A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Final Fantasy XIII

Discussion – New Content in Games

It’s an interesting thing, looking at how my interests in games have shifted away from console games to MMOs for my timesink. Here, let me explain…

Before there was Star Wars Galaxies, I got into Final Fantasy games and similar RPGs on the console. I got my first console that was all mine back in 2001 when a classmate got a PS2 for Christmas and just gave me his PSX and his copy of Final Fantasy VIII. From then until 2003, I played a lot of RPGs and even after Galaxies came out, I still played console games a lot. It was only until this past year that my MMO playing has superseded the console game playing. I think I have an explanation for this and I think it’s related to the constant release of new material.

When it’s a game I’ve never played, the new material is just on the next screen, but after a while, even that feels a bit stale. Star Trek Online just wrapped up another Featured Episode and each component of it was new and fresh and different. Lord of the Rings Online has these new zones that I’ve never been to and they have new and different creatures with new and different quests.

I’m not sure that this is entirely the case though. As I no longer have regular access to a 360, I no longer have a real desire to play it and the associated games (gah, I still want to play and beat Lost Odyssey and Final Fantasy XIII). I’ve been tempted to go back and replay Final Fantasy XII because I genuinely enjoyed it, but I’ve got more work to do in LOTRO and there’s more awesome to experience in STO.

I suppose the constant release of new content is one of the many reasons that has shifted my attention away from console gaming. I’m sure there’s a few other reasons floating around somewhere. Having friends playing too is a good one.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I wasn’t exceptionally motivated to write today, but I did come up with this article on the fly.

P.P.S. “The times they are a-changin’.”¬† – Bob Dylan


What makes a great game? – Part 1: Music

Hi everyone! This is part one of my 435 part series, Better Know a… wait… wrong! This is the first part of some kind of series that will be however many parts I feel it will be until I’ve nailed down my perspective a bit.

I want to tackle what makes games great for me (specifically) and to touch on what makes them great for everyone else (generally). Obviously, my perspective is limited to what I like and that’s what this little project is all about so, well, deal with it. For context, I’ve provided links to some of the references I make.

Anyways, I was watching some clips on YouTube that contained some orchestrated video game music and I was wondering why I want to see my game music presented in such a fashion and why I enjoy it when it hits the big music halls. I think I might have an answer to that: I want my favorite moments to be presented in a format that is obviously and without question HIGH CLASS. Orchestrated music is always high class to me. The performers take it very seriously and the audience treats whatever they perform as a serious thing. This probably stems from the classical pieces they typically play which are by definition today culturally serious and historically important. Orchestrated music is the highest form of presentation that any music can achieve to be (my opinion, so nyah). The pure music just washing over you, letting it fill the room and flow in and around you, yeah, the orchestra is the best medium for this.

When I experience an event and it has music associated, I find it easier to recall said event. Music is a very powerful device that conveys emotion and thought and when associated with events that are powerful and poignant on their own, well, it’s a complete presentation.

In my past, I’ve played a great number of games. The games that I feel have incredible soundtracks weren’t the games I started on: Sim City, Civilization, F-19 Stealth Fighter, Starflight, Star Fleet, Empire, or any of a dozen other games. The earliest memory of a game with a fantastic soundtrack that still impacts me today comes from (well, there’s two) Final Fantasy VI (it was III back then) and Chrono Trigger, both on the Super Nintendo. When playing those games, I immediately feel the joy inherent in living through something that I experienced positively back then. When listening to the soundtracks, I remember every event that happened. When I want to relive the games without playing them, I listen to the music.

Off the top of my head, if I listen to the Phantom Forest track from Final Fantasy VI, I remember finding my way to the Ghost Train that carries the deceased away from our world to the next and Cyan watching his wife and son leave. If I listen to the Bombing Mission track from Final Fantasy VII, I remember riding on the train at the beginning of the game, wondering who the hell this spiky haired guy was and further wondering what this mission had in store for me (and what in the world was I getting into?). When listening to Frog’s Theme from Chrono Trigger, I see in my mind the mountain opening before Frog as he wields the Masamune and vows to defeat Magus. Music in video games is a powerful device…

…but it’s not restricted to video games. In Star Wars, when I hear the Binary Sunset track, I can envision a young Luke Skywalker standing and watching the suns of Tatoo I and Tatoo II set, wondering where his future is going. In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the Concerning Hobbits piece makes me think of the Hobbits going about their business in preparation of Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday. So, when I want to experience a movie without watching the movie, I listen to the soundtrack.

It’s also not just memories of scenes. It’s the emotional connections that those scenes have for me. When hearing the Battle with Magus Theme from Chrono Trigger, I remember fighting him and feeling like the fight could go either way at any time as I struggled to keep my trio alive through the onslaught of spells Magus frequently dropped. When hearing the piece from Final Fantasy XIII called Blinded by Light, I feel excitement regarding the battle that MUST be going on right now. Every time I hear Chrono Cross’ Scars of Time (aka Time Scar), I remember the investment I made in that game and all the incredible experiences that went along with it as well as the successful strategies and terrible defeats I suffered while playing. For the record, the final boss fight in Chronopolis was a real pain. *shakes fist* Curse you, Miguel!

Growing up, PC games typically didn’t have great soundtracks. X-COM had a decent one that kept me excited or scared depending on what was going on. Wing Commander III was one of my earliest quality PC soundtrack experiences that sticks in my head. I didn’t experience the awesomeness that was The Secret of Monkey Island until later on (but chronologically, that’s years before WCIII), but that soundtrack is awesome and the theme for the game is nearly iconic for adventure games. So, yeah, they were there, but decent PC soundtracks didn’t come along until later (with Warcraft II and such and yes, I acknowledge that my game timeline might be a little off).

I suppose part of my want to hear orchestrated soundtracks of my games stems from a desire to hear my passions and pastimes validated in a public forum where a large number of people voluntarily pay to experience what I once experienced on a much more emotionally invested level. I want people to look at this music and wonder where such notes came from and then to seek out the original source with the curiosity borne of a desire to experience the emotions that the music provokes. When I hear music, it takes me places that I’ve been before. When I hear the Imperial March, I was there with Vader as he condemned the Rebellion. When I hear Forth Eorlingas, I was there as the Rohirrim rode to the rescue. When I hear Clash on the Big Bridge, I was there to fight Gilgamesh! Um, for that last one, yes in Final Fantasy V and later again in Final Fantasy XII when Gilgamesh is an optional hunt (they remixed the original song for the latter one).

I want to go there. I want to be there. Music is my vehicle that takes me where I want to go and helps me feel the emotions tied to those places and doing those things. For the record, Lost Odyssey has an awesome soundtrack, but it’s very sad (especially A Sign of Hope and Parting Forever). The thing is… well, orchestrated music speaks to me WAYYYYY more than the regular stuff we hear on the radio. Songs with words touch me, but not like A Sign of Hope does. The Indiana Jones theme speaks more of adventure to me than any song with lyrics that was in [insert recent action movie here].

A moving and powerful soundtrack is a must for a good game. The longer I play games, the more I find that I love a good soundtrack. When Final Fantasy XIII was still on its way out here in the U.S., I pre-ordered the soundtrack for myself. It’s awesome and the more I play the game, the more the soundtrack gains relevance and power with me. If the music is good, I suppose I’m more tolerant of the shortcomings of the game.

A great piece sends a tingle up my spine. It makes me go “wow” and compels me to listen to it all the way through. It makes me feel like I’m in the presence of something important or powerful or incredible or whatever. When I hear Frog’s Theme (look above for the link) performed amazingly well, it literally sends chills down my spine. THAT is powerful music. I have a theory that it’s the trumpets and/or the entire brass section, but I’m also a fan of the strings… so yeah, I think I’ll just claim it’s the orchestral nature and leave it at that.

Oh, the clips that spawned this link-heavy presentation of mine were of a Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross medley done this past September in Germany. Here’s part one and here’s part two.

Until next time, let the music move you!

– Elorfin

P.S. Because I played the PC version of FFVII, I must admit that I heard/saw the intro far more than the rest of the game while I tried different sound card settings. Eventually I got it right, after experiencing the same intro cutscene at least six times.

P.P.S. A quick timeline of the release dates of the discussed objects in this particular post (this doesn’t mean I saw Star Wars in 1977 since I wasn’t born until several years later):

  • Star Wars – 1977
  • Star Wars Imperial March – 1980
  • Indiana Jones – 1981
  • Star Fleet I: The War Begins – 1985 (DOS)
  • Starflight – 1986 (DOS)
  • Empire: Wargame of the Century – 1987 (DOS)
  • F-19 Stealth Fighter – 1988 (DOS)
  • Sim City – 1989 (DOS)
  • The Secret of Monkey Island – 1990 (DOS)
  • Civilization – 1991 (DOS)
  • Final Fantasy V – 1992 (Japan Only)
  • Final Fantasy VI – 1994 (SNES)
  • Wing Commander III – 1994 (PC)
  • Chrono Trigger – 1995 (SNES)
  • Warcraft II – 1995 (PC)
  • Final Fantasy VII – 1998 (PC)
  • Chrono Cross – 2000 (US Release)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – 2002
  • Final Fantasy XII – 2006 (US Release)
  • Lost Odyssey – 2008 (US Release)
  • Final Fantasy XIII – 2010 (XBOX 360)

P.P.P.S. I forgot to mention Lunar! Gah! I fail!


Forced Hiatus

Sorry about not posting anything recently. I was kept busy by friends coming into town and the release of Final Fantasy XIII and my internet at home being really strange.

We’ll return you to your quasi-regularly scheduled programming after the wireless situation at my home is remedied.

DFTBA,

– Elorfin


Final Fantasy XIII – In Progress, Part 1

Pardon me while I gush about the latest installment in the Final Fantasy series…

Dear God, this is an incredible game! I’m really enjoying the experience overall and I have complained very little and in only the most appropriate points (typically when I die, I grumble, but that’s not uncommon).

I love the cutscenes, the character development, the graphics, the epic music, the character designs (stereotypically Japanese RPG style, but I’m cool with it), the battle system, and how much I’m actually connecting with the characters. I can sympathize with Snow, I understand what Hope’s going through, I feel terrible for the situation that Sazh is in and I’m rooting for him (he’s like Lando Calrissian and I love that… and yes, that’s an awesome and adorable chocobo chick in his ‘fro), I think Fang is a really cool character, Vanille is a much deeper character than I thought she was initially (and that was a very pleasant surprise) and Lightning is my favorite heroine in a video game (because she’s freaking cool!).

Combat flows smoothly with an “Auto” function that is far smarter than I originally expected. What happens is it collects information as the combat proceeds and if certain attacks are resisted or more damaging, it adjusts accordingly. The auto-hinder function for the Saboteur combat role doesn’t keep trying to poison something that’s immune to poison. The auto-heal function defaults to healing the most critical of targets. The friendly AI is actually clever in this game (it was in FFXII as well).

The game is linear thus far (I’m in chapter 10 after 23 hours and 20 minutes of game play and 108 saves) but it’s starting to open up now that I can finally pick my own party members out of the six available.

I’m LOVING my experience. For the record, I’m playing the XBox 360 version of the game on a high-def tv at a friend’s house with surround sound and a comfy chair. Many thanks to one of the best damn friends in the world for putting up with my gaming in his basement!

The strategy guide is very well written (which I appreciate after the FFVII PC strategy guide burned me oh so bad back then). Yes, I use a strategy guide, but only because I’m mildly obsessive about getting all the treasure as I go… and most FF games are devoid of a New Game + mode (which keeps me coming back to Chrono Trigger) so I’d like to be a near-completionist the first time through. The guide keeps the spoilers to a bare minimum with world class advice (like which Paradigms I should prepare so that I don’t get owned in fights) and when I should bother to grind CP (effectively experience points) so that I get the biggest bang for my time spent. I appreciate all the work that went into such a tome and I look forward to plumbing its depths as I approach the conclusion of the game.

Overall, I’m thrilled to be finally playing Final Fantasy XIII. 13’s my lucky number and this has definitely been an amazing ride for the last week. It plays like an interactive movie and the music combined with the story keeps me emotionally invested in the characters plight. I WANT to help them with their task and THAT is what a good role playing game is all about: a desire to BE invested.

To all my close friends who’ve been suffering this last week thanks to my obsession with this shiny new game: thanks for putting up with me, but according to the guide, I’m definitely not done yet! Hang in there folks!

I’ll resume the regularly scheduled programming this week sometime (I hope). Don’t forget to be awesome!

– Elorfin


Fantasy Earth Zero – Initial Impression

Okay, I gave a whack at Fantasy Earth Zero (hereafter referred to as FEZ). After a couple of hours, I was still in the tutorial. The game is currently in Open Beta in the US and as a result, if you manage to FINISH the tutorial, you start play at level 20. Yeah. This is purportedly so you can try things out and see if anything’s broken.

Apparently this is an old game that is just now getting released here in the US for Free-2-Play. It’s not bad… it’s just… well, the graphics are very dated, in my opinion. Also, the combat is a little too sensitive to which way you’re facing. You can’t just hold down your mouse button to swing, you have to click every time you want to shoot/swing your weapon. Targeting is important. A bit too important for me.

I don’t have any screens to share, mostly because this is kind of an “In Progress” slash “Impression” piece. By that I mean, I don’t intend to continue playing this right now, so this is all you’re going to hear from me on this for at least a week or so. The reason? Well, Final Fantasy XIII comes out tomorrow and I’m really really excited about that. I have a feeling that the next post or two here may in fact be me gushing over how cool the game is. What I intend to do with it is actually discuss the game mechanics in much the same way as I have been for the other games I’ve poked at… only I don’t think I’ll be able to secure screens from the XBox for use here on my post… well, I guess I could take pictures with¬† my phone during gameplay…

We’ll see. Anyways, I recommend FEZ if you’re into massive PvP battles and old school gaming. FEZ has anything from 5v5 to 50v50 fights and it has complex battlefield mechanics like throwing down buildings to expand your teams territory and the like. There are three classes which act like rock paper scissors in combat (the warrior is good versus scouts who are good versus sorcerers who are good versus warriors) and there’s an equipment system that is at once very basic yet very streamlined. Oh, and skills for which way you’d like your character to develop. You have (for the warrior) basic skills like a ranged attack with a big swing and you have specialized skills for using a sword and a shield or a 2-handed weapon (exclusively). Likewise, the scout gets to choose between daggers and the bow and the sorcerer gets to choose between Fire, Lightning, and Ice. There’s also a complicated background story defining each country you can side with on the battlefield (there are several countries).

The game still has its bugs to work out, but it seems to be working decently well. I recommend going through the tutorial because it actually is kind of interesting (if absurdly long to finish). Also, pay attention when you’re doing the tutorial. I accidentally quit the tutorial at level 11 and I have no idea how to get back in, so, don’t hit the Exit button in the lower right in order to get back to town faster… it won’t work that way. As it is, I’ll have to delete my character and start the tutorial over in order to get back in (ugh, all that work for nothing!).

I may drop a post here before my Final Fantasy binging in order to discuss some more terms and such as well as some concepts I can share for those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about half (or more) of the time. Hey, knowing is half the… wait… um… yeah.

Until next time!

– Elorfin