  Whatever the case, I know that I’ve got the potential to go up and up, as long as I put in the effort and use my head.

It certainly helps that I’ve got something in particular to try and beat.

Part 8: The World
(Or: Oh, So it’s Like a Vastly Inferior Xenoblade Chronicles, Chrono Trigger, AND Kingdom Hearts!)

So here’s a question for you.  If someone asked you to draw a map showing the world of your favorite fictional property (preferably one with a world worth drawing), could you?

That might be a more difficult task for some stories than others, but in a lot of cases I think it’s possible.  The Lord of the Rings already has a map drawn up for you.  Google “game of thrones map” and you’ll spot plenty of pictures.  Mass Effect has you travelling to different planets and locales via galaxy maps, and by the looks of things intrepid Star Wars fans -- and officials, I bet -- have done their part to show where everything is in relation to one another.  Even if a story takes place in a single location, there are still ways to portray where things are in relation to each other; Harry Potter has Hogwarts, and that’s been mapped extensively (though the addition of certain “variables” like the Room of Requirement could suggest some on-the-fly architecture on J.K. Rowling’s part).

It goes without saying that plenty of games -- RPGs in particular -- are good at mapping out their worlds.  Mapping, and giving elements of the world depth and context; it’s one thing to give a world deserts and mountains, but another to unify it under certain frameworks and context.  (Among many other things, the Tales Series is good at building up its world with unique facets -- though it’s sometimes to the point of excess.)  Still, a nice, expansive world sure goes a long way.  Crack open the cases for the PC versions of Final Fantasy 7 and 8, and you’re likely to see maps that show you the world in full.  Oceans, towns, cities, mountains, beaches, resorts, marshes, all that and more are just natural parts of our world; seeing them recreated in a game in some capacity is always a delight.  Of course, I also have to give FF7 a retroactive compliment, in that the framework of Shinra and the struggle for natural resources transformed both the world and the narrative.  Man, I think I need to play that one again.  It’d sure as hell be preferable to spending more time with 13-2.

I know this subject has been beaten to death with a particularly weighty battle axe, but it bears repeating.  FF13 was (and still is, of course) an incredibly linear game.  If you try searching for maps, you’ll find pictures of wiggly, wobbling lines -- sometimes angular, sometimes jagged.  Oh, sure, there’s a huge area on Gran Pulse that hearkens back to the days of expansive field maps, but that’s just one area -- and the first time you explore it, there are monsters everywhere that’ll slaughter you if you wander too far out of line.  To say nothing of the fact that it has little to offer in terms of the main plot; it’s a way to overcompensate for the lack of exploration thus far -- i.e. some twenty-five hours spent wandering through lines -- while utterly missing the point of exploration and world-building in the first place.  Yes, you could argue that at its core every RPG is pretty linear by necessity and limitations, but the point is that the games (assuming they don’t offer it in full), create the illusion of freedom and expanse.  It’s not a sequence of “line-line-line-line-open world-line-line”.  It’s a fragile balance, admittedly, but not one that’s easy to screw up.  But of course, Squeenix finds a way.

And I know I’ve talked about this in the past, but it bears repeating.  There’s a difference -- and a big one -- between FF10’s linearity and FF13’s.  Ignoring the fact that 10 has a map in its own right, it manages to thoroughly A) explain its framework, B) create the illusion that its world is much bigger via its lore, architecture, and the presence of friendly and enemy NPCs, and C) string together each area so that it feels like a cohesive world…well, barring one sequence where you’re transported from an ice world to a desert because of plot.  But that bit aside, the third point is what sets 10’s linearity apart from 13’s.  It’s a straight line, yes, but it’s plot-relevant because it’s a pilgrimage, a journey to see the world and what it has to offer.  Each area (for the most part) bleeds into the next, and gets fleshed out by the people and things you meet along the way.   There’s a unified vision behind the areas you visit, one that asserts itself in terms of gameplay, story, and design.  I wouldn’t say it’s enough to forgive 10’s missteps -- and there ARE missteps -- but if nothing else, it’s a conceptual idea that I can understand and to some extent admire.

So of course, FF13 completely ignores the lessons learned from that game.  Granted that’s because the franchise did a changing of hands (even beyond the shift from Squaresoft to Square Enix), but even then you’d think the guys spearheading each Final Fantasy would take lessons from the game before it, be mindful of the strengths and weaknesses, and come up with a stronger, more evolved product each time.  (Again, this is something the Tales games have been doing for ages now, with Tales of Graces f being the most evolved form of the battle system to hit the States yet.)  Instead, it’s like the developers went backwards.  The dual-sided world of Cocoon and Pulse is not even remotely competent, primarily because there’s zero consistency. 

With FF10, the intense focus on Yuna’s pilgrimage helped lend the world a sense of cohesion, at least vaguely trying to connect one area to the next.  With FF13, the party splits into three groups at one point, and alternates between them regularly.  Ignoring the fact that it makes the adventure lose its focus -- and make conflicts go on forever without a resolution -- it only helps remove the connection between one area and the next.  Clear an area with one group, and the game will switch over to another group in a wildly-different area.  When you clear that and cut back to Group A, they’re in a different area, and you’d be forgiven for wondering where they are and how they got there.  When the party’s split into three, they’re like Cerberus…except every head is going in a different direction, and it only hurts the main body.  

And it certainly doesn’t help that for huge swaths of the game, the characters have no idea where they’re going or what they’re going to do next; they’re just wandering here, and wandering there, and wandering everywhere.  There’s no way to know where anything is in relation to something else.  There are some things in the sky, some things near oceans, some things inside other things, and by the sound of it there are portals that lead from Cocoon to Pulse.  Hell, I remember when my brother played through the game, and he was genuinely surprised to find out that Cocoon is actually some kind of spherical space station hovering close to Pulse’s surface. 

What I’m getting at here is that vanilla 13’s world is anything but.  It’s an unfocused mishmash of ideas and art assets; for a game that’s all about characters completing their Focus, there’s very rarely any of it in terms of these people, the lands they inhabit and visit, and of course by the masterminds behind The Lightning Saga.

But as bad as 13 is, somehow 13-2 manages to be even worse.

Vanilla 13 might have had a world that was just art assets strung together, but they were some friggin’ great looking art assets.  At least they showed creativity and ingenuity, if a bit of an obsession with showing off the power of an army of designers and programmers unfettered by money or common sense.  They might have gone from a green, highway-and-laser filled warzone to a crystalline ice world for no reason, but at least both those areas had visual flair.  There might not have been synergy between that area and the next -- or the next, or the next, or the next -- but if they were going to show off, they were going to show off fabulously.

This is something that took me a while to register, but having survived played through The Subplot of this game and thinking up the requisite post, I came to a realization: 13-2’s environments are really uninspired.  When I first dropped into Academia, the city four hundred years in the future, I was about ready to offer a bit of praise.  But before I could, I started to notice that generally speaking, it’s not really all that praiseworthy.  I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but something about the area seemed off.  And then, just recently, I realized it.

Academia is just like Coruscant.  I mean…it’s just like Neo Seoul.  I mean…it’s just like China from Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  I’ve seen this city a thousand damn times by now.

Look, I know that this isn’t the first time Final Fantasy has cribbed off the design of others (12 is surprisingly reminiscent of Star Wars).  And I know that plenty of other franchises have cribbed off of plenty of other franchises.  But you would think that given its impressive backlog, 13-2 would offer more than a generic city of the future.  This is the franchise that’s given us -- among other things -- forgotten cities made from aquatic life, prisons that burrow into the desert, and sports arenas that surround generators of perfectly-contained spheres of water so nigh-amphibious athletes can play soccer in a three-dimensional space.  The bar has seriously been lowered here.

What’s even worse is that you don’t just visit Academia once.  As noted, you visit it once when it’s under siege, then you go back to it -- or a different version of it, at least -- in a different timeline...with the key difference being that it’s daytime.  Well, that, and not infested with shambling hellions, but you get the idea.  It’s incredibly disappointing to know that you’re visiting the same area twice with only minor tweaks…and again, even with the “addition” of “towns” to 13-2, it feels as if the point has been completely missed.  NPCs will prattle on if you walk past them, and sometimes not even then.  Outside of Hope, Alyssa, and the ever-ignorable members of team NORA, there isn’t a single side character that’s worth mentioning.  (Well, that’s not true, but I’ll get to her in a minute.)  

Without those characters to help flesh out the world or offer a new perspective, each area -- in spite of being superficially larger and more expansive -- feels just as empty as the original game.  And side characters are EXACTLY what a game like 13-2 needed most; if we’re really supposed to believe that we’re travelling hundreds of years into the future, we need confirmation of how things have changed on deeper levels than just City with Flying Cars and Neon Signs #848.  How have the people changed?  How have customs changed?  Given that Serah and Noel are at least partially responsible for making Academia (if only by being tangential assistants to Hope), then does that mean their memories have been honored, and the two of them are historical figures?

These are things that could have really made a difference in the game (no, quest vendors do not count as fleshing out a world), especially considering that areas are repeated several times with slight remixes on the visuals.  There are three different versions of a ruin area in this game, and the map for the 100 AF version is exactly the same as the 300 AF version.

 There are four different versions of the area where you meet hope, one of which I suspect only exists so you can do sidequests vended by swirling balls of angst.  One area is a significantly-smaller remix of an area from vanilla 13 -- with the game labeling it as ??? AF, as if the devs had no idea where to put it on the timeline -- that has you killing goblins and harvesting wool from sheep to earn enough trust from NPCs so they’ll let you use their weather machine…all of this, as part of a sequence that has a tangential relation to a tangent of the plot is guaranteed to bring you to tears  makes me hold my copy of Kingdom Hearts 1 close to my chest is overall dumb, but inoffensive compared to what will transpire a few hours later.  I’m not wholly convinced that the Oerba of 13-2 is that much different from vanilla 13, save for the graphical downgrade -- but to its credit, it doesn’t just have a straight line as its layout.  Then again, it doesn’t have people in it, things to interact with, and given that our heroes have a hundredth of the appreciation of it that the original cast had, the narrative effect is diminished. 

Have I mentioned that I hate this game?  Because I do. 

I’d argue that the most visually distinct area in the entire game is the casino Serendipity.  It’s got some unique designs, splashes of color, and some nice music to boot…so of course, the area is entirely optional and adds nothing to the plot except an escape from it.  It’s a stress reliever, and had I made better use of it in my time with the game, I’d probably be better off.  For its posturing of being open and free, and being “player-driven”, 13-2 sure goes out of its way to keep your fun in a strait jacket.  And it does so with more nonsensical decisions.  Example: what is the purpose of giving the player a jump button?  The only thing they can do with it is leap around the landscape like a moron.  The glowing points from the original game that you walk into to vault hundreds of feet into the air are still in place, except instead of jumping automatically you press Circle there to jump.  Why?  What was the point in adding that “interactivity”?  Wouldn’t effort be better spent in making it so that I could leap over the banister of a short flight of stairs instead of ramming face-first into an invisible wall? 

Oh, but that’s not all.  Why would a futuristic city ever need conveyor belt-sidewalks where you have to flip switches to change directions?  Why not set it so that one half of the sidewalk goes one way, and the other half goes the other way?  And on that note, why make the player go out of his way t flip a switch, especially if on a return trip it leads to him having to leap around the conveyor belts like a jagoff?  Why would hunter-gatherers in a decidedly low-tech setting ever need or build a weather machine, and why would they trust a pair of oddly-dressed strangers to touch it?  Is it just because they got sheep wool?  Even if that made Serah and Noel trustworthy, wouldn’t they suggest not using the weather machine that controls their delicate ecosystem?  If the weather machine is so insignificant to the hunters’ lifestyle that a couple of drifters can have free access to it and alter the landscape as needed -- up to and including summoning a deadly dragon -- why did they even build it?  Why is the machine that subdues a mechanical titan hundreds of yards away from the giant mechanical titan in question?  Why is the only defensive measure, a well -armed aircraft, only used once and never again?  Why does no one bother to ask about or investigate the Time Gate that…

You know what?  No.  If I start nitpicking now, I’m never going to stop.  So let’s talk about a more important subject, the one that 13-2 hinges on…and of course, the one it bungles triumphantly.

The time travel.

In case you haven’t heard (in which case I wish I was you), this is how time travel “works” in 13-2.  Once the chaos dies down in the beachside hamlet in New Bodhum, Noel explains that Time Gates have started popping up everywhere.  In order to access them and travel through time -- and through the Historia Crux, the level select menu -- Serah and Noel have to find an artefact, some sort of item in the current area/time period, and bring it to the gate (with finding artefacts being something that’s made easier thanks to the two of them having Mog around…at the cost of having an incredibly-annoying creature following them everywhere).   Their mission of sorts in each area -- the one most likely to reveal a new artefact -- is to resolve the paradox therein, dealing with the item in the area that doesn’t belong in the current time period.  It’s a remarkably simple concept, and one befitting a video game; do the mission, escape from trouble, go to the next area.

But as is the case with every other element of this game, there are issues.  For starters, the Time Gates and the presence of artefacts, and even the paradoxes to some extent, are never really explained.  Where did the Time Gates come from?  Good question.  Where did the artefacts come from?  Good question.  Why are the paradoxes appearing?  Good question.  All questions that I’m hard-pressed to provide an answer to.  The most I can offer are assumptions, and even then they’re on extremely shaky ground.  

I can buy the first Time Gate Serah and Noel enter being in place, because that was the result of a meteor’s fall…though why a meteor would hold a Time Gate is beyond me.  That exception aside, there’s no reason why any of the other Time Gates should appear outside of divine intervention -- and bear in mind that the goddess responsible for said intervention would have to be out of action at that point, and had been for a little while.  Of course, I haven’t forgotten that this whole excellent adventure was started by the goddess Etro -- and Lightning by extension -- making Serah and Noel go through the most circuitous possible path for a simple task.  Pro tip: if your plot is sparked and propelled by contrivance, start over

Next problem.  Say hello to Chocolina.

She is…jarring, to say the least.  But of course, because she’s the sole shopkeeper of the game you have no choice but to get acquainted with her.  And when I say “sole shopkeeper”, I mean that she’s the one you’ll be counting on to buy and sell all the knickknacks you need for your adventure.  And you’ll be seeing a lot of her, as she appears at several points along the way in a single area.  In pretty much every area.

So here’s the immediate question: how is she travelling through time?

I know she’s designed to be a quirky character and I’m supposed to just roll with it, but this is a serious issue that no amount of quirkiness can cover up (though given Vanille, I’d say that’s a lesson largely ignored thus far).  How is she getting around?  Serah and Noel have been chosen by Lightning/Etro to use artefacts and Time Gates to get here and there; Chocolina just appears wherever the hell she wants, when she wants.  How?  Is she also collecting artefacts and using Time Gates?  If so, why doesn’t she share the wealth?  If not, then does she have a power that lets her travel effortlessly -- and if that’s the case, then why doesn’t she share that power with the heroes?  Better yet, why don’t Serah and Noel have that power?  Why do they even need MacGuffins when their travels are absolutely vital to the salvation of the space-time continuum?  Why wouldn’t Etro imbue any of the heroes with the rightful means, or Lightning even bother to explain how time travel works?

To be fair, there IS an answer (a spoileriffic one, so read at your own risk).  As it turns out, Chocolina is actually the Chocobo chick that lived in Sazh’s hair.  In fact, officially speaking…

Chocolina is revealed to be the Chocobo Chick that Sazh Katzroy bought for his son Dajh that accompanied Sazh throughout Final Fantasy XIII. Eventually ending up trapped beyond time, the Chocobo Chick's wish to help others was answered by Etro, who transformed her into Chocolina as she helps Serah Farron and Noel Kreiss during their adventure, using her ability to exist in multiple timelines where she is needed.”

Krusty, you wanna take this one?

So let me see if I understand this correctly.  Sazh, one of the most beloved characters of FF13, is in little more than cameos and DLC, and currently trapped in a chronological wasteland disguised as a casino…and instead of the goddess Etro using her divine power to bail him out of there, he turns his Chocobo into a cabaret girl and sends her hurtling through time so she can help Serah and Noel…by selling items?  And she’ll only help them if they give her money?  And Etro gives her the power to exist in multiple timelines?  And Sazh is still trapped in spite of being one of the six heroes that fought to save the people of Cocoon?

Looks like I was right.  All of this game’s problems are thanks to fucking Etro!

That really is the only explanation.  Fucking Etro could have spared the player of so many contrivances with a couple of actions, and instead pushed the story down a much better path.  Fucking Etro could have organized the Time Gates so that they led directly to Lightning instead of all across the timeline…or, you know, instead of  taking the heroes to absolute dead-ends in the plot.  And besides all that, it’s thanks to fucking Etro that both Caius and Yeul had their lives effectively ruined, because she gave them powers they had no reason to ever need.  (Seriously, read the wiki.)  She pulls Lightning through time when she really needed Serah, she pulls Noel through time instead of a verifiable army, and presumably she had a hand in making the fal’Cie of the original game want to do whatever the hell they were trying to do.  She’s like a deity of contrivances and poor decisions.

But story issues aside --

So what, was Snow time-travelling too?  And if so, how?  Did he have an artefact and Time Gate?  If not, was he pulled through time because of a paradox?  Why would he get pulled through time?  What would he --

But story issues aside (because I’ve done enough of that for four lifetimes), the time travel aspect isn’t just baffling and time-wasting in terms of gameplay.  It’s just another signal of missed opportunities.  You see, one of the things I couldn’t help but notice about the game is its insistence in going forward.  Relatively speaking; there’s an argument to be made that you go one step forward and three steps to the right every time there’s a plot development.  But the point is that in terms of the timeline, the scales are definitely tipped.  You start in 3 AF, and go hundreds of years forward…but you never go back in time.  

I know Hope made a comment about how he didn’t want to go back to the past and change the events of vanilla 13, and that I can understand.  But here’s the thing: that wasn’t the only part of The Lightning Saga’s history.  The datalogs that I couldn’t be bothered to read suggest that there are years and years of historical events and rich lore; given that this is a world that casually features biomechanical gods with five faces and laser mouths, there’s a HUGE chance to go visit the past and see what made this world the way it is.  Rather than banishing all the good stuff to the datalogs, it’d be downright awesome to see things like the War of Transgression and the origins of the fal’Cie from the active perspective of a visiting player.

So of course, it never happens.  Well, that’s not entirely true; considering that I can never ever touch that game again, I suppose there’s still a chance that the player gets to go to the past at one point.  But I doubt it.  If there was going to be some travel to the past, I have a sneaking suspicion that it would have happened…you know…within the first twenty hours of the game.  The option has neither been alluded to or discussed, probably because the Time Gates seemingly send the heroes to random points in time (though of course they’ll eventually lead us to the end game, because fucking Etro loves screwing with us).  But still, would it really be so bad to go back in time?  What are we really missing?  It’s not as if Serah and Noel are risking any butterfly-stomping a la A Sound of Thunder.  Hell, the entire point of their journey -- besides getting back to Lightning, but that mission’s all but abandoned -- is to mess around with the timeline.  You’re telling me that they’re not allowed to go back to the past for any reason?

The game makes it abundantly clear that, like vanilla 13 before it, the only way to go is forward.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in one of the most oft-repeated -- and most infuriating--lines in the entire game:

If you change the future, you change the past.

…Remember what I said about me and this game?  How every time I play it, I end up getting a massive headache?  This is why.  Every time I hear that line, it’s like my brain tries to hang itself.  Out of sheer curiosity, I started looking around the internet to see if this mindset is even remotely viable, of if Squeenix was just blowing smoke.  And from what I gather, in some respects it actually is viable.  I guess the idea is that by changing the future, the past has to change around to compensate.  It still sounds kind of (and by kind of I mean incredibly) dumb, but considering that there’s magic and divine shenanigans abound, I guess reason and reality are being warped to allow it.

Still, there is one question that I can’t help but ask.  And try to keep up, because this is a very tricky concept.  If you can change the past by changing the future, then can’t you change the past to change the future?

Look, let’s be real.  There is always the possibility that on this subject -- this one and only subject -- Squeenix actually knows what it’s talking about.  Maybe there are certain chronological elements they’ve researched and I haven’t.  But if they’re going to run counter to an overwhelming percentage of time travel fiction’s mechanics, they need to A) explain immediately and clearly why their version is better, and B) explain why the default option is no good.  As it stands, I have absolutely no reason to believe that running up Tron Tower to bitch my way into changing history is a better alternative to going to the guy responsible and smacking the idea out of his head.  I have no reason to believe that chasing after some immortal pretty boy and walking into his traps is a better idea than finding out what era he’s from, stripping him of his immortality, and calling it a day.  I have no reason to believe that this world is even remotely fleshed out if half of it -- the half that should be immensely unique and detailed -- is given the axe in favor of generic locales we’ve seen hundreds of times by that point.

I’m not satisfied by this game.  What could and should be an exciting romp across time and space is -- once again -- just a string of levels with barely any relevance to one another.  There are times when performing an action in one area makes it possible to progress through another, but these aren’t marked changes; they’re just removing roadblocks in the plot.  What I want (if you’ll let me be a little nostalgic) is something like Chrono Trigger had, and had down pat.  It had a simple system that didn’t need much explaining, and could focus on both the far-reaching effects and the memorable moments.  I for one still have fond memories of having Robo plant a forest, toiling silently for years in the past to make it a possibility for the future -- and falling into disrepair over the course of centuries.  It’s moments like those that make the game worthwhile and meaningful.  (It certainly helped establish Robo as one of my favorite JRPG characters…though his theme helped, too.  That, and being a robot.)

Final Fantasy 13-2 may only be about a year old, but it already feels outdated.  This is a game that came out in the same year as Xenoblade Chronicles, hailed by many as one of the greatest JRPGs this generation…and justifiably so.  Whereas that game has massive, unique areas that inspire awe -- and will actually make you gasp as you walk across a narrow pathway hundreds of feet  in the air, or make you stop and stare at the setting sun -- 13-2 is content with keeping you from jumping off a platform six feet above the ground.  One game lets you experience and investigate the beauty of a natural world -- and later on, a mechanical world -- and find hidden locales thanks to your courage and curiosity.  The other game lets you throw Mog at distant treasure chests.  One game features bustling worlds teeming with life, with friends and foes alike intersecting with the main cast.  The other game treats the common side character like an inconvenience.

I don’t buy it, and I sure as hell don’t get it.  How is this game supposed to be player-driven if there’s nowhere of merit to drive to?  How is this game supposed to compel me if the only things that got focus were the characters’ designs and tragic backstories?  How is this game supposed to be an apology for the original game if it’s just as shallow and half-baked?  How is it that Kingdom Hearts 1, a game that’s more than ten years old by now, manages to draw more whimsy out of me AND include more varied worlds than a game that I assume was made with ten times the budget?

…It was probably fucking Etro.

But you know what?  I’m done.  I’m done with this game.  And I’m done with this whole series.  Not Final Fantasy in general, mind you, because I’m the Eternal Optimist and believe that someday years from now the franchise will pull out of this tailspin.  No, what I mean is that I’m done with this “Good Morning, Kupo!” series.  I’ve gone on and on and on, and if I played the game more there’d probably be more to hate.  If I kept up this series, there’d be more to hate.  So it’s over.  It’s time to make a change.

Next time, I’ll be bringing this whole thing to an end.

Back to Part 7.
One story's end, another story's beginning.


  1. Interesting. I always struggle with writing a plot. Typically I create a few characters and see how they bounce off each other just so I have an idea on how they'd interact. Setting can be a pain too, although I always had fun creating my own "world maps" for a story concept. I'd have basic ideas for what the culture of a country or city is like and a simplified description of their relations with others. I would have so much fun creating these details that I would have no clue how to make a cohesive story come to be. Hence why all of my stories remain as concepts for many years. :/

    “Chocolina is revealed to be the Chocobo Chick that Sazh Katzroy bought for his son Dajh that accompanied Sazh throughout Final Fantasy XIII..."
    <--- what... the... I've read fanfiction that makes more sense than that.

    "If you change the future, you change the past."
    <-- It all depends on what theory of time travel SquareEnix was basing their "saga" on. Though I have heard many horror stories of people trying and failing to add time travel to a plot, I still like to spend time looking up some basic ideas and theories.

    So it means that the effects of change... flow... backwards? If a boy throws a baseball at a window in the white house, that will prevent the moment when he played baseball with his friends the day before? What?! But what makes this comment by the characters even dumber is the fact that the "future" they want to change... will become the past that was changed, thus altering the future. Nitpicking? Maybe, it's still something I doubt SE ever put a moment of thought into.

    Or maybe I still cannot understand time travel mechanics well enough...


    Another thing. Isn't it sad that after watching five hours of the game, reading your posts, and reading the wiki... I still do not understand what Cocoon and Pulse are? Are they planets? Are they floating continents in the sky? Does outer space exist? Is one of them a space station? If so, what created them? How old are they? What the hell is a fal'Cie and what relevance do they have to these odd planet-place-thingies? Explain, Final Fantasy 13 and 13-2! EXPLAIN!!!


    My friend, 'Final Fantasy Verses 13' does not sound promising if it's taking place in the same universe. A shame, because it's premise sounds pretty interesting! *sigh*

  2. The way I handle stories is to start with characters (or occasionally their skill set) and work my way up from there. Give a kid ghostly powers, and that necessitates enemies with powers to counteract that. Those same powers require context, limitations, and grounding; as a result, the world and its rules start to form around them. After that, I start filling in the gaps about the characters, the world, and all -- exploring the possibilities and answering the questions that others might ask. Add in some aesthetic choices and top it off with thematic merit, and there's a basic groundwork for a story. Well, that's a hyper-compressed way of explaining it, but so far it's worked all right for me.

    Anyway...yeah, Chocolina is...interesting. And I think it'd be best if we leave it at that. Fun fact, though: apparently she's going to be in Lightning Returns -- so I guess she was well received by someone somewhere. Or maybe the developers just wanted some fanservice anyway they could get it -- even if it's from some sort of horrific chrono-anomalous bird woman. Then again, Rule 34.

    RE: the time travel, I'm not the first one to think that it's the stupidest damn thing ever spoken, and I won't be the last. It's needlessly complex, and it's not explained well enough to justify its uniqueness -- and again, why play by different rules when there are so many more well-understood concepts already laid out? FF games are dense enough in their own right (for good and for ill), and throwing in "if you change the future, you change the past" on top of it does nothing.

    As for Cocoon and Pulse, I don't think there's ever an exact statement on what they are (and certainly not in the first five hours of EITHER game). But from what I can gather, the way they work is like this: Cocoon is the technological, spherical space station that hovers above the planet. (How close it is is never discussed, of course, so in a way you could think of it as a floating continent.) Pulse is, as far as I know, all the lands that extend outside of Cocoon -- a naturalistic world that encompasses the planet...though in hindsight, I don't think the planet is ever named. Anyway, the fal'Cie are biomechanical gods (or something) that are immensely powerful and have dominion over certain facilities; Cocoon, for example, has fal'Cie that generate things like food and sunlight. And as far as I know, all the fal'Cie were created by a slew of poorly-defined but infinitely-powerful gods -- Etro is one of them, for example -- so that they can carry out their own predetermined missions. I think.

    There are probably better explanations than the ones I've given here, but the problem -- as others have noted, Spoony well among them -- is that WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION is banished to the "datalogs" in the game's menu. It never reaches a point where reading the datalogs is necessary to figure out what things like l'Cie or fal'Cie means, but the problem is that the extreme lack of details about any of those things cripples the game and its world-building severely. And I mean severely.

    Ugh. Well, I guess there's always a chance that Versus 13 will be good. But at this stage, it's hard to get excited. It's almost as if I have to start preparing for disappointment now, and the best way to do that is to build a bomb shelter.

  3. Okay, personal desire for shameless self-promotion aside (Human Slaves of An Insect Nation Part Two*cough*) I'd like to get a chance and talk with you about this setting problem you claim to possess and how to fix it:

    From what I get from this articles (and number of your other rants), you appear to have a VERY firm graps on how world-building and setting continuity works. Therefore, I can only assume that your problem mostly revolves around the fact that you have somehow forced yourself into thinking that, in creating a world, you need to make the entire damn thing in one sitting.

    It doesn't work that way, dude so here's an idea (might in fact even be an excellent excercise for you)

    STEP ONE: Fucking read this, stat. It was written by philip K. Dick, the goddamn BuddhaJesusOdin of science fiction and it pretty much adresses every single problem you may have.

    STEP TWO: Go ahead and find yourself an empty map. It can be a city map, or a world map. There's tons of generators, but for the sake of expediency, let's say that you found a blank one on the internet like, say, this one:

    It's empty, it's generic and bland as fuck and nobody will mind if you start filling it up with shit.

    STEP THREE: Pick a bit of it. Not all of it. Just a bit. Write a story about it. See if it holds up. No, you don't have to break new ground or change the face of fiction. You just need to write a couple stuff about it. Cool ideas will tumble your sweet little noggin pretty damn soon.

    STEP FOUR: Keep at it until it's done. post reults on Cross-Up

    But in all seriousness, I just cannot accept that you are daunted by setting up a setting, dude. That's like, the one thing that you should in no way allow to get in your way. Sure, my idea is not exactly perfect but it will get you going. The important bit is this: don't you fucking dare post any more of this I just can't' bullshit here.

    I didn't come here to read smart shit written by a quitter. Now get going!

  4. If you can't handle settingts in and of themselves, then why not build a world around the characters, where they can fit and act according to their personal traits? If you find the idea of building a world daunting (you shouldn't, you already get the gist of it), then why don't you fill the landscape with stuff that your characters can doand act and be themselves during the story, thus making a world in the process?

    I might sound confusing, so here's an article by SF superhero Philip K Dick to explain everything:

  5. Consider that link bookmarked. In the name of justice.

    Anyhoo, I'd say your suggestion's as good a place to start as any. I put some hefty emphasis on my heroes (and villains, by extension), so I guess giving them an appropriate playground is a vital element. Though I guess it'd be better if I put it into practice instead of just mucking around with, I'll just have to see how it goes.