Final Fantasy XII : The Zodiac Age

Date Completed : June 14th, 2019

When I married my wife I was 80 hours into the original US release of Final Fantasy XII.  I remember her asking me all sorts of silly questions like “What’s up with all the lingerie bunny ladies?” or “Why are they wearing their underpants on the outside?”  The first major discussion of our marriage was me sitting her down to explain why we aren’t allowed to question anything relating to Final Fantasy, no matter asymmetric their pant-legs are.

I never went for 100% completion in the original game.  There were several parts of the game that seemed not quite worth it.  For example, the super-boss Yiazmat can take several hours to beat, if you manage to beat him at all.  I had a friend who beat him back in the day over the course of two days by leaving his PlayStation 2 on while taking long breaks (We didn’t have state saves back then).  Furthermore, some of the most powerful weapons in the game can only be obtained by beating Super-Bosses ( which negates the need of a powerful weapon ) or by going through a several hours long quest.  Didn’t seem worth it at the time so I skipped the hassle.

This time was different.  We have trophies now and I wanted all of them.  I completed the bestiary, visited every map, beat Yiazmat (which is much quicker today thanks to a x4 speed feature) and beat the new trial mode.  I now have a brand-new shiny platinum trophy on my account.  So, good for me.

The story is more of a ‘big picture’ story about politics and empires than a personal story similar to FFX.  None of the playable characters are any more important than any other so you may grow emotionally attached to anyone in particular.  The story makes more sense than your average FF title but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The game play has been mixed up quite a bit from previous titles.  You can still control your characters but thanks to the new battle system (which seems based on MMO mechanics) that’s a lot of work so they implemented gambits.  Gambits are basically a set of instructions that are used to program your characters’ actions in battle.  I set up a very basic set of gambits for 99% of the game and then each super-boss needed a specific set of gambits.  In practice this means that the game mostly plays itself which can grow old quickly.

Now I will complain about the treasure system for one paragraph.  Treasure chests in this game are insane.  Chests randomly appear and have random contents.  Some chests have different contents if you’re wearing a diamond armlet.  One treasure chest in particular has a 1% chance to appear, is invisible, has a 20% chance of containing an item and if a diamond armlet is equipped a 5% chance of being the best weapon in the game (I was able to get two using an insane technique I found on YouTube).  The only conclusion that can be drawn is that this game was made to sell strategy guides.

So why play the game?  There is a lot to enjoy.  There is a big open world to explore, lots of quests and hunts to go on and an epic story to experience.  And when all else fails you can visit the city of the lingerie bunny ladies.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length: 104 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: RPG

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

Dissidia_Final_Fantasy_NT_Steelbook_Brawler_Limited_Edition_-_PlayStation_4_1024x1024Date Completed:  March 2, 2018

I played a lot of Dissidia (like, 100+ hours) on my PSP back in the day, and put up with a lot of jokes from my wife about stupid video game names so I was expecting this to be more of that.  My expectations failed to be met.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a 3-vs-3 fighting game.  It doesn’t appear that it was ever meant to have a single player mode.  There is a single player mode tacked on but it feels like a bit of an afterthought.  It consists of a series of preset 3-vs-3 matches where you are paired with some AI controlled buddies.  I understand that the game was originally an arcade fighting game in Japan, which explains quite a bit.

The graphics are beautiful but that’s about all this game has going for it.  I played through the single player which was OK but not super memorable.  I tried some of the online matches but I only played a few.  It would take an average of 5 minutes to find a match so I would usually get bored before being paired with anyone.

I let the kids play a few matches and they didn’t care for it much.  The controls are greatly simplified from the PSP Dissidia games but they are still a bit involved.  My kids did enjoy seeing Prince Noctis’ from Final Fantasy XV (Which was the game I had played immediately prior) though!

In conclusion, this one is a dud.

  • Is it fun: No
  • Score: 3/10
  • Length:  8
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: Fighting

Final Fantasy XV

Date Completed: January 25th, 2018

In my opinion the Final Fantasy series peaked during the Playstation One era and has been in a gradual decline since.  While I haven’t played XI or XIV (since they are online only) all of the main titles since X have been slightly inferior to the game immediately proceeding it.  I had decided long before FFXV was released that if it was not ‘good’ I would officially be hanging up my Final Fantasy hat.  So, did the game deliver?  Periodically my wife would walk in on me while I played and I’ll let her statements speak for the quality of the game.

“All I’ve ever seen you do in that game is drive around in your car.”

“You’re fishing now! That’s new.”

“They look like a boy band from the 90’s”

“Is that a Cup of Noodles hat?  Final Fantasy has finally jumped the shark.”

Ready for Battle.

So the question that must be answered is “Was Final Fantasy XV ‘good’ enough?”  The answer is “It’s complicated”.

While playing the game I was constantly irritated by various aspects of the game that I thought were either boring or poorly executed.  Most of the game takes place in a vast open area that you traverse by driving around in your car.  You don’t have access to controlling the car at first but you can tell your driver where you want to go.  If you think a game where you watch other people drive is ‘fun’ you are clearly insane.  You do eventually gain control of the car yourself however it still mostly self-pilots and isn’t very much fun to drive.

I also found the combat system to be both boring and frustrating.  Combat is performed by holding down either the attack or the defense button.  While a button is held down combat is mostly automatic.  I rarely felt like I (the player) was necessary for success and that my role in battle could have been fulfilled by a strategically placed rubber-band.  The frustrating parts occurred when I’d encounter a critter that would kick my butt and I’d have to figure out what I was doing wrong.  I spent some time reading online about the combat system trying to find out if there was something I was missing (There wasn’t).  Usually the answer was ‘level up more, die less’.  Good advice I suppose.

Final Fantasy games are traditionally very story driven but I found the story to be….suboptimal.  The story is broken up awkwardly and it’s clear that some decisions were made with the intention of selling additional content after release.  The story as told in the game makes very little sense so I found myself reading supplemental material online to fill in the gaps.  It also helped to watch the YouTube animated shorts as well as the Kingsglaive movie (available for an additional fee).  Even if you invest the time and the money into all the supplemental material the story is kinda dumb.  Beautifully animated though.

I could spend a lot of time complaining about the failings of this game but I should note that I did enjoy playing it enough to stick with it for 80 hours.  My three-year-old daughter really enjoyed watching me play and especially enjoyed the characters (Prince Noctis was her favorite).  While the game might not do anything particularly well it also doesn’t completely bomb either.  If I could put a review on the cover I’d write “Utterly Average”.  While average might be considered ‘good’ by some I was hoping for more.

So, am I giving up on Final Fantasy?  It’s hard to say.  FFXV failed to meet my expectations but if Final Fantasy XVI looks amazing I’m sure I’ll find myself being cautiously optimistic once again.

  • Is it fun: Yes – barely
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  80 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: RPG

 

Final Fantasy Explorers

Date Completed: February 28th, 2017

Holy dull game Batman!  This game was unbelievably boring.  It’s almost not even a game.  It was really more of a tech demo than an actual game.  The game consists of exploring a continent by completing a series of missions.  Once you have completed a mission you are automatically warped back to the single town that is available in the game where you can select a new mission that let you explore further away areas.  There is no real story to follow that was discernible,  Something about crystals.  Square-Enix offered a collector’s edition of the game when they released it and I am SUPER glad I didn’t sink any money into it.  They’ve offered collector’s editions of several games now that turned out to be total duds.  I think this game could be turned into something interesting with more development effort but this release was barely a real game.

  • Is it fun: No
  • Score: 3/10
  • Length:  ~20 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: RPG

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

Box ArtDate Completed : May 15th, 2015

* SPOILER WARNING! * Do not read if you care about spoilers!

When Final Fantasy X originally came out it was a huge let down for me.  I’ll always remember it as the first ‘Bad’ Final Fantasy game, and the one that marks the transition where the series started turning to Poop.  While my original impression of the game was poor the game has achieved some sort of cultural relevance that over time has tempered my feelings about the game into what I can only describe as ‘somewhat less hostile’.  I even found myself thinking about playing through the game again.  When Square-Enix announced the HD Remaster version it seemed like a good opportunity to give the game a second go.

I thought my wife and kids might enjoy watching me play this game because it plays more like an interactive movie than a traditional game.  I was right about the kids, but my wife’s feelings are summed up with comment “They need pants.” (One of the common clothing choices for characters involves thigh-high socks and bikini bottoms).  Lulu’s dress made of belts and Yuna’s shirtless sleeves in particular received more than their fair share of her scathing remarks.  My wife clearly does not benefit from the years of indoctrination into video game fashion that I have.

After winning a battle I like to celebrate by bending over.

After winning a battle Lulu celebrates by bending over.

My kids really enjoyed watching the game, and my older son kept asking when I was going to allow him to play (Never! You’ll kill my whole party!).  Both of my boys had their favorite characters (My older son preferred Yuna because her eyes were different colors, and my younger boy preferred Tidus because he was fast) and shouted out unsound battle advice that mostly consisted of insisting I swap their favorite character into battle.  Once I caught my older son walking around the house with one pant-leg pulled up as high as it could go saying “Look Dad! I’m Tidus!”

Final Fantasy X played exactly like I remembered it.  Similar to the Kingdom Hearts HD remake, this game doesn’t appear to have any meaningful changes other than to bump the resolution of the game up.  The voice acting and character animations are still the same they were in the original and in comparison to the games of today FFX seems particularly awkward.

The biggest problem with FFX are the many parts of the game that simply aren’t fun.  Back in my college days I remember watching my roommate play through the Chocobo Catcher mini-game for DAYS trying to get Tidus’ ultimate weapon.  Several thrown controllers and rage quits later he eventually gave up on trying.  I was lucky when I played through the game for the first time – it only took me three tries.  This time I spent nearly two hours and I had to resort to YouTube videos for tips on how to complete it.  Other irritating side quests include capturing 10 of every monster in the game (Some of which are rare encounters or can kill you before you get a turn), completing the sphere grid for all characters ( which takes a herculean time investment ) or playing Blitzball for Wakka’s weapons or overdrives.  I didn’t find any of these to be fun – only time consuming and frustrating.  There was no sense of accomplishment when I completed them all – only a great sense of relief that I was finally done and I’d never have to do any of them again.

After this scene my roommate in college came running to get me shouting "I think they did it!"

After this scene my roommate in college came running to get me shouting “I think they did it!”

Being the Final Fantasy fan that I am, I decided that I wanted to get the Platinum trophy for this game (The only platinum I had for a Final Fantasy game is for FF XIII-2).  Unfortunately this meant I needed to complete all of the irritating side quests including the ‘Dodge 200 consecutive lightning bolts without saving’ quest which I had never even attempted in the previous release. (It seemed like a lot of trouble for very little benefit).  I read on the internet that it was easier in a dark room so I started locking myself in the closet under the stairs and took regular breaks after 50 dodges.  It took me an entire weekend but even with children, cats (one jumped on my lap at 186 dodges) and other distractions I was able to accomplish it.  I couldn’t have done it without my PS Vita.  If I had tried to do that on the TV with people watching and laughing I simply would not have succeeded.

Before FFX came along being a ‘Final Fantasy’ title meant something.  It meant an over-world map, it meant airships, it meant exploration.  All of these traditional elements were stripped out of FFX and replaced with the FMV cut-scenes that Square-Enix had become known for.  It is impossible to get lost in FFX.  Each map in FFX is a variation on a straight line and is clearly labeled with your current position and where you are supposed to be going.  The Airship has been replaced with a menu that lets you choose where you want to go.

One of the area maps in FFX.

One of the area maps in FFX.

The only other thing I want to mention is that during the final Battle with Yu Yevon when you have to kill all of your Aeons my sons became very upset.  They had grown really attached to our summoned friends and they didn’t understand why we had to kill them.  They asked me for days after the end why Tidus faded away at the end of the game (I don’t know boys, the plot is crazy) and the whole thing about Auron being a ghost really spooked them (get it?).

In spite of all of my complaining I did enjoy playing the game (I put over 100 hours into the game, so I must have liked something, right?).  I probably won’t be playing it again but who knows, maybe in another 10 years I’ll be playing the Ultra HD remake complaining about this game all over again.

Pros

  • FFX in HD
  • Trophy Support

Cons

  • Besides the resolution, not many upgrades.
  • All the mini-games suck.

Is it fun: Yes

Score: 6/10
Length:  ~115 hours
System: Playstation 3, Playstation Vita
Genre: RPG

 

Final Fantasy Dissidia 012 Duodecim

Dissidia_Duodecim_012_Final_FantasyDate Completed : February 22nd, 2015

Holy Stupid Name Batman! Square-Enix has released some games with truly stupid names in the past but the Final Fantasy series has mostly managed reasonably titled games (Unless you count the face that with over 52 games in the series the word ‘Final’ clearly does not apply).  When the original Dissidia game came out I naturally wondered what orifice they pulled the name from, but eventually I shrugged it off and got to playing the game. ‘Final Fantasy : Dissidia 012 Duodecim’ makes it really hard to shrug off the name.  If someone asked me what I was playing I usually responded ‘Final Fantasy Fighting Game’. If I did happen to try and tell someone ( such as my wife ) the full title of the game I was horribly mocked for playing it, as if the title of the game was my fault.

Having dropped over 100 hours into the previous Final Fantasy Dissidia I was looking forward to starting the sequel but a few things kept me from getting started. First – I didn’t want to play another game on my PSP.  I was able to resolve this issue by throwing more money at Square Enix and buying a digital copy of the game for my PS Vita during a Final Fantasy sale on the Playstation store.  Second – 100 hours is a long ass time to play a game.  What finally convinced me to start Duodecim was the discovery that there is an import feature.  The import process was a simple 380 step process that involved multiple virtual machines, memory card readers and a bit of hacking skill but in the end I did get it to work and I was able to import all of my maxed-out characters.

I didn’t realize it until after I was quite a way in to the game but the game is a super set of the original Dissidia. It includes the original game as well as a lengthy prequel.  The game isn’t 100% identical but if you can skip the original Dissidia you won’t be missing anything story wise.  The story follows the eternal conflict between Chaos and Cosmos (Discord and Harmony) and attempts to tie all of the Final Fantasy titles together into a cohesive whole.  It does this by confusing the hell out of you to the point that your brain decides to stop trying to process the story and accepts everything as perfectly sensible.

If I had to choose one word to describe this game it would be POINTS. There are Brave Points (BP), Hit Points (HP), Ability Points (AP), Experience Points (Exp), Kupo Points (KP) and Player Points (PP). While not technically a ‘point’ value, there is also an in game currency called ‘Gil’ which can be used to purchase various types of gear. If you think that sounds a tad bit over-complicated then you and I are in agreement. I couldn’t help but feel that some gleeful accountant with an over fascination of spreadsheets designed the game.

Battles are all one-on-one and your goal is to reduce your opponents HP to 0. You have two types of attacks – Brave attacks and HP attacks. Brave attacks reduce your opponents’ brave points and adds them to yours. HP attacks take your current brave points and inflict equivalent damage to your opponents HP. The normal flow of battle involves attempting to inflict ‘break’ status on your opponent by reducing their Brave points below zero. This awards you a huge bonus of brave points and in many cases means you can win the battle with a single HP attack afterwards.

There are several AI engines of varying difficulty, the most frustrating of which either blocks dodges or reflects every single attack you make.  In once such battle I fired over 30 homing shots at my opponent and every single one missed. I’ve been in battles where my foe was backed into a corner and I blasted them with a huge attack and it missed even though they visually appeared to have no way to dodge. How do you win these battles?  It’s helps to be several dozen levels above your opponent, but if all else fails you can always resort to luck.  Eventually the AI will screw up and you’ll hit it.

Running around the map.

Running around the Over World

 

Cut-scenes were irritatingly frequent and account for a large percentage of my play time through this game. Since I was maxed out on levels, for the first 2/3rds of the game I could get 1-hit kills on all the enemies so the game consisted mostly of cut-scenes and loading screens for me. Conversations between characters tended to be repetitive and waaaaaaaaaay too long. There is a skip feature, which I recommend to any new players. Go ahead and skip – the story doesn’t make sense anyway.

Every button on the PSP (or the PS Vita in my case) is used and then some while playing this game. Many skills such as dodging, summoning and calling an assist character require you to hold a shoulder button while pressing another button. I often found my hand temporarily locked into a ‘claw of doom’ position after playing Duodecim. The controls are impossible to use comfortably. I don’t think the designers put much thought into what sort of controller players would have.

The full history of Final Fantasy outfits is on display in Duodecimo.  Characters from the more recent games retain their original their original appearance (such as Tidus’s one long pant leg and Kuja’s thong / vest / skirt combo) but characters from the more classic titles have been ‘upgraded’ to 3D models.  While I am going to refrain from an extended critique of the fashion choices in this game, I find it interesting to observe that the more evil a woman is in Final Fantasy, the more of her knockers you are likely to see (Which is the opposite of what I believed for most of my adolescence).

Mog

My roommate in college used to say the same thing.

Dissidia is clearly fan service for people like myself who are long time fans of the series and enjoy the mash-ups of characters. The game mechanics are unique and fun, although somewhat flawed. Overall I enjoyed the game, but I really hope they re-think some of the mechanics if they’re going to continue creating Dissidia games (And all signs point to yes).

Pros

  • Unique Fighting game.
  • Includes characters from Final Fantasy I – XIII.

Cons

  • Flawed mechanics.
  • Long, repetitive cut-scenes.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: PSP / PS Vita
Genre: Fighting / RPG

Final Fantasy Theatrhythm : Curtain Call

Theatrhythm_Final_Fantasy_Curtain_Call_box_artDate Completed : April 8th, 2015

I’ve already completed a review for the original Final Fantasy Theatrhythm so I’m going to try and keep this one short.  Final Fantasy Theatrhythm : Curtain Call (FFTCC) is almost exactly like the previous title and I stand by what I said before – you tap on the screen in rhythm with songs from the Final Fantasy game.  I don’t know why I like this game so much, but I’ve sunk quite a bit of time into it, and almost a month after finishing it I’m still playing it, trying to unlock more characters.

FFTCC has several upgrades, primarily the quest mode is improved and it has a BUTTLOAD more songs including songs from spinoffs and related game series.  There are even new control modes – you can tap the buttons instead of the screen if you prefer.

Like the previous game I mostly enjoyed playing the game before bed.  It can be very difficult playing with other people in the house because interruptions can mess with your rhythm.  Theatrhythm is the kind of thing you play alone in a dark corner of the house when no one is watching.

It’s a fun game and includes all of the content from the original, so if you’re in the market for a Theatrhythm game look no further than Curtain Call.

Pros

  • Superset of the original game.

Cons

  • You’ll have to hide from your kids to play it.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~10 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Rhythm