Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Final Fantasy XII (no, not XIII)

So, a few videos of the demo for Final Fantasy XIII popped up on YouTube. Still not really enough info for me to comment on it, although it did bring back horrible memories of playing FFXII.

You see, I'm a fan of jRPGs in general. I recently finished up the main quest of Star Ocean 4 and, despite the horrible crash bug and atrocious voice acting/dialogue, enjoyed it quite a lot. This was mainly due to the incredibly fun battle system. Basically, you control one character (you can switch instantly), others are AI controlled. The game has combos, blindsiding, position matters, etc. It also has all these little "battle trophies" for doing things like reaching thresholds in damage, consecutive hits, and more. Great fun, even on non-bosses. And since the enemies are visible all the time, you can choose your battles (although in practice you'll want to engage every one).

Now, I've played every Final Fantasy except the MMO. I've liked all of them, except XII. This bothered me, because not only was everybody telling me how awesome this game is (check its metacritic score), but it had obviously high production values, decent localization, and was very generally well polished all around. Plus it was Final Fantasy, right?

At first, I thought my dislike was for the plot and characters. I didn't really feel invested in what the characters were fighting for, and didn't care for the characters themselves. This probably was because Vaan (the young thief you primarily see the world through) was just a lame character. He's a side character masquerading as a main character. But hey, maybe that's just me, it happens. Besides, a lot jRPGs have dumb plots or really irritating characters.

Of course, that's the point. If it were just the characters and plot, I'd normally just play through. Final Fantasy VIII had a terrible plot and the main character was a whiny emo asshole. Seriously, Squall was kind of a dick. But the battle system was engaging enough, and the rest of characters didn't suck as bad as Squall, and the game held up much better... except the entire ending.

I must therefore place my blame for not liking FFXII on the battle system. Here is a game that recognized that non-boss ("trash") mobs can be boring to fight. Instead of fixing it so that these mobs are fun to fight, they created a system to automate these fights. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a way to better control AI controlled party members. Star Ocean 4 could have benefitted from that. But Star Ocean 4's combat is fun. Their effort obviously was put into the combat system. FFXII had this complex Gambit system that could be interesting, then they locked most of it away into slow paced skill grid and completely forgot that their battles are still boring! In order to have any fun at all, you have to powerlevel and open up your skills so you can access the more advanced skills/gambits. This made the game feel just glacial in its pace - like a bad MMO without other players.

With FFXIII on the way, it appears that they're not keeping any of that system. Apparently they've decided to use the old Active Time Battle system, but make the time gauge in that the limiting resource of gameplay, rather than magic points or skill points, etc. I hope there are other things beyond that. But even if there isn't, it already looks more interesting than the combat FFXII presented me.

Hopefully the plot is a little more fantastical and less political intrigue.


ObiWanStevobi said...

I'll certainly give you that Vaan was a horrible character. But really, it's been a while since I've actually cared about the hero of a Final Fantasy game. Hard to pity a whiny, cross-dressing (and half naked) teenage boy surround by hot chics.

I do like the trend of increasingly hot and scantily dressed sidekicks. Yeah, I'm that immature.

Anyway, I've always been drawn to the "tanking" aspect of Final Fantasy. I want my levels maxed, item limits reached, etc. I think they have done increasingly well with that. I think it was Final Fantasy X that finally introduced weapon customization and really encouraged you to collect tons of items to use to build your arsenal. To me, the payoff always was getting the beastly upgrade you've been grinding out fights for. So, to me, the gambit system made it easier for me to enjoy the game.

Plus being a coder, the gambit system was a pretty interesting thing to play with by itself. It's actually kind of a cool way of introducing kids to scripting.

You still had somewhat of the classic combat system available to you that you pretty much had to use on tougher fights, so that was still there, they just took a bit of the grind out of grinding.

I even liked the "license" system for leveling up.

When I get a new FF game, I'm looking for a game with some interesting side-games, some weird and interesting characters to "tank up", and some eye-popping visuals. I'd say FFXII delivered for me.

I like the way the games have been trending. More customization, less linear, a mix of real time and turned based combat, and nerdy leveling systems.

I3ask3tCase said...

Final Fantasy 12 was overrated for me, since I'm a seasoned JRPG gamer ...before I end up getting addicted to FPS on the Xbox. I played FF 3-12 + Tactics and Star Ocean 3 & 4.I think FF7 the best in the series, because it was the first 3-D JRPG done right. Final Fantasy 10 was second on my list of favorites.
I think where Final Fantasy 12 went wrong was with the battle system and character design. In the beginning, I thought Vaan was a girl. haha. I thought oh great another FFX-2.
The battling system wasn't even near as fun as Star Ocean Till The End of Time.

I3ask3tCase said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I loved FFVIII.

Well, apart from the recent GBA ports, it's the only one I have played.