A Very Final Fantasy Christmas

I trust everyone else had an excellent Christmas.

Shockingly, I got several new games. What was surprising is that all of them, with the exception of the free copy of Uno (oddly captivating) that came with the Xbox Live Vision cam that I also got, were Final Fantasy games: Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, Final Fantasy III on DS, and Final Fantasy V Advance for GBA.

Final Fantasies

XII is an unusual one when coming from the fairly orthodox FFX. Final Fantasy XI has become the red-headed stepchild of the series and I bet whoever decided to make it a part of the normal chronology rather than a Crystal Chronicles style sidestory is living in a cardboard box somewhere now, but it’s definitely had an influence on this. In fact it is an MMORPG…just without the MO. It has an entirely different MO, in fact.

I’m shocked by how much of a departure from FFI-through-X this game is. Random battles are gone (hooray!), enemies can be seen on the map and avoided entirely like an MMORPG, and combat plays a lot like Knights of the Old Republic. And if the whole thing didn’t play enough like what is traditionally a PC genre, you can get your hands dirty with what is effectively a scripting language to control the rest of your team. It sounds weird, but that’s one system that I really like, and one that proves essential to real-time control in a game like this.

This is another one of those games that shows how much life the PS2 could have had in it. The opening town is vast, and your view isn’t constrained by prerendered backdrops and fixed cameras because the right stick lets you look anywhere. The FMV is often spectacular, voice acting is generally very strong (Migelo is a particular high point), and even the facial expressions in real-time cinematics are better than many prerendered scenes that I’ve experienced. I can’t wait to really crack on with it.

Last year I was surprised by how thoroughly enjoyable I found FFIV Advance and thus far FFV seems similar. It’s a strong Final Fantasy game in its own right and the Game Boy Micro is, in my opinion, the perfect format on which to play a game like this. I keep it in my pocket and can forget about it until I find that I have ten minutes to kill. Admittedly it’s not designed with quick blasts in mind, but Square has thankfully included a quick save feature. Nice work, and I can’t wait for Final Fantasy VI Advance.

FFIII is the one that has left me the most unimpressed so far. I didn’t like FFI and II on the GBA and this seems to be in that vein, so maybe it was with FFIV and the SNES that the series really picked up. It looks cool on the DS and I’ll certainly give it a fair try (I’ve only played about an hour so far), but it seems like it was the gameplay more than the graphics that needed the update. Consider my opinion reserved for now.

Now I just need to find time to play all of these massive games. They’ll have to wait until Zelda is done, though!

5 thoughts on “A Very Final Fantasy Christmas

  1. I got FFXII for Christmas, too. I’m about 25 hours in (I got it a few days BEFORE christmas) and I am absolutely loving it. I’m mad for Ivalice as it is, and some of the scenes the game throws at you are incredible. When i’m not playing it, i’m spending most of my time thinking about playing it.

    Definitely one of my favourite games in ages.

  2. How do you like the combat system? I thought FFX had the best battles of any RPG in ages when that came out and I’m still not 100% sure what to think of this one. I like some parts of it but the fact that it’s ostensibly real time except with a few seconds of downtime between attacks just looks odd to me. Like I said though, I really like how you can get your allies to do all the grunt work like healing.

    One thing that should be said is that the widescreen option added to the US version of this adds so much. I saw the Japanese one being played when that came out and this just looks so much more epic.

  3. I think it matures. At heart it’s still turn-based battling, only it’s been made a more automatic. I don’t need to hit attack every round. I’m avoiding all FAQ’s, so I might not be 100% ‘in the know’ on some stuff, but I can say status spells are far more important than they’ve been in the past; I think it’s literally impossible to beat some bosses without protect and regen cast on my main attackers.

    What I think it is, though, is the complete opposite of FFX. Now, I loved FFX. The rock/paper/scissors style of fighting was immense, and the way all of the characters were so rigid and defined (at least until later in the game where you could completely unbalance the sphere grid) worked for me. Swapping people in and out in the middle of battle was incredible. There were no mistakes as to what class everybody was. With FFXII, you’re left wondering. Just what the crap is Fran? White mage? Black mage? Who knows. Same for Ashe. All of the characters seem to be able to do pretty much do all of the classes from the start, and that makes the game feel like it’s a bit harder. I *like* having little flexibility in character creation, it assures me i’m not doing anything wrong.

    That said, I do love the system in FFXII. Gambits are incredibly powerful and the right set basically guarantees you victory. I like the ‘Guest’ system for your party and I enjoy having so much choice and versatility for your weapons. I really like the way Gil and MP feel more scarce, it makes money and magic seem like a real valuable asset this time round. There’s a bit of an MMO influence in it, but I think it works: it makes sense to have one of your characters as a ‘tank’, the other as support fighter and the last as a spellcaster. I’ve actually got Vaan tanking in light armour, though, because with a dagger that adds 35 to evasion he blocks about one in every three attacks and the two that connect do so little damage to his incredible mountain of HP it has no real effect.

    I don’t even want to *think* about how much i’m playing this game at the moment.

  4. I also got FF3 from old Santa, and like yourself I’m not entirely impressed. The game just feels old, very old, without saying too much and infact you get this impression the first thirty minutes you play the game. But the difficulty of the mobs just sort of happens suddenly, you’ll go from slaughtering the mobs one random battle and then annihilated the next, in the same dungeon no less. I had to actually grind for an hour or so just to advance the story, was surprising to see you get all four characters within the first hour of playing.

    Square, if you’re going to remake an old game FF again please, please, please add Save Spheres/Crystals back. Not being able to save in the middle of a dungeon is just retarded, I’ve even heard people saying that towards the end there is a stretch were you can’t save for nearly two hours. I remember playing FFXII and in the one dungeon for an hour or so, things weren’t going the best and I was praying for a save sphere.

    Now FFXII, such a wonderful game, I love everything about it, the cast feels different from previous FFs and I like how the game just feels more mature. Don’t want to talk about it too much as it could spoil the game in someways for you guys, but it’s quite possibly my GotY.

    The gambit system is awesome, hitting attack over and over doesn’t make a battle system more interactive, but alot of the gambits are rendered useless by the self cast, or cast on party gambit, can’t remember the exact name. But essentially it allows you to gambit blind(etc) removal without the gambit that detects when a party member has only blind. Hmm not sure if that made any sense, I’ll find the proper gambit names later and explain it better.

    My only real complaints about the game are the lack of a ‘New Game+’ option and the fact that it’s so easy to get LP that you can complete the board without any real difficulty. For example this is what my characters license board looked like at maybe 30-40 hours into the game.

  5. I definitely agree on the save system and difficulty issues in FFIII, now that I’ve had another go.

    It boggles the mind that they can tweak so much to give a more modern experience (I’m sure the NES version didn’t have online functionality) while leaving glaring flaws that were rightfully fixed in later games in there. It’s compounded by the fact that it’s totally at odds with what you should expect from a portable game. I’ll persevere with it for a while longer, but I can’t see myself putting any great amount of time into it.

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