Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Final Fantasy XIII - A Preview

Final Fantasy XIII is scheduled for release at SOME point in the near future and it has been announced to come out on the xbox360 which will save me from having to pick up a PS3. As other FF fans can attest to I would have HAD to pick it up if it was exclusive to the PS3. Lucky for me that it will make its way to the system I actually own. Though I did not start out as a fan of final fantasy when it originally came out as I was maybe 5 or 6 years old at the time (not sure of the exact date and I'm too lazy to find out). Indeed, I never owned any of the Nintendo incarnations and I never owned a playstation until I was in college.

Final fantasy has become a cultural phenomenon since its original entry back in the '80s well before all the fancy and new-fangled graphics capabilities of today's modern systems. It was a completely new gameplay experience at the time and many, myself included, have fallen in love with both the gameplay and the overall experience. There are many people out there who cannot quite fathom why these games are such a success and I cannot quite explain it myself. There is just something about the way that the Japanese create their RPGs that is just a great deal of fun to play. Most western style RPGs focus seem to focus more on frenetic combat while the JRPGs (Japanese RPGs) favor the more deliberate pacing of turn-based action. See the two different takes on the genre below.

Personally I enjoy both types but I get a greater sense of accomplishment through playing many JRPGs because they seem to require more tactics than some of the western RPGS which feel more bash-em-up at times. With this background I am extremely excited from what I have seen with FFXIII not only from a visual perspective but also from a gameplay perspective. The video below is a preview of the game from IGN that has me really excited.

The first and most obvious thing is how gorgeous the game looks!! I consider myself somewhat of a graphics whore in that I just love it when games look incredible in action, especially as concerns water for some reason. I just love running around in puddles in games that I've played lately. Back to FFXIII I just love what I am seeing so far in the gameplay footage. With these games, which often have off the wall characters (thank you Japan for having a sense of humor even if I don't get it all the time) as well as fantastical settings it is important these days to really portray the characters onscreen in a living and breathing tableau. I've been honored to play many of these games and I will readily admit that Square-Enix has some of the best designers in the field and I often catch myself staring at the amount of detail that they have always been able to cram into their games. The images below are just a couple of examples of the scenery in the games.

The second big thing that I noticed from the trailer above is that they have once again tweaked the combat from its past iterations in their neverending quest to find the perfect combat for Final Fantasy. The combat here takes cues from past entries in the series as well as other games such as Knights of the Old Republic where you can queue up moves and unleash them at your will. One thing that I didn't notice in the trailer is whether or not their will be the ability to freeze time and reassess your actions. Call me old-fashioned but this is one of the reasons I enjoy turn-based games because I'd rather have some time to do that. Now I suppose I could just "Pause" but I would like to see an option similar to past Final Fantasy games allowing for those like myself to play without worrying about the enemy taking too much of an advantage when I'm sorting through my inventory looking for that vital potion that I need. A minor gripe, but I would like to know if that will be an option in the game.

The last thing I want to mention in this preview relates to the characters themselves. While the trailer is in Japanese you can get a sense that they behave differently and act differently from one another. This level of characterization, while still difficult to tell, is something that I have grown accustomed to in past games. While the american voice actors may get on player's nerves sometimes the writing has generally been well above average and in games that routinely top the 60 hour mark (for the main story alone) it is important that we care about these characters or else we have no real incentive to keep playing after the initial period right after starting a game has worn through and the real grind begins. The video below shows some of these fanciful characters who always seem to be just the tiniest bit at odds with my western sensibilities but I can't help loving it.

My favorite part of that last clip is definitely the black dude with the chocobo in his afro causing the little child to laugh. I really hope that in the final incarnation of this game little moments like this that make you laugh or cry are liberally spread throughout the entire game. Sometime in the future can not get here soon enough!!

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