So after my four-year-long journey, I finally finished my journey with Lightning, Serah, Noel and the crew. Not only that, but I 1000G'd all three games of the saga (XIII, XIII-2, Lightning Returns). Suffice it to say, after hundreds of hours of play time, I have a few reflections on the games, some positive, some negative, some incredibly random. So, here they are:
1. The fighting system.
In one word--fantastic. I personally loved the meta-combat that the paradigm system invoked. Being able to control one character with active engagement while being able to trust that the other two players in my group were doing generally what I wanted them to do was quite invigorating. I couldn't control exactly what each player did, when they did it, but I was (and am) willing to give up some control over each individual for more control over the entire party. And one fantastic bonus--in XIII and XIII-2, players start each battle with full health! No more RPG stocking up on supplies bullsh*t! I could attempt to fell a Long Gui without feeling the pressure to have everyone fully healed before each attempt.
|The infamous Long Gui|
2. XIII's Story Concept, good. Execution, acceptable. Writing, terrible. XIII had one of the best story concepts for any game I have ever played. In a nutshell, it invokes the "to be or not to be" question on a whole new level. When branded as "l'Cie," tasked with either fulfilling their "focus" by destroying humanity and consequently going into crystal-stasis or not fulfilling their focus and damned to roam the world as demons, or "Cie'th," what will the main characters do? Will they take arms? Will they do nothing? Will they kill themselves? Will they fulfill their focus? These questions could have been used to really analyze the human experience and create some really powerful moments of emotion and writing. But this was not delivered. It was hinted at, and when I thought a moment of catharsis would be revealed in a character, the writing neatly covered it up or diluted it. What also hurt the story was that there was a novel in the datalogs. No one reads the datalogs, period. Actually, no one reads in general, period. (non-women, non-firstborn Americans). Also, Japanese writing can sometimes be the slowest, dullest nonsense in the world. Sometimes there would be hella long cut-scenes where character one will say, "Well, I think A, B, and C, so therefore D," and then the next character will respond with, "Yeah! So if A, B, and C, then there most be D!" Meanwhile, I'm bored out of my mind thinking that all the dialogue cut-scenes could be half as long and convey just as much information if that second character just didn't say anything, or just said "OK" like every other human being on the planet. This applies to most Japanese media, actually. 3. Noel's Story Noel Kreiss, the last hunter. At the beginning of XIII-2, I was super excited to see where his character would go--the concept of him intrigued me, still does. Him being the last human alive, coming from a bleak future where humanity is blown out like a candle, I thought his story could really say something about the human experience. But, like XIII before it, the writing failed Noel and the concept behind him. Either the writing covered up these moments, or diluted it with nonsense lines surrounding really important ones. Take, for example, when Noel and Serah arrive at Academia, the main city-area of the game, Noel says something along the lines of "Wow! There's so many people, and so much activity, and so many sounds of life!" That really struck a cord with me, I thought, "wow, I feel so much more enamored by human achievement and life now that I am seeing it through the eyes of the last person ever born." But this line wasn't elaborated on, and other nonsensical dialogue soon followed it. My high school AP English teacher preached the words of PIE--Point, Information, Explanation, and the same gospel of writing should be used by these far-away Japanese writers. They need to explain, to go deeper into what they are writing. But because they don't, they follow a PI-PI-PI structure which is lackadaisical and shallow.
|All he needed was a little explanation, and he could have been one of the most memorable FF characters ever|
4. Lightning Returns's Story Short and sweet, no one likes apocalyptic stories. They're unsettling, and often poorly done. This is no exception. Also it's quite off-putting to have a story where the protagonist kills god at the end. (Oops, spoilers.) Maybe it is not off-putting for others, but for me it was too Revelation-meets-His-Dark-Materials-meets-Japan. This is like drinking a protein shake of chocolate, strawberry and skim milk--each one is tolerable when taken in moderation, but all three at once and in large quantities is certainly not good for digestion. Also, when the lore deviates from what I read in the datalogs from XIII, the story loses all credibility in my eyes. If it is a XIII game, then it must take XIII as canon and adjust accordingly, not the other way around.
|Certainly a sinner in the hands of an angry god|
5. The Serendipitous Achievement Taught me to Never Gamble Seriously. This achievement sounds simple enough--win 7,777 coins while playing slots (in one game session). Let me tell you, this was one of the hardest, most mundane, most time-consuming achievements I have ever gotten. I had to rubber-band my "auto-slot" button down and leave my console on overnight to finally get the achievement, after most-likely losing more than double what I had earned.
|It'll disappoint you ever time.|
6. Use the Rare Items Somewhere in my XIII save file, there are six unused elixirs. You know what good they are doing floating somewhere in cyberspace unused? Nothing. I could have used them on any number of hard fights like the super-memorable Vercingetroix fight or the infamous Long Gui battle. Thankfully, I learned my lesson, and used all my ethers and elixirs on the Lightning Returns mega-bosses, Aeronite and Ereshkigal. I don't have those items floating around in cyber-space any more, but I did beat those bosses. I remember hearing something Oprah said about one of her late friends. Oprah said that when she came over, her friend would always use the expensive table-settings. When Oprah said that it wasn't necessary, her friend replied, "life is too short not to use the good stuff." While Oprah is a controversial personality, her late friend certainly was a wise individual Another, unrelated, example that invokes using the rare items is in some recent fiction movie where one character berates the protagonist because he used his army to do something of high importance, and while they got it done, some soldiers died. (I know, that description was super vague and non-descriptive). While soldiers are people, and life is sacred, I was really angry at this character for berating the protagonist for using his "rare items," otherwise known as his army. Sometimes sacrifices have to made. Use the rare items. Don't doubt yourself on what could be or what could have been.
|If you need to use it, use it. Don't look back.|
7. Final Thoughts Overall, the XIII saga was a growing experience for me. I learned a lot about reading, writing, characterization, and video games in general. I had an overall good time, and learned more than I care to admit. Like appreciate what I can: the fighting system in a semi-good, semi-bad game, and human life and activity in all its intricacy and complexity. I should explain and expand on information instead of needlessly repeating myself. Also I should use the rare items, not gamble, and not kill god. Thanks Final Fantasy XIII :)