Friday, July 09, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)...

Well, as usual we've come late to the party. The game requires a platform purchase or upgrade, so you spend 10X what the game is worth just to acquire a mission-ready system. We went with a second-hand PS3, because we heard about Microsoft's infamous Red Circle of Death on the XBox 360. Also, Video Games Etc. guarantees their stuff, and for the most part, "kid-proof" means USMC grade ruggedization.

First impression of the Playstation 3? If you're hooking it up to an old-fashioned block box Tee Vee, you'll want to find and turn on the pixel "Smoothing" option. The screen seems a bit chaotic without it, but I doubt you'd need to do that with HDTV plasma screen televisions.

Ghastly gotchas... Slimelime PS3's have two USB ports on front. Only older PS3's with FOUR USB PORTS can play PS2 games — no backward compatibility for you! There's allegedly a utility for Linux called pcsx that emulates a PS2 on Ubuntu boxen, but it seems seriously underdocumented.

The game... Final Fantasy XIII is gorgeous; considering the kind of graphics hardware in these things, you'd expect no less. The characters, however, are petulant pretty airheads in the Final Fantasy 7 vein... or else whiny brats, perky übercutie princesses, mysteriously vapid manhaters, etc. Basically, just like high school on other planets. The Final Fantasy franchise hasn't achieved serious character development (or whimsy, or humor in any vein but raunchy... e.g., Snow's "fiancee," Serah, hasn't reached the age of consent (1) in any Western civilization, but nobody laughs about that, go figure) since FF XII, which could be cheerfully risible on occasion (Balthier and Fran? C'mon! Those guys cracks me up.)

Having just arrived at the frozen lake, I feel qualified to summarize the plot so far: There's humans. This story is not about humans. There's l'Cie. Humans become l'Cie. Unless they're fal'Cie, in which case maybe they were, and maybe they weren't. Dinna fash yer bonedome, though, because every 15 seconds or so there's another battle. Your team is outnumbered. When you became l'Cie, you got a tatoo that gives you M*A*G*I*C (thrumming guitars), so you always win (2). Everything is a maze, except you always have a map that shows your position, enemy positions, save points, item pickup points and the way out. Heh. "The way out...." Heh. Come to think of it, though, the Pulse fal'Cie boss did require a little thought to defeat, but only if you've never seen Legend of Zelda. That was a valid, but ancient, trope.

There's no detectable story so far. More anon.


(1) Serah's appearance is so sweetly virginal that somebody at Square-Enix thought it wise to let us know she's "21 years old" (As if! According to the Final Fantasy Wiki she's "18," but 14 is more like it...!) They lay this ridiculous "21" smokescreen down in Bodhum at the third or fourth flashback to Day 11's evening fireworks party — but I would classify this as unintentional humor. On the other hand, Serah's crystalline tomb, which Snow is chipping away at so diligently, is a real jaw drop when Snow's captors haul her off like Snow White under glass, with nary so much as a grunt.

Not far into the game, there's some real dash — Lightning's creators eventually rediscover Laconic wit (3) as a zest for her usual sarcasm, and about this time of day also, Snow encounters the Shiva Sisters. These girls are downright cunning. Not only are they invicible fighters, but they turn into something even better than Harley ... or is that Harvey? Then a ways down the road, we meet an Incubus ... and it is doing a Class A reservation pow-wow dance. You can see it now, just as fscking stereotyped and Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe as the real thing.

(2) Except when you lose and turn into Cie'th.

(3) Spartan lad: "Mother, my sword is too short! I can't reach the enemy." Spartan mom: "Stand closer."



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