Final Fantasy XIII is Heathcliff and Other Tortured Analogies

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10 Responses

  1. Delsaber says:

    You couldn’t have picked a better Sazh screencap.

    I wonder if the attempt to rework JRPG storytelling techniques will have any effect in the long run. It’s hard to say 1) if anyone really paid attention, fans and developers alike, 2) if any of it got through the mixed critical response, and 3) if the genre is still even healthy enough for that progress to take place. Unless you count its own sequels, Final Fantasy XIII is kind of the last major JRPG release that I can think of.

    Sure, it’s only been three years, but it feels like the days of plenty for this genre have passed, or we’re at least in another big lull. The hilariously disastrous launch of FFXIV certainly didn’t help.

  2. Kiki McDohl says:

    In the process of exploring new storytelling paths for the RPG, which I admit was one of this game’s best features, I feel like we lost the sense of exploration and wonder that some (maybe most) games in the series have given the player.

    As games become more expensive to make in a never ending race to increase technology, I fear that money is being spent more and more on games being pretty and running at N FPS or whatever other technical crap. I’d rather time and effort be spent on bringing back a world to explore with the quirks that FFs of old had.

  3. John Layfield says:

    @Delsaber

    The dearth of successful console RPGs doesn’t concern me too greatly. The market has always been small and I feel like it was artificially boosted during the 32-bit era due to various factors. Final Fantasy XIII sold well, of course, but I think I can safely say the plot had little to do with that. Ironically, I don’t think Final Fantasy can shift the market in the way it attempted because it’s so heavy on inertia. It can’t influence on that sort of scale any more, it can only direct things in more nebulous areas like atmosphere and graphical intensity. No one will particularly copy XIII’s plotting but they’ll try and copy the shiny graphics and backflips.

    @Kiki McDohl

    You’re right, Final Fantasy XIII is certainly not about exploration, even when compared to X. Which fits well with the plot of constantly needing to be on the move but doesn’t make for an absorbing experience in that respect. There isn’t really much of a quiet moment to even take in your immediate surroundings for at least half the game. RPGs, especially JRPGs, seem to be in an insecure place right now and pushing the budget to try and match the AAA titles seems to be the goal. That seems like it’s doomed to failure, personally. But I don’t really have a counter plan either besides “make good game that people will buy lots” and if I knew how to do that, I’d be a very rich man.

  4. Austin says:

    I really like this, but I wish it would have gone into one thing people never seem to grasp about the game. FF13 is a game about fate,. It’s about dealing with your fate and overcoming its restrictions to forge a new one of your own choosing. The environments are meticulously designed to express this.

    During the beginning sequence, you run on single-file corridors. No chance to evade encounters, no path options, no hidden areas to discover. It’s linear. The choices are made for you. even in battle, you can really just attack. But then you become a l’cie, and you have a focus to fulfill. but you also have power. The game world opens a little. Now you can avoid the enemies, or hit them in new ways of your own choosing. As your power increases, you get access to new roles, new combinations, new strategy options. Essentially, the power of a l’cie rewards you with *choice*. And the game world opens further. Eventually, there are branching paths to your goals. Once you enter Gran Pulse, a funny thing happens. The characters have decided to fight against the sanctum, even if that means shattering the innocence of coccon and its people. Suddenly, and shockingly, you can go anywhere. The environments are wide open. Fight or don’t. Run away or sneak. Do whatever you want, it’s your choice now. But there’s a cost to that freedom. suddenly, the game becomes much, mush harder. The enemies are stronger, and some of them are outright impossible to kill. You have to learn your own limitations. Finally, upon returning to Coccoon, you are able to take alternate routes, skipping encounters entirely, metaphorically avoiding the sanctum’s plans for you as you fight towards the end.

    In essence, what people categorically dismissed as being stuck to the rails after a brief glimpse at the game turns out to be one of the most excellent uses of environmental storytelling in gaming history.

  5. John Layfield says:

    @Austin

    You’ve hit the nail on the head and I think I touched on it in my above comment. The locations, and the nature of your interaction/lack of them, directly ties into the ideas the game is trying to express. Of course, to some people that doesn’t excuse the linearity, which is fine. But at least there’s a solid thematic reason for its premise.

    I don’t want to delve too much into later game stuff as the article is sort of a missive to get people who rejected the game to give it another shot but absolutely, the idea of these characters pushing against these artificial walls and eventually breaking through is a large portion of the game.

  6. suckadick says:

    This article is bullshit- FFXIII is nothing like FFX. The map may be similar- but that’s all that FFXIII holds to FFX. The storyline of FFX is touching- and it makes sense. The story of FFXIII is so confuddled and screwy. The Fighting System is turn based at it’s highest degree- The fighting system of FXIII is semi turn based with a side of bullshit, and wtf, considering the class changing mid game- if your character dies, so does the whole team.
    Final Fantasy was also well paced, unlike FFXII AND FFXIII, where you have to spend hours and hours grinding to make it anywhere. FFX was a pretty game for its era but so are all the FF’s that has absolutely nothing to do with whether a game is alike- Assassins creed is beautiful in detail does that make it like Final Fantasy XIII? No. FFXIII is a piece of crap that has been polished. I’m sorry, but FFX can stand alone and FFXIII can’t. End of story. Whoever wrote this crap needs to cut their wrists and die.

  7. John Layfield says:

    @(sigh)suckadick

    I’m sorry that the story of Final Fantasy XIII befuddles you so. I realise with its linear narrative, flavoured with a small number of flashbacks and an in-game encyclopedia which (often painfully) spells out everything that’s happened so far in the game that this may be too intellectually taxing.

    I don’t believe the plot of Final Fantasy X is bad. Quite the opposite in fact but I do feel it adheres to conventions too strongly at times. That’s not to dispute my enjoyment of it. Although I feel that X encourages grinding just as much as XII or XIII, that’s not really something I covered in my article because as you shrewdly pointed out, not absolutely everything in both X and XIII are directly comparable in every way.

    You have a point. Party leader death equaling a game over can be frustrating but that’s the point of the paradigm system, allowing us to prevent this without accepting that the party assembled was inadequate and starting afresh. It’s not perfect and, frankly, I don’t like it as a conceit but it exists and I choose to deal with it.

    I would take on board your suggestion to “cut (my) wrists and die” (as opposed to cutting my wrists and then playing badminton, I suppose) but I’m afraid your mother swallowed all the razor blades around here when she realised you survived the abortion procedure.

  8. Delsaber says:

    The difference between a measured comparison of two similar things and yet another trite “versus” article is pretty stark. A shame that distinction appears to go right over the heads of some folks.

    Reading comprehension, “those kids today”, etc.

    One quick point, though: anyone who complains about FFXIII’s leader death thing probably never played an SMT game.

    John, I might have to give it another chance now, specifically for the narrative themes you mentioned. I’ll just be sure to grab the PS3 version this time; the 360 port had some rather annoying technical issues.

  9. kaden says:

    I can see where you’re coming from with this, but I think you’re presenting the information in the wrong way. You spend too much time trying to convince us that FFXIII came about from the basis of FFX, which I think can be taken for obvious. Of course FFXIII evolved from FFX. While it doesn’t hurt to briefly restate the obvious, I feel that you should have put even more emphasis on the evolutions from X to XIII, rather than trying to backtrack from FFXIII to FFX.

    There are a few specific things I take issue with in the article, too:

    – You make the point that Yunalesca’s reveal is different from the Sanctum’s position by saying “Its soul-crushing government is tolerated and respected because of the security it ostensibly provides its citizens. The Sanctum’s temporal power does not exist just so as to provide a wall for bouncing concepts off,” which you say is different from FFX. I don’t really see the point you’re trying to make here, because from where I’m standing, Yunalesca’s secret is “tolerated and respected because of the security” it provides the people of Spira from Sin.

    The following point you make about the more realistic emotional responses from the cast of XIII is a great one, though, and one I don’t think the game gets enough credit for.

    – I simply disagree with the statement
    “The downside is that the lack of job versatility allowed to the player shackles the chance for any real experimentation with the battle system.”

    For the majority of the main story, you have access to 3 roles per character. Even if you use a static party of three characters throughout the game, that still gives you 27 different combinations of paradigms. That’s a hefty number, and it only grows if you start to consider switching in party members or the postgame where you have access to every role on every character. Adding more than that would probably start to get overwhelming.

    – Toward the end, you start to complain (for lack of a better word) about the limitations of the emotional expressivity of the technology. I implore you – if you want to make this point, DON’T use Lightning as your poster child. Her expressions are limited because she is a stoic character. Her facial expressions are similar not because the model doesn’t allow her to be expressive, but rather because her personality isn’t one filled with sunshine and rainbows, like our “almost made it main character status” Vanille appears to be.

    Sorry.. I didn’t really try to make this out to be like an article critique, but I already put in all that effort.

    • John Layfield says:

      @Kaden

      No, no, you bring up some very good points. Some I lean towards more than others but isn’t that always the way?

      The article is imbalanced in the focus on the Final Fantasy X/XIII connection, for sure. Possibly because I was writing it as a way of figuring out my own problems/likes about the title on my new playthrough. If there’s a point to it, and there may not be, it’s an attempt to “normalise” XIII rather than continuing to discuss it as if it were some sort of malignant lump on the side of the Final Fantasy series as many people still regard it as.

      Yunalesca, and the church of Yevon as a whole, in my opinion, takes on a more traditional JRPG role as the secretly evil religion whose god you worship is actually an asshole. Most of the common citizens, save for a single cultural group, buy into Yevon. Which is fine. I think my article kind of reads too much as trying to score points from X when it’s probably in my top three Final Fantasies. But I find that lacking in interest as opposed to the Sanctum, which not many people seem to truly believe in. People don’t trust the Sanctum, but they’re scared and figure the odds are they won’t be purged so they do their best to play the game. To me it’s slightly more nuanced.

      The problem I have with the paradigm system, and this may be a problem of my own creation, is that you need three: everyone hits people/shit, that hurt, heal heal heal/eidolons love when I tank. Sure, I can go RAV/MED/SEN or SAB/SAB/SAB or SEN/COM/SAB but they’re not as effective as flipping between more dedicated paradigms. Slotting in different people with the same techniques in the same roles doesn’t help.

      You’re right that Lightning is the stoic hero so I certainly wouldn’t use her as an example of “look at what this technology can do!” but the game seems to assume I can catch her subtleties. If Lightning’s advice gets wrongly construed and she regrets but can’t take it back and that worries her (according to the Datalog) and the way I’m supposed to get that is a five second close up of her blank face, I’m more inclined to chalk that up to the game, rather than the character.

      Vanille on the hand is incredibly expressive but enough so that it overflows into something approaching more conventional fare. Vanille’s underlying emotions are usually presented by her being REALLY sad and then perking up when someone notices. It’s not that Vanille, or Lightning, aren’t complex characters and their voice actors add some of the subtlety that I find lost on the faces, I just feel we’re just not at the level of detailed human expressions in a very human game. It certainly gets a lot closer that most others as well as, say, anime. Fang might be the closest to what I’d like to see in that regard as the technology develops.

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