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  1. So I did that post on Nsider2 about Final Fantasy VII when I first played it back in 2015. I was convinced I had a unique perspective, never having played anything Final Fantasy until then. Recounting my experience of the game oft praised as the greatest RPG of all time through a set of eyes weathered by RPGs not from Square Soft was a lot of fun, and I figured I'd do it again when I got around to playing another Final Fantasy, to sort of chronicle my journey through the most historically important series of my favorite genre. So here goes. Be warned of late-game spoilers. This isn't a review, just my organized thoughts on the game. Truthfully, I don't really even care if anyone reads this. I just had fun writing it. In recent months my experience with Final Fantasy VII has retroactively become- in my own mind- decidedly holistic. As it stands now, it very nearly reaches the transcendental heights of some of my favorite RPGs like Radiant Historia, Chrono Cross, and Xenoblade Chronicles. It isn't often I develop nostalgia so quickly for a game, but despite its shortcomings, VII became something truly special for me. I closed the book on Final Fantasy VII faced with the strange reality that I actually care about the fate of the dubious upcoming remake. That is a weeeeird place to be for someone like me, to whom Final Fantasy for so many years was just a name repeated to the point of self-parody. Suddenly I understood all of the ranting and raving over this PS1 classic, and though I don't share the fanbase's rabid fanaticism or the desire to explore the other games in the Final Fantasy VII subseries, I do have a deep love for the original game. So as time went by I began to yearn to recapture the joy of Final Fantasy, and there is yet a lot ahead of me. Fast forward. Late summer, 2017. Enter Final Fantasy IX. While it doesn't carry the legacy of its predecessor or the pedigree of being the first of its kind, this one was built up for me over a period of years by a few of my dearest friends. Coming away from it, my experience was one altogether more candid than my experience with VII. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with the fact that not as much of IX has been absorbed into the inescapable lexicon of pop culture, so I was able to experience it as it was meant to be, without major plot points having been spoiled for me years before picking it up. I was not surprised to find the ATB system of Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger fame in play here. I've always appreciated the sense of urgency this approach brings to battles, though the frequency of its random encounter system is still a little on the high side. Fortunately, I quickly began to notice that IX fixes one of the bigger issues I had with VII. Contrary to VII, where any character could more or less fulfill any role depending on Materia loadouts, each character in IX serves their own function in a greater team, and feels like their own distinct class due to them having a unique moveset learned from equipment as well as an innate ability that costs no MP. This is a welcome development on the gameplay side of things, and I do prefer this to VII's dominant strategy of bottlenecking each character into a jack of all trades just in case a character leaves the party. On the other hand, Trance is a mechanic I can take or leave. I thought Limit Break was a more usable mechanic, since it comes into play more often. I'll take a marginally less useful mechanic that I can control over something that can trigger due to no fault of my own and be wasted right before a boss (or, for that matter, waste a boss by accident while trying to steal a rare drop). But I do have to admit, when the stars align and it triggers when you need it, it feels amazing. if Final Fantasy IX has a real weak point, it's the card game element. The rules, which are never really explained, are esoteric and at times feel arbitrary. Each time I thought I had it figured out and worked out my master stratagem to claim the opponent's cards, the game would show me just how little I understood about the minigame's mechanics, and I'd lose an important card. To be honest I gave up on it early in Disc 1. It only ever comes into play in the plot once at the beginning of Disc 3, and while I appreciate the idea of tying it into the plot, it can be won easily by picking the cards with the highest numbers on them. Even so, in this case I was glad to leave it well enough alone. But if the weak point of the game is some silly diversionary minigame, I think we're doing alright. Learning abilities through items is a refreshingly unique idea, and I do prefer it to the Materia system, even if it does facilitate grinding more than VII. Granted, some of the item and ability descriptions are really unhelpful, giving you a pretty poor idea of what something does until you actually use it, but more importantly, it mitigates the effect of having precious equipment closed off to you when you need it most, as most items grant abilities on a character-specific basis, meaning if you don't have access to a character, their equipment would likely be useless to you, anyway. This all but eliminates the problem I encountered in VII, when a character would leave my party and take all of my best Materia with them. The game takes very special care to make sure you always have access to a well-balanced party. In this way it's a more guided experience than VII, and though there is something to be said for the freedom offered by the arguably more versatile Materia system, it feels to me like less is wasted here. One of the ways Final Fantasy IX accomplishes this is by telling its story from multiple characters' perspectives, making use of all of the playable characters in both its storytelling and gameplay. VII was content to let you pick a party of three and stick with it for the most part, allowing each party member to have his or her episodic moment of character development and then letting them fade into the background. There were rare exceptions- I still hold that Tifa is one of the best supporting characters in the series- based on what I've played- because the story doesn't toss her aside once she's shown some character development. Her arc is spread over the entire game, and her development is central to fleshing out Cloud's foggy past in Disc 3. Unlike say, Cid, whose shenanigans in his hometown culminate in Cloud's party gaining access to the obligatory airship, after which his arc levels off as the story narrows its focus on Cloud and Sephiroth. In contrast, IX achieves the best of its character development in a few different ways. It not only forces you to play as different characters when the party splits up, but lets you listen in on what the other protagonists are doing while you're in town, offering a different perspective and reinforcing the idea that your allies have lives outside of what they do in the game. The all-encompassing quest you've undertaken together is but one small part of the stories of their lives, even if it is the defining moment therein. They came from somewhere. They had a history that led them to the exact moment in time they became your ally, and that history has fundamentally shaped the way they view the world. In this way IX treats its characters as ever-changing people, and their arcs happen all together as the story's events affect them each on an individual level. Vivi constantly wrestles with his own mortality, and despite his youth sees the game's events through the eyes of a dying man, desperate to find some meaning in his life that will affirm his right to exist. Steiner faces the quandary of doing his duty versus doing good, even when they're not one and the same. And poor Freya has everything taken from her- her home, her lover, and her people, and constantly fights to stave off despair. Even Amarant- whose entire arc as the group's resident edgelord is defined by slowly realizing how much weaker he is when he closes himself off to others- undergoes a gradual change that feels organic and real, and becomes rather likable toward the end of the game. Each of the characters in IX feels more like a Tifa, and less like a Cid or Vincent. The game isn't afraid to take its time unpacking its characters. The result is an arguably more natural flow in both writing and plot structure. I'm quickly beginning to discover that even among its contemporaries, one of Final Fantasy's strengths as a series is its ability to create a natural sense of story progression for characters that feel like ordinary people. Where modern RPGs like Bravely Default and Fire Emblem beat you over the head with grandiose save-the-world plots and tried anime tropes, Final Fantasy takes a calmer, slower, more nuanced approach to building narrative. Nothing is overblown, everything happens at its own pace. Your main character is not the warrior chosen by fate to save the world, or the hero of a great war with unmatched combat prowess. You're not as special as all of that. You're more relatable than that. You're Zidane Tribal, a philandering thief with a heart of gold posing as a humble play actor. You keep company with a nervous street urchin with a penchant for magic, a princess constrained by the sheltered life she's led, and a duty-bound but uptight royal guard who sees you for the lawbreaker you are. There's more to each of them, of course, but in a genre that favors war heroes and living weapons, they all come off as fairly ordinary and profoundly relatable, even where those tropes do come into play. This reinforces the idea that they're just people whom events pushed together, and who save the world in the process of discovering their own place within it. This is especially true- and rightfully so- of characters like Zidane and Garnet, who throughout Disc 1 and 2 travel together for decidedly circumstantial reasons. Indeed, the beginning of Disc 3 explores what happens to a party of adventurers after the adventuring is all over. What happens when the last boss falls, and our heroes must return to normal life? They don't always become best friends forever. We find that sometimes the adventure is the only thing uniting our heroes. Royals immerse themselves in the politics of coronation and reconstruction. The thief falls back in with his old gang. The knight errant sets out to rebuild the remains of her kingdom. They see each other around, but their friendship was built on the quest they undertook. With that gone, they no longer have anything in common. But those relationships served as the basis of their lives for so long. Each of them feels appropriately lost, disconnected as much from the world as from their dearest friends. This served as perhaps one of the most true-to-life moments in an RPG I've experienced. Zidane's plight- the aimlessness of not knowing how to go forward after the adventure of a lifetime- feels emotionally crushing. Especially given that he desperately wanted his friendship with Garnet to blossom into something more, only to have it cut short by her early coronation. A lesser RPG would have ended at Disc 2, and never fully realized its narrative potential. And I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about our hero. On the surface, Zidane is the polar opposite of someone like Cloud. Zidane is plucky and friendly where Cloud is standoffish and anti-social. But there is a fundamental similarity they share that turns them each from merely good protagonists into fully believable characters. More than demeanor or disposition, it is the way in which they both come to terms with loneliness and self-doubt that defines them. And in this, they have a lot more in common than meets the eye, as both Cloud and Zidane spend much of their adventures trying to hide their insecurities behind a mask. And although there isn't as much brooding navel-gazing on display in Final Fantasy IX, Zidane, too, must come to terms with an uncomfortable truth about who he believes himself to be, and it nearly destroys him. For the first three discs, Zidane acts like the kind of protagonist you'd want to hang out with. He's selfless and protective, always ready to lend a helping hand. He offers friendship to the outcasts, preaching of the give and take of friendship. He's most comfortable when he's supporting his friends, and is always willing to be the pillar of strength when someone needs it. This is who he is. But at the end of Disc 3, when it comes time for him to lean on someone else, he can't bring himself to let them get close, can't stand to place a burden on them. To do so would go against his caring, supportive nature. Because he's always been the protector, allowing himself to be protected is naturally difficult for him. In this way Zidane feels more human than the vast majority of RPG protagonists, and I certainly feel more kinship with Zidane than even someone like Cloud, who is brilliant in his own way. Where Cloud had amnesia and a life's worth of fabricated memories to service the story, Zidane's vulnerability stems from his own personality. It doesn't make for as dramatic a reveal, but it does make him a better character. The music, as always, shines as a high point and beautifully realizes the world of Gaia, and there are quite a few standout tracks for me. The foreboding weirdness of Gargan Roo. The utterly pleasant jangly mandolin of Eiko's Theme. The majestic, delicate mysticism of Esto Gaza. The raw power of the synths in Mt. Gulug. The ethereal, serene sense of mystery in Terra and the despairing heroism on display in You Are Not Alone, which plays over perhaps the most emotionally charged moment in the game. So how does it stack up against Final Fantasy VII? At the risk of copping out, it's difficult for me to say at this point. VII has the benefit of two years' burgeoning nostalgia. But IX has the benefit of being fresh in my mind, and the game I'm still sort of riding the kick from. VII has a better story, with a fascinating lore that is instantly engaging, and a roller coaster plot that continuously blindsided me despite my knowing the biggest twist was coming. IX has better characters, speaking broadly, and takes its time to unpack them in a way that avoids the gamey pitfall of episodically compartmentalizing character arcs. VII has Cloud, who serves as an allegorical stand-in for the player's own latent self-doubt and underlying fear of rejection. XI has Zidane, who displays the complexities and contradictions of a real person, and represents stoic protectiveness and selflessness, but also intensely relatable self-loathing and fear of vulnerability. I might give a slight edge to IX for its earnest storytelling and the sincerity of its characters, but it's a close call. That doesn't feel like an objective analysis, however, so I may need to let time weather my impressions of VII and IX. Perhaps it's telling that I don't consider myself at liberty to definitively choose a favorite at the moment- It's little wonder this series became the apotheosis of the genre. Between these two different flavors of this classic series, I've been able to identify what I like best about each, but more importantly, I think, I've gained an understanding of what it is they share. Video games are such a surface-level medium. We often talk about things we can see, hear, and palpably feel, and gloss over important through-lines such as tone and character. When one talks about what defines the soul of a game- or of a series, for that matter- we don't have to mean familiar gameplay elements or a continuing story. Despite tackling the genre with a completely different tone, Final Fantasy IX has something in common with VII that defies common explanation. It's less straightforward than simply having the same gameplay mechanics or the same composer. All of the game's elements come together in a very specific way that other RPGs can only mimic, and the result is something that is unquestionably, profoundly, simply Final Fantasy.
  2. UPDATE: Apparently FFXV is not coming to Switch. It was all just a joke...? Link: https://gonintendo.com/stories/289732-final-fantasy-xv-director-says-his-switch-teases-were-kind-of-a I'm not sure what to think about this.They could have very well leaked the Switch version at Gamescom when they weren't supposed to and that's why they're now saying it was just a joke. I guess only time will tell. Link to article: https://gonintendo.com/stories/288138-final-fantasy-xv-very-strongly-hinted-at-for-switch-release OMG! They literally confirmed it, without actually confirming it. ...But damn, a current mainline FF game coming to a Nintendo system? Did I just some how get wake up in the early 90's?
  3. Final Fantasy XV is one of those games that is really difficult for me to review. Do not get me wrong, it is a good game and it is definitely a Final Fantasy game that hearkens back to the older titles in many ways. However, it is a flawed game and could have used several more years of development to smooth out its rougher edges. I really enjoyed the game but at the same time, I felt like it was largely incomplete; that more could have been done and too much of the story was ambiguous in nature. the past several weeks I have been reflecting heavy on Final Fantasy XV and as good as the game was, it left me feeling a bit empty at the end. This is my attempt to be as fair as possible because I have went from giving it a 9.5 to a 7 and then back to a 9 and down to a 6.5. You control Prince Noctis who is heir to the Lucian throne. Your father, King Regis has sent you out on a wild goose chase to wed your childhood friend, Lunafreya, along the way you have the greatest Bromance ever created in a video game and a lot of shit gets fucked up during the way. When I say fucked up, I mean from a narrative perspective and also a game perspective. The story starts out simple enough but turns into a convoluted turd by the time it hits the end. What starts out amazing ends in total confusion and you asking yourself "what the fuck just happened?" I cannot say anymore without ruining the story so just go in knowing that yes, the game is worth playing and it's the best Final Fantasy since X came out. However, don't be getting your expectations too high because you will be crushed if you do. Graphics 9: Easily some of the best graphics I have seen on the PS4 and Square has shown that it is still no slouch when it comes to their graphical prowess. Square has always been masters at creating stellar graphics and trying to push systems just a little more than what their competitors have done. That being said, I do not believe that it is all perfect. There are plenty of instances of clipping issues and awkward scenes that remind you that you are still playing a video game. It is still pretty impressive because you can tell Square took great care into making the characters models and world as detailed as they could. It would just have been nice if they had focused a little more on the technical issues. Story 7: It really pains me to give the story to this game a 7 but I can't say it was amazing or even great. I enjoyed the story, and it made me feel emotions I have not felt since I first played Final Fantasy VII back in the PS1 era, and that is the only reason this game gets a 7. I will give the story credit for making me think so damn hard on it and being so compelling, but it is largely incomplete. I feel the story is the weakest link to this game. Now some will say "well it is supposed to be ambiguous" but there is a huge difference at leaving parts to ambiguity and just being lazy as fuck. Factor in that I need a damn full length movie to even understand the story of the game and I feel that this leaves the story a fucking mess. Yes, you can get by without the movie but you lose way too much critical information, character development, and will make you question the story even more to an already "more questions than answers" kind of game. I felt like the story was going along great, then Chapter IX happens and everything goes to shit. It has nothing to do with the actual narrative itself, but everything to do with how sloppily it was explained and how little buildup was given to the more climatic moments of the game. You can tell there was a much larger narrative to this game that was axed or not included due to time issues. Factor in the fact the game has been in development for 10 years and it is fucking mind boggling that the game's story is so fucking incomplete. Had I not watched Kingsglaive, I would not have given a fuck about Lunafreya, King Regis, or any of the other characters ouside of the 4 main guys that showed their faces in the game, and this includes Arden as well. This kind of script writing is totally unfucking acceptable. So much was left unexplained, character development was all over the place, and at the end of the game you feel left wanting more. I feel like Square-Enix my as well have put a big FUCK YOU at the end of the game, and without spoiling anything, people know what I am talking about if you seen the secret ending cut-scene. Game-play 9.5: Go figure, this is what I felt was the strongest aspect of the game. Usually in Final Fantasy games, the game-play gets shit on for the story, this time around it was the opposite with the story getting a massive dump taken on it and the game-play being really engaging. Final Fantasy XV is a big world and has one of the best battle systems I have ever had the pleasure to experience in a Final Fantasy game. Gone are the turned based battles of yesteryear or the awkward battles from games like XII and XIII. This is the real deal and warp striking into a Daemon and zipping around in mid-air is extremely satisfying. The only thing that truly brings down the game-play is after Chapter VIII, the game becomes very linear. Once you get to Chapter XIII you just throw up your hands and are like "what the fuck Square? You got to ruin a perfectly good game right at the fucking end?" Its not that the game-play itself isn't fun, except for being incredibly unbalanced and uninspiring. Outside of Chapter XIII and a few other parts of the game where things just get fucking restrictive and stupid, the rest of the game is incredibly enjoyable. I loved riding on Chocobos, doing the side-quests, and really getting to know my characters better. I never wanted this game to end and pumped over 100 hours into the game just because I could not stop doing side-quests and exploring the world. That is why it gets so fucking disappointing right toward the end when things close off and the adventure sort of grinds to a fucking halt. Still, it has some of the best game-play in the entire Final Fantasy franchise and not even Chapter XIII's restrictive as fuck nature brings it down too far. Sound 8: Sound is kind of hard to rate for me because I don't know exactly what to say about it except that it is good. I guess the voice acting is done pretty well, I liked the music in the game, especially being able to buy the CDs and play old Final Fantasy music in the Regalia. Sound effects are done well as well as the Surround Sound. I have a 5.1 Samsung and usually, the surround sound in a lot of games is not the most amazing thing to write home about. However, in this game you can really hear a lot of subtle sounds clear as day out of the speakers. That being said, it is no Nobuo Uematsu esque shit and in no way should it ever be compared to anything Nobuo Uematsu composed for the Final Fantasy series. Ueamatsu is a fucking legend of video game music and to compare anybody to him is like comparing fucking Kanye West to Mozart. No! Just fucking No!! Overall 8: This was a very difficult game for me to review. It has never been this difficult for me to review a game like Final Fantasy XV. I had to seriously reflect deeply on this game since I beat it over a week ago and am still struggling a little bit with the score. However, I feel that an 8 is a fair score and I will explain why. Final Fantasy XV is a game that should be a 9.5 easily and had the potential to be a 10, but Square-Enix fucked up badly. Had this game been given one to two more years of solid development, it would be one of the top games of the entire year and compared to Final Fantasy VII on an epic scale. The game has most of what made those SNES and PS1 era titles so fucking amazing. Unfortunately, Square-Enix decided to push the fucking game out the door well before it was ready and this is evident by the fact you need a fucking full length movie to get any sort of decent understanding of what the fuck is going on in the game. Not to mention that they also released an Anime Series and have a shit ton of DLC in the works. DLC is great and all, but only when it is done right. In this instance it is used in the worst fucking way possible. To fix a game that was released broken and incomplete, which goes to show the lack of consideration Square has for its fans. Even in the interviews that Tabata has given, he has basically flat out said that they knew it was going to be a fucking mess when they released XV and would need to release updates and DLC. He also stated that they approached the game as something that was incomplete and would have to be experienced via patches and updates after release. So now were expected to keep paying for a game that is already out just so we can make some goddamn sense of it? The fact this has been admitted to and people are accepting of this confession is fucking outrageous. So your telling me I paid for the fucking Deluxe Edition of FFXV, which was $100 and now I have to pay some goddamned $25 for a Season Pass to enjoy the rest of it? What in the Flying Golden Saucer Fuck Square? So yes, the game gets an 8 and Square can go fuck itself. If they do this fucking shit with VII Remake when it comes out, I will be done with them. You do not charge people for content that had no reason not to be included in the game let alone release a game incomplete just to patch it up with DLC. To wrap things up, Final Fantasy XV is a good game, but it falls short of greatness because of how incomplete it truly feels. Personally, I would not be so irritated about this game if it had no potential and was just a shitty game. However, this game is not a shitty game, its a good game but is flawed, so with a little more time (and I know it has been in development hell for 10 years, but it was still rushed out after it was changed to XV) this may have been a perfect Final Fantasy game. No instead, the game had the potential to be one of the best Final Fantasy games of all time. It was a true return to form for the series, but has been fucking squandered. I know some will say "well the DLC still has to come out, and they are going to support it and fix it with patches." NO!! FUCK THAT SHIT!! That is not the point, the point is it should never have fucking come to that in the first place. The fact anyone has to pay extra money out for shit that should have been included in the retail game is a fucking outrage. My recommendation is if you want to experience XV, wait it out until they get the completed edition of the game out and not this god forsaken incomplete game that is going to end up with a shit ton of DLC and fixes shit that ultimately may not fix a fucking thing at all.
  4. So in spite of knowing it's not a lot of things that I love about what the series used to be, I believe FFXV will probably end up fairly decent. When I played it, the demo seemed pretty fun, and it reminded me a lot of Xenoblade. With all those years in development, and a need to breath new life into this franchise it has to be a decent experience... right? But having seen some recent videos that don't just focus on epic moments has me feeling a little less certain. It's not uncommon for Conan to half-jokingly trash talk a game in Clueless Gamer, but this one was particularly brutal. It's bad enough that he seemed to have nothing but negative comments, but every comment seemed accurately represented on screen. I mean, I've experienced RPG's with slow starts, and a lot of filler, but pushing your car in the desert, really? How long does that segment even last? I've seen some other gameplay videos too, it almost looks like these moments may set the tone for what the experience will be more often than not. Yes there are those big epic moments, some edge of your seat stuff from time to time, but is this game going to be a lot of bland filler between a few highlights? I hope that it won't. Perhaps it's simply that they wanted to avoid spoilers... I just don't want it to disappoint as much as a lot of other games have this year. At least, if nothing else, it's got a gorgeous soundtrack.