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I had some significant issues with finding a suitable picture for this post. So let me make it clear, I am not satisfied with the picture I ended up choosing. Arguably the screenshots, artwork, trailers etc. used in a preview or review should bear some importance for the post. They could be used to provide a vibe, show off some important aspect of the game, or be used as a point of reference to some point made in the text.

Aside from showing off Final Fantasy XIII’s main heroine, there’s no such point to be made here. Final Fantasy XIII for me stirs little excitement. There’s little that I can compliment about the game, but also there aren’t a whole lot of things I can say that are inherently bad. Why is it so hard for me to draw judgement here? Well, maybe because I know that this type of story, these types characters and this type of vibe will, by some people, be joyfully swallowed down hook, line and sinker. But for me the kicker about the game is that I don’t much care about it. It doesn’t vibe with me. Which makes it hard for me to find a picture to define the game, because I just don’t know what that picture would look like.

Although the game fails to make me despise it, the game does make me dislike it.  And since this is my blog, I shouldn’t be using other people as reference for my thoughts (amirite!?). So here’s what I think, starting with something good:

Final Fantasy XIII is a beautiful game. No one can deny that. Some of the cut-scenes are absolutely stunning. The backdrops for most of the environments look fantastic, and generally everything looks like it was made with great care. Aside from a few fugly looking polygons, it’s all mint. So, the art-director who took care of all of those bits should really be applauded. Well, how about the character and monster models? Some of the monsters look really, really, really badass. And some monsters look like random shapes with splashes of bright colours on them. But since this is a Final Fantasy game, it’s to be expected (and forgiven?).  I like the clear distinction between the two opposing world’s in the game. There’s on the one hand Cocoon. Cocoon is this floating ball in the sky where on the inside people live. And then there’s Pulse, which is a a planet described as HELL. From where I’m at in the game, it’s still unclear why that is. The art direction of the e.g. militarized beasts of cocoon are very sleek and cool looking. Whereas the robots from Pulse are these bulky clockwork constructs that seem way less sophisticated, but helluva lot more robust. So the monster models are mostly great with, well, quite a few exceptions. But in the end you’re supposed to kill them. And since they’re ugly it kind of  makes you resent them. Thus putting you in the position of the playground bully who goes after the weird looking kids.  In games, I tend to think this is okay (bullying in real life is very uncool!). Killzone 2, for example, annoyed me because you were sent to Helghan to kill people who were a lot cooler than you. They were awesome, and you were a generic soldier. I thought it provided me with an off feeling. But here you go around murdering weird mongrel beasts who shouldn’t rightly be alive anyways. So, one could really say you’re doing natural selection a favour.

Well, if I think that the art-direction on monsters can be forgiven because of some of the cooler beasts, then I think the art-director for the main characters should be shot. I suspect it all started with FFIX. I really like FFIX, I do. It’s just that I hate the main character Zidane. And Freya and the princess and Quistis and especially Eiko. I don’t hate them because they are bad characters, really (although Eiko does annoy me). I hate them because I think they look stupid. Up until Final Fantasy IX there’d been a certain sensibility to the characters created for the Final Fantasy series. And the colour palette used for their outfits tended to be… conservative. I liked that. I liked that only a character here and there stood out from that pattern. But in Final Fantasy IX the few remaining cool looking characters were Steiner, Vivi and Coral. That’s three characters out of out EIGHT, who didn’t get vomited on by a goddamned muppet. Now, you may be thinking “Hold your horses! Zidane’s colour palette wasn’t that outrageous”, but my answer to that is, well, he looked gay. I never took to his design, simply. I understand quite well that he is supposed to be a swashbuckler, but to me, that outfit looks like something you’d see being strutted down some New York fashion show by a person that might be a man, but could just as well be a woman.

I’m being consciously hard lined here. I don’t hate the characters as much as I’ve led you to believe. I like how Freya looks, even though I think that salmon was so 80’s (in fact, I don’t think salmon was ever the it colour). Her dragoon-look, looks cool, to put it simply. My issue here is with how the art-direction started changing. Not with the backdrop or environment art (the environments in FFIX were spectacular), but with the characters. I think the change that took place in FFIX in some ways enabled the goddamned filth that is FFX.

I absolutely hate the character designs in FFX. Tidus, is by far the worst Final Fantasy character, ever , in my book. I occasionally ponder whether it was the European/American success of the previous Final Fantasy games that led to this evolution. The Japanese devs might have been thinking :”Hey, these gaijin really seem to like our japanese art-style, so I guess we don’t have to worry about westernizing any further, in fact, let’s  do a 180′!”

His rapist smile still haunts my dreams from time to time

I intend to write more on the shift from steampunk to whatever colourful world FFX onwards represent. But to return to FFXIII, I don’t like the characters. They seem more a child of Final Fantasy X and XII than say VII. Or perhaps a more striking line could be drawn between the character designs in the game, and anime. Not just any anime, but generic, “I wear all my thoughts on my sleeve so you can know my next move”-type anime. If we for a moment ignore the fact that the bulk of the cast are horribly cliché characters, and just look at them, what do we have? One soldier woman, who wears a short skirt. Short skirts are obviously very suited for combat. We have one kid, whose colourful clothes just seem too much. There are just too much things going on with his outfit. Escapist video reviewer Yahtzee brought up a valid point during his review of Darksiders that dealt with the character designs. Kratos is a great character, art-wise, because there’s not a whole lot going on. You can immediately recognize a few tell-tale signs when you see him, thus making it easy identify him as the spartan powerhouse Kratos. With Final Fantasy characters, lately, it hasn’t been that easy. Whenever you see a cut-scene where people are featured, they’re all wearing ridiculous looking outfits. So how does one tell one ridiculous looking person apart from another? I don’t know. Maybe you can count the different layers of clothing and baubles. Anyways, most of FFXIII’s cast of characters seem to suffer from this issue. There’s just too much going on, whether it be colours, weird trinkets or strange layers of clothing. They all look odd. Not cool, not engaging, not sensible.

There is one character I do like. One I initially thought I’d hate. The character Sazh is a black man with an, wait for it, afro. Seeing him in the trailers way back when, I thought to myself “hello blaxploitation”. But he’s actually rather likable. Although he sometimes comes off as a cliché black man, more often than not he’s being rational, and sensible. And to add another layer (some layers are positive) of sensibility, he’s wearing clothes that actually make sense.

Blimey! This post has dragged on for longer than I thought it would. You’ll have to wait to read about the other impressions I had. Next time I’ll be discussing the new combat system, the running around corridors, leveling system and tacked on crafting system. What’s the chance I’ll be able to fit all of those into one post? Slim, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Oh, and also this will be the final daily update. From now on I’ll be doing a rolling every other day schedule. Saturdays will never feature a post, unless there are urgent gaming news, such as an earlier release date on Monster Hunter 3rd (or maybe Diablo III if you’re uninterested in awesome games). Sundays will be special, so look forward to those posts. They’ll not always fit the categories I’ve created so I think I’ll call them Saucy Sundays.

Right, ’til later!

/Erik

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5 Comments

  1. This has little to do with your post but I’d like to recommend the lightbox 2 plugin for the pictures. Don’t know how the wordpress.com thing really works, I’m just taking for granted that you can install plugins just like with the “real” version of wordpress.

    Anyway, any picture you click on will open in a nice little box like on my blog. Not just open the picture in another window.

  2. Also I’d like to point out that I kind of liked FFX, but it was incredibly painful to look at both Wakka and Tidus. Also I hated the sport event that you had to play. It was like if my big brother turned the game off, kicked me in the balls and forced me to win a game in Fifa before I could continue the game.

  3. blah, you like the black man? HE hAS A CHOKOBO in his hair! even though i’ve heard that he has one of the deepest going stories in the game, and that he grows on you. I so far have about two game hours and i cant say that i like what ive seen yet. BUT i do like the uber-mega cool blonde guy w/ 5’o clock shade who quest to save his crystal girl friend!

  4. Just wrote a damn essay in your comment field regarding the differences between the great Yoshitaka Amano and the non-progressing fashionista Nomura.

    I didn’t fill in my e-mail though. Text gone. Poff just like that. Fuck me.

  5. Vill bara tillägga att Soundtracket är riktigt jävla lamt i FFXIII. Det har varit nedförsbacke sedan nian där med. Håller med om Sazh btw.


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