Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!
After finishing Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (review is coming at some point, I promise) on PS4, I was still in the mood for more Final Fantasy goodness — just in a more traditional turn-based sense. Looking over my backlog, it came down to the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X, which is a game I’ve played through twice already on PS2, or finally giving up on seeing a Final Fantasy XIII trilogy collection on PS4 and just playing the damn thing on PS3.
I chose the latter.
When the game initially launched in 2009, I borrowed a friend’s copy while he was on vacation and progressed far enough to recruit Fang into the party — roughly 15 hours in. I remember loving the combat system, thinking the game was gorgeous to look at, and liking most of the cast, but it’s been so long that I couldn’t recall the story or character arcs.
The game’s linearity was a dominant complaint among the series’ fanbase, and I’m not sure whether it’s having just spent nearly 50 hours in the open-world, single-player MMO style of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, or just not finding linearity a concern anymore, but I’m loving what I’ve played so far.
The cast is growing on me, even the ones I didn’t care for at the jump (Snow and Hope). I like that it feels like focused episodes of a television series, where each chapter fleshes out the goings on of two or three people, sprinkles in some of their backstory, ends with a boss fight to move the story along, and then jumps to another group during a moment of separation. Lightning is clearly the “star” of the game, but with everyone having their chance to shine as party leader it almost feels like an ensemble cast instead.
The soundtrack is phenomenal, particularly the Nier-like qualities found in tracks like Will to Fight (which plays during the Rivera Towers section of Palumpolum) and The Gapra Whitewood (played during the Gates of Antiquity area of Lake Bresha). In the 21 hours I’ve poured into the game over the last five days, I’ve paused on a few occasions to track down the name of a song playing at specific moments.
Everything is coming together nicely so far, and I still stand by Final Fantasy XIII as having the best turn-based combat mechanics of any Final Fantasy title to date. I felt this way at launch and feel even more confident in my opinion now that I’ve had more time to play around with its Paradigm and Stagger systems.
In a nutshell, there are six different job classes that each serve a particular purpose in battle:
- Sentinel – A tanking role that draws enemy fire and absorbs a ton of damage, at the cost of not being able to use attack abilities.
- Commando – A melee damage role that slows the depletion of an enemy’s Stagger gauge, but doesn’t add to the Stagger meter much.
- Ravager – A spell casting role that inflicts elemental damage and significantly adds to an enemy’s Stagger meter, but their contribution depletes fast without the aid of a Commando in the party.
- Medic – A healing role that restores health and removes debilitating ailments from the party.
- Synergist – A support role that improves the party’s physical and magic defenses with Shell and Protect-type spells.
- Saboteur – A support role that applies debilitations to the enemy, slowing their attack speed and lowering their defenses.
You can combine any of the three (as well as having multiples of the same role) and customize up to six Paradigm loadouts that can be switched on the fly during combat. With Staggering being a top priority, as it places the enemy in a vulnerable state and drastically increases the amount of damage dealt to them, it becomes a tactical-yet-swift game of combining Ravager and Commando roles to raise and stabilize the meter, while utilizing Synergists and Saboteurs to buff your party and debilitate the enemies. When shit goes south, as it tends to do, you can switch to Sentinel and Medic to soak and heal incoming damage. It’s a lot of switching on the fly, which makes the turn-based nature of Final Fantasy feel more engaging than it ever has.
I don’t think I’ll focus on anything else other than Final Fantasy XIII until it’s finished, and depending on how well it holds me when the credits roll I may just jump into XIII-2. I’m not sure yet. I don’t want to get burnt out, but I also don’t want to forget what’s going on in the story if I play something else in between them.
So, yeah. LightningEllen, you are definitely not alone. I think I’m a Final Fantasy XIII apologist. Also, while I’m on the subject, shout-out to LightningEllen for being my Final Fantasy XIII sherpa on Twitter. She’s been kind enough to answer questions and give advice in her free time, and it’s been nice having someone to go to instead of openly asking advice on Twitter in hopes of avoiding the cesspool of ignorant replies.
Outside of gaming, the fall semester begins on Monday. Fuck. My body is definitely not ready. I look forward to the day where I don’t have to drain my bank account for over-priced textbooks and can instead use the money to chip away at the debt I’ve acquired along the way. Woo.
What about you, folks? Got any gaming plans this weekend?