suck it zeke
~zvalkyr - 07:43pm 04/23/12
JERK DIDN'T TITLE THIS.
~Spoony Spoonicus - 07:45pm 06/22/11
JERK DIDN'T TITLE THIS.
~Spoony Spoonicus - 07:44pm 06/22/11
shittle 3814 & shittle 5071
~vinic - 11:53pm 05/31/11
Spoony Spoonicus made me do this.
~Dudley - 11:24pm 12/14/10
Superman vs. the Terminator #2 Review
~Zero_Diamond - 05:57pm 01/03/13
Let's Play EarthBound Dog Bat, Part 1
~Spoony Spoonicus - 01:24pm 05/29/12
Let's Play Suikoden II, Part 9: Unite the Clans
~Spoony Spoonicus - 01:43pm 05/28/12
Diablo 3 review
~Spoony Spoonicus - 08:34pm 05/21/12
Star Control 2 (GOG.com)
~Spoony Spoonicus - 01:34am 05/20/12
Longest sequel gaps
~Spoony Spoonicus - 12:25pm 03/28/12
Spoony's Video Game Junk (for sale)
~Spoony Spoonicus - 07:07pm 06/16/11
Radio Transmission #1
~Buddy Hatchett - 02:54pm 08/07/10
Viewtiful Gonterman: The Return + Bonus MSTron mirror!
~Spoony Spoonicus - 11:34pm 05/28/10
A letter I sent to Chase Bank
~Spoony Spoonicus - 04:43pm 05/03/10
~George Foreman - 02:43pm 02/26/10 (02:39pm 02/26/10)
~George Foreman - 11:15pm 06/13/11 (11:13pm 06/13/11)
The Top Ten WORST RPG Cliches
~Spoony Spoonicus - 12:47am 02/27/10 (12:44am 02/27/10)
My Top 30 Favorite Games
~Spoony Spoonicus - 12:16am 07/14/10 (12:06am 07/14/10)
Super Rare Games
~Spoony Spoonicus - 05:11pm 03/10/10 (05:11pm 03/10/10)
the haul § dig it, we look rad as hell now.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 06:03pm 03/20/13 (10:24pm 01/10/12) in 11h27m11s § 4200 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
It's the last year of the Mayan calendar, I'm ill with a horrible stomach virus of some kind, and the Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo is on the marketplace. I'm already in considerable pain and discomfort, but you know what? I'm going to download it anyway and you're going to get the play-by-play of my experience. So let's do this.
Before we've even installed the game, we're already in trouble. It's a 1.7 gig download just for the DEMO of the game. Yeah, the demo. You could fit a quarter of Final Fantasy XIII-1 in that space, what could they possibly have spent all of that on? I guess we'll find out. (Here's a hint though: Nothing substantial whatsoever!).
Well okay, I should at least begin on a high note, I suppose. Let's look for one in the options menu. ...Shit, there is a plus! An option to use a bigger font, so SDTV users no longer need a fucking magnifying glass just to read any of the text! Incredible! It only took them SIX YEARS to implement that in this era of HD gaming!
Anyway, story. Don't expect any context for anything said or done, becuse once again, the hated CODEX makes a return! We don't have to explain a thing as long as this lazy-ass design element exists, just cut-and-paste paragraphs wholesale from the project portfolio, pad out the extra disc space with wave after wave of boring monster fights, and call it a day! We're taking notes right out of the book of top selling games Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Star Ocean 3 and The Witcher, all the while forgetting that those games also had one other big thing in common:
THEY ALL FUCKING SUCKED!
As with my previous nutshell for Dragon Age 2, I refuse to read anything in the Codex on principle, because I hate it as a design choice and want to see it burn before another genre gets irrevocably dumbed down forever. So you're just going to have to bear with me as I try to make sense of what's happening from events that actually unfold before my eyes. Which is AS THINGS SHOULD BE for a genre where the story is the central focus. But... I digress.
Our heroes (Noel, Serah, and a totally superfluous moogle tacked on in a blatant display of fanboy pandering) leap through a... time portal, I think? And come face to face with a giant golem. Naturally, said golem is covered in shiny aurora effects because, being a modern Final Fantasy game, we can't go twenty seconds without seeing one of those. We're dumped right into our first battle straight away against a giant stone fist attached to a transparent golem, and it's just as uninvolving as it was in Final Fantasy XIII part 1 - you pick "auto battle" every time the bar fills up. That's pretty much it. Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.
Spoony: Say what you want about Final Fantasy XII's Gambit system making all the combat automated - at least you were playing an active role in your characters' strategy and had to change it accordingly when a tough new boss came around. Here you just click "auto battle" and watch them run through one of a half-dozen preset motions over and over again. There's not even any elemental spells anymore, you just get one generic physical attack and one generic magical attack to throw at your enemies. It really saps any feeling of strategy or involvement from the game in favor of just pressing one button repeatedly and watching the same combat animations play out again and again, which - let's be honest - isn't all that exciting to watch and isn't fun in the slightest. Hell, I've made no secret of my hatred for Final Fantasy X, but at least the combat in that game required some degree of forethought and improvisation.
After what feels like ten minutes of this, a quick-time event starts playing out, requiring you to move the analog stick, press buttons, or mash a single button on a short timer. Hooray, another worn-out video game trope Square's just now jumping on the bandwagon for. Next thing you know, we'll be seeing unlimited MP, regenerating health to full after each fight and having enemies drop restorative items faster than we can possibly spend them to further drive thought process from the game.
Oh wait, we already have those. Shit. So what's next, is Final Fantasy 15 going to be a zero-player game? We're certainly moving in that direction. But to be fair, Conway's Game of Life is a lot more interesting than this dreck could ever hope to be, so maybe that won't be a bad thing.
So what happens if you fail the event? ...I don't know, and I don't care to find out. Not that you have to worry about that because the time limit for each input is surprisingly lenient. Better that than Resident Evil 5 sometimes giving you a literal millisecond to react and failing to register inputs constantly in co-op due to connection latency, I suppose.
Anyway, Noel runs up the golem's arm, onto its back, and then hits it once in the head with his swords, doing absolutely no visible damage. Then, instead of staying at a point that the golem can't easily reach and continuing to hack away at it from there (you know, the logical thing to do), he jumps back to the ground and starts uselessly swinging at its fist again. But it's okay, because now we mysteriously do ten times as much damage with each hit, and after only a few dozen more rounds of that the creature is defeated.
A screen pops up to recap all of the events we've seen so far, which tells us exactly nothing we don't already know. Seriously, we don't know who these characters are, how they came here, or what they intend to do here, so this screen was completely pointless unless you have the attention span of a goldfish. That's pretty bad.
Once that's done, we're deposited in some ruins, where it starts raining (just to show off more shiny effects and light sourcing! Sorry guys, they're NOT THAT IMPRESSIVE.*). Shockingly enough, we're actually afforded a small shred of nonlinearity here. We can venture around! We can talk to people! We can find treasures off the beaten path! I actually have control over the camera on a consistent basis! Wow, we're already leagues beyond the design of Final Fantasy XIII-1!
* You guys were the kings of visual effects back in the later years of the PS1 and the early days of the PS2, but that ship has long since sailed. Take a look at Bioshock, Bayonetta, King of Fighters 13 or hell, even Disgaea 4 - all visually beautiful games easily on par with this one, and all featuring far better gameplay than this turdswish. You can't hide mediocre products behind "pretty, cutting-edge graphics" anymore, chumps.
Well, let's savor the palate while it lasts and take a listen to some of the painfully trite dialog we're in for here.
"An unexplainable phenomenon... a contradiction. That's the paradox."
Yes, they've listed off a textbook definition of "paradox" in a bid to sound deep.
"What a cute little pet!" "We call him... Piggy Kitty."
And not "Mog" as he's identified in the text boxes. This is Tales of the Abyss-level stupid shit here.
At the very least the voice actors attempt to put some emotion behind these lines, as dumb as they may be. That alone puts it miles above dreck like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where the dialog was so bland and the actors so uninterested that they may as well have just saved themselves a bundle of money and hired Microsoft Sam to voice every character. I'm actually kind of surprised they didn't considering how many corners their writing department managed to cut by shoving 85% of the story into the plot codex.
Anyhow, we continue up a small flight of stairs and encounter... recycled enemies! The same box-with-an-orbiting-square enemy from the early stages of FFXIII, and a cat in a sock named "Cait Sith" (more pandering!). Like every enemy, they're easily dispatched via clicking "Auto Battle" repeatedly, and we're immediately dumped into another tutorial.
...Oh, delightful. In a bid to add some "depth" to this game, we now have a monster-training system implemented. By defeating enemies, you turn them into "crystals" (more pandering!) which adds them to your repertoire of playable characters (whom are automatically summoned when you swap paradigms). By using items in the Crystarium, they level up and gain new stats and abilities. And since they only seem to need a single item to gain a level and you gain said items after seemingly every fight, they gain power far faster than your human characters. Hell, you could probably have Cait Sith here at level 99 before even leaving the first area if you didn't mind enduring the droning, tedious combat system for that long. I'm not that patient (and the "challenge" in this game is a complete joke as it is) so let's just continue on.
Spoony: Yet part of me just knows that one of the trophies for this game is going to be to raise every single monster in the game to level 99. And there will be people who will spend weeks, possibly months, farming items to do just that. Yeeuuughh.
Oh, and they also more or less serve as this game's "limit breaks" - once their "Feral" bar fills up, you press Square, then punch in a couple more quicktime events and they unleash a stronger-than-usual attack. Alright.
The Crystarium is just as pointless as it ever was, by the way, giving you exactly ONE path to follow for each of the numerous class archetypes. There's no customization, no variations between characters, and no real point to even having a choice of what class to level up, since in my experience the only useful ones were Commando, Sentinel and Medic. Commando has the best attack power and a ranged magical attack, Sentinel is useful when you're low on HP since it has absurdly high defense (just swap to that and heal yourself up), and Medic... well, if you've ever played any RPG before, you know how important healing is. I suppose later on there might be a point to using classes like "Ravager" and "Saboteur", but I kinda doubt it - it's Final Fantasy, raw physical strength invariably dominates everything in the game.
But I digress.
Actually, no I don't, not yet. Why is there a "randomize" option for Paradigms? There's no good reason for that to even exist. It's just something you'll probably click on by accident and completely ruin all the Paradigms you've set up, forcing you to wipe them all again and spend several minutes setting them all back up the way you want them. That's like if they had an option to scramble all of your Gambits in Final Fantasy XII, or all of your party AI settings in Secret of Mana. Why even have that at all?
But I digress. Again.
Up ahead, we see what looks like another one of those time-gates we came through earlier. Does this take us to a new area? Nope. Can we interact with it at all? Nope. Not even that "gate key" I picked up earlier seems to be an option here, so there's no point at all in having this gate exist. There are some soldiers here, though - ones wearing what looks like the bodysuits from Mass Effect and Stormtrooper helmets modified just enough to avoid copyright infringement (more pandering!), so let's see what they have to say. Oh, they want me to do some sidequests. One item-hunting sidequest and one monster-killing sidequest. Okay.
We also encounter the game's shop system here - a time-travelling character in an absofuckinglutely ridiculous red chocobo costume. Like every supporting female in a Square game, she's a bubbly airhead with an annoying voice who never shuts up. Thanks a billion for that one, guys.
Spoony: It's a cold comfort that wanting to strangle this character is more of an immersive experience than I felt by buying shit from save points in the first game.
We continue past them into the ruins, fighting a lot more of the same half-dozen enemies, and see that the dungeon design is still just as bland and linear as always - every path that's not the way forward is a dead end with a treasure chest. I also learn that there's even less challenge to the fights than there was in Dragon Age 2 - if a fight starts going badly, you can just hit Pause and choose "retry battle" any time you want. Yes, seriously. You don't even have to die first now, you can just pick that at any time and start fresh and new.
Spoony: You know guys, the word "game" implies that a) there's a fair amount of involvement on the part of the player, not just pressing one button and watching automated events play out and b) there's at least a possibility of failure, be it through poor planning, a critical mistake, or just bad luck on the player's part. If there's absolutely no penalty for losing battles or failing to employ any kind of mental investment at all, it just makes the entire experience pointless and boring. Unless you're just in it for the story, which I will readily admit that I am not - Final Fantasy has NEVER excelled in telling a gripping story. Some of them may have a unique fantasy setting and entertaining gameplay (3, 5, 9, 12 and Tactics being my favorites), but the stories have always been generic good-versus-unspeakable-evil scenarios with predictable twists and the characters are (with VERY rare exceptions) always stock, stereotypical and instantly forgettable*. Plus the narrative doubly fails to be engaging here due to the aforementioned Plot Codex ensuring that no story element is ever given any attention or explanation, so yeah, XIII-2 is just one big, long exercise in aimless tedium.
*And for those who love to fall back on the old chestnut of telling me [Insert Final Fantasy game of choice]'s story and narrative "WAS REALLY GOOD FOR ITS TIME YOU UNCULTURED FUCKWIT", it really wasn't. Compare Final Fantasy 6's characters, writing and atmosphere to Ultima 5-7 on PC, or Illusion of Gaia on the SNES, or Phantasy Star 2 and 4 on the Genesis, or either of the 16-bit Shadowrun games. Then try stacking up Squall and Mary Sue's much-vaunted "love story" next to those of Lunar, Grandia or Baldur's Gate 2. There's no contest at all.
But I digress yet again.
There are at least two slight improvements to the combat engine this time - enemies aren't visible from miles away (they appear around you after a certain number of steps, which adds an element of surprise to the game), and you can get a surprise attack by striking them before they do the same to you. More importantly, though, is that you can run outside of the circle that surrounds the enemies before one of them touches you or vice versa, and actually avoid the fight! Pressing "retry" also puts you in this pre-fight phase, effectively giving you the ability to run from battles again! Quite nice.
Spoony: "Nice" in the same way Xenosaga Episode 2 removed shops in an attempt to further railroad the game, then reintroduced them in Xenosaga 3 as a "new feature", but nice nevertheless.
We're also getting inane radio chatter from a character we don't know, who once again tries to sound "deep" by waxing poetic about parallel versions of herself in parallel dimensions or some such nonsense. Say what? I thought this was a game about time travel!
Spoony: I would say the time travel element was included solely to pander to fans of Chrono Trigger, but let's face it - anything with the words "Final Fantasy" on it is not even worthy of licking Chrono Trigger's muck-encrusted boots. I'm sure anyone who played that game probably agrees with me.
There's also a soldier along the way who mentions a giant monster, which pops up a reminder window about that subquest we already accepted, as if I'd already forgotten about something I discussed with a character only minutes ago.
Spoony: Is that Square Enix's target audience? People with an incredibly short attention span? Because if that's the case, they're bound to make them fall asleep with this dull combat system that draws out every fight for about 3 minutes too long and saps all notion of tension, planning or strategy from the game.
Anyway, after that long corridor full of monsters, we come outside to see... that golem we fought a minute ago! Serah says that we have two choices here: We can either face Atlas (the golem, I assume) head-on, or we can take our chances with "the device" (What device? Where is it? How do they know about it? Never explained!). Puzzlingly enough, we're given a choice of four options here, but none of them are "Face Atlas" or "Try the Device." Instead, we can ask Serah, ask the Moogle, make a tough-guy comment or a wishy-washy comment. I decided to ask the moogle because, being a magical creature and iconic of the series, I figured he'd have some insight on the situation.
...Of course he doesn't. Instead, he just says he likes Serah better than me. Thanks, you winged cotton ball. Lord knows you couldn't contribute anything useful, considering you were only added to this game in a desperate attempt to redeem it in the eyes of older Final Fantasy fans.
Spoony: Although in retrospect, I guess I should have expected that. It's a JRPG, after all - none of the dialog choices ever make any difference whatsoever!
So anyway, I decide to look for the eponymous "device", going up a ramp into a new area. In here, we reunite with Chocobitch, who's still as annoying as ever. We also get reminded yet again of the sidequest monster. Venturing down a dead-end path in search of more treasure-Pokeballs, I happen across... that sidequest monster! Who just appears out of the ground to attack me like every other random encounter in this place. Kind of a lame way to get you to explore every nook and cranny in the dungeon.
Just like every other fight, he's pathetically easy and requires virtually no strategy. You might have to switch to the Medic paradigm once in a while to undo some of the damage he inflicts, but that's about the extent of it. Hit him about a billion times and he goes down like all the rest. But I'm too lazy to backtrack through dozens of dull monster fights and claim my reward (chances are it's not going to be worth it anyway), so I just move on.
Past more corridors and more slow, tedious, uninvolving battles, we finally come to "the Device". Upon touching it, we're assaulted by Atlas' fist bursting in through the ceiling, and then we suddenly end up somewhere else entirely by means that completely baffle me. I guess the Golem cast a Maze spell on us.
Spoony: Why am I even trying to rationalize this? Your average Final Fantasy fan has put about 7,000 times more thought into the story of any given Final Fantasy game than Square ever did.
So what are we doing here? Why, busywork, of course! Specifically, those lame puzzles you've seen in a billion other games where you have to pick up all the items while never crossing over the same square twice. Better yet, there's no penalty for failure apart from having to do the current room over again, just like the rest of the game. This is third-grade shit here.
Spoony: Actually, I take that back. I played educational games in third grade that had a far greater degree of challenge and palpable consequences for failure. ...In fact, now that I've brought it up, I'm so nostalgic for the days of handholding-free gaming that I take a break to play some Oregon Trail.
After dying of dysentery, we return to Final Fantasy XIII-2, finish the puzzles, see the golem get noticeably weakened, and then we backtrack all the way back outside where Chocobitch awaits once again. I guess this is the prime time to upgrade our equipment, seeing as we're about to enter a boss fight, so I do that. Okay, let's take this Atlas down.
Oh, wow, this fight actually has a touch of strategy to it. For you see, his attacks inflict "wounding" on your characters, which gradually reduces their maximum HP with each hit they take, and this reduction can only be cured by a Wound Potion. But if you neglected to buy any before this fight, don't worry! You can quit out at any time, walk back to the shop, and buy as many as you need. If you're short on cash, just sell a few of your twenty or so Phoenix Downs (why would they even provide you with that many? This game's challenge is on par with playing System Shock with the story, enemy AI and puzzles all set to "Off".).
Aside from that minor tidbit, one button press perfectly sums up this and every other battle so far.
More quicktime events play, Atlas dies, which somehow puts the ruins back together, and we cue what a good 80% of that 1.8 gigabytes got put towards - a long, noninteractive cinematic showing off more of the full version of the game!
It's some guy! It's a quicktime event! Here's Lightning riding a chocobo! Here's a chocobo racing minigame (more pandering!)! Here's some more random battles! Here's a slot machine minigame! Here's a tonberry (more pandering!)! Here's more flashy and totally impractical weaponry from our heroes! Here's some banal banter between Lightning and Some Guy, revealing that Some Guy has the exact same motives as every cliched Final Fantasy Villain ever (destroy everything for no real reason!). Here's Omega Weapon (still more pandering!).
After a good three minutes of this, the demo finally ends, showing a splash screen with a release date.
Spoony: Sorry guys, nothing I've seen here compels me to invest in your product. It does improve on the last entry in several ways, but it's not nearly enough to redeem the franchise. The phrase "polishing a turd" comes to mind; you may have fixed a lot of the minor issues that fans complained about with Final Fantasy XIII, but when the game's design and direction as a whole was so fundamentally flawed, that's a small blessing at best. I'll save my money for something that isn't just a cheap rehash of a particularly bad game in a series that's well over a decade past its prime anyway, thank you very much.
In short, you should do yourself a huge favor by skipping this garbage and saving your money for Xenoblade Chronicles. Which not only features much better writing, a memorable cast of characters, and even some pretty impressive scenery and visual design for a Wii game, but also has a well-crafted real time combat system that has unique mechanics and a surprising amount of strategy. A far more worthy investment if you're at all a fan of RPGs.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Azul Rojo § at 01:37am 01/12/12
Gee, this reminds me of FFX to FFX-2. Didn't that involve taking a crap game and making it into a different type of crap? Why, yes!
It's amazing how people think FFXIII and XIII-2 are the best games ever made, simply because game magazines give them glowing recommendations. And some people actually enjoy the dumbed-down gameplay because...well, fucked if I know why. Eye candy, I guess, because they shit upon anything with similar gameplay and less flashy graphics.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 12:15pm 01/12/12
The only ones still desperately clinging to this junk are the worst of the worst of fanboys. They're so desperate to hold on to their nostalgia for a mediocre childhood favorite that they'll ignore any other RPG that comes out or just dismiss it completely after watching a 30-second trailer or 5 minutes of gameplay on Youtube because of its 'bad graphics, flawed gameplay and flat characters' (translation: "it isn't an exact copy of my favorite Final Fantasy game"). Either that or write it off instantly because it's too "immature" (Yeah, that's a laugh. Being lectured on "maturity" from a fanbase that worships Yuffie and Selphie and takes every banal, idiotic nugget of "wisdom" in Final Fantasies X and X-2 as gospel.) And we wonder why virtually every Square game released since 2001 is just a cheap rehash of the scenario, characters and visual elements seen in Final Fantasies 7 or 10 - it's because their fans don't want anything new, they just want the same crap over and over and over again. "More pretty graphics! More androgynous heroes with giant swords, huge tits and gaudy-colored asymmetrical outfits for us to masturbate to! More androgynous villains with no actual motive or personality whatsoever so we can fill in the blanks with shitty slash fics about them! Strip out more gameplay and plot so we can get to the pretty CGI cinemas quicker, please!"
Come to think of it, that's probably also why Final Fantasy XII is so heavily panned. "It's too hard! It's too different! It tries new things! It has actual, competent writing and a legitimate story to tell! Sell it back to Gamestop for 35 cents, put FFX back on! Yarg blarg!"
Oh yeah, and here's a hint as to why game magazines consistently give Final Fantasy games 9/10 and 10/10 scores with three-page long reviews full of mindless praise while all of their competitors get a 7 or 8 with a one-paragraph review and a single screenshot, at best. Check out all the ads in that magazine in the months leading up to that glowing review of XIII-2. There sure are a lot of ads for Square Enix games, aren't there? A couple interviews, previews in practically every issue with dozens of screenshots of cinematics, maybe they've even made the cover a couple times. It ain't a coincidence - their publisher dumped a lot of money into that magazine's coffers and BOUGHT that positive review before the game was even available to be played. And if they don't get what they paid for, guess what? Either someone's getting fired or the company's pulling their advertising and the magazine loses a lot of future income as a result. Really makes you think, doesn't it?
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 11:55pm 05/30/12
~Spoony Spoonicus on 02:47pm 08/22/12 (01:34am 12/29/11) in 4m53s § 3543 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
Well, this was truly a saga for the ages. The ages of thirteen to thirteen and a half. Anyone older than that should demand something better.
Also, making a "trilogy" out of a plot and characters you can completely sum up on a 3x5 card doesn't automatically elevate you to the level of Star Wars. Knock it the fuck off already.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 03:55am 04/16/13 (01:42am 04/17/11) in 9h44m34s § 4485 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
I don't think that even the people who played this as their first video game in 1997 and still swear 14 years later that it's the BEST GAME EVAR*(@%@!%&*%@(#&%#()@! can deny that there is much to be made fun of in it. So away we go!
Final Fantasy VII. What can you say? It was a groundbreaking game for its time, proving that the CD format could do things for graphical effects and cinematic style that simply couldn't be reproduced on the limited storage capacity of a cartridge. However, it also kicked off the drastic change of every single aspect of the franchise - visual style, setting, music, characterizations, gameplay - and almost all of it changed for the worse. So yeah, kind of a mixed bag.
But you're not here to read this tired rant yet again. Nor are you here to listen to me argue that Final Fantasy VI was actually where the franchise's writing and gameplay began to take a dive and that VII was actually a step back up in quality before the downward spiral began in earnest. No, you're here to watch me poke fun at the plot and various dumb nuances of the game design. So let's get into it - this is Final Fantasy VII.
Our game opens with an FMV of a starfield that fades to green sparks that fades to some girl (Aeris) that fades to the decaying slums of Midgar that pans out to show a gigantic city with a tower in the center. It's a decent enough establishing shot, I suppose, giving us a view of a few of the game's running themes and giving us a sense of the graphical technology the platform is capable of. Then we abruptly cut to a train pulling into a station and stopping as a scuffle occurs between a few of its riders and soldiers posted at the station. It's here we encounter our first mild letdown, in that the character models appear to be comprised of about eight polygons apiece, and they're all in a super-deformed style.
Spoony: I guess they weren't ready to let those 16-bit sprites go just yet. But really, I never saw the point of having them be relatively undetailed outside of battle, then in-battle switching to much more realistic and detailed models. Pick one style or the other, not both! Then again, I guess I shouldn't fault this game's attempt to break consistency in some fashion when this is a franchise that apparently prides itself on never, ever changing its formulaic storylines and character archetypes, no matter how flat and dated they may be.
At any rate, we establish a few characters - Cloud, the spiky-haired guy with a sword bigger than he is. Barrett, the first (and until XIII, the only) black guy in a Final Fantasy game, Jessie, and the eponymous Vicks Biggs and Wedge. We learn that they're carrying out an attack on an energy reactor, having to fight their way through countless security forces to get there.
Which leads to our second mild disappointment - an absence of challenge. Every enemy you encounter falls in a single hit and fails to ever do more than single-digit damage to you. Sadly, it never really gets much tougher than this for the rest of the game aside from a decently challenging boss here and there. Come on guys, give us some challenge!
At any rate, after a boss battle against a scorpion robot in which Barrett gives some rather shoddily translated advice (Mild Disappointment #3), Cloud sets a bomb for twenty minutes and the group is forced to flee. They escape just in the nick of time as the reactor blows, causing countless civilian casualties, leaving dozens of soldiers' families widowed or orphaned, and depriving hundreds (possibly thousands) more innocent people of electricity and other basic amenities. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!
They evade the authorities with surprising ease and return to Seventh Heaven, a bar in the slums run by Tifa, Cloud's childhood friend. We also get some exposition about how Cloud became a first class SOLDIER working for Shinra before defecting to join Barret's terrorist group AVALANCHE.
We're also introduced to the new Materia system. Instead of each character having their own distinct jobs or ability sets, now all abilities stem from items you equip on your weapons and armor. This started off another trend I disliked about the later Final Fantasy games, that being that the characters no longer have any distinguishing abilities in combat outside of their limit breaks - their skills and stats are all completely interchangeable. You may as well just pick the team with the best limits (Hint: Cloud, Barret and Cid) and ignore the rest.
The game attempts to balance out Materia by having certain stats decrease when they're equipped - generally lowering the character's maximum HP - but these differences are so minimal that it never affects gameplay in any significant way. Even less so considering that later on you can simply buy HP Plus Materia, which more than makes up for any penalties you incur from equipping a ton of magic Materia.
Spoony: Incidentally, beginning the trend of nullifying strategy by abolishing classes and giving characters no real advantages or setbacks outside of their Limit Breaks is our (Mild Disappointment #4). Though like I hinted at earlier, I'd actually argue that that sort of thing began with VI rather than VII, where the characters' only defining characteristics were their skillsets (most of which were rendered useless by the mid-point of the game anyway). But I digress.
After a night's rest in the bar's hidden cellar, the group sets off for another mission.
However, Shinra is much better prepared this time and lays an ambush, resulting in a battle with a giant robot that explodes when defeated, destroying a large chunk of the walkway and sending Cloud plummeting to his doom.
Nope, just kidding. He fell half a mile completely unaided and crashed through someone's rooftop, but he's perfectly okay. He's found by Aeris, a a girl who tends to a church full of flowers that mysteriously grow in the barren landscape of Midgar. But because Final Fantasy games can't sit still for more than 30 seconds, some Shinra soldiers burst in and attack!
Spoony: Why did they send armed soldiers after a guy that fell half a mile off a destroyed bridge? Were they expecting him to not only survive, but be no worse off for any of it? Well, he is a genetically engineered super-soldier, I suppose...
At any rate, they escape the guards and proceed into the Sector 7 slums, where we learn that Tifa is forcibly recruited into the harem of the local kingpin named Don Corneo (how long was Cloud out, anyway? Hours? Days? Weeks?). This results in an extremely silly event where Cloud has to cross-dress in order to infiltrate the mansion.
After that bit of padding, we learn that Shinra is apparently so desperate to crush AVALANCHE - a group comprised of seven or eight people - that they're apparently planning to collapse an entire section of the slums and kill thousands of innocent people just to get rid of them.
Spoony: That's another thing that really bothers me about this series - there's absolutely no moral ambiguity. The heroes may occasionally do dumb things that get people hurt or killed, but the villains always up the ante by being fifty times worse in the next scene. It's a damned lazy way to justify your protagonists' actions, no matter how idiotic and destructive they may be. Compare that to say, Myria from the Breath of Fire series - sure, she was vengeful, manipulative and instigated genocide on several occasions, but she ultimately felt she was doing the right thing, protecting humanity and serving as its shepherd by destroying the "evils" of technology and the Dragon clans. The Shinra company, on the other hand, has all the subtlety and motive of your average James Bond villain, but with none of the charisma or lovable zaniness.
Well, despite our heroes' efforts, they succeed, bringing down the plate and killing off Biggs, Wedge and Jessie. Luckily, our heroes manage to escape by grabbing a cable and swinging hundreds of yards on it through the front door moments before the whole thing comes down on their heads. Plot convenience be thy name!
Well, this bit of foolishness proves to be just the break our heroes need, as they can now climb up a tangled mess of metal, cables and debris to reach the top of the plate and infiltrate the central Shinra building. You're given a choice of two paths - either go in the back way and climb up a sixty floor stairwell floor by floor, or just take the cowboy approach and barge in through the front door, killing everything in your path.
Either way, you reach the 61st floor, where you'd think security would be at its tightest, as we're now getting into the place where the company's top executives reside and they're running their horrible gene-splicing experiments, but nope - it's clear sailing from here on out. Well, we get to solve a few puzzles, but that doesn't really count as "resistance" on their part.
At the top, we encounter the headless body of "Jenova" as well as Professor Hojo, the company's requisite mad scientist type. We also meet the subject of one of his experiments, Red XIII, who is also our next party member. Despite looking quite cool, he doesn't contribute a lot to the overall story. Oh well.
Spoony: This is jumping ahead a bit, but it's another detail that always bothered me. If the "numbers" are meant to be attempts at recreating the "ultimate soldier" Sephiroth, then why the hell is he conducting these experiments on a WOLF?! He's not even the same species as Sephiroth!
Also: WHY THE FUCK IS HE TRYING TO MATE RED XIII AND AERIS JESUS CHRIST FUCK(*###$FFDSDDFSFV
Anyhow, we somehow get captured despite the fact that all of their best war machines and soldiers couldn't even make a scratch on us moments earlier. But luckily for us, some maniac with a big sword infiltrates the building, messily slaughtering every single guard in his path. Not only that, he opened our cell doors for us and didn't bother to try to kill us while he was at it. Um... thanks?
We make our way to the top floor unimpeded, where we find the president dead with a sword in his back, but his killer is nowhere to be seen. But by the power of plot convenience, his son appears via helicopter at just that moment to carry on in his stead, unloading such comedic lines as "It's time for a new reign - of fear!"
Spoony: I haven't seen a villain this richly nuanced since I watched "Highlander II: The Quickening". Hell, he's even disquietingly similar to that film's villain - an overacting, cartoonish stereotype who keeps the world under militaristic oppression for his own personal gain. Plus, holy fuck, his name is RUFUS SHINRA. Am I really supposed to take this guy seriously? Because I don't even know who Faceless Swordkilling Psychopath is yet, but he's already proven himself to be a far more threatening villain!
At any rate, the heat begins to close in, so Cloud stays behind to confront Rufus while the rest of the party flees down the tower, another giant war machine in pursuit. Amazingly, Rufus is able to hold his own where several hundred of his elite soldiers failed, fighting Cloud to a standstill. (And no, they never really explain how he can do this.) The party then piles into a truck to escape, with Cloud pursuing on a motorcycle and fending off attacking Shinra soldiers, dovetailing into our first mini-game.
Spoony: Actually, this is a very cool sequence, and probably exemplifies better than any other the "action movie" motif they were attempting with this game. If only they could have shown more restraint with the over-the-top action and visual effects in later games, this may have actually made for a pretty good trend! As is, they're mostly just overdone and glittery to the point of absurdity, like they're trying to distract you from the dumb stories rather than immerse you in the world they're creating.
After yet another battle sequence with a gigantic robot guard, we finally manage to break out of the dreary slums of Shinra and can explore the countryside a bit. We make our way to the town of Kalm, where we engage in a lengthy expositional flashback to Cloud's days in SOLDIER. And before you ask, yes, this is easily the best sequence in the game, exemplifying better than any other what a writing talent they had in Masato Kato. The same writer who also worked on Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, the NInja Gaiden trilogy for NES, and... Chrono Cross. Well, nobody's perfect, I guess.
Anyhow, this scene shows Cloud and his SOLDIER unit going to Nibelheim to check on the Mako reactor there, and they were accompanied by Sephiroth, Shinra's most powerful SOLDIER with near-godlike abilities, which are demonstrated when he wipes out all resistance in only one or two hits. We also recruit Tifa (we had to shoehorn her in somehow, I guess), get a brief lesson on the origins of Materia and Mako energy, and finally make our way to the reactor, where we learn of Shinra's monster-creating experiments via the extracted Mako energy and Jenova's cells.
Seph goes apeshit over this, being told all his life that he was the son of Jenova, and shuts himself in the Shinra mansion for days reading about their illicit experiments. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that Jenova is the rightful heir to the planet, that Shinra (and by extension, all humans) are evildoers who enslaved her for sinister means, and sets out to recover her body, torching Nibelheim in the process.
Spoony: Sephiroth is my favorite villain in the entire franchise, bar none. He had an actual back story, a motive, some actual history with the main characters of the game, and was genuinely a well defined and interesting character who you sympathized with as he took his plummet into genocidal madness (because, as has been said many times, good villains do not think of themselves as villains!). He also felt genuinely threatening - you witnessed his almost god-like powers in the flashback scene, and had the horror of seeing them turned on your home village with that awesomely chilling theme song. It was also nice to see that they didn't turn him into the typical "get beaten, run away to power up a bit, then come back 4 hours later" boss that removes any feeling of him being a legitimate threat - they showed some tact and left the climactic battle for the end, where both of you fought at your full strength. I may have a lot of complaints about the game's design and writing, but to me, the dynamic between Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth was what held it all together and made it into something truly memorable. Which is more than I can say for most of the games in the franchise and their stories in particular. Too bad they had to ruin it all with that stupid movie...
But I digress.
Sephiroth continues his rampage, cutting through everyone in his path (including Tifa) as he makes his way back to the reactor and liberates Jenova's body. Cloud charges in to confront him and the flashback abruptly ends before we see the results of the showdown.
Back in the present, we move across a swamp occupied by the Midgar Zolom and encounter the Turks, who all but admit seconds into their first appearance that they're the game's requisite recurring bosses who are there just to get on your nerves and pad the game out with more fights. Wow, I've only known them for a few seconds and I hate them already.
We make our way through the cave and find ourselves on a long path to Junon, another occupied Shinra territory. If you're lucky enough on the way there, you might just encounter the inexplicably popular Yuffie, who fights you and steals money from you if you don't give the right answers in the following cutscene. Actually, just feel free to skip her - she contributes pretty much nothing to the overall plotline and her limit breaks are garbage.
Spoony: Why do they even allow Yuffie to come along, anyway? She has no real reason to do so, and in fact she attacks you alongside monsters and steals money from you even after you defeat her. Sounds like a trustworthy character to me!
At any rate, we infiltrate Junon through a series of increasingly silly minigames and make our way aboard a ship. Sephiroth appears once again, laying waste to everyone aboard (with the conspicuous exception of our party, Rufus and his right-hand man, all people who pose the biggest threat to his plans) and we're forced to fight a spawn of Jenova. It's a laughably easy fight for a spawn of an alien monster that once threatened the entire planet, but at least it has some catchy music.
After that, we move on to Costa del Sol, where we encounter Hojo on the beach. But nothing much really comes of it, so I have to question why they even wrote it in.
After that pointless scene, we depart town and come to the mountains of Nibelheim, fight our way through, and end up in the town of Nibelheim, which is mysteriously not destroyed (but is inhabited by creepy, lethargic dudes with numbered tattoos and black robes). In the basement of Shinra Mansion we encounter Sephiroth, who has a few cryptic words to say about some manner of "Gathering" and tosses a pretty powerful Materia at you as he flies out the door like Superman. Okay...
If you follow a short sidequest in this area, you can also find another party member in Vincent, a character garbed out in a red trenchcoat who carries a rifle. He's another pretty boring character with little relevance to the overall story, but he's worth using just because his limit breaks are so ridiculous. Hell, one has him turn into a slam-dunking Frankenstein monster!
Next up is the Gold Saucer, where we meet a robotic cat-moogle thing named Cait Sith. Shortly thereafter, we're told that a guy with a gun-arm went rampaging through the park shooting everyone he met, and we're left to assume it's Barret - however, before we can find out for sure, we're apprehended and tossed into the prison below the park. Yeah, there's a prison below the world's premier amusement park. That's also silly; imagine if they built Alcatraz below Disneyworld Florida...
Here we discover that this was not the work of Barret, but it was in fact his friend Dyne, who had a similar operation where hereplaced his shot-off arm with a rifle. He's also gone quite batshit insane, as we've already seen. Cue fight scene, followed by a convenient way to earn a full pardon for the crimes we were accused of by winning the Chocobo Races.
Spoony: I would have expected something more along the lines of "the Running Man" with the monolithic evil megacorporation Shinra running the show, but hey, this works too.
We then move on once more to Rocket Town, where we meet the eponymous Cid, who is being menaced by Rufus and his goons into giving up his airplane. However, because he's an awesome, trash-talking, cigarette-chomping air pirate, he tells them to fuck right off, in almost those words.
Spoony: I don't care what anyone says, Cid is always the best character in Final Fantasy games. ...Well, except for 8.
One of Rufus' goons is a fat doofus called "Palmer" who continuously demands lard in his tea, fights the party with an ice-shooting gun, and then promptly gets run over by a truck. Yeah. Square villains are almost always too goofy to take seriously, but this guy goes above and beyond and becomes sillier than most 60's batman villains.
Spoony: So Square fanboys - who allegedly identify themselves as such for the company's "dark and mature" storytelling - bash on me for enjoying Disgaea, a series that openly flaunts its silliness. Yet every time Square shoehorns in hammy characters like this guy, homicidal Cindy Brady with a killer yarn ball, and Jar Jar Binks the bartender (all to the detriment of the overall game), they just look the other way. Ah, hypocrisy...
The party attempts to escape on Cid's plane, but it takes a hit and crash lands into the ocean, forcing them to convert it into an ad-hoc boat to get around. Our next plane of attack is to make our way south to the temple of the Ancients, wherein we try to acquire the Black Materia so that Sephiroth can't use it for his mad scheme, which is apparently to blow a big hole in the planet with Meteor and then absorb the Mako energy that gathers to repair the damage, making himself into a god. Yeah, it's silly as hell, but at least it makes more sense than Kefka solving a Resident Evil statue-shoving puzzle and becoming the devil incarnate.
The Temple of the Ancients is, as you might expect, a large series of puzzles and confusing pathways, mostly because it's built to resemble an MC Escher painting and pulls a lot of annoying tricks with perspective to make it look like you can go down certain paths (but you can't) and that one obscured by a foreground object is the way you actually need to go.
After finally reaching the central chamber, we figure out that the Black Materia is booby trapped - solving the final safeguard and removing the Materia causes the whole temple to collapse inward, crushing anyone who happens to be inside it. Cait Sith, being robotic, volunteers to stay behind and solve the puzzle so that nobody has to die. Sure enough, the temple collapses and the party collects the Black Materia, with his replacement appearing in a matter of seconds. Convenient!
But our victory is short-lived, as Sephiroth pops up moments later, using his influence over Cloud's Jenova cells (I guess?) to wrest the Black Materia from his grasp. Wonderful!
Spoony: There's another thing I never really liked about JRPGs - you always, ALWAYS end up playing right into the villain's hands and allowing him to accomplish his grand scheme, no matter how hard you try not to. It always seems like if you just left the big Macguffin where it was instead of trying to take it away to "prevent the bad guy from getting it", he'd be up shit creek! Like a handful of teenagers with no money and resources are really a better safeguard than an magical temple designed to kill anyone who enters it in search of the forbidden treasure. Besides, who was he going to send in there to fight off all of the monsters and retrieve the materia? His shaky, useless tattooed clones? I don't think so.
Anyway, we now learn that Sephiroth has gone north, with Aeris in pursuit. So we follow them up there to an abandoned city of the Ancients (after another bout of padding mini-gaming, of course), and find Aeris attempting to summon Holy to wipe out Meteor. But it's not to be, as Sephiroth swoops down from the ceiling and kills her with a sword through the belly as our party fights another fragment of Jenova. Cue the tragic music and funeral scene that pulled so many heartstrings despite Aeris having almost no character depth or emotional attachment from anyone in the game!
Spoony: I never really got the attachment people felt for Aeris, to be perfectly honest - all in all, she's pretty forgettable as a character. Hell, Even Cloud doesn't seem to care all that much despite much of the first disc implying that they were to be an item. She's barely even mentioned throughout the entire rest of the game, and what little mention there is is never initiated by either Cloud OR Tifa. The game's manual alleged that Final Fantasy VII contains a "love triangle" between Cloud, Tifa and Aeris, but there really isn't much evidence to support that in the actual game. Hell, Cloud has more of a character connection with Yuffie, since in one side-quest you go out of your way to save her even though she consistently betrays and steals from you!
Disc 2 opens with us continuing the pursuit to the Northern Crater, where Sephiroth currently awaits. Through the magic of several filler quests and a snowboarding mini-game, we make our way there in record time, confronting another Jenova spawn which happens to be carrying the Black Materia. Why Sephiroth would entrust the pivotal object in his plans to some shitty monster that Cloud and his friends have already felled several of is a mystery that will forever battle me, but hey, at least we got it back.
Cloud (quite wisely) thinks that Sephiroth may pull the same stunt again and entrusts the Materia to one of his party members before moving on to the center of the Crater. But it proves to be all for naught, as Sephiroth appears in the guise of Tifa and tricks your appointed guardian into handing it over anyway. Which is silly, but again, it's another facet of the character I actually kind of like - he's truly devious, deceptive and underhanded instead of just some cackling buffoon with superpowers.
He and Hojo also take the opportunity to torment Cloud, stating that his memories are false, that he was not present at the events we saw in a flashback earlier (proven with a photograph showing someone we don't recognize in his place) and that he was a failed clone of Sephiroth, not even given a number (implying that his memories of Nibelheim are fake).
Now that Sephiroth has the Materia again, this also causes all hell to break loose, unleashing the five Weapons (the "guardians" who defend the planet in its hour of utmost danger) and forcing the party to flee.
We then cut to Junon, where we've been captured by the Shinra, are convicted of unleashing the catastrophe in a mock trial, and sentenced to death to appease the masses. But luckily for us, one of the Weapons attacks, giving the party time to escape in the confusion while Shinra mounts their counteroffensive. We make our way to the Highwind - that big airship we saw on our first journey here - and escape.
We also find out rather abruptly that Cloud is still alive, albeit left catatonic from exposure to undiluted Mako, and that he somehow made his way from the north pole of the planet all the way to an island near the south pole. Which is, like many things in this game, quite silly and doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
But there's no time to ponder that mystery, as we now learn that Shinra is attempting to destroy the Meteor by using the four Huge Materias they've created. But I guess we simply can't let them have their way, even if their goal is to try and save the planet, as our next objective is to recover the four Huge Materias via a series of minigames and events. And yes, it does smell suspiciously like padding!
Spoony: Final Fantasy games are a lot like Steven Seagal movies - nobody is allowed to upstage the hero for any reason, not ever!
After recovering two of them, we return to Mideel to check up on Cloud, only to find that Ultima Weapon has arrived to cause some havoc. They fight him off, but not before he causes an earthquake that causes the whole village to crumble apart, sending Tifa and Cloud plummeting into the Mako stream once again.
This proves to be a rather metaphysical experience for both of them, as they end up within Cloud's mind, attempting to patch up the holes in his memories. It turns out Cloud was not actually a First-class SOLDIER - merely a recruit - that the spiky-haired swordsman from the flashback was really Zack (who you probably don't remember since the only sign of him before this was an EXTREMELY brief mention in one of the earlier towns of Disc 1), that Cloud WAS in fact present at the events of the past (he was the masked soldier who tried to prevent Tifa from entering the reactor), and finally, that his confrontation with Sephiroth ended with him and Sephiroth stabbing one another, with the latter being tossed into the Mako stream. He's also not a "clone" in the literal sense - he was injected with Mako and Jenova cells in a failed experiment to recreate Sephiroth like all of the other "Numbers" that had gathered in Nibelheim; he was just never actually given a number himself.
Spoony: So he invented this false persona and lied to himself and others - to the point where even HE couldn't distinguish fantasy from reality anymore - just so he wouldn't have to face his childhood friend. That's... kind of touching, in a really pitiful sort of way. It also makes his entire dynamic with Aeris mostly pointless, since we now know that his character is defined entirely around Tifa.
Also, quick question: Cloud seems to be the only member of this experiment who came out relatively okay (aside from Red XIII, maybe - it's never really stated how far into the process he was), so why was CLOUD rejected as a failure while all the ones who were given numbers were lethargic and useless?
Plot hole aside, it's another pretty interesting scene and serves to set this game apart from its predecessors and successors by giving a legitimate and interesting arc for the main character. But now that we have Cloud back, so it's time to continue our mission of collecting the two remaining Huge Materia - one from a submarine base in Junon, and the other loaded aboard Cid's rocket in Rocket Town, which is set on a collision course with the Meteor. Both result in some pretty cool scenes (including a bit of character building for Cid) and a mini-game or two.
But now that we've recovered the last two Huge Materia, we find that Shinra is mounting an attack against the North Crater using Junon's massive laser cannon. However, Diamond Weapon emerges from the sea and attacks, firing a beam that engulfs Rufus' office in flame and kills everyone within. Or at least it did, until that stupid movie came in and retconned it to Rufus getting away with only a broken arm. Did I mention Advent Children sucks?
Anyhow, we confront Diamond Weapon and actually do quite well against him, until the ray gun fires and completely decimates the beast. Apparently someone's still around operating it, so we make a daring parachute insertion into Midgar to go and take them out.
We encounter the Turks for one last time (though you're thankfully given the option of just telling them to fuck off so you can skip a pointless battle), Shinra unleashes their new giant robot toy Proud Clod, which takes a lot of damage to bring down but isn't particularly hard, and we climb up a long series of stairs to confront Hojo. But first, more exposition!
It turns out that HE is Sephiroth's real father, and that Seph's real mother was Lucretia, a woman on the Jenova project who I think goes unmentioned until this point. And because he's a total nutjob, he wants Sephiroth to usher in a new world and therefore fights you himself! He actually puts up a pretty good fight, mutating into several monstrous forms due to being given an overdose of Mako and Jenova cells (one of which is more than a little reminiscent of John Carpenter's "The Thing"), but with a little creative use of Materia he can be beaten without too much trouble.
Now that Shinra's been eliminated and the path to Sephiroth is clear, it's finally time to move on to Disc 3. There's really not any plot left at this point outside of the final dungeon, so this is just your chance to backtrack and clear up any sidequests you hadn't already finished - collecting Materia and weapons, finishing minigames, fighting Ruby and Emerald weapons for some fun prizes, and so on.
Once prepared, we head down into North Crater, where we confront Sephiroth, who as, as with all other things Jenova-infused, turned himself into a gigantic monstrosity that you have to split into multiple parties to fight. Actually, you don't, really - allegedly there's a mechanic at work here where you'd need to swap between both parties to disable his defenses or something, but I found this never comes into play - I just attacked him with one party and took him out without much trouble.
Cue the awesome orchestral score as we move on to his second form, Safer Sephiroth (what?). Here, Sephiroth casts the most comically over-the-top spell in the game, and arguably even the whole franchise, Supernova. It causes an asteroid to crash through and destroy several planets before colliding with the sun, causing it to erupt into a supernova that engulfs Mercury, Venus, and even within a hair's breadth of the Earth, causing colossal damage to everyone in the party. The whole animation takes well over a minute to play out, and it's all so wonderfully absurd that it's worth drawing out the battle just to see it happen at least once.
Spoony: Jeez-us. Forget Meteor coming down and wiping out all life on the planet - I'm amazed the Earth is still around at all after that fucking catastrophe!
Unfortunately for him, it also deals enough damage to fill up everyone's Limit gauge pretty much instantly, allowing you to unload on him with Omnislash, Highwind and Catastrophe for absurd amounts of damage and bring the battle to a quick end.
But the fight's not over just yet - now we have Cloud confront him one-on-one in some sort of metaphysical plane. This is sure to be an epic final showdown, right? Well... no. You just hit him with one Omnislash and he dies. So much for that.
Spoony: I kid, but I actually like this idea. It gives Cloud some closure to his long-standing hatred of Sephiroth, doing so without even one single line of dialog. The music and tone of the scene in itself is enough to make it a pretty poignant image when Cloud strikes him down in a flurry of violent slashes and puts an end to him once and for all. Shame then, that the movie... okay, enough about the movie.
But wait, the story's not done just yet. Even though we've stopped Sephiroth, Meteor still comes down and unleashes chaos and destruction upon the earth. Oh wait, it's fine - defeating Sephiroth has apparently allowed the spirits of the Ancients within the Mako stream (Aeris included) to be freed from his control, allowing them to cast Holy and repel it. Hooray!
Cut ahead to five hundred years in the future, where we see Red XIII and two wolf cubs (huh? I thought he was the last of his race!) at the foot of a cliff overlooking the destroyed Midgar, now overgrown with plants. Um... deep?
Spoony: So that's Final Fantasy VII, the game that made Square a runaway success overnight and put the Sony Playstation on the forefront of the gaming consciousness. However, while there are elements of it I do genuinely like, they're kind of few and far between. The whole dynamic between Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth was really interesting and quite well written, but that just amounts to a handful of scenes peppered between bouts of the usual, archetypal Final Fantasy silliness. Unexplained boss monsters! Cartoony physics and unexplained happenings! Lots of silly (albeit relatively fun for the most part) minigames! Impractical designs for practically everything! It makes it pretty difficult to take the good parts seriously when the rest of it is cartoonish and dopey, and honestly, that's probably my biggest problem with the franchise - it can't decide whether it wants to be somber and serious or irreverent and jokey, so it tries to jackhammer both in and just ends up feeling like a bit of a mess.
Of course, it doesn't help that the game hasn't aged particularly well, if only because it became far too popular far too quickly - it seems like almost every game, anime, manga, comic book, movie, etc. of the next decade had lifted ideas from it (and many still are), and frankly, there are only so many spiky-haired antiheroes with giant swords, dark backstories and bizarre psychoses who fight against thinly veiled Biblical allegories that I can take. Plus, as I've already mentioned countless times, its success has caused Square's creativity to cease and their style to stagnate, giving in to endless fan demand to see the exact same characters and scenarios in every game they release*. The only thing that seems to improve are the visuals, and watching bullet time and shiny aurora effects is only amusing for so long when the gameplay beneath is so damned shallow. Seriously, name me one Final Fantasy game created in the last twenty years where you can't win 99% of all battles by spamming normal attacks and limit breaks. You can't!
*For those who think I'm exaggerating on this point, I have two words for you: Kingdom Hearts. An entire FRANCHISE built around nothing but characters and storylines recycled from other franchises.
So while FFVII was a standout game for its time, and even a few of its copycats were pretty good (see the first two Shadow Hearts games), there's definitely something to be said for popularity and originality being double-edged swords - sure, you'll make a game that everyone will remember for years to come, but you'll also get eighty bazillion copycats desperately trying to rip it off, which can cause the whole thing to become trite and cliched and quickly ruin any appeal it once held. The other moral here is, of course, to always keep in mind what made your franchise a fan favorite to begin with, rather than abandoning it all as soon as you get your first million-seller royalty check.
Oh, and if you're currently in the middle of typing up a five-plus page rant about how I missed some minute plot detail in a game I haven't played through in over ten years, that its plot elements and characters being carbon copied time and time again was the best thing to ever happen to the creative medium, or that I have no right to level criticism toward Final Fantasy VII until I've sat through and extensively researched every single iteration of the entire media franchise it's spawned*, remember to keep it to yourself because I don't care. Thanks in advance!
* This is such a red herring argument anyway. I can't be fair about my criticism of a game because I haven't played all of its sequels and prequels? Really? So I can't point out its gameplay faults until I've played several other completely different games and sat through two animated features? I can't critique the forgettable characters, story holes and cliched plot points without playing games they barely feature in, assuming they even show up at all?
I hate to make a broad sweeping statement again, but most of the people who make this argument to me just seem to have an axe to grind about... well, nothing in particular, really.
"Dude you cant make fun of FFVII until you've seen all of it you're being unfair"
"Okay. Say, I recommended the Ultima series to you..."
"THAT SERIES SUCKS THE GRAPHICS ARE AWFUL I QUIT AFTER 20 MINUTES"
"How about Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door? That game's pretty good."
"My buddy says its a bad ripoff of Super Mario RPG so I didn't even bother"
"Notwithstanding how idiotic that statement is (given that Super Mario RPG was a collaborative effort between Nintendo and Square, and Nintendo is therefore just as entitled to utilize its scenario and gameplay mechanics as Square is), you're passing final judgment on two entire franchises you've either barely played or never played, yet when I critique a single same I've played start to finish three times, I'm the one being "unfair.""
"YES AND YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED"
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Azul Rojo § at 11:52pm 04/17/11
Sephiroth was a pretty decent villain. He looked scary, he had a reason for going batshit bonkers, and he actually killed one of your party members who tried to fuck him over. Just...wow. Totally fucking awesome. Then we go to this...
FF8's Ultimecia: TIME KOMPRESSION! WHY?! BECOZ I AM A BITCH.
FF9's Necron: I'm Zeromus, or...something. I wasn't mentioned until now. Wait, what am I doing here?
FF10's Seymour: I HAVE GIRLY HAIR AND GIRLY CLOTHING. I'M GOING TO...uh...what the fuck am I doing?
FF11's ???: ?????????? MONTHLY FEES. PAY US. PAY US. ONLINE IS FUN.
Then FF12 came along and had another decent villain (and characters in general): a power-hungry son of a bitch who wants to rule the empire. He looked scary, terrified people, and had a damned motive. Guess where it went after that? FF13 and 14. Fuck.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 12:32am 02/07/13 (03:17pm 04/05/11) in 20h45m32s § 3608 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
Often cited as "the reason so many people scrambled out and bought a brand new Playstation 3 for twenty times what it was worth on eBay". So, was that $12,060 purchase worth it? Let's find out!
So our game begins with... actually, I'm not sure what the hell they're trying to prove here. Our game begins by giving you four or five "TV channels" to flip through, none of which have any apparent tie-in to the game's storyline aside from a few tongue-in-cheek references. It's not like these are short videos, either - each one goes on for a good four minutes before the game properly begins!
Spoony: Wow, you really put this bleeding-edge Blu-Ray technology to good use, guys. Open up your brand new game on an expensive new game console with twenty gigabytes of uncompressed video that has no relevance to anything! You've really convinced me to move up from the mere eight gigabyte discs your competitors' game consoles have with this!
Our introductory cinematic sets up several key points - Snake's rapid aging (a result of Werner Syndrome coded into his DNA), Olga's daughter (I thought Olga's child was a boy? Bleh) Sunny was freed by Raiden (off-camera - it's an important plot point but we had to include Raiden as little as humanly possible due to fan backlash toward his character, you see) and now lives aboard Otacon's aircraft as a computer genius with no social skills. Finally, there's the fact that weapons, vehicles and other implements of war are now entirely coded with Nanomachine-driven ID locks, and that "War Has Changed" as a result. Silly Snake, don't you know that war never changes?
The action finally begins in the middle east, having to sneak through the middle of a war between some armed goons and private military companies hired to fight them off. Snake's here to find Liquid Ocelot, who has somehow worked under the radar to become the head of the biggest PMC in the entire world. I guess nobody heard that he was working alongside two terrorist masterminds only a few years back. Yeah, yeah, he was really working for the Patriots, whatever. We know from the previous games that almost nobody knows who the Patriots are, and the Shadow Moses and Big Shell incidents are well documented acts of terrorism against the United States. So how did he manage this, exactly?
Spoony: The first of several glaring plot holes, incidentally.
Along the way, we also learn that Snake has a high-tech "octocamo" that can blend into anything he presses up against for a second (much more convenient than having to pause the game and swap uniforms constantly, at least), Otacon has built a tiny portable Metal Gear scout 'bot (shades of Snatcher) and that all the "ID locks"can only be broken by some goofball named Drebin who has a pet smoking, drinking monkey. Yes, I"m serious. Oh, and also, Snake is suddenly using CQC, something he showed absolutely no knowledge of in the first two games but Naked Snake showed heavy use of in Metal Gear Solid 3 and Portable Ops. More retconning at work!
At one point along the way, we encounter Meryl and her unit, and an extremely long gunfight scene ensues with dozens of soldiers who can apparently leap twenty feet in the air and stick to walls. One of them is a painfully annoying doofus named Johnny who doesn't really do much aside from contribute a lot of unfunny poop humor, which you'll get tired of pretty quickly. Thankfully, they tone that down to a dull roar after this scene - I don't think I could stand twelve straight hours of Jar Jar antics from this guy.
Anyway, we finally come up to Liquid Ocelot's camp, and despite having plenty of chances to just take the fucker out with a clean shot, Snake doesn't do so, instead waiting until he unleashes the power of Plot Convenience to render all the soldiers nearby - Snake and Meryl's unit included - completely ineffective.
Spoony: Ah, nanomachines, the ultimate lazy plot device. Does your story require that you keep a person's identity secret? Nanomachines. Need to instantly subdue or kill anyone? Nanomachines. Make someone immortal? Nanomachines. Disable or enable any weapon or vehicle in the world at a single person's whim? Yep, nanomachines! And yes, this plot device will be so heavily relied on throughout the game that it will become laughably trite very, very quickly.
Anyhow, we get rescued by the annoying doofus from earlier (how embarassing) and now we're apparently off to South America to rescue Naomi Hunter. Oh, and the Patriots are all just AI systems rather than a group of people now. Which you could probably already guess if you played MGS2.
We also come to one of my big piss-offs with the game, learning that Raiden now leads a one-man war against the Patriots after the memories of his past as a child soldier arose again. As a result of this, he started drinking, had severe relationship turbulence and Rose miscarried their child. So much for MGS2's optimistic ending where Raiden overcomes his demons and puts his past behind him to lead a new life, eh? Oh, and Rose is now shacking up with Colonel Campbell because... we just needed to turn this into a bad Jerry Springer plot somehow, I guess.
Spoony: But guess what? This whole subplot is completely meaningless because Rose lied to Raiden about the miscarriage and she and Campbell are only "together" as a cover story to protect Rose and her son from the Patriots! Because yeah, it's not like they're above kidnapping and coercing people into doing their bidding under threat of murder (up to and including young children). It's also not like the Patriots - who I remind you have had a hand in events reaching back to the beginning of the entire series - don't have a close eye on two major players in the lives of Snake and Raiden for exactly this purpose. Oh, and do you remember that scene where the Patriots threatened to kill both Rose and Sunny if Raiden should die or fail to follow orders? Apparently Kojima doesn't, because MGS4 never follows up on that plot point!
After sneaking through a lot more skirmishes between the local militia and an armed resistance, we encounter Naomi, who gives us a Plot Convenience nanomachine suppressor and explains that the FOXDIE within Snake's body is slowly mutating and will turn into an airborne outbreak in a few months, and that the only way to prevent this is to die before that time.
Spoony: Because it's just not enough that Liquid Ocelot is trying to wrest control of the Patriots' system away from them to effectively conquer the entire planet - we had to add MORE gravity to the story! Never mind that just like the whole Rose/Raiden drama, this plot element is also rendered completely moot by the time we even learn of it.
Anyway, a bunch more soldiers burst in with extremely convenient timing, abducting Naomi and leaving a group of wall-climbing ninja soldiers to kill Snake. But in Metal Gear fashion, their elite commando senses are no match for a guy who knows to hide under a table and pick them off one by one with a tranq gun as they go to investigate their fallen comrades. Silliness.
It's here, about three hours in, that we finally encounter our first boss battle in the form of Laughing Octopus. It's actually a pretty interesting fight in that she uses her OctoCamo to hide in the environment, blending in with the walls, ceilings and even a painting at one point. Later she even starts getting creative, disguising herself as Naomi and even Metal Gear Mk. II to try and catch you off-guard. I'm not sure how she knows who Otacon is, let alone how to mimic his voice so perfectly, but it's still quite creative.
After that's over, we have to track Naomi through a forested area by following a trail of clues (the whole thing reeking terribly of padding), rescue Naomi from Vamp (who's still invincible, big surprise) and then embark on a long shootout with a bunch of Gekkos and soldiers turned into zombies via Plot Convenience.. err, "Nanomachines". Then we get to embark on another stealth section where we evade a ton of Gekkos.
This section is actually really incredibly annoying because they cut off every single path you can take, and as soon as you destroy one (which takes 3-4 rockets or several clips of ammo to the 'eye' on top), another one immediately drops down in its place. That is, until you discover that they have an incredibly dumb weakness for being robotic - they can be tranquilized! Yeah. Just shoot them in the knees with 3 or 4 tranquilizers and they'll fall down and act lethargic, giving you plenty of time to run past them. Just don't try to run past them without doing that, or they'll sweep-kick and kill you instantly.
As Snake and Naomi escape, they're once again attacked by a swarm of Gekkos, as well as Vamp. But lucky for us, Raiden comes back, dispatching the whole lot of Gekkos and leaving Vamp severely injured in an overly long fight scene that climaxes with him doing a breakdance spin while whipping two Gekkos around by their little cable-claws - one on each leg. It singlehandedly turns what should be a badass fight scene into unintentional comedy.
After that display of extreme silliness and shark-jumping, we move on to eastern Europe, where another PMC is keeping peace in the streets and you have to follow a Resistance member back to their home base to meet up with Big Mama, who has the remains of Big Boss that Liquid Ocelot is hunting for. The gameplay style here is vaguely reminiscent of Assassin's Creed, in that you have to trail the guy without letting him know he's being followed, whilst simultaneously evading enemy soldiers and preventing the guy you're trailing from being detained by PMC soldiers. It's about as exciting as it was in that other game, too. By which I mean "not at all." It also doesn't help that this section drags on. And on. And on. For a good forty minutes. And getting spotted at any point just drags it out even longer.
After that dose of filler, we meet up with Big Mama, and a huge dump of exposition begins!
Spoony: I'll just give you the short version here. Remember Zero and Para-Medic, Naked Snake's support team who we learned pretty much fuck-all about in MGS3? They're our main villains now! Also: Big Mama is EVA, who also happens to be Snake's mother, DARPA chief Donald Anderson from the first MGS game was really SIGINT (strange that they look and sound absolutely nothing alike), and Ocelot had actually intended to kill him during that game's torture scene to keep his identity as a double agent under wraps. Small fucking world, I guess.
Due to more convenient writing, Big Mama's location - formerly secret for months - is now blown, and we have to make our grand escape with Big Boss' remains before they find us. Why didn't they just DESTROY the remains to prevent Liquid Ocelot from using them in his grand plan? Oh, right - because then we wouldn't have a plot.
We also get some clunky exposition about how Big Mama's "children" are all raised on violent first person shooter games and that "war is just a game to them". So a Metal Gear game that's designed to more closely resemble a third-person shooter than any other in the series is speaking out against violent video games (and shooters in particular) as "brainwashing". Yeah. This message is doubly hypocritical considering that all the major players in the entire franchise - both good and evil - use armed warfare, assassination and mind control as means to an end. So just in case you didn't already dislike the game for being padded out like crazy, now it's preachy and pretentious too!
Spoony: Oh get off the soapbox, Kojima. The quickest way to kill my enthusiasm for any game is to have it preach at me, especially when its a VIOLENT, M-RATED GAME decrying simulated violence.
I have to admit I was dreading another bike chase scene, because Metal Gear Solid 3's "intense, climactic action scene" was easily one of the most drawn out, boring, and tedious parts of any video game I've ever played - you had UNLIMITED ammunition and regenerated health so quickly that you could get shot dozens of times to no ill effect, and between the frequent cutscenes, the boss battle in the middle and about fifteen screens of first-person shooting adding up to well over an hour of game time, it went from mildly amusing to unbearably torturous very, very quickly.
Thankfully, MGS4's bike scene is much better. It's a lot shorter for one thing, and with the sheer amount of explosions, flying shrapnel, enemies and mayhem, it's quite a spectacle to watch, even if it is still rather easy.
After all that madness is done and we come to a violent crashing stop, we encounter our next boss, Raging Raven. And again, this is a fine boss battle. The boss comes crashing through the building you're in, punching holes in the walls in a crazed attempt to weed you out, and you have to utilize stealth, cover and quick shooting to get some hits in when she's vulnerable. It does get a little drawn out because she takes so little damage from your bullets, but it's still quite fun.
After that, we learn that despite our efforts, Liquid Ocelot has captured Big Boss' remains, and with them he is able to gain control over the SOP system and disable every weapon in the world, save for those possessed by his loyal soldiers and the handful of "jailbroken" ones that Drebin has helped you launder. Once again, there's a huge gap of opportunity for Snake to simply SHOOT HIM as he floats in the middle of the harbor, going on and on about how he now controls the world through the "Guns of the Patriots" while mugging for the camera for twenty straight minutes (spending a good chunk of that simulating gunfire by pointing his fingers and shouting "BANG" followed by watching whatever he points at actually explode - I am not fucking kidding in the slightest), but Snake doesn't even attempt to fire a single shot in Ocelot's direction. What the fuck!
Spoony: Yes, the once crafty, manipulative and threatening Revolver Ocelot is now reduced to being an unfunny clone of Ernest P. Worrell. Who's brilliant idea was this? Watching a (formerly) awesome villain act this way is so painfully stupid that I think it's about time we start a counter for shark-jumping moments. So counting the extremely silly Raiden battle earlier, Kojima's sermon about simulated violence in a video game that revels in violence and human misery, and now this scene, we're up to three.
Also, I finally get the relevance of the title. Guns of the Patriots. GOP. Har har. What brilliant satire does Kojima have in store for us next? Is Rising's plot just going to be a cartoonish exaggeration of the Occupy movement?
He's pretty much won at this point, having rendered every militia in the world except his own useless, but Liquid Ocelot isn't done yet, no sir. Now he wants to go back to Shadow Moses to steal Metal Gear REX's railgun so he can wipe out the Patriots' core AI and prevent them from impeding his plans as well. So with that bit of convenient plotting, we roll out to MGS1's location, attempting to stop Ocelot's plans that whilst engaging in a fair bit of nostalgia.
Spoony: Oh, and GW is back too, completely restored and none the worse for wear despite it quite clearly being wiped out by Emma's virus in Metal Gear Solid 2. Way to render that game's central plot totally meaningless, guys! And for what, just so you can further belittle Raiden and Emma's character arcs in order to make Snake the "one and only true hero"? Way to pander to your fanbase.
Halfway through the trek to REX's bunker, we encounter yet another boss - Crying Wolf. Once again, this is a well-designed boss battle, forcing you to contend with the harsh weather and utilize stealth to evade Wolf's senses, as well as a constantly-respawning patrol of FROG soldiers. Like the fight with "The End", it's pretty much a long waiting game, but it's well-designed enough that you don't mind having to constantly watch your back as you wait for her to slip up and give you a shot at her weak point.
After that and a couple of rooms with a swarm of annoying sphere robots that constantly respawn, we finally come to REX. But surprise, Vamp and Naomi await us here too! Another boss fight ensues.
Like Wesker in Resident Evil 5, this is pretty much just a gimmick battle - no matter how much you shoot him, he'll just shrug it off and refill his health moments later. After a not-so-subtle clue from him, you'll figure out that it's Plot Convenience nanomachines that keep reviving him, so you'll need to shoot him in the head, then grab him as he gets back up and inject him with the suppressor to finally kill him. Well, not quite - Raiden bursts in and delivers the finishing blow whilst you fight off an army of Gekkos with Crying Wolf's railgun (which she borrowed from Fortune, apparently - funny, I thought it was a highly dangerous experimental weapon that only Fortune could wield due to her "supernatural luck"). This is probably the most spectacular battle of the whole game - just a pity you won't be able to pay attention to Raiden's side of the fight, since you'll be too busy fighting off Gekkos to watch the other half of the screen.
Spoony: So, his nanomachines made him super strong, able to predict people's movements by giving him super senses, and able to regenerate from wounds, even ones that would be instantly fatal. Fine, I'll buy that. But what I don't buy is him being able to run up walls, walk on water and swim in a highly-oxygenated fluid that any normal human would instantly sink and drown in. Unless they converted his entire body mass to helium, that simply does not work!
After all that's said and done, Naomi explains that she's created a virus to destroy the Patriots' network, and also that she's secretly dying of terminal cancer, which we never saw evidence nor even heard mention of before this scene. She injects herself with a suppressor and drops dead in a hamfisted tragic moment.
Spoony: Hooray, yet another shoehorned tragic heroine death! How many times are we going to spend that nickel in this series, anyway? First it was Meryl in MGS1's bad ending, then it was Emma in MGS2, then The Boss in MGS3, then Elisa in Portable Ops, then Big Mama, and now Naomi!
After that, we discover that we're too late and that the railgun has already been taken. However, Otacon manages to get Metal Gear REX back up and running with only a bit of tweaking.
Spoony: So I shot it with about 500 Stinger rockets and it's been sitting here in a bunker at temperatures as low as 90 degrees below zero for nine years (ensuring that it's most likely completely frozen solid and, at any rate, its fuel is well past its shelf-life), but oh, it's perfectly fine - we just need to hotwire it a bit to get it running again. Convenience, be thy name!
After a spectacularly decadent escape sequence where we drive REX up a long ramp, trashing everything in our path with a barrage of missiles and machine gun fire, we come face to face with Liquid, who is now driving a Metal Gear RAY. Another boss battle ensues!
You'd think this would be a hard battle, especially since RAY was specifically designed as a means to eliminate REX and similar designs of Metal Gears, but actually, it's quite easy. Just plaster him with machine gun fire, and swap over to the missiles or the laser to stop his really big attacks. Aside from that, just keep moving, and have a chuckle at how everything on this island is destroyable save for the comms tower in the middle of the battlefield.
Once we've trashed Ray, the game decides to copy the ending of the first game again by having Liquid Ocelot fall from the cockpit and apparently drop dead from FOXDIE. Only not! He gets right back up, laughs, and runs for his battleship.
Spoony: What... the... fuck was that?! Was that supposed to be a joke? Why would Snake even be FOOLED by that?! I know he has a new strain of FOXDIE in him thanks to Drebin, but he doesn't know who it's supposed to affect! And even if it was meant to kill Ocelot (which it is), why did it not affect him at all when when they met (and fought) in the previous chapter?!
In another thoroughly idiotic moment, Snake, rather than just arming REX's weapon systems and pasting him with a missile or a few thousand rounds of machine gun fire (or at the very least using the higher vantage point to draw a bead on his target with a handheld weapon), drops twenty feet to the ground, severely injuring himself and allowing Liquid to gain an even bigger lead. But to his credit (I guess), he does at least take a shot this time as Liquid makes his getaway. Yeah. This moment of incredible stupidity on Snake's part deserves another one of these.
(Shark-jumping counter: 4)
We also find that his battleship - Outer Haven - has a pastiche of Mount Rushmore with Big Boss, Solid, Liquid and Solidus' faces instead of the presidents. No, I'm not making that up. It's really there. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. I had to go to Youtube and check the Metal Gear wiki afterward just to make sure I hadn't gone fucking insane.
Spoony: Oh god, that is beyond corny. Was Kojima really taking this seriously, or has the series just degenerated into a self-parody at this point?
(Shark-jumping counter: 5)
Outer Haven begins to tear up the pier Snake is on in an attempt to crush him to death, but Raiden appears once again to save Snake's bacon, doing so in the most idiotic way possible - rather than just picking him up and hauling ass out of there (which should be effortless for him as we've already witnessed him leaping from rooftop to rooftop and whipping a three-ton robot around on either leg), he tries to WRESTLE THE FUCKING GIGANTIC BATTLESHIP AWAY WITH HIS BARE HANDS.
Spoony: Really? REALLY? Now you're making Raiden a complete idiot too? What the hell, Kojima! You repeatedly defended Raiden's inclusion in Metal Gear Solid 2 -even going so far as to declare him your favorite character - and now you've minimized his contribution to the overarching story by cutting his scenes, belittling his accomplishments in MGS2, and now turning him into a complete idiot. But then, Snake doesn't really fare much better in this game, so I'm just left totally confused as to what you're trying to accomplish with this series anymore. Aside from raking in boatloads of cash, I mean.
(Shark-jumping counter: 6)
(That's the THIRD one in this cutscene alone! Scale it back a little, guy!)
Thankfully Mei Ling comes in to save Snake and Raiden from their own stupidity, commandeering the only non-disabled battleship in the Navy fleet to drive Liquid off. You know, in the previous games, Snake was usually the one bailing people out of tight spaces, and now he's the one who's always getting rescued. Usually by the unpopular minor characters at that. Not a very good turn for one of video gaming's iconic action heroes to take!
Spoony: Say what you want about Raiden's character in Metal Gear Solid 2, haters - at least he wasn't playing second fiddle to the supporting cast throughout the entire game!
With that, we finally enter the game's last act, wherein Snake, Meryl and Johnny attempt to infiltrate Outer Haven to upload Naomi's virus and wipe out the Patriots' central AI. This chapter is actually quite short in terms of gameplay, with only a few stealth corridors and the rest being played out in cutscenes. But as long as it helps us avoid more flagrant and obvious padding, I won't complain.
The first of two boss battles is Screaming Mantis, who is apparently Psycho Mantis resurrected in the guise of another mentally destroyed girl. Again, this is pretty much just a gimmick battle - you'll constantly be under attack by resurrected Plot Convenience nanomachine-driven soldiers and you'll have to knock Meryl out once in a while to prevent Mantis from killing her, but that's all secondary. You just have to knock the voodoo dolls out of Mantis' hands, then grab one of them and manipulate her into stabbing herself multiple times. Notably, this is the only time when you actually have to use the motion sensor built into the PS3's controller - I guess Sony insisted that they work that in somewhere, even if it is an extremely minor sequence in a single fight near the end of the game. But hey, at least it's better than the clunky, unintuitive grenade-throwing mechanic in Uncharted. And while we're on the subject, fuck that game too.
Spoony: Nanomachines - they can do anything, even make people float several inches off the ground with no external support! Man, this is dumb. I mean, there's suspension of disbelief and then there's insulting my intelligence; microscopic machines in your blood CANNOT MAKE YOU DEFY GRAVITY OR VIOLATE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. I don't care how far technology advances in the next 100 years, that just ain't happening. I have wonderful news, though - the game is almost over.
After that, a very long series of cutscenes plays. In a scene that draws out a single joke for far too long, Meryl and Johnny hold off a huge swarm of FROGs whilst Johnny proposes to her (what?), Raiden bursts into save Snake from a group of FROGS - doing so despite being so badly injured that both of his arms are rendered useless and he has to hold his sword in his mouth - and Snake continues his journey down a hall of deathtraps to the central core.
Spoony: It's official - Metal Gear Solid 4 should have just been about Raiden instead. He's been far more badass than Snake throughout the entire game. Hell, even when he's being blazingly stupid, he at least does it with some style!
As he finally reaches the end and uploads the virus, Meryl, Johnny and Raiden - all in dire straits - are immediately saved as the world is immediately ripped free from the control of the Patriots' Plot Convenience nanomachines. Snake is brought out in bad shape and barely conscious to a hero's welcome, but somewhere in the midst of all this, Liquid Ocelot manages to drag him off TO THE VERY TOP OF THE SHIP for their final battle.
Spoony: Okay, I was having a hard enough time believing he could drag an unconscious Snake up to the top of REX. Now we're on the top of a twenty story tall TOWER on the middle of a crowded battleship and NOBODY saw him carry Snake up there and tried to stop him?
Up here, Ocelot explains that he had fully intended this chain of events from the beginning, that he was NOT actually mentally overtaken by Liquid Snake (it was all a ruse on his part), that he is loyal to Big Boss - not the Patriots - and that he'd secretly planned from square one that Snake would upload Naomi's virus and wipe out the Patriots' AI, causing the war economy to collapse and the world to plunge into uncontrolled chaos, thereby creating the "world for soldiers" that Big Boss had always envisioned.
Spoony: Oh my god. So all of this - ALL OF THIS - was a setup by Ocelot from the very start? You're telling me that hunting down Big Boss' body to gain control of GW, getting the railgun off of REX, training Sunny to some kind of computer prodigy, kidnapping Naomi, and disabling EVERY WEAPON IN THE WORLD so he could attack and destroy the Patriots' core AI to gain complete control to GW - ALL of this was staged in the hopes that Snake would upload a virus created by Naomi and tempered by Sunny to destroy the Patriots' AI at its core? And just to make it more convincing, he sent his entire elite battalion to fight Snake at every step of the way? What would he have done if Snake - who is physically 70 or 80 years old at this point - were to be overwhelmed and killed by one of these mechanically augmented psychotics? "Whoops, I just botched up my big plan! Now I'll have to rule the world as the oppressive dictatorship I always despised! Silly me! Ha ha ha!" Kee-RIST, this is the dumbest plot twist I've ever seen outside of a JRPG.
(And it's also Shark Jumping moment #7!)
But despite Snake playing right into his hands and really having nothing left to fight for anymore since they've both achieved their goals, we have a final climactic fistfight. Why? Because the director demanded a climactic action scene, of course!
As if that paper-thin reasoning wasn't enough, we also have to watch them fight over the Plot Convenience Suppressor just to even give them the strength to continue their pointless little tussle, ruining what little chance there was of anyone being able to take this seriously.
At any rate, we now lapse into a one-on-one battle with extremely stiff controls, wherein we have to employ clever use of ducking, dodging and dash attacks to land hits on Ocelot while evading his attacks. After he takes enough damage, the music changes to a MGS2 theme and he starts getting sloppy, using an easily avoided dashing punch that leaves him wide open.
Spoony: He also resumes that infernal mugging. As if it weren't already impossible to take his character seriously ever again after he spent all of Metal Gear Solid 3 acting like a hammy dipshit.
Speaking of which, after dodging that and retaliating with combos a few more times... Snake Eater from MGS3 begins playing!
Spoony: That song alone deserves another point on our counter. It was bad enough hearing that corny mess over and over again constantly in the previous game, now I have to listen to it here too? Press the mute button, please.
(Shark jumping counter: 8)
Now Ocelot stats using grapple moves, which you can shake out of rather easily and follow up with a punch combo for some pretty heavy damage. After a few bouts of that, we're finally on to the climax, which is... kind of lame, honestly. All you really have to do is mash R1 a lot and Snake will keep hitting him with huge Mortal Kombat uppercuts and haymakers that take a huge chunk of his health off. Just keep that up and he'll never even get a shot at counterattacking.
Anyway, after that extremely dopey combat scene, Ocelot finally succumbs to the FOXDIE virus and dies, starting up the ending cutscenes which last well over an hour. Welp, let's get started.
Meryl and Johnny get married. Yay, fan service for two characters nobody ever cared about.
Raiden is no longer a cyborg, and gets reunited with Rose who reveals that he has a son. Okay.
We learn that Drebin was working for the Patriots all along to assist Snake in stopping Liquid Ocelot. I guess they just didn't expect Snake to go ahead and destroy THEM as well, which is pretty silly since he's a founding member of Philanthropy - whose entire goal is to destroy Metal Gear and by extension the Patriots' offensive platform!
We also cut to the graveyard from the beginning of the game, where Snake is about to off himself to prevent FOXDIE from becoming a global pandemic. However, he's stopped by... Big Boss? Yes, it turns out he's still alive. That charred corpse Big Mama had was really Solidus all along.
Spoony: Oh COME ON. You DON'T FUCKING DO THAT. You do NOT bring back a character whose death is the CENTRAL FOCUS of THREE GAMES just for a sappy ending scene, especially when you're just going to kill him off again right away! What the FUCK!
(Shark-jumping counter: 9)
Not to mention that bringing Big Boss back in this way creates a massive plot hole: If those really were Solidus' remains back in Act 3, why did Liquid Ocelot go through all the trouble of tracking down Big Mama and sending a small army after her resistance cell to retrieve them? He knew they weren't actually Big Boss' remains! And even if he didn't know that, it still wouldn't make sense since he accesses the SOP system and shuts off all weapons in the world immediately after he obtains them. Making it worse is the fact that this comes directly after a scene where we had established that Big Boss' DNA and Biometric data - and ONLY Big Boss' - would work for that purpose!
I've seen claims that this is because Solidus is a "perfect clone" of Big Boss, but I call bullshit - Big Boss shows no evidence of the rapid aging that his sons did (keep in mind he's literally about 70 at this point in time, and Solidus was younger than Snake in MGS2 despite looking much older), so his DNA differs from Solidus', if only slightly. Which goes against established logic again, as it's said that an EXACT match is required to access the SOP system. So there.
Anyhow, Boss explains that he's just here to tie up the last of the loose ends by wiping out the sole survivor of the Patriots (Zero), and that Snake's been injected with a new strain of FOXDIE, which was intended to kill off Big Mama, Liquid Ocelot and Big Boss himself. Conveniently, this new strain of FOXDIE has also destroyed the old one within Snake's body. So through an extremely contrived plot twist, Snake can now live out the last months of his life in peace rather than having to die to save humanity. Hooray!
Spoony: This had to be a last-minute rewrite just to give the game a happier ending. I mean hell, even the official trailers for the game showed Snake blowing his own head off. It was sad, sure, but at least it made a point to explain that he was looking at the big picture and doing what was ultimately right to ensure humanity's future, even if it wasn't made clear exactly how. You don't set something like that up and then not deliver, guy. Damn.
That said, Big Boss succumbs to the new FOXDIE and dies. Thankfully, it's considerate enough to let him give a twenty-five minute speech about how the Patriots needed to be brought "back to Zero" and then "back to nothing" to avoid poisoning the minds of future generations, whereas in the previous games FOXDIE worked almost instantly. So much for consistency.
Spoony: So what makes him think there won't be "neo-Patriots" along the lines of the Neo-Nazis? Does he think nobody is ever going to document what happened in this international event, or that there will be no survivors who carry on the beliefs of the Patriots to future generations? Or is he suggesting that all of them should be killed as well? If so, then what a great message this game carries! "Violent video games are evil and brainwashing, but if someone holds radical beliefs, MURDER THEM!"
Why FOXDIE only gave Big Boss (and everyone else it infected throughout the series' run, for that matter) a handful of minutes before death while giving Liquid Ocelot several days is another enormous plot hole, but whatever, it's finally over. Roll credits. Another twenty minutes of them.
Spoony: So yeah, that's the big finale to Metal Gear Solid, and as you can probably guess, I'm pretty underwhelmed. It's a dark, ugly, mean-spirited game whose tone is constantly undermined by increasingly moronic story elements, glaring plot holes and the main villain constantly mugging like a Saturday morning cartoon villain. I think its biggest failing is just that it tries to do way too much and ultimately collapses under its own weight. It's a pretty predictable storyline at its core that tries to set up a lot of plot twists to keep us guessing, but so few of them really work. "Naomi betrayed you, but not really! You played right into Liquid Ocelot's hands, even though it ultimately makes no difference to any of the proceedings! Big Boss' death - the DRIVING FACTOR behind two of the previous games - was all just a lie, even though we're just going to kill him off again right away! Yeah!" Honestly, I still stand by my claim that it's better to have a simpler story that's well written rather than one that's convoluted and ridiculous just for the sake of being convoluted and ridiculous.
Not to say the game was not without its strong points. The gameplay mechanics were a major leap over MGS3's, largely eschewing the tedious micromanagement and playing up the slower, more deliberate approach to stealth gameplay. The boss battles were tense and exciting, and it was at least nice to see all of the characters come back for the finale, even if most of them weren't really given anything to say or do. I guess I just expected a lot more from the "big finale" to the richly-nuanced Metal Gear universe than what we got here, especially when you take into account that the game was delayed time and again so that it could take "full advantage" of the shiny new Blu-Ray format (more on that in a bit). It doesn't really speak well of your writing when you feel the need to explain away every super power every character has, but major things like Ocelot bending the rules of JD's DNA and Biometric regonition system go completely unmentioned.
In the end, MGS4 is a mixed bag. The gameplay (what little there is between the extremely long and frequent cutscenes) improves upon the ideas its predecessor set up, but the story leaves a lot to be desired. The writing relies too heavily on "nanomachines" as a plot device (they can do anything the plot demands to the point where they may as well just be called "magic")*, its "morals" are heavy handed and pretentious, all of the "plot twists" just feel tacked on in a feeble attempt to add substance where there really is none, the humor is REALLY forced and only subtracts from the story, and a lot of huge leaps are taken just to tie up all the loose ends before the credits roll. But the worst offender is the padding - when half of the game's running time feels like dull, idle banter and pointless busywork added in just so you can fill up all the space on a Blu-Ray disc, you really need to rethink the philosophy behind your game's design. That much-touted fifty gigabytes of space doesn't count for crap if you can't amount it to anything substantive**, guys.
*I'll be extremely generous here and just count that dead horse of a plot device as one big, nonspecific shark-jumping moment, bringing the final count to 10.
**Actually, before I end it, let's take a look at just what all of that disc space went towards. Was it the gameplay? Not really - it's just the same basic Metal Gear game with a couple of new gimmicks attached. Adding more of that wonderful codec banter? Nope, there's much less of it here than there was in MGS1 and 2, and even 3. Hell, I think even the Game Boy game had more than MGS4 does. The scope of the narrative and scale of the game world? Nope. As stated, the dull filler far outweighs the handful of inspired moments the game has. Hell, the first chapter alone takes almost an hour and a half to set up two plot points about Drebin and the SOP system (three if you count Doofus' immunity to it); the rest is almost completely inconsequential.
So what did they use all that extra space for? Well, from what I've read, a very large chunk of it simply went toward adding uncompressed audio samples, video files, and textures. As someone with a bit of experience in this department, I can tell you that uncompressed files are much, MUCH larger than compressed ones - hell, my average 90 minute Youtube video gets compressed from well over 100 gigabytes down to 2, and there's virtually no noticable loss in quality from it. So yeah, almost all of that disc space went toward making the game look and sound slightly better if you have a 70 inch plasma screen HDTV and a top-of-the-line Dolby 5.1 surround system. Maybe. [iThat[/i] was certainly worth alienating ALL of the Xbox fanbase and delaying the game time and again for, now wasn't it?
Bottom line: If you're going to make use of that expensive new media format on that powerful new game console nobody can afford, you'd better damn well push hard to make your product take full advantage of its features, instead of just padding out the free space with junk levels and uncompressed media.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 01:52pm 12/24/11
You know, the more I think about it, this game's plot bears an uncomfortable resemblance to an earlier game's. Specifically Deus Ex on the PC. We've got a shadow government (the Patriots/the Illuminati) with a private militia (the FROGS/Majestic 12) who keep the world's populace under control via sinister means (Nanomachines/Gray Death). One of the shadow government's heads goes rogue (Liquid Ocelot/Bob Page) and attempts to use one of their own systems against them (SOP/Daedalus and Icarus) to conquer the world for his own means, but their pet project of the "ultimate soldier" (The Snakes/JC Denton) rebels against their plans and ultimately stops them with the help of one of their own agents (Drebin/HELIOS). Of course, the major difference is that Deus Ex's plot was much better written (not relying so heavily on "nanomachines" and increasingly contrived connections to previous events) and the villain is an actual, credible threat instead of a mugging jackass. Even if his voice does recall Brain from "Pinky and the Brain" a bit too much.
So to answer my original question, was that $12,060 investment worth it? No, it wasn't. Especially since you could get the same basic plot with better writing, more interesting characters and far less stupid moments and padding for under $5 on the PC at the time of this game's release. Even more baffling, it ships on a single CD-ROM - there's no need to invest in an overpriced Blu-Ray reader to enjoy it!
~Spoony Spoonicus on 01:35pm 02/15/13 (09:55pm 02/22/11) in 22h38m10s § 3953 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
Is it just as pointless, childish and one-note as everything else EA's had a hand in lately? Let's find out!
As we begin, we're given the choice of three character classes. If you've played any RPG ever, I'll bet you can already guess what they are. That's right, we went with the boring old mainstays of Fighter, Rogue and Mage, and didn't even bother to mix it up a bit by thinking of clever new names for them. So right off the bat, we see that the developers' imaginations are stuck in 1981 and stubbornly refuse to go past that point, ever.
Spoony: Even Etrian Odyssey - a game series fully intended to be a throwback to the old dungeon-crawler RPGs of the early-80s - had more creative class archetypes than this. Like the Gladiator (lightly armored but very powerful fighters), the Hexer (status casters), the Buccaneer (teamwork-based class that does powerful "followup" attacks in response to the actions of their allies), the Wildling (beastmasters)... need I go on?
At any rate, I pick the Mage class, because let's face it, that's always the best class to play. Your teammates will be struggling for their lives against some crappy monster, and all you have to do to turn things around is use one or two well-timed spells to render it feeble and helpless, or just nuke it with a fireball the size of a city block. Then you get declared awesome and you get first pick of all the loot as recognition for your efforts. Well, that's how it goes down in any game other than this one, but we'll get to that shortly.
As we pick and customize our character (defaults for everything because it's a demo and none of it's going to carry over to the full version anyway), he decides to strike a dramatic pose and twirl his staff menacingly. This fails to impress because, being a mage, he is bound by video game law and can never, ever touch a weapon that can do any actual damage.
Hum de dum, introductory cinematic that can't focus on any character for more than three seconds. Skipping the rest because I fear the constant cuts and flashing images might trigger an epileptic seizure. Good to see they're putting my two gigabytes of hard drive space to such productive use, though, what with one uncompressed, noninteractive full-motion video after another. This stuff might have been impressive on the PS1, an era when high-quality FMV in games was relatively new, but in an era when in-engine graphics can generally match anything prerendered cutscenes are capable of with far less strain on memory and disk space... yeah, not nearly as much.
Speaking of which, the graphics in Dragon Age 2 are ass-ugly. Like, early Playstation 2 quality. Low-res textures, jagged polygons abound, so little facial movement in characters that they almost look like hand puppets, and a color palette that's predominantly brown and gray does not make this a game that appeals to the eye. Even the first game looked better!
It's here that we come across our first big disappointment in that our mage is not the archetypal "guy who turns a dire situation around by defying the laws of nature" character. Instead, Dragon Age's definition of "mage" simply reads "See : Ranged Attacker, Page 8". Or perhaps "The Last Airbender", since he tosses minute fireballs and icicles by performing Tai-Chi with his staff, none of which do any significant amount of damage. Even your spellbar doesn't change this much - you have the ability to throw ice at an enemy to slow them down for roughly half a second, which might - MIGHT - save one of your fighters from taking one or two points of damage off of their reserve of roughly 130 apiece.
And no, playing as a fighter or thief isn't any more fun, since they take about a billion swings to take down one single enemy too. Nevermind that in the preceding cinematic we saw monsters get cleaved in half at the midsection with a single blow, complete with endlessly cheesy Mortal Kombat blood fountains. Apparently EA's still trapped in the mindset of the mid 90s, when stuff like that was "cool" and "edgy", and they've dragged Bioware down with them.
Spoony: Also the first of many glaring signs that this game is not designed and marketed toward a more mature demographic as it so desperately claims to be. But I'll get into that as we go.
After a very drawn out and boring battle, a dragon flies down from the cliffside and bathes everyone in flame. Well, it wasn't a very good demo, but at least it was shor- wait, what is this?
Oh, now we cut to a fat guy and some chick talking. We have no idea who either of them are, but apparently the fat guy is narring the story to the other woman. Okay. She accuses him of making things up (like she even knows) and now he says he's going to tell her what REALLY happened. Shades of "Hero" starring Jet Li, only with with none of the fun that description might imply.
Cut back to our party, where we learn that they're attempting to navigiate our main character's sister and mother to safety against the invading skeleton hordes. Alright. After another very boring battle where we dispatch a dozen more skeletons with airbending and swordfighting, I get a note that the Codex has been updated.
Yeah, you remember this thing. Tri-Ace started it with Star Ocean 3, and now EA and Bioware have run with it as a cheap way of leaving all the plot out of the game itself just to hammer in another combat scene every forty seconds. That, and it lets them get away with hiring voice actors for a game at a greatly reduced cost - they don't have to actually explain any of the backstory, major characters or key plot points, a little notebook does it for them! All they have to do is belch out two or three scenes of dull small talk, collect their paycheck, and be on their way. Yeah, fuck that; I'm not going to bring the whole game to a complete stop to read this damn thing.
Spoony: Storytelling 101, guys: If you want me to pay attention to your story and your game's "rich universe", PUT IT IN THE ACTUAL GAME. Having to interrupt the action every twenty minutes and read a small novel of text just to figure out exactly what they were talking about in those last couple cutscenes is fucking asinine. Hell, imagine if 85% of Metal Gear's plot and character development was trimmed out and moved into a little external notebook just so they could pad out the game with dozens of rooms that serve no real purpose outside of giving you more busywork to complete. Wouldn't really be much fun, now would it?
The worst part about this whole Codex fiasco is that it's caught on and even Squaresoft is doing it now with Final Fantasy XIII, so we can look forward to every RPG for the next ten years having its plot relegated to a few Cliff's Notes in the online manual to make way for endless battle scenes against the same three monsters. Good work dumbing down yet another entire game genre, you hacks.
Venturing a bit further down the one and only beaten path, we meet an elf guy with a big sword (whom I affectionately named "Legolas") and some schmuck named "Wesley" (whom I disparagingly named "Wesley Crusher"). We stop to talk to them, learning along the way that Legolas is a mage-hunter. It's never brought up in the dialog itself, but it happens to be one of my character's dialog choices, so I'm going with it. Hey, you take what you can get with the Codex system in place.
Spoony: Penalty flag. Establish important character traits IN THE DIALOG, not in a menu choice.
As we stop and yammer on, we suddenly get ambushed by about twenty more skeletons. Yeah, not very wise to shoot the breeze whilst you're surrounded by undead hordes, you numbskulls. In the midst of the fighting, Wesley Crusher gets mortally wounded. Legolas' only response to this is repeating "the Order dictates" several times.
Spoony: WHAT ORDER? DICTATES WHAT? SPEAK IN COMPLETE SENTENCES!
After a scene that tries its hardest to be emotional, but fails since we knew this guy for about two minutes and never even exchanged a single paragraph of dialog, Wesley Crusher dies. Farewell Wesley Crusher, we (literally) hardly knew ye.
Then, as we waste more time talking about the poor chump's death, fifty more skeletons appear and attack! This time they're also accompanied by "Bolters", which is probably the stupidest possible way of saying that they use crossbows. Honestly guys, what was wrong with "Archer" or "Marksman"? "Bolter" just sounds really stupid.
Spoony: I know I was ripping on you for being unoriginal with the class choices, but come on, bolters? Did that even sound good as you were writing it? I can't imagine it did.
At some point we're presented with a branching path. I thought this may have offered us an opportunity to take a harder or easier path, thereby providing us with an optional extra challenge, a touch of free choice (gasp!) and maybe even some replay value, but nope. My hopes are immediately dashed as I find that each and every dead end that doesn't take us further along in the story just leads to a treasure chest. Our developers apparently copied notes from Final Fantasies ten and thirteen. Really, guys? Of all the games you could have copied notes from to improve Dragon Age 2 over its predecessor, you decided to crib from the two worst Final Fantasy games to date?
Spoony: If you thought Mass Effect's railroaded gameplay was severely detrimental to the overall experience, guess what? Dragon Age 2's overall design is even more linear and padded beyond belief just to make it even more unbearable! Have fun!
It's also around this point that we're made aware of the ability to program your party's AI - like in Final Fantasy XII, you specify a trigger condition, and once that condition is met, that party member will automatically cast a spell, attack an enemy, and so forth. However, any strategic aspect this may have applied to the game is immediately squashed as you quickly figure out that the game automatically programs in new AI routines for you every time your characters level up and gain new skills, so there's really no point in even giving you the option. Even better yet, you inexplicably cannot tell your party members to use a potion when they're low on health. For that you have to pause the game, manually select that character, click the potion button, and win an invisible dice roll that determines whether or not he'll actually listen to your command or just ignore you completely and get mowed down. They also seem quite fond of ignoring your other commands, be it ones programmed in via the menu or ones you manually order them to do. Seriously, there's about a 50% chance they'll just do whatever the hell they want even after you give them a direct order to do something else.
Spoony: Yeah. Say what you want about Final Fantasy XII, haters: that game just handed Dragon Age 2 its own ass in the design department. At least when you gave a direct order in that game, your character would actually carry it out. Every single time.
Anyway, this group of monsters proves to be little threat (big surprise). We also quickly figure out that our heroes' health fully regenerates after each and every battle, meaning that this game's difficulty is about on par with playing Kingdom Hearts 2 on the Easy setting. Or perhaps Fable 3, a game people have reportedly completed without ever dying and while using as little as two health potions throughout its entire twelve-hour run. God, I hate fucking Fable. It's the only RPG franchise even more vacuous, banal and marketed to nine year olds than this one.
Getting back on track, we stop and talk yet again (uggghhhh) and get ambushed yet again (uuuuuuuuuuugggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh). However, the enemies have now started playing dirty - like in Goldeneye, as long as you're not actively pointing the camera at an area, enemies can spawn in from that area. And since the camera is always forced into a super close-up view situated immediately behind your character so that you have to pause the game every three seconds and re-situate it just to see what the hell is going on, that gives them plenty of wiggle room. However, this hardly makes the game any more challenging because the enemy AI is still complete garbage - they make absolutely no attempt to come at you with any sort of strategy or formation, they just pick a character, run up to them and swing away until either they or their chosen target dies.
Spoony: Even Doom had monsters more formidable than this. They weren't much smarter, sure, but at least in large groups they could cover for each others' weaknesses and pose a genuine threat to you. There was also a lot more variation to the combat in Doom, whereas in Dragon Age 2 every fight feels exactly the goddamn same.
After killing about a hundred more skeletons, I attempt to move on, only to find that my characters' mother and sister have frozen in place and stopped moving. Attempting to talk to them to jostle them out of it proves fruitless, and I can't take manual control or change their AI programming because they're not technically party members. Shoddy, glitchy programming at its finest, EA. But I guess it wouldn't be one of your games without tons of corner-cutting due to a rushed development schedule.
Well, if they don't care about their own lives, I don't either. I move on without them, only to have them teleport right behind me in the cutscene. But surprise, an ogre attacks and punks dear sister out with a boulder in a rather hilarious moment.
I guess this serves as our demo's "boss fight", because the ogre is the only enemy to pose any kind of threat thus far. He actually does fairly decent damage, and my ice-stun spell doesn't seem to work on him either. In fact, he actually manges to wipe out my party due to their stubborn refusal to use potions when low on health, but since this game is easy as dirt, we're given the option to continue the fight from the beginning with no ill effects. I guess all those diligent quicksaves I made were entirely pointless, then.
Spoony: Do you remember how in Baldur's Gate - you know, the game Dragon Age is supposedly a spiritual successor to? - you were quicksaving constantly because any battle could go catastrophically wrong or you could trigger a trap that would wipe out your main character instantly and end the game? Yeah, Dragon Age will have none of that on its watch. No challenge, no feeling of satisfaction when a change of tactics allowed you to overcome that group of monsters that gave you so much trouble, no reward for being careful and diligent instead of just charging headlong into everything in your path, NOTHING. They might as well just start the game at the "you win" screen and cut the seventy or so hours of pointless filler.
Anyway, the fight goes much smoother the second time around, for the most part. My allies still actively refuse to use a potion about 50% of the time when I tell them to do, so we lost one guy. But regardless, the remaining two of us manage to take down the ogre, and since we won, everyone is immediately revived at full health. Whoop de do.
Cue yet another scene that fails to invoke emotion because, once again, we established basically nothing about this character and she was in our party for less than ten minutes. The expressionless character models and dull, unemotive voice acting certainly doesn't do it any favors either. My character (quite wisely) states that we should save our mourning for later and get the fuck out of dodge before another horde of skeletons appears - it's not like they attack us every time we stop to talk or anything!
Oh, and as soon as we finished talking, Mom teleported back to the bottom of the cliff despite being right alongside us only seconds before. Hooray for terrible programming.
Anyway, guess what happens next.
Go on, guess.
No, really, do it.
Ready for this?
ANOTHER HORDE OF 200 SKELETONS APPEARS AND WE'RE FORCED TO FIGHT!
But lucky for us, the Deus ex Machina dragon is here to save the day, swooping down, bathing the cliff in flame and killing all of them. Then the dragon turns into... someone else we've never seen before! Yes, we're in for the longest, talkiest scene yet that still manages to not explain anything we don't already know. And yet again, the wooden acting and the fact that DeMD is trying her hardest to sound like a Disney villain does not make this any more compelling.
DeM Dragon: Yackity yackity blah blah yak yak blah blah blah yak yak.
Out of boredom at the dry dialog, replete with monotone voicework and the actors' incredibly fake accents vanishing and reappearing from sentence to sentence, I decide to (gasp!) roleplay a bit. Yeah, I know the game isn't built for any actual storytelling outside of thinly-veiled excuses to throw a dozen more monsters in your path every eight seconds, but I came here looking for a Role Playing game, and I'm going to at least pretend that there's one on offer.
After a few quicksaves and reloads reveal that none of my choices have any effect whatsoever (not even garnering an alternate line of dialog from other characters a good 70% of the time), I eventually give up and decide to play a bipolar character by picking random choices every time I get one. So one sentence I'm angry and hostile, the next I'm making bad wisecracks, and the next I'm a stoic hero type. Not that any of it will have any lasting effect on the proceedings - this is a Bioware game, after all. The story events, with maybe one or two minor variations, will always play out the exact same way regardless of your choices. Hell, you can even be a baby-stabbing asshole the whole game and still get the "good guy" ending at the last minute if you make the right choice at the final dialog! Compare that to Fallout, Deus Ex or even Tactics Ogre, where every choice you make has palpable consequences and will radically affect the way you play through the game and what ending you ultimately receive. It's an especially grave sin when you consider that all of those games came out in the late nineties while Dragon Age 2 came out more than a decade later. But I suppose no amount of technological improvement can improve lazy game design and hackneyed writing.
DeM Dragon: Yackity yackity blah blah yak yak blah blah blah yak yak LOOKOUTASKELETON.
Legolas: Oh no, I've got skeleton blood on me. Now I'm fated to turn into one of them like in Axe Cop.
Now we have the hokey scene from every zombie movie ever where they have to kill one of the cast before he becomes a zombie. Also worth noting is that this is the third forced emotional death scene in almost as many minutes! Was this game written by a human or just a machine that randomly assembles trite cliches into a plotline? Whatever, I don't care. Cue the hokey music as we stab him in the gut (which, unlike every other scene so far, is conspicuously absent of exaggerated Mortal Kombat blood splatter). We then promptly move on to the next scene - those same two unnamed people talking. Again. Since the game doesn't seem interested in naming them or explaining them at all, I've dubbed them "Fat Guy" and "Megaboobs Pimplechin".
Spoony: *Sigh* This demo is just one big fucking Moebius loop - as soon as you think it's done, it just starts all over again! Hey EA, If I wanted a game where all you do is fight endless waves of braindead enemies while contending with some of the most unresponsive controls ever programmed and yet never feel any sense of accomplishment for it, I'd play Dynasty Warriors. At least Koei is up front with the fact that their latest game is a thoughtlessly phoned-in cash cow rather than hyping it up as a "worthy successor" to one of the greatest PC RPGs of all time.
Cue another uncompressed FMV with stolen artwork as we emerge in a completely different area, fighting a completely different set of enemies, with a completely different set of party members, and zero explanation is given as to what led us to this point. There's no point in explaining anyway, because all that's really changed are a few textures - the enemies are the same mindless drones that swarm in and quickly get mowed down (they're just wearing suits and called "Thieves" now), and instead of fighting in a generic barren hillside, we're fighting on a cobblestone road. Within minutes, the whole town square is bathed in blood and my team is none the worse for wear.
Spoony: So... where are the guards? isn't it their JOB to break up these sort of skirmishes in their town? Why are Fat Guy and Megaboobs in my party now? Who are we fighting? Why are we fighting them? You couldn't spare a few lines of narration or about three seconds of that cutscene to fill us in even a little? Or do I have to go digging through the Codex to get filled in on the basic tenets of the fucking plot again?
I suppose I shouldn't ask intelligent questions of this game, since EA's development team has repeatedly proven that their staff consists solely of 13-year-old caffeine-addicted metalheads whose only measure of a game's quality is how many people and monsters get messily splattered within (and the more plot narrative, gameplay and realism sacrificed just to show more guts flying, the better). Not to mention that their marketing department insists that all of their games are designed and marketed toward two very specific people:
Our next stop is some generic temple where we meet... some guy we don't know (our hammiest voiceover job yet, incidentally) who holds a grudge against Megaboobs. Why, you might ask? I don't know, but - holy shit - I actually have the option of asking him what's going on!
Spoony: Plot exposition IN THE GAME ITSELF? Amazing!
Unfortunately, I have absolutely no context to put anything he says in due to the plot being truncated for the demo and further truncated by the hated Codex, so I'm not much wiser for having asked. But it's the thought that counts. Immediate shift back to juvenile mode as Megaboobs rather abruptly tosses a knife into some poor woman's throat, resulting in an exaggerated bloody splatter.
Spoony: Yeah, guys, milk that "M" rating for all its worth. Lord knows it's the only thing your games have going for them, and only then if you're eleven years old and pause the game right before all the violent scenes just to squick your parents out when they enter the room.
Cue yet another boring combat scene. This one would be just as unremarkable as the rest, save for the fact that my character abruptly drops dead for no real reason in the interim. At least, that's what I thought at first. After dispatching the boss, my characters immediately dashed behind my fallen corpse and I discovered the culprit - about seven other bad guys spawned in behind us, got wedged in the doorway like the Three Stooges due to crappy pathfinding AI, and shot my backside full of arrows.
We're not done with the bad AI yet though, oh no. One goon finally breaks free of the group, dashes straight past my fighter, and doesn't even attempt to stop said fighter while he follows behind him and hits him repeatedly in the backside with a gigantic Highlander sword. This would all be hilarious if I didn't know that millions of people were going to plunk down good money for this amateur-level shit in a month and a half.
My hero is magically revived after the battle once more as Megaboobs states she wants to go after some magical Macguffin next, and that she'll be waiting for me to booty call her at the local inn. Gee, I wonder if they just shoehorned that line in so they could validate all of the claims they were making a game with "mature content"? It's certainly not because the characters have shown any particular attachment to one another, or that the game has shown any sign of things like tact, subtlety, and intellect - you know, things that generally imply maturity.
Spoony: But I suppose it's not as bad as "The Witcher", a game where every character jams at least six instances of the word "fuck" into every sentence they speak, makes constant references to sodomy, rape and genital mutilation, and which gives you collectible trading cards every time you put another notch on your character's belt. Yes, I'm serious. And this is supposed to be an "adult-oriented" RPG. Sorry guys, it really undermines the adult focus when everyone in your game curses like a twelve-year-old desperately trying to sound "tough" and one of its primary goals is collecting porn of fictional characters. "Adult" games don't pander to thirteen year olds like that. Stupid, worthless, childish garbage.
Cue closing cinematic, which is just another collage of disjointed scenes that make no sense out of context.
Spoony: Ugh. In terms of gameplay, this is only slightly more bearable than the first game, and that's only because the combat here doesn't drag nearly as much. On every other front, it somehow actually became worse - its overall design and story have nothing substantive to offer (and in fact, take a great many pains to actively insult the player's intelligence). It's a rushed-out, dumbed-down copy of a dumbed-down copy of one of the greatest PC RPGs ever made, and Bioware's staff should be ashamed that they've even allowed their brand to degrade to this point. I honestly doubt they even care, though - who needs to actually expend precious time and effort on their game when they're backed by the EA cartel? You can churn out any piece of crap you want and still enjoy millions of sales and glowing reviews in every gaming publication in existence. Ah, the joys of aggressive advertising. And outright theft.
(Oh, and lecturing people on what constitutes "Mature behavior" while you consistently churn out childish shit like this? Yeah, that's a laugh, EA.)
So if you like dry and poorly acted dialog, painfully generic and predictable storylines, characters with all the depth of a skillet, a development team that desperately tries to shove its game's "M" rating down your throat every ten seconds with gratuitous violence and banal childish content, hours upon hours of tedious combat that requires no planning or strategy whatsoever, AND you're up for a big gamble on whether EA's shitty Download Manager will give you a bad product key or lock you out of your account forever for no reason at all, then Dragon Age 2 is right up your alley! Anyone else should demand something better. Immediately.
But on a final note, our demo concludes with this gem of a line:
"Think like a general, fight like a Spartan"
i don't even need to comment on how laughable that statement is.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Azul Rojo § at 03:21am 02/28/11
I forgot to read this. Now that I have, holy crap. You deserve a pile of your favorite cookies after playing through that mess.
I was sick of that plot encyclopedia shit after 2 hours of FF13. Extra long cutscenes get annoying when they're strung together, too. Either write a book (or comic), make a game, or make a movie. Don't try to smash all 3 together. It just turns into a pile of shit every time. Not that some game companies care, of course. If they did, we wouldn't get these terrible games. Or maybe it's the players that are to blame. They keep buying this crap, which gives companies more money to work with!
Wait. Shit. I bought Sims 3, and got some expansion packs as gifts. I may be partially to blame for this mess. The game's so fun to play, but then the money spent on it goes to EA so they can make other stuff. Damn it. FUCK YOU, EA. FUCK YOU.
~Avatar § at 01:06pm 02/28/11
That tagline makes me imagine a group of middle schoolers huddled around one kid's mom's COMPAQ playing the game, completing it, seeing the tagline, then they all parrot out the "this is SPARTA" scene from 300 line-for-line from memory and then high-five.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 04:41pm 02/28/11
At least I didn't pay for the full version of the game before realizing it sucks. This time, anyway. I still want my f'ing money back for Dead Space, Dragon Age 1 and the Mass Effect games.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 07:44pm 03/14/11
UPDATE: As if the EA conglomerate's strategy of dumbing down their games for fifth graders and buying dicksucking reviews in every single media outlet ever wasn't bad enough, now we've got Bioware employees literally writing and up-voting sockpuppet reviews of their own games. Real classy, guys.
Proof and a News Post confirming it.
At least I can take comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one who sees through the shallow farce that Bioware has become - one look at the overwhelming number of negative User Reviews confirms that quite nicely.
~Commander Ladd § at 12:18pm 03/15/11
At least they're not challenging their critics to boxing matches. Yet.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 06:02pm 05/12/12 (01:15pm 12/26/10) in 16m10s § 4498 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
MASS EFFECT 2 IN A NUTSHELL (SHITTLE EDITION): COMMANDER SHEPARD'S SHIP COMES UNDER FIRE FROM A NEVER BEFORE ENCOUNTERED AND BADLY EXPLAINED GROUP OF ENEMIES AND HE GETS REVIVED BY DEUS EX MACHINA INC (ERR, "CERBERUS") WHERE MARTIN SHEEN SENDS HIM ON MORE INANE, REPETITIVE GUNFIGHT MISSIONS AGAINST A GROUP OF CORNY GOLLUM-VOICED LIZARDMEN AND SPOONY IMMEDIATELY GETS BORED AND UNINSTALLS THE GAME.
Spoony: Yeah. Why shoot for the top tier when you can settle for mediocrity in order to cut down development time and widen your profit margin? You've already built up street cred with Baldur's Gate and KOTOR, now you can just sit back, churn out a generic space-themed shooter with light RPG elements, pepper it with dull characters and a generic uninspired plot (80% of which is copy-pasted from development notes into the online manual at the last minute rather than worked into the game itself) and then ship it off to the Satan of publishers, EA. They'll buy up a few million dollars in ad space and positive press and before long you'll see five hundred times the return on your investment and one glowing review after another proclaiming that "THIS IS ANOTHER GAME FOR THE AGES FROM THE COMPANY THAT BROUGHT US KOTOR AND BG2 THEY ARE YOUR JESUS WORSHIP THEM". Then you can just sell 20-minute sidequests as DLC every three months for the next three or four years to make even MORE of a profit with no real effort spent! Yay!
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 04:17pm 03/06/12
Bonus asshole points if all that DLC they sell to you is already ON THE DISC and you're just paying $6 or so for the right to change one bit of data from "0" to "1" so you can actually access it.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 12:51pm 02/24/12 (12:08pm 12/17/10) in 1h55m18s § 4884 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
I don't know why I thought this game might be decent; this series has been completely and irredeemably terrible since it began. But nevertheless, I played Abyss at a friend's house, and boy do I wish I hadn't.
The game can't even start off by doing something right, as the opening cinematic is left completely untranslated - no dubbing or even subtitling is employed. So unless you speak Japanese, enjoy being dropped right into the game with absolutely no clue of what's supposed to be going on!
Cut to our hero, who, even though he hasn't spoken a single line yet, already manages to piss me off eight ways from Sunday:
Yes, that's right. He's sporting a bright red mullet, patched baggy pants, a white trenchcoat that exposes his midriff, a gigantic metal belt buckle and a tube top. It's the anime version of trailer trash. That would be bad enough on its own, but they also have to turn him into the whiniest, most unlikable fucking cunt in all of video games. Yes, even worse than Tidus.
On top of all of this, the game also starts off in the absolute worst of all RPG cliches - rather than simply taking you to a cutscene where we can establish a plot and some characters, you get to fucking wander around the same building, talking to everyone over and over, for fifteen minutes before the game finally relents and lets you move on.
Spoony: Wow, I'm not even a half hour into the game and already I want to take the disc out of the drive and smash it with a tack hammer. You have to suck pretty fucking hard for that to happen.
Between his constant whining over stupid bullshit ("He thinks he can say anything because he's the king. It makes me mad!"), the horrendous voice acting and being forced to spend twenty hours clicking on countless throwaway NPCs over and over again in what can only be described as "pointless, tedious busywork", I lapse into a blind rage long enough to completely forget what happens next. When I come down from it, we're now out in the wilderness and being treated to the game's horrible combat system - all the action takes place on three planes, and you and your enemies can swap between them freely to evade incoming attacks. But like every Tales game, you don't really have to bother with any of that - just get in close to your enemy and mash the attack button until they die. You'll continuously juggle them into a 500-hit combo and give them absolutely no chance to fight back.
Spoony: It's like Guardian Heroes, only with no multiplayer option, challenge, or fun whatsoever!
Now we come to our first town where... our hero doesn't know what a fucking shop is. No, I'm not kidding. He knows that killing monsters drops gold (sorry, "Gald") and evidently knows it has enough value to warrant picking it up and taking it with him, but he doesn't know what it's actually used for.
Spoony: It's not enough that they're sticking me with this whiny redneck asshole in a game with a bad combat system and they're probably going to trap me in a "walk around and talk to everyone" scenario in every single town we come to, now they have to insult my intelligence by telling me, step by step, how a fucking shop works. That's it. I'm done. I can't take anymore. System power off, get me out of here.
Embarassed for the both of us, I contemplate simply destroying the CD right then and there, but reconsider; it may be the worst game I've ever played, but it's technically not my property, and lord knows I don't want to pay to replace the disc and reward Namco with my money in any way, shape or form. So I take a more tactful route and simply hide it in a place he'll never think to look for it - the PSP shelf. As far as I know, it's still there, hiding behind dusty copies of Lumines, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Patapon that got played for a half an hour each and never touched again. Actually, I don't think he's even bothered to look for it, since he's never brought it up. I think I did us both a favor.
Spoony: I usually try to give games a fair chance - I make a point to play for an hour or two (if not more) before I give my verdict - but Tales of the Abyss is just so fucking unbearable that I could barely last 45 minutes. But from what I've seen, I can already tell I'm not missing much. Just to be sure, I looked online too; A quick check on Wikipedia's plot entry only confirms that the rest of the game's plot is a carnival of endless painful stupidity, and a quick scan on Youtube just reveals that the characters heap on a metric fuckton of that cutesy anime kawaii desu bullshit that I absolutely loathe. How does anyone over the age of eight put up with this shit? Seriously.
To paraphrase the great Old Man Murray:
"By the way, I believe Namco makes a case for why it is okay, and even cool, to pirate games. So remember kids, why buy a Tales game when you can just pirate it? Save that hard earned money for someone who deserves it (any other company in the gaming world)."
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 01:30am 04/26/11 (05:05pm 03/16/10) in 4h27m18s § 3885 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
Let's nutshell this fuckfest!
Chapter 1: Great Jaggi
Okay, starting up I have my choice of control schemes. I went with Classic Controller A, because B's "Right Stick = Attack" setup sounded a bit too reminiscent of Rise to Honor, a titanic piece of shit on the Playstation 2. A bit of quick experimentation revealed that the Wii Remote + Nunchuck combination wasn't any good either. (Tilt left and press A for weak attack, Right and A for strong attack, tilt upward + A for a forward thrust, then realize that the A button actually does nothing and that every combat boils down to swinging the remote around wildly until you come down with a terrible case of carpal tunnel syndrome!)
I'm given only two choices for quests: "Great Jaggi Hunt", rated at 1 star, and "Ouropeco Hunt", rated at three. I decide for the former at first so I can hopefully get used to the controls and start off on an easy quest to get into the swing of things. I choose the guy with the giant bowgun as a weapon, because honestly, that gun barrel looks to be twice the size of the damn thing's head; one clean shot should leave it decapitated and me a few hundred bucks richer.
Tracking the monster is a pretty easy process; you're given a minimap, and a glowing red dot on it shows you the monster's position. So all I have to do is make a minute-long trek over there. Easy shit. Not to skip ahead here, but this is the only thing they managed to get right.
After reaching the monster, I take a moment to puzzle out how to use my weapon. Okay, so Y uses a potion (whoops, wasted one... oh well, I have nine left), B makes me roll, A doesn't seem to do anything... ah, it's X to equip weapon. Okay. Now what button shoots... Y? Wasn't that the potion button a minute ago? Whatever. Shoot the thing.
Well, that did nothing but piss it off; now it's charged right at me, knocked me on my ass, and fled to another area. So I pursue, shoot it a few more times, and get the exact same result. After repeating this one more time, the thing decides its had enough of me, sends all of its smaller minions after me and they frantically tear me a new asshole while I desperately try to retreat and use a potion, then learn the hard way that your weapon runs out of ammo after only six shots and you have to reload by pressing A. Oh, and you can't do your dodge-roll while you have your weapon out either, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of even having the damn thing. Isn't the general idea of a dodge command to allow the player to quickly evade attacks? Kind of hard when you have to stop, take two seconds to sheathe your weapon, and THEN press the button before it will have the desired effect.
So I cancel the quest, having remembered that guns are almost always useless in JRPGs, and decide to try again with something that hopefully packs a bit more punch. Like... that really big axe. That sounds good. So I find the monster (again), whack it a few times with the upward stab attack (via Y Button) and quickly get mobbed by his smaller minions again. After taking a few hits, I also discover that the A button can do a sweep attack that hits multiple enemies, which allows me to quickly wipe out the little fuckers. Hey, this is going pretty well.
Or at least it is until I hit him a few more times to absolutely no visible effect; he barely bleeds, he doesn't get knocked back, he doesn't shout in pain, NOTHING. In fact, he's still more than able to slap me around with his tail AND call in more backup to chew on me even as I bash him repeatedly in the spine and head with my axe. At this point I'm starting to get low on health, so I sweep his minions out of the way and retreat a safe distance to use a potion.
The problem with THIS is that every time I try, the fucker just runs up, bitchslaps me with his tail and takes off more health than I recover, because not only do I have to put away my weapon (a two second process) and stop dead in my tracks to use a potion (ditto), I THEN have to continue staying completely vulnerable to attack while my character slowly tosses the empty bottle aside, raises his arms into the air and cheers himself on. It becomes clear at this point that my hunter is Wimp Lo, deliberately trained wrong as a joke. Or perhaps Dan Hibiki.
So after getting hauled back to the village on a cart that looks like something out of the Flintstones, I decide to see if I can buy any better potions or heavier weapons. Nope. In fact, I can't talk to anyone. Oh, but pressing Minus brings up an item menu, where I discover that I have some Mega Potions. But how do I equip them? The menu only gives me the option to drop them or move them around the list.
Oh, maybe that "L" button under the icon is a clue. Yep, it brings up a window with some items. Now how do I cycle? It's not the D-pad, the left stick or even the right stick... oh, it's A and Y. Rather nonintuitive, but whatever, I've got some Mega Potions equipped; maybe these will work better. Let's find that fucker again.
On the way there, I discover that hitting the Plus key (Pause in most games) does a slow upward slash attack. Is this my power move? It sure looks like it. Guess I'll find out when I get there.
Okay, there's the bastard. And sure enough, my Plus attack is the only one to inflict some visible damage to the guy - he actually flies back and winces for a moment! So I do it again. Nothing; he just keeps attacking. And again. And again! Apparently it was a one-shot deal. Kind of shitty. But hey, at least I can recover more health than I lose now, even if I do get hit again during the unnecessarily drawn out process of using a potion. After a countless number of sword whacks, the bastard finally shows visible signs of pain and injury - and promptly runs away... through a solid wall. So not only does he have plenty of time to escape and (probably) recover health, but hitting him as he does so is useless because he's too fast to catch up to and he doesn't get stunned.
So I look at the included poster for hints, and I find out the axe can apparently also turn into a powerful sword. I'm not sure what the point of that is since you can just choose a sword as one of your starting weapons, but hey, I may as well give it a shot. After fumbling around with the buttons for a bit, I find the transform button, which makes me move really slowly. Well, I have played a lot of Team Fortress 2, so maybe this is a good sign; the rough equivalent to the Heavy revving up his weapon in preparation of unleashing an unstoppable hail of death.
So after (very slowly) making my way to the Jaggi's latest hiding place, I unleash the fury of my sword with a few Plus attacks, which, once again, results in no stun and hardly any sign of injury. But I'm running low on potions and the game's just informed me that I have less than five minutes left to complete my task, so I guess it's do-or-die time. After a while my sword runs out of ammo (uh... what?) and turns back into an axe, but by that point it's too late and the bastard finally decides he's had enough and falls over in defeat. After a few more sweep attacks clean up his minions, the mission gets declared a success and I collect my reward of... a plug for a game I've already had to preorder to get this demo disc. Yay.
Chapter 2: Ouropeco
Now I decide that it's time to take on our second quest, Ouropeco, who looks like some kind of retarded giant duck. I elected to pick the great sword this time; turning our big axe into a big sword seemed to have pretty good results last time around, so why not just start with a big sword, right? The description also tells me something about an unstoppable combination attack; again, sounds pretty good. Stunning the boss monster is nearly impossible, so I may as well pick a weapon that lets me dish out a lot of damage and prevents me from being knocked back while doing it.
So after a short trek to find the bastard, I run up to him... only to watch him fly up out of my reach and flee to another area. So I follow him again - same thing. And again. Same thing! Do I ever get to FIGHT this guy, or what?
Well, after wasting about five minutes of my allotted 20 minute quest time, he finally lands, allowing me to run up and hit him a few times. Or not, as he hocks a gigantic loogie on me, knocking me down before I can even get close. But I do eventually close the gap and stab him in the knees. As with my last fight, this does little outside of pissing him off, and he summons more of the mini-Jaggis the last boss sent after me. I was expecting mini-Ouropecos, but I guess the demo's too low-budget to afford those. Not a huge deal; let's just roll with it.
So after a few waves of those little bastards get dispatched, I continue to run up and whack away at him; again, he doesn't get stunned or slowed in the slightest, but one small nudge from him is enough to send me flipping back ten feet while my health meter turns purple and my character begins to spark like a damaged robot, and he continues to call in more and more monsters just to be a gigantic pain in the ass. So I decide to unleash the aforementioned special move, which I eventually puzzle out being tied to the R button. Yeah, R. Not Plus, as it was with the axe-sword. It's like they just mapped commands to random buttons, paying no heed to the fact that they did something completely different when you were using a different weapon, had your weapon sheathed, or are redundant to things already mapped (the D-pad AND right stick both control the camera, rather than one of them, say, scrolling inventory items). It's really sloppy game design, to say the least.
Sure enough, the R button seems to be the sword's one-shot knockback attack, which I can continue to spam to unleash a lengthy and (allegedly) powerful combo. But the "unstoppable" effect certainly doesn't work as advertised, as he managed to slap me out of it mid-combo and send me back to the village on a Flintstones stretcher once again.
What's with that thing anyway? If you can make bowguns and transforming weapons, shouldn't you at least have stretchers made of wood instead of stone and dinosaur bones? Whatever. I equip my Mega Potions and jump back into the fray.
Oh god, he's back to this run-down-the-clock routine again. So after dicking around to the point where I now have well under ten minutes to kill him and he has yet to even show any sign of weakening, he finally decides to stand and fight again. But after only a few hits, I get informed that for no real reason my weapon's effectiveness has been decreased; sure enough, the little Jaggis aren't even dying in one hit anymore. So what am I supposed to do?
After getting Flintstoned back to the village (again), I check my inventory and find a whetstone. Okay, I guess I need to sharpen my sword back up after I use it too much. Why that wasn't the case with the axe-sword is a mystery I'll never understand, but at this point I really don't care anymore. I just want to get this fucking demo over with.
...Alright, I'm good to go again. Back to the fight.
Oh the way there, I checked my inventory again and also found that I had some bombs. Thinking that maybe those could help (or at least STUN the thing momentarily where a giant sword repeatedly piercing its neck couldn't), I equipped them. Once I reach the monster again, I ready a bomb, toss it and... it does nothing. Absolutely nothing. Wow, thanks game. Why not just give me a handful of pebbles to throw too?
The third flurry of slashes-to-the-throat seems to have been the last straw, because NOW he's sunk to the ultimate low - calling in Great Jaggi again! I shit you not. The guy I just killed after more than fifteen minutes of hard work is, with no explanation, back from the grave and helping the guy I'm already having trouble even doing any noticeable damage to. Needless to say, they quickly rape me, the game arbitrarily decides to enforce a three-knockdown rule, terminates the quest, and sends me back to the same splash screen I was "rewarded" with for completing the last quest. Then I'm brought back to the select screen and asked if I want to try again. Fuck. That.
Spoony: This game blows. All of the control options are clumsy and unintuitive, combat has no discernible strategy outside of brute-force repetition, even the weakest monsters take way too long to kill, and I honestly can't imagine it being fun even with a group of people helping you out. Maybe I'm just missing something, or maybe you can get weapon upgrades and items that make these quests easier in the full version; I don't know. But the objective of a demo is to convince me that the full version of the game is worth my money, and this one has failed in that task. Hard. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get a refund on my preorder.
Do not buy Monster Hunter Tri.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Avatar § at 07:53pm 03/17/10
When your lousy control schemes make Batman Forever's lousy control scheme look reasonable, you've got problems.
~Azul Rojo § at 10:02pm 03/17/10
So, they didn't give any tutorial or extra instructions in the demo? Not good. Assigning one button several unrelated commands is also a horrible idea. Use potion AND attack? And then the button layout gets changed when you equip different weapons? The hell were they thinking?
Making monster fights near impossible is crap, too. I don't get why some companies make their game demos so difficult or outright boring. I, too, was under the impression that a demo's supposed to make you want to play the full version of a game.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 08:11pm 10/13/10
I still have no idea why this game has so many defenders with gameplay this dull and controls this bad. I can't even get a straight answer because the mere mention of the fact that I don't like the game turns every nearby fan into a shit-flinging ape capable of speaking only in two-cent words like "fag" and "retard."
So I'll just say this: Ocarina of Time may have had clunky controls with too many things mapped to a few buttons, but that at least had the excuse of being a grand-scale adventure game on one of the first 3D-based game consoles - the developers were still adapting to this new realm in gaming. Monster Hunter Tri, on the other hand, came came out thirteen years later on a console whose controller has ten buttons, two thumbsticks and a D-pad to work with - there's no excuse. Hell, that's more than enough for 99% of all games in existence.
So in response, I made this:
See? I came up with that in like two minutes. I even had a button to spare, which you could easily fill with some throwaway function like recentering the camera. It's not that hard to have decent controls!
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 01:20am 04/26/11
Gods Eater Burst came out a few weeks ago, and I have to say that it runs circles around Monster Hunter. The general gameplay principle of mission-based monster hunting is the same, but the button setup is far better, the controls are much more responsive, and there's a lot more strategy than just picking the strongest weapon and hitting your enemies until they fall down. If you've got a PSP and you're looking for a decent action-RPG experience, I say check it out.
Oh, and you can actually inflict visible damage to your foes so you don't just have to guess at how many more hits they can take. Hell, there's even several pieces of equipment that let you see their health meter!
~Azul Rojo on 10:08pm 03/17/10 (10:42pm 03/10/10) in 5h22m14s § 2716 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
So, here's some writing about Final Fantasy 13, inspired by Spoony's Games in a Nutshell reviews. This is the latest game in the Final Fantasy series, and so far, I'm not really impressed with anything but the graphics. Off we go!
You start off seeing a train travelling through a few places. It's carrying a bunch of prisoners in cloaks, being watched by a bunch of soldiers. Two prisoners seem to be up to something.
Lightning: I'm the main character. I look like Ashe and a female Cloud Strife. I'm also an ex-soldier and use a sword gunblade, though plain old guns would be a far better choice.
Sazh: I'm another main character. I carry a baby chocobo in my afro, and I use two pistols. I'm here to help you, I guess?
Lightning: Quiet. I have to do some eye candy fighting.
Lightning proceeds to kick the crap out of the soldiers while defying gravity and physics, which frees the prisoners. You get some eye candy FMV of what looks like a city, fighter jets (dragons?) shooting the train, and Lightning looking around. She blasts a fighter jet dragon with a rocket launcher that happened to be found by Sazh. The train is then attacked by a giant, flying scorpion robot.
Sazh: What the hell are we supposed to do here?!
Lightning: We attack it by going through a bunch of tutorials, of course.
Sazh: Can't we skip the tutorials?
Lightning: Yeah, but it'll result in frustration.
Azul Rojo: I feel sorry for any poor bastard who tries to play this without an instruction manual or tutorials. This battle system is a bit painful, and you can't flee from enemies.
Lightning and Sazh kick the robot's ass. It falls into a gaping pit which spans the bottom of the city, for some reason.
Sazh: Yay! We win! So, I'm going to follow you. Oh, and I can talk to the baby chocobo in my hair.
Lightning: Don't really care. Oh, by the way, here's another tutorial. This one's about the camera.
Azul Rojo: A tutorial. For using the camera, which is controlled with the right analog stick. Oddly, it and character movement handle like crap. Skipping this "tutorial."
After several more battles and gravity-defying jumps, Lightning and Sazh reach a bridge, only to see it blown to smithereens. Lightning attempts to fly away, but Sazh pulls her down, which results in him getting beat up a bit.
Sazh: Hey! I said I'm following you, so stop hitting me and let me go with you! I can't possibly get out of here by myself!
Lightning: What the hell? You broke my magic flying machine gizmo. Dick.
Sazh: Hey, we can just use that elevator bridge over there.
Lightning: So why didn't you use it in the first place?
The two of them get onto the bridge, then run into more soldiers and Boba Fett an officer.
Officer: SURRENDER SO THINGS DON'T GET UGLY.
Sazh: What's that mean?
Lightning: He wants to kill us. Duh.
Officer: DIEDIEDIEDIE! *charges at Lightning*
Lightning: Guess what?
Sazh: Another tutorial?
Lightning: That's right.
Enemies get their asses kicked, of course.
Sazh: So, what's your deal, anyway?
Lightning: I'm going after the fal'Cie. Happy you followed me?
Sazh: I didn't have a choice.
Azul Rojo: So, if you don't know who the fal'Cie are, that's okay. There's no mention of them until this point, unless you looked at the instruction manual, read the datalog, or loaded a save game. The datalog is an encyclopedia overloaded with information on enemies, game setting, and plot. Didn't Star Ocean 3 do this already? Also, while you're loading a saved game, the screen displays bits about the plot that weren't mentioned during the game. Honestly, Square-Enix. What happened to explaining things in an interesting way during the story? Why do I have to load my save file or go through an encyclopedia to learn these things? Bah. On with the game.
Scene changes to a bunch of people fighting soldiers, and some guy babbling about certain people in Cocoon being relocated to Pulse, the world below Cocoon. He mentions that their sacrifice will keep Cocoon safe and peaceful, and keep others from being exposed to the dangers in the lower world. The guy continues babbling, but then someone kicks in a nearby radio, ending the speech.
Yuj: Screw that. Guy's full of shit, obviously.
Snow: Yeah, now calm down. By the way, I'm another main character. I have no relation to Seifer in Kingdom Hearts II, even though I look like a much older version of him. I punch things. Yuj, you get to stay here and help these civilians because you're an NPC.
Snow goes to meet up with some more of his allies. They complain for a bit until Snow shows up and gives them a pep talk. Wakka and Lulu look-alikes Gadot and Lebreau join him to fight off some enemies, then help some civilians about to be exiled.
Snow: So, is everyone okay?
Civilians: Guess so.
Snow: Good. We'll clear a path for y-
Civilians: No! We want to fight, too!
Snow: Oh, okay. Cool! Grab a weapon!
Lady: Hey, I've got my kid Hope with me. I'm gonna help you fight, too. Moms are tough.
Snow: Oh, that's cool. Here, have a gun. Okay, one weapon left. Who wants it?
Hope: No way! I'm totally scared, being a young kid/main character and all.
Vanille: Hey, I'm an obligatory cute girl with a happy attitude! I'm also on the young side. I'll take the gun!
Vanille: Bang! Hee hee!
Snow: Okay, then! You look after these people. The rest of us will go kick ass!
Snow and his allies continue forward, and meet up with the civilians who pushed ahead. Snow and his party fight off a huge robot dog, and then a huge warship comes to attack. Most of the civilians are slaughtered.
Snow: Well, shit!
Gadot: Yeah, we're screwed now.
Snow: No, wait! There's a rocket launcher conveniently lying in the warship's path!
Snow jumps for the rocket launcher, but fails to pick it up. He's about to get shot, but Hope's mom got the rocket launcher and shot the warship. An explosion then rips up the bridge, knocking her flying, and sending several people falling to their deaths. Snow manages to catch Hope's mom; however, they're both stuck dangling from a piece of metal sticking out of the bridge.
Snow: Crap, now I'm hanging off a ledge, and I don't know if I can hold on to you, too.
Hope's Mom: I'm gonna die, anyway. Keep my kid safe, and bring him home, okay?
Hope's mom falls into the pit, along with more people. Snow loses his grip on the bridge, and also falls. Hope and Vanille watch from a distance as this happens.
Hope: What just happened?!
Vanille: ... *smacks Hope*
Vanille: Come on. We have to go.
Azul Rojo: So, we have more falling into pits to split up the party, and a ton of tragic death to help with character development. Snow just relived a certain moment in FF7. Way to go, Square-Enix. My faith in this game is quickly failing.
The game goes back to Lightning and Sazh, who are on some sort of airship, discussing the big attack they just saw.
Sazh: That was a massacre.
Lightning: Of course.
Lightning: The sanctum conjured up a Purge to eliminate a threat. Why carry a danger all the way to Pulse? Get rid of it here.
Sazh: Did you know this was gonna happen?
Lightning: No. The Purge was PSICOM Troops, not the Guardian Corps.
Sazh: Whatever. Soldiers are soldiers. Pulse fal'Cie and their l'Cie are enemies of the state.
Their conversation continues until they're attacked by a flying bot. Ass-kicking ensues. When the bot is defeated, a siren goes off in the distance. An announcement blasts over loud speakers, telling the deportees to surrender immediately. A big
ass machine comes down from the very top of the city. The scene changes, and you see Snow climbing on some rubble. He's looking for someone named Serah. Lightning and Sazh are watching the big ass machine.
Sazh: Just what you were looking for.
Lightning: Yeah. Right in there.
Sazh: The Pulse fal'Cie. Huh.
Over to Vanille, Hope, and some other civilians who are also looking at the machine. Vanille throws off the exile robe she was wearing, then giggles and smiles at Hope. She then picks up a gun and hands it to Hope.
Vanille: *hugs Hope* It's too much, isn't it? Face it later! Ciao!
Hope: Huh? Uh, hey! Wait!
Hope and Vanille run off. Scene goes back to the big ass machine for a moment, then back to Lightning and Sazh.
Sazh: How're the Pulse fal'Cie different from the Sanctum's? I'll keep wondering about that.
Baby Chocobo: Kweh!
Lightning: Jump time!
Lightning: Eye candy and physics warping stuff, of course.
Lightning jumps, then snaps her fingers to activate her flying magic thing. Instead of flying, though, she somehow uses the magic to break her fall.
Sazh: Damn. Well, I guess we can do that too, even though we don't posses the sparkly magic thing.
Baby Chocobo: Kweh!
Sazh tries to hang off the platform, but slips. His fall is broken by a platform of electricity that Lightning left behind.
Azul Rojo: Wasn't that magic flying thing broken just 10 minutes ago? And how the fuck does lightning magic break a fall and help you fly? This would've made more sense if the lady used wind magic. But, Square-Enix hasn't liked to make sense lately.
Back to Snow, who's helping Gardot get up by slapping him in the face. Dead people are everywhere on the platform.
Gadot: What about the others?
Gadot: They're not dead, right?
Snow: Of course not.
Gadot: Dude, get a grip. What's wrong?
Snow: Trying to remember who I'm supposed to look after. That woman who died said to "get him home."
Suddenly, a huge piece of the big ass machine breaks off. Snow tosses Gadot a gun, and Gadot promptly aims it at him.
Snow: What the hell?
Gadot: What are you afraid of? You're the hero. Your bride-to-be is over there. Shouldn't you go pick her up?
Snow: Oh, right! Hey, those ships over there will be our ride.
Azul Rojo: Still no idea what that big ass machine is, so I'm just going to keep calling it that. I probably could find out by looking at the datalog, but fuck that. I'm going to play this like any other RPG: I'm only going to look at the datalog for enemy data and gameplay tips. I'll not be looking at plot-related info, because I shouldn't have to in the first place. On a side note, I played FF12 for a bit today. I can now confirm FF13's character and camera controls are delayed and slippery. And no, it's not the controller. It's fully charged, and isn't even a year old.
Snow and Gadot plow reach the ships, then cruise around and catch up with their other allies. Hope and Vanille soon show up, and Snow notices Hope.
Vanille: Didn't you have something to tell him?
Vanille: Let's go, then! Go go go!
Hope: I'm going to be all scared and everything.
Vanille: Okay, I'll call him over!
Snow flies off before Vanille can get his attention. Gadot left a ship behind, and Vanille and Hope take a look at it.
Vanille: Hey, do you know how to fly this?
Hope: I guess so. Most kids can do this sort of thing in these situations, anyway.
Vanille: Oh yeah! Well, in you go! Now let's go that big machine.
Hope: If we go in there, that thing could make us l'Cie.
Gadot: Hey, what are you two doing?!
Hope: Well, time to go!
Hope and Vanille take off before Gadot can do anything. They head right for the big ass machine. They soon crash, and the ship is ruined.
Vanille: I guess it's just us here.
Hope: Well, even soldiers know not to go near the fal'Cie. If you become a Pulse l'Cie, you're finished.
Vanille: Well, I'm just going to be happy some more, and act like I don't care!
Vanille finds a staff/whip thing, and starts dancing around with it, which attracts the attention of a robot guard dog. The two of them proceed to kick the bot's ass. They soon find Snow's ship, and start talking again.
Hope: You know we're going to be in deep trouble if anyone finds us, right?
Vanille: La la la, happy happy!
Hope: Do you even know what could happen? Do you care? Pulse is hell on earth!
Vanille: Yeah, yeah! fal'Cie are bad. Hanging around them curses you, and then no one wants to be near you. Then you become an l'Cie, and have to go to Pulse. See? I actually know and care! We'll be fine, though!
The two of them soon hear Snow looking for Serah. The scene switches to Snow, who is busy searching another room.
Azul Rojo: So, two kids bust into a place that most people wouldn't dare go near. One of them is having a great time, and doesn't seem to care that things could go really, really bad. The way the game's going so far, you KNOW things are going to end badly. Current amount of faith I have in this game: 80% and falling.
Snow gets to a room-changing platform. Lightning and Sazh are busy elsewhere, trying to open a glowing, red door.
Lightning: This is all my fault.
Sazh: Uh, what?
Lightning: Cover your ears.
Sazh: Gonna blast the door open? Okay! *ducks and plugs ears*
Lightning: No. I'm going to say I'm sorry and beg it to open. *door opens*
Sazh: Eh? Woah, what'd you do?
Lightning: Shut up and have a tutorial.
Meanwhile, Snow is busy in another room, also fighting enemies. He eventually gets on an elevator that takes him lower into the building. Vanille and Hope hear him yelling on the elevator, but still have no clue where he is.
Hope: What a dick. He's calling himself a "hero."
Vanille: He's coming this way. Don't you still need to talk to him?
Hope: I don't know what to say.
Vanille: Well, then how about we just run away?
Hope: We can't, because that would end the story. Hey, why does your accent keep coming and going?
Vanille: Don't know. Let's keep going.
They soon come across a batch of weird-looking monsters with a glowy, red eye thing on their chests.
Hope: What are these things?!
Vanille: Cie'th. This is what happens to l'Cie who don't finish tasks given to them by fal'Cie.
Hope: Well, we're screwed since they're surrounding us.
Enemy ass kicking ensues.
Snow: How did you get here? You should leave. Actually, go hide somewhere and keep quiet. I'll come get you when I find Serah.
Vanille: Who's Serah?
Snow: My future wife. She's a Pulse l'Cie. She's with the fal'Cie, so I'm going to find her.
Hope: Why the hell are you helping a l'Cie?! Don't you know they're the enemy?! How can you save them and not...not...that's insane!
Snow: Well, I've gotta do something. I'll be back.
Vanille: Should we wait for him?
Hope: Screw him! Why's this happening to me?! Mom and I were visiting a city in Cocoon, and then people found a fal'Cie! Then we got thrown on that train, and because of Snow, mom's.... If you haven't noticed, I'm the new whiney kid.
Snow: Oh, wait. I probably shouldn't leave kids alone. Let's go!
Vanille: Come on, Hope. Let's go with him. Oh, and you should talk to him.
Back to Sazh and Lightning.
Sazh: Did you come here for a fight?
Lightning: My sister, and she's a Pulse l'Cie. The fal'Cie has her captive somewhere, so I'm going to find her.
Sazh: What'd she have to do? Not "blow up Cocoon," right?
Lightning: I didn't ask.
A door opens, and Cie'th are on the other side.
Sazh: Oh, just so you know, any l'Cie that don't complete their tasks turn into those things. And you can't turn a l'Cie back into a human. So, even if your sister does complete her focus, she's screwed.
Lightning: Oh, so you're saying anyone who becomes a l'Cie should be wiped off of Cocoon? People like you started this Purge junk. You racist.
Azul Rojo: So, I run past a bunch of Cie'th, and end up running into 2 big fuckers at the end of a hall. My ass gets kicked, and I'm not even 4 hours into the game. You might be thinking I'm too low-levelled, but here's the thing: enemies do NOT award EXP or Gil. You do get fully healed at the end of each fight, but no way of levelling up at this point in the game. Got through the two bastards on a 2nd try, at least. So, yeah...rooms full of enemies serve no purpose, other than they MIGHT drop items for you. Great, Square-Enix. My faith in this game has fallen even more.
Lightning and Sazh eventually find Serah, who's laying unconscious on the floor.
Lightning: Okay, let's go!
Sazh: That girl's a l'Cie. She's got a brand on her arm. *goes for a pistol*
Lightning: No shit! What'd I tell you just 5 minutes ago?
Sazh: Well, she's an enemy now. And if she fails her Focus, you know what'll happen.
Lightning: So, killing her is a mercy, then?
Serah: Oh, hey. I'm awake now.
Snow: Serah! Let's get out of here!
Lightning: Hey, piss off, buddy. I'm taking her home.
Snow: Calm down, sis.
Lightning: Don't call me that. This is all your fault, you know!
Serah: You can save and protect us all. Save Cocoon.
Lightning: THAT'S your Focus?
Snow: We'll do whatever we can, okay?
Serah transforms into a crystal.
Vanille: Huh? Why's that happening?
Hope: She fulfilled her Focus, so she turns into a crystal and gains eternal life.
Snow: Sweet dreams, Serah.
Lightning: She's dead, you idiot!
Snow: No, she's not. Remember that legend? Crystallized people gain eternal life! And we're supposed to get married, so she's not dead!
Lightning: *punches Snow* SHE'S DEAD. LIVE WITH IT, DICKHEAD.
The entire room starts to shake. Outside, several fighter dragon jets are moving the big ass machine, and plan to destroy it. The army starts firing all their weapons at it, causing it to start crumbling. Back inside, the room is starting to crumble. The shaking eventually stops, and a door behind the group opens. Everyone soon goes through the door. They wind up in a room with a giant machine, which is the fal'Cie.
Snow: Serah finished her mission, so let her go!
fal'Cie: . . .
Snow: I'll be your l'Cie!
Lightning: Oh, fuck this. It doesn't care!
Lightning tries to slash the machine, but her gunblade does nothing to it. The fal'Cie's true form is soon revealed: a huge robot with crystal parts. Lightning, Snow, and Sazh attack it.
Azul Rojo: Gee, another game over! If the party leader dies, that's it. Your allies don't use potions, so you have to have Lightning use them. And due to the enemy smashing you nigh constantly with attacks that hit for 40 to 80 damage each time, you're going to be popping a lot of potions. It doesn't help that Lightning is a strong attacker, and you have to use her as a healer. Who the fuck designed this battle system, and why are people saying it's so much fun? Yet more over-hyped bullcrap.
When the fal'Cie is defeated, Lightning, Sazh, and Snow find themselves floating around a dark room. The fal'Cie has grown even larger. It binds everyone with energy chains, then brands them as l'Cie. The fal'Cie explodes, causing the big ass machine to fall into the water and crystallize it. Eye candy FMVs of a party and Snow proposing to Serah follow. Snow wakes up from his dream, and finds that he and the others are on Lake Bresha, which is now crystal.
Sazh: How the hell did we end up here?
Lightning: I don't know.
Vanille: How are we alive?
Snow: Serah saved us!
Lightning: Shut up! It's your fault she's dead!
Sazh: Oh shit! Enemies!
Snow blocks an attack aimed at Lightning, and kicks the enemy's ass with a burst of energy.
Snow: The hell?
Hope: You used magic! l'Cie power! Well, shit! We're all l'Cie now!
Lightning: Right. Oh, it's tutorial time.
Azul Rojo: Congrats, Square. I think this it the biggest number of tutorials you've crammed into the first 4 hours of a game! So, my characters can change "roles" now, even mid-battle. Not so fun changing things mid-battle, since the action doesn't pause while you're deciding what you want.
Snow: So, we really are l'Cie.
Sazh: Guess so.
Vanille: Yeah, me too. Have a close up of my thigh!
Hope: Why me? You guys suck! Leave me alone! It's all Snow and Serah's fault!
Snow: Shut up, kid! Er, sorry.
Vanille: It's okay! Everything will be fine! La la la, happy happy!
Lightning: So, how do we complete a Focus if we don't know what it is?
Vanille: I think I saw it.
Sazh: That's how a Focus works. Fal'Cie just give you a glimpse about what to do. Er...That's what legends say, anyway.
Lightning: Hey, whiney. What'd you see?
Hope: Uh...I saw a towering-
Sazh: Wait, did we all have the same dream?
Lightning & Snow: Ragnarok.
Sazh: Yep. Same dream.
Hope: That was our Focus? How do we figure that out?
Vanille: That's the hard part. Fal'Cie only give us a hint. We have to figure out what to do with it.
Sazh: So, we're technically enemies of Cocoon. So, are we supposed to--
Snow: We have to protect Cocoon.
Vanille: Why's that?
Snow: Serah told us. Let's work together! Oh, I'm gonna go find Serah!
Vanille: Wait for meeee!
Lightning: Hey, tutorial time again.
Azul Rojo: Wow! I can level up now! About fucking time. Wait a minute. HP +20 slot? Strength +4 slot? Oh, fucking damn it. The Sphere Grid? Really? Well, it uses points this time. But you can't just dump points into slots. You actually use them up while moving from slot to slot. This is a pain in the ass to use. And each character has to develop battle roles separately! Wow, Square-Enix. You went with the License Point system and normal levelling for FFXII, which worked nicely and was easy to learn. Now, you've brought back the Sphere Grid, but mashed it together with the LP system and a limited job system? Fucking hell. *RAGE QUIT*
What? You want to know more? Go on YouTube and watch a playthrough. Or go rent it.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 10:59pm 03/10/10
In-game encyclopedias: For when you're too lazy to explain or - heaven forbid - actually SHOW the player anything interesting in the plot narrative. Forget developing our game's universe to anything above the level of "half-assed" the traditional way, we have to use that disc space for more eye candy fight scenes for the twelve-year-old fanboys!
I still cringe at the thought of Kingdom Hearts pulling me out of the narrative so it can explain the controller to me in painstaking, unskippable detail.
"To move forward, push UP on the stick!"
"Oh, you mean like in EVERY SINGLE OTHER GAME EVER MADE, EVER?!"
And yes, something as basic as GOING UP ONE LEVEL shouldn't be a fucking project. Ever.
Thank god Strange Journey, Perfect Dark, Grandia and the Lunar remake are out this month to save us from this dreck. Keep up the nutshelling!
~SHITTLE § at 06:46pm 03/25/10
the itsy bitsy spider BIT OFF THE MOUSE'S HEAD! YEEHAW!
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 03:22am 12/28/11
UPDATE: I've finally gotten around to actually seeing the first few hours of this game firsthand. And my god, what a fucking mess. While I may not have been fond of some of the previous games, at least they all attempted to tell a story in a linear and cohesive manner, and provided the illusion that we were at least exploring an interesting fantasy world and having some intense, epic battles with the fate of a world at stake. This... aberration does us no such favors. We never see any of this world outside of narrow corridors full of monsters and brief, disjointed plot scenes (more on that in a bit), and there is nothing interesting to see or anyone at all to interact with outside of a cutscene. Hell, even shops don't provide us with anyone to interact with - they're just vending machines stored inside save points! This is seriously the laziest game design I have ever seen. Hell, even Final Fantasy X had some open areas to explore and a few secrets to find off the beaten path. Not here, though - the entire game is just one narrow corridor with a monster fight every ten steps. Even 98% of the fights are mindless - just click "Auto Battle", wait ten seconds, and bingo, you win.
As for the plot, it's just as bad. The story is a disjointed mess, with nothing resembling a linear progression of events. Scenes just drop in and out at random, there's zero context for anything said or done in them much of the time (unless you go reading pages and pages of flat, boring text in the online manual, and even then it's stupid because just reading one short paragraph describing something does not create any emotional investment) and all of the characters have exactly one personality trait each. Lightning's a bitch! Snow's a brash and righteous scrapper! Sazh only exists to clumsily exposit plot points in every scene, never explaining how he knows them or why! Vanille's a bubbly airhead who has trouble saying simple words and can't decide whether she speaks with an accent or not! Hope whines constantly about Snow getting his mom killed but never confronts him about it just so we can pad out the game with more angsty scenes later! Yeah, I'm really rooting for this bunch of idiots.
Should I even bring up the soundtrack, which does not contain even one single memorable song? In a series that became well-known and beloved in no small part due to its unique and memorable soundtracks? A fact which remained constant throughout every game in the series - even the horrible ones - up to this point? Yes, I should, actually. Because I think that point, perhaps better than any other, illustrates just how much of a betrayal Final Fantasy XIII is to its predecessors.
This franchise is dead. It has been for more than a decade. I'm done throwing money at it to try and bring it back. I'm out. I've moved on. Spend your hard-earned cash elsewhere. Buy the Persona games. Buy Ys. Buy Fallout: New Vegas. Buy Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. Buy ANYTHING but this.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 12:28pm 04/12/13 (02:37pm 02/26/10) in 1h7m3s § 3003 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
after 1 bombings:
Final Fantasy X-2's release day marked the point of no return for Square; they'd officially given their fanbase the finger and moved on to just churning out formulaic shit every six weeks for more money, peppering every game since with the same dull, gimmicky gameplay, predictable plotlines, ridiculous over-frilled aesthetic design, and obnoxious, one-dimensional characters. Not to mention that they started releasing endless waves of terrible sequels, prequels, spinoffs and remakes to their classic games just to destroy any fond memories their older fans may have had of them whilst simultaneously stealing their money.
As for X-2 itself, I didn't even play it; I took one look at the the opening video where they turn Yuna and Rikku into the fucking Spice Girls and decided "that's it, I'm not even going to waste my time on this bullshit". But on the plus side, it does give me a good trump card in arguments with Square fantards.
"Square sucks now, dude. They've made maybe two decent games in the last 10 years."
"NO WAY FUCK YOU THEY ARE THE BEST COMPANY AND WILL ALWAYS BE THEY HAVE THE BEST STORIES EVER WRITTEN AND PIONEERED SO MANY RPG TRENDS AND DON'T JUST WHORE OUT THEIR CHARACTERS AND FRANCHISES ALL THE TIME LIKE ALL THE COMPANIES YOU LI-"
"THAT GAME WAS AWESOME GO BACK TO YOUR BUTTON MASHING STREET FIGHTER GAMES"
"Dirge of Cerberus"
"BEST SHOOTER EVER YOU'RE JUST TOO STUPID TO GET IT"
"THAT GAME WAS SO DEEP AND WELL MADE I MEAN ARENA FIGHTERS ONLY NEED TWO MOVES PER CHARACTER ANYWAY MAN, RANDOM WEAPONS, STAGE HAZARDS, VARIETY AND FUN IN GENERAL ARE FOR CHUMPS!"
"ITS SPELLED WITH A LOWERCASE G FAGGOT AND IT'S BRILLIANT BECAUSE ITS A TABLETOP RPG PUT INTO VIDEO GAME FORM, NEVERMIND THAT NO TABLETOP RPG I'VE EVER PLAYED ANYWHERE HAD GAME DESIGN THIS COUNTERINTUITIVE AND GAMEPLAY THIS BORING!"
"Final Fantasy X-2."
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Azul Rojo § at 09:07pm 02/26/10
An all-female party. That's something new for Final Fantasy.
The job system makes a comeback. That's cool.
Being able to go almost anywhere at the start of the game. Interesting, but may result in you getting a huge shit-kicking if you pick the wrong area.
Graphics! Graphics, graphics, graphics! Nothing new there.
New jobs! Scantily clad songstress, scantily clad thief, scantily clad gunner, and scantily clad lady luck. The "international" version of the game had the "bare" job. Holy shit: http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Bare_(Final_Fantasy_X-2)
Sto-ry? Oh, it's a year or two after the first game. Yuna's become a whor--uh...singer. Actually, she and her friends became Charlie's Angels. Fuck if I know the rest, because I lost interest about 1/4 way through, and then found out about the "multiple" endings.
Yes, multiple endings! All 2 of them! And you're not going to see the best ending unless you have some sort of walkthrough for the game. Seriously. There are little bits in the game that will make or break your completion rating, and there's nothing to indicate which ones will do this. One example is this old dude who wants to tell you a story. A really, really fucking LONG story. While you listen (or go make yourself a snack if you're smart), two options eventually come up: "Please, go on." or "I've heard enough." If you select either one of those options, you've lost 1% completion that you can't get back. Yeah, you're supposed to sit there and DO NOTHING for about 5 or more minutes to get 1% of the game completed.
Can't comment on the other games, save for Ehrgeiz and Unlimited SaGa. Ehrgeiz is fun for a while, but it gets old fast. The controls are really awkward, too. Unlimited SaGa I played for about 10 minutes. I was getting slaughtered in the FIRST AREA of the game, since monsters were whacking away my LP. My main character had 10 LP; monsters were hitting her for 2 to 4 LP with each attack. What the fuck.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 12:21am 02/27/10
Square games have always been pretty notorious for that. Miss one thing or make the wrong choice somewhere, even though the game doesn't clue you in to this fact in ANY way, and you're fucked -you'll have to either go on without it, or start over and try again (something I always despise in a 30+ hour RPG). Strange that it's still so prevalent today - only Shadow Hearts seems to have realized that that it was a bad idea and actually lets you revisit almost every area in the game.
Let's Play Suikoden II, Part 9: Unite the Clans
Let's Play Suikoden 2
Star Control 2 (GOG.com)
Downloadable Games Quick Hits
Let's Play Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Finale
Let's Play Baldur's Gate
Viewtiful Gonterman: Diminishing Returns
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Demo) in a Nutshell
Games in a Nutshell
A standalone Heckle - Timespiral ~RahuBrouhaha
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
MiST on the Ghost Planet - Sonic: The Mobius Chronicles Chapter 1: Conclusion ~Davey-kins
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Duke Nukem 3D Mod: Naferia's Reign ~creepy fanboy
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Monster World IV (Sega Genesis) ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Demo) in a Nutshell ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Another Brief Treatise on Plot Codices and Final Fantasy XIII-2 (and Mass Effect, again) ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 4.
My Top 30 Favorite Games ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.
The Five Most Disappointing Games of 2011 ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.
Spoony's Top Ten Games of 2011 ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.
- ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.