Monday, 15 March 2010
Alright! I can't do it! Happy Now?!
I am afraid I chickened out. I can’t play Final Fantasy XIII and thusly can’t live up to my claim that I was going to review it... but it’s not my fault! The game is supposed to be about 50 hours long and after having it for a week, due to work commitments, I was only able to play it for around an hour. At that rate I would have finished it sometime next year. So, sorry about that! I figured that with God of War 3 coming out imminently I should ditch Final Fantasy and play that instead, seeing as how it won’t be 50 hours long and will be fun to play. However, you won’t leave this blog empty handed. I can still give you my hands-on impressions of that hour of gameplay I experienced with Final Fantasy XIII.
A game like FFXIII lives or dies by whether or not you care about the story. In this respect, it failed miserably for me. The opening cinematic was all fighting and fast-cutting and I wasn’t sure who anyone was and what they were doing. I’m sure this was intended, with this information filled in as you play the game, but I find it very hard to care about action sequences which I have no investment in. The game also seemed similar to a lot of bad anime films, in the way that scenes of sudden extreme sadness or earnestness always feature just as much quirky humour, which serves to break that mood and undermine everything that’s happening. At the very beginning you witness a mother falling to her death whilst her devastated child looks on. To make matters worse, this bereaved boy has been given the cringingly bad name: Hope.
Little Hope will be alone now and he has just seen his mum splatter on the city pavement. But hey, it’s ok though, because his quirky, perky, female side-kick keeps laughing and shaking him and being weird! How inappropriate? Of course, defenders of this sort of bollocks will put it down to cultural differences or to a certain style... but that is no excuse, because I’ve seen a lot of Japanese movies and played enough Japanese games to know that this sort of thing isn’t an unavoidable part of the culture. Yes, FFXIII is uniquely Japanese in its humour and style, but then ‘Carry On’ films are uniquely British too. Basically, every society has something to be culturally embarrassed by (for what it’s worth, we’re winning there).
Let’s talk about Hope’s mother for a moment too. Before she merges with the infinite, she twice (and without irony) uses the phrase “mums are tough”. Another character (again completely sincerely) keeps referring to himself as a “hero” and says things like “heroes don’t need a plan” and “heroes don’t run from fights”. He is wearing a bandana and looks like he is in his late twenties, but speaks like a child. There is something disturbingly infantile about the whole thing actually: like a sort of school girl fetishist’s dream, as all the characters are sexy grown-ups who act like children. Very odd. My favourite bit of the game that I saw was when this bandana hero (called Snow and pictured here!) told a group of new soldier recruits “we go home together!” and punched his fist into the air... only to find that no one had bothered to animate any sort of response from the crowd. It was brilliant as it just made me think the character was as ineffectual at leading men as he evidently was at getting dressed.
Now the “gameplay”. Before I called it quits I had a lot battles against three different types of enemy and all of them went exactly the same way. I pressed the “auto” button and the computer fought the bad guys for me and I won easily every time. Basically (and I’m told the Japanese version doesn’t have this feature) the game has a “win” button. Now, maybe it gets much harder later on (this is the first hour of gameplay, remember?) but it made the game feel a little pointless... almost as if I was just lurching from cinematic to cinematic at the mercy of frustrated filmmakers determined to sneak their movie into your home by calling it a video game.
Anyway, that’s about all I have to say about that, as Forest Gump would no doubt say. Check out a gameplay video of trauma child and perky-girl, below (why are they making breathy sex noises in between sentences?).
For those of you who want an in-depth technical look at FFXIII, look no further than IQ Gamer. Final Fantasy XIII is out now in all good game specialists and is rated '16' by PEGI.