Well I finally got around to playing the Final Fantasy 13 – 2 Demo, and I have to say that I’m very likely going to buy it, and I like the look of it. It supposedly fixes many of the problems with 13, but obviously, in a demo you aren’t going to see all of that.
As most people are saying, they do seem to have recognised the linearity of the previous game which is a good thing. The demo was full of little sidequests, optional paths, more people to talk to, even a shop, etc. I’m glad to see that they haven’t listened to all the criticism though, and the combat system remains intact.
A bit of disclosure I think. I hadn’t really played a Final Fantasy thoroughly for quite some time until 13. Here we go, quickly.
FF1-6: Played these, but honestly, so long ago, they’ve kind of merged into one another in my memory. I haven’t felt any major compulsion to replay them. Sometimes even very good games of the past just don’t age well.
FF7: Still awesome, there was something special about this one, and it isn’t rose-tinted spectacles since I enjoy this game now as well. I suspect it’s because it was the first one to be on proper 3D hardware and have a longer development time.
FF8: Interesting system, but with too many flaws for me to enjoy, ended up not finishing it. Disliked living in the ridiculously colourful, stomach-churning idyllic setting and going to school, last boss wanted to Kompress time and delete Rinoa. It was never explained why this was a bad thing.
FF9: Back to how it should be, although I enjoyed this less than 7.
FF10: OH GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE. Awful, awful game in almost every way, whilst some characters were redeeming, Wakka and Tidus certainly were not. Overly idyllic world, guide mandatory to figure out the one single method of killing certain enemies in the game (dark aeons for example). Put me off Final Fantasy enough that it was only when 13 came around did I play another one all the way through. I had a go of 12, but it just never caught my imagination like even 9 managed to easily.
Here’s the thing. Final Fantasy 13 was, in my humble opinion, a massive, massive leap forward for the Final Fantasy games, not the step backwards that some people (well after release at least – most critic reviews at release rate the game very, very highly) thought it was, probably by comparing it to the classics rather than the games it is closer to. Compared to FF10, massive step forward.
I especially enjoyed the combat system. I haven’t said that about Final Fantasy in a long time. And specifically enjoyed. Not, thought was interesting, or easy to exploit (e.g. Gambits, materia), or looked cool, or was really efficient, but I actually enjoyed the pure simple pleasure of fighting enemies in Final Fantasy. That was new. Of course, FF13 did have its problems. Yes, it was too linear, yeah, sometimes the characters were a bit much, but it was nice to just be enjoying Final Fantasy again without needing a game guide (although I hated the weapon upgrade system).
Final Fantasy 13 – 2 apparently fixes most of the problems with 13 – in fact, so much have they reacted against the linearity of 13, that they’ve made the game involve deterministic time travel. Yet it is still being rather unfairly dismissed. Even the cinematic quick time sequences are done tastefully (i.e. warns you when they’re coming, doesn’t over-punish you for missing some, no repetition).
Just a couple of notes here at the end. Something that ruined the post-game portion of Final Fantasy 13 for me was the random number generator. A quick hint to developers, players get frustrated if your item has a 5% chance of popping and they still haven’t gotten the item after 50 tries whilst wearing items that make it more likely a rare item will pop. Here’s a solution, make it so that there is also a counter so they get it automatically after a certain number of tries. For example, say an item has a 1 in 20 chance of popping, it should pop automatically after 40. Random chance can drive games, but there is a very small chance that we’ll never actually get the item, so instead can drive us insane. The other thing is that isn’t it strange how the graphics don’t seem so impressive anymore, but then, in the meantime we’ve had LA Noire and Heavy Rain.