I would like to think that I am open minded person. When I go to a restaurant I will always go the extra mile to try something new. Music wise I will always at least try to at least get to listen to a full song of your favorite band before seeing if it’s to my taste or not. Giving a second chance to things I did not like years ago to see if my taste evolved or changed somehow. I would say that I am ready to cope with a lot of shit before giving up on something, dare I say, hasty judgement are not an habit for me. Then I played 15 hours of Final Fantasy 13 … FML.
I could on and bitch about how angry I am that I bought that game for 15$ in a pawn shop, or I could talk constructively about great games that came before it right? After all getting angry about this game will not change the fact that Square Enix used enough money to end world hunger for a year to build that piece of crap. OK, I confess, I often complain about bad video game RPG plots, I hate deus -ex machina and stereotypical character make my teeth cringe. However I think it’s important to showcase and celebrate games that are able to take those elements and create experiences that are unique and enriching.
In the recent years, final fantasy 13 took a lot of heat and created a polemic argument about the linear way it approached it’s story line. The lack of character choice, lack of early “side quests” and the corridor like approach to level design turned down a lot of veteran players. “Extremely linear” was from my perspective the main complain about this release in the series. However some of the earlier releases where plot wise very linear and yet are regarded as some of the best titles of their time. Case and point Final Fantasy 4.
*SPOILER ALERT, even if the game was released on the SNES, playstation , wonderswan color, gba, nintendo ds, playstation store, Wii store, and the PSP *
The original release of final fantasy 4, God, Square loved those white boxes back then. Most FF games on the Super Famicom have white box art, even Chrono Trigger has similar art.
Final Fantasy 4 commits many of the same sins that 13 does: Imposed party members, random lost of characters (and their precious gear), unidirectional plot line and over used stereotypical characters. However the execution shows that those elements are NECESSARY to the plot. Every Character, never-mind how cliche they are, are KEY to the PLOT of the game. The linear path is NEEDED to progress in the story. When a character is lost from your party it’s always in a MEANINGFUL and touching way. This game innovate with the introduction of the Active Battle System and the game-play is perfectly balanced around this. The North American release of this game may have been bastardized by the removal of key elements of the game, it’s still a better gem than FF13 ever will be.
Every character in the game have a reason to go forth with the plot, Cecil the dark knight searches for redemption, Kain the dragon is used as a pawn and then must prove is worth back, Rydia must face her childhood fears and grow up, Rosa wants to be at the side of the man she love and help him in his quest, Cid feel somewhat guilty of having created the airships and want to use them for good, Edge want to avenge the horrific experiment that were performed on his parents and the fall of his kingdom, Edward fight to gain courage, Tellah is ready to give his life to avenge the death of his daughter, Palom and Porom want to use their power for good, Yang want to fight with all is might to protect his and his wife and finally Fusoya feel guilty that he let evil influence of his people escape his grasp. NONE of those plot point are placed in a flashback, EVERY SINGLE ONE of those plot point happen right before the player eyes, as a player you live through those traumatizing moments, you share the casts pains, misery and sorrows and in the end you feel like not only you know them, you feel like you owe them their victory. Then as a player you connect the dots, you finally see the true mastermind behind all the suffering and agony: GOLBEZ.
Be in AWE bitches, Golbez will terrorize your adventuring party, kidnap your girlfriend and brainwash your best buddies.
Golbez will never be recognized as a unique and special villain in comparison to other entries in the FF series, but that dude is sure efficient at what he does and I like efficient villains. No half ass plans, the guys is a brilliant tactician, he’s an unstoppable behemoth in combat. Let’s look at the dude acts of villainy and sadism:
- Accomplished a silent takeover of the world strongest military nation in the world.
- Effectively conquered/destroyed 4 kingdoms.
- Tricked to main character into committing a genocide.
- Brainwashed the main character best friend and forced him to beat the living crap out of him.
- Brainwashed the party best fighter to fight against them.
- Kicked the ass of your party… twice.
- Kidnapped your girlfriend and placed her on a execution type device.
- Used said girlfriend as hostage to force the main hero to retrieve the crystal of earth. (Damn you magnetite cave!)
- Faked un-brainwashing of said best friend only to have you stab you in the back a second time.
- Activated doomsday device.
- Committed acts murder an incalculable number of time.
And this is only the shit he as done by himself! I am not counting every time one of his minion did something as bad or worse under his order and we are talking about pretty twisted stuff here, stuff like human experimentation and mass genocide. In terms of game mechanic he is a frightful boss! The only actual time you can fight him, he paralyze your whole party than start killing them one by one in keeping you last for his own sick pleasure. Seconds before he can kill you, you get this miracle help that allows you to not be paralyzed anymore. As a gamer you say to yourself: no worries it’s a scripted fight! Well NO! You are wrong, you have to win. The fight against him starts with 3 of your 5 party member KO and let me tell you: He just like attacking and kill again the guys you just resurrected with a phoenix down. The super Nintendo version of that fight is not too bad, Rydia can use very powerful summoning magic to deal a crap load of damage to him but on the DS version of the game they decided to kick you in the genitalia even harder. In the DS version of the title he changes elemental weaknesses after every attacks, the remaining elemental attack, he absorb them and heals. The best part of the fight is that, it’s not a fucking cut-scene, YOU fight HIM and you need to WIN to progress, the PLAYER gets to taste real and hard earned VICTORY.
The would be pretty much to moment were I hope you saved your game before, did I mention that this combat occurs AFTER another boss battle?
To be fair the is a little trick you can do to help yourself in battle, it involves having the traito… Kain jump just before Golbez decides to paralyze everyone and kill them one by one. Nevertheless this boss battle is a key turning point in the game, it gives you this sense of relief after all the hardships your adventuring career, but like Billy Mays would says: Wait there is more! This is the mid point in the game, after this fight the abilities you gain with your party start to become immensely powerful and you somewhat feel like you deserve that. Rydia is back into your party and she will be calling forth phantom beasts to rain hell fire on your enemies, Rosa is starting to be able to cast very useful support spells making your party invincible for a few hits, Kain jump command hits foes for for about 2000+ damage when not even an hour earlier 1000 point of damage was around the best your whole team could do and then Cecil start to find superb equipment and finally gets a nice chance to shine. The player feels that he deserve those powers, because of all the insane hardship he had to go through, not because of an emotional cut scene with bad C movie scripting where all the character try to act tough and emo at the same time showing us an awkward and inhumane emotional state. After being in the darkness for so long and losing so many people to their causes your friends are finally able to do some progress, sure there are more dark moment to come, but as a player you feel confident that you can do it, not because the game tells you so, but because that you learned how to trust your party and your skills. The game forces you to lose and gain different party members, every time somebody departs from your group it’s a sad moment, every time you get new allies they always feel welcome. Never once playing through this game the player will cheer at a party member being taken away, contrary to FF 13 where I was HOPING to not have to play with some characters because they would get on my nerves, where I would pray for some characters to become mute forever.
Yes, it’s creepy.
I think that she deserve it, she is not a human being, she is the weird sexual fantasy of some sick bastard at SquareEnix and she was put in the game to satisfy his urges. Clearly the writer never spoke to a woman/girl in his life when making her script, she talks and react like a weird Japanese sex robot. I think whomever created that character and wrote her dialogue, should go and seek a mental health specialist.
Once again the whole plot of FF4 is unidirectional, the game has maybe 4 side-quest in total, yet I keep coming back to it. It’s not the nostalgia factor: I fully completed my first full play-through 7 years ago. It’s not the 16 bits graphics: I personally like the PSP version better than all the other ones. It’s not the battle mechanics: They are clunky and overly dependent on trial/error. It’s not the story: it’s a very simple story with old school plot twists. It’s not the characters: they are over simplified archetypes. I guess that it’s a game that was made by real people with hearts and dreams, I know this may sound like sentimental bullshit however I cannot stop thinking about it. It’s the fine print, it’s the useless dancer scattered through the game, it’s the game developer room hidden within the game, it’s the quirky one liners, it’s the properly used dramatic soundtrack, it’s changing from being a bad-ass dark knight to a even more bad-ass paladin, it’s the small unexpected plot twist, it’s from Rydia becoming a full grown woman, it’s all the little Easter eggs, in the end it’s because it’s a art piece that became a product, not a product that was pushed out as an art piece.
In 10 years I will still remember FF4 and FF13 will only be that weird and awkward distant memory of a one night stand in the past. FF4 brought me a story that will stay with me, hell I could easily lie to my grandchildren and use it as a bedtime story if I wanted too, they would get the feel from it with me having to explain too much of the lore of the game. Because in the end, a good story is a good story regardless the media, FF4 could have been a card battle game, an action RPG like Secret Of Mana or a side scroller action game like Megaman and still be the gem of a game it is.
Please fell free to elaborate the topic, or bitch slap me because I think FF13 is the embodiment of everything that is wrong in the game industry.