Why I Like Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is undoubtedly the black sheep of the Final Fantasy series. And when I say black sheep, I mean that the majority of people, both casual fans and hardcore followers of the series alike, really hate it. And I mean they REALLY hate it.

Final Fantasy XIII is a departure in so many ways from the history of the series. There are times when the fact that it’s a Final Fantasy game is indiscernible. It was directed by a series newcomer, Motomu Toriyama, instead of series favorites Hironobu Sakaguchi and character designer Testuya Nomura. Legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu, who created nearly all of the music for the first eleven Final Fantasy installments, was no longer working with Final Fantasy at the time, and the music was handled by Uematsu collaborator Masashi Hamauzu, who had previously helped with some of the music on Final Fantasy X (his work is usually characterized by stacatto piano and violins, atop lush string arrangements, as opposed to Uematsu whose work feels a bit more like pop rock music in orchestral form). The story took on similar themes as previous installments: a group of ordinary characters fighting extraordinarily powerful forces they shouldn’t by any right be able to handle, characters who harness magic and summon powerful creatures, and as always, the ever present religious allegory and the final battle against god (no really, the final battle in most, if not all Final Fantasy games, is against either the god of that universe, a symbolic god, a literal god, or a character who has become a god or seeks to do so).

Battle concept from the E3 2007 trailer

Battle concept from the E3 2007 trailer

Final Fantasy XIII had a lot going for it before release: fans were excited about the new protagonist, Lightning, who was shown off in an E3 concept trailer that showed an early version of the battle system in which battle was entirely active, though still featured menus and magic commands like previous games. Initially, the story was going to be focused on Vanille, but after the positive response to Lightning, the developers switched focus to her. I think that was a good choice because Lightning is a fantastic character. I do often find myself a little aggravated when she is referred to as “the female Cloud Strife.” Despite the opening scenario bearing a lot of similarity to Cloud and Barret’s battle agaisnt the Guard Scorpion, and the fact that she’s an ex-soldier with a moody personality, I don’t actually see much resemblance between the two. Cloud was, in general, a pretty positive character, who actually had a lot of compassion for people’s problems, despite constantly shrugging his shoulders and flipping his hair. Lightning is steely-faced and determined, not at all emotionless but refusing to give in to her fear. Cloud stopped every few minutes to fall to his knees and spazz out with his hands shaking to hold his head still, whereas Lightning almost never loses her drive to push forward.

At any rate, fans liked Lightning and the developers went with it.

The story was written by director Motomu Toriyama, and suppoedly he’s notorious for creating plots that make very little sense. The story of Final Fantasy XIII is so convoluted and bogged down in it’s own terminology that even a dedicated fan who’s played the game several times finds they didn’t really have any clue what was happening on the first play through. Characters communicate with one another, but they seem to always be side-stepping what they’re actually talking about, and no one really gives any clear idea of what’s happening, aside from constantly repeating a few choice phrases (those phrases being, “We’re Pulse l’Cie, enemies of Cocoon,” “If we don’t fulfill our Focus, we’ll become C’ieth,” “Pulse is hell on earth,” “We’re puppets of the fal’Cie,” and “Serah wanted us to save Cocoon”).

Backstory is provided in sporadic chunks that don’t seem to form any clear narrative, and the premise of the final boss fight makes little sense at all. Basically, the villain WANTS the main characters to kill him, because if he dies, Cocoon will be destroyed and he will win. So their response is… to try and kill him. The party shouts about how they refuse to do what he asks, all while doing what he asks. Even weirder is that he fights BACK. His goal is to be killed, yet he attempts to defend himself. It’s a very strange thing. Lightning gives a speech about how they refuse to be bound by their fate, how they refuse to be puppets and do what they’re told, but then she does exactly what they’re told and kills the fal’Cie, with seemingly no idea of how to handle the consequences of what to do when Cocoon falls out of the sky.

The ending also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Throughout the story it’s explained that l’Cie who fulfill their focus become crystal for eternity, unless they’re awakened from crystal stasis by a fal’Cie who gives them a new focus. At the end of the game they fulfill their focus, which was to become Ragnorok and knock Cocoon out of the sky (despite the fact that they did save it), and they turn to crystal because… they did what they were told? Even weirder, it’s never explained how someone can be saved from crystal stasis unless called upon by a fal’Cie, but in the end the entire party turns to crystal and then, with the exception of the characters who held up Cocoon, they’re released fromc crystal with their brands gone, and receive no explanation. This will be half-heartedly explained in the sequels, but Final Fantasy XIII is a self-contained story, and doesn’t mention how this could be possible.

Then there’s Fabula Nova Crystalis.

You see, Final Fantasy XII takes place in a sub-series within the Final Fantasy series called Fabula Nova Crystalis. This is kind of like the Ivalice Alliance from earlier in the series, except that Final Fantasy Tactics wasn’t created with the intention of making a sub-series. Basically, Fabula Nova Crystalis games share the same lore about the creation of their universe, but… not much else. They contain similar themes, they contain fal’Cie, but apart from that they don’t seem to have much to do with one another. The gods serve different functions in different games within the subseries. For instance, the goddess Etro has a different function in Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Type-0, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII (we’ll come back to that in a moment). They don’t all actually happen in the same universe, they happen in different VERSIONS of the same universe. So Final Fantasy XIII and it’s direct sequels are a sub-series (The Lightning Saga) within another sub-series (Fabula Nova Crystalis), within a larger series (Final Fantasy).

Even as a dedicated fan of the series, I’ll admit it’s all very contrived and pretentious.

Then of course, we have Tetsuya Nomura.

Nomura is the character designer for Final Fantasy. He works alongside Yoshitaka Amano who does almost all of the concept illustrations (you might recognize his style from the Final Fantasy logo illustrations, the art of Vampire Hunter D, or his collaboration with Neil Gaiman on a Sandman spinoff). Amano’s style is very unique, his characters tend to have angular pale faces with dark-colored lips and flowing garments that look like watercolor even when they’re pencil sketches. Nomura’s style is a bit more reminiscent of anime. His style has actually become something of an RPG trope.

Crisis Core

It’s become pretty common that if there’s an RPG, the main character will have some or all of the following characteristics: a tall, thin but slightly muscular male, with spikey or otherwise outrageous hair, usually blonde. His facial features will be somewhat androgynous, and regardless of his age he’ll look like he’s seventeen. He’ll probably be wearing a constant scowl and gazing longingly into the horizon, or moping in the rain. He’ll be carrying some kind of enormous weapon like a sword that looks like it’s a chunk of metal ripped from the side of a skyscraper, or something eqaully obstuse like a techno-sword or transforming gun. He’ll be wearing outlandish clothes, usually covered in belts that don’t serve much purpose, accesorized so much that you wonder how he can walk around without jangling like a set of house keys, he’ll probably have a pauldron on his left shoulder and the left side of his outfit will be far more decorated than the right side. He’ll also be wearing either combat boots or large sneakers, and if he’s done in the style of animated character, he’ll probably have giant hands and feet and a thin, lanky body.

Oh and also sometimes angel wings. Don’t ask me why.

If you recognize this archetype, you have Tetsuya Nomura to thank. I don’t mean to imply that he created Bishounen or the style of Doujinshi characters, but his influence on the video game world is pretty undeniable. Nomura was involved in the development of Final Fantasy XIII but only as far as character design, after that he stepped away and didn’t want to have anything else to do with it. In fact, he was so opposed to the game, that he started working on his own game, which he titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, because it was created in direct opposition to Final Fantasy XIII.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII was a bad name, but it stuck, and for years, fans had only scraps of information and a few brief concept trailers relating to the game. No one really knew what it was like, who these characters were, what kind of game it would be. Information was so slim that after nearly a decade, fans began to wonder if it hadn’t been cancelled altogether. Then it was announced that Final Fantasy Versus XIII would be rebranded as Final Fantasy XV, and fans collectively lost their shit with excitement, especially those who felt put upon by the radical departure of Final Fantasy XIII.

Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t just different in it’s scenario design, it played unlike any in the series so far. One of the big complaints fans had for Final Fantasy X was it’s linearity, the fact that players mostly walked a (very pretty) straight line from end of the game to the other, and that any time the world opened up, it was really only the illusion of space. When an ariship was provided for exploration, it only allowed players to warp to previous locations in the game, since there hadn’t been an overworld since Final Fantasy IX. Final Fantasy XII attempted to remedy this problem by opening the game up so much that traversing the world map meant slogging through several screens of wide open land. Both of these approaches worked in some ways and failed in others. In Final Fantasy X, the focus remained on the story, while traveling the straight path allowed some time for random battles and character customization. The wide open areas of Final Fantasy XII meant a larger opportunity to grind for experience, money and items, but a longer wait for the next story segment.

Final Fantasy XIII decided to adapt the Final Fantasy X strategy and keep things linear. Very linear.

Very, VERY linear.

No really, the number one complaint about this game is that it’s virtually on rails. And the people who made that complaint are absolutely correct. It really is. The areas are breathtakingly beautiful, but most of the time the paths you travel are tight hallways or catwalks, overlooking a gorgeous landscape that you can’t explore. Many of the paths serve only as set pieces to highlight the beautiful surroundings, which you cannot experience up close. Rather than random battles, enemies prowl around in real time, but approaching them moves the game to a battle screen. This method has been used in plenty of RPG’s before and it works, but it’s ultimately up to the player to decide whether they prefer slogging through endless random battles or choosing which battles to partake in. I admit that if the developers had chosen to use random battles, the linear pathways would probably have been unbearable for me, and the huge surroundings would be barren and lifeless.

Battle

Battles themselves turn the RPG formula on it’s head. You still have the option of choosing commands from a menu, but it’s really only the illusion of choice. Most of the time you’ll be using an “auto-battle” function. Now, I know it seems ridiculous to even include an “auto-battle” option, but there is a reason for it. Final Fantasy XIII’s battles are not actually about choosing which individual abilities to use on which character, they’re actually about choosing which CHARACTERS are performing which KINDS of actions. Characters are given six roles: Commando, Ravager, Medic, Saboteur, Synergist, and Sentinel. What these ultimately equate to are: Tank, Offensive Mage, Healer, Debuff Mage, Protective Mage, and Damage Magnet. Different characters have different combinations of access to these roles, so constantly changing your style to fit the situation is a necessity. You then focus all your effort on one enemy at a time, attacking them and building up a Chain Gauge, which when filled entirely, will send the enemy into an incredibly weak “staggered” status, which allows your characters to do double, triple or more damage, launch foes into the air, hit them with debuffs they were previously resistant to, or in the case of some behemoth superbosses, knock them on their side so you can pound away at them or heal yourself.

Different roles have different staggering capabilities. Commandos basically don’t affect that chain gauge at all, and during my first play through of the game I somehow managed to completely miss this, often throwing three tanks at a single enemy and wondering why they just weren’t doing enough damage. Ravagers are the best at building chain gauges, but if you attack with only ravagers, the gauge will rapidly drop down to zero, so you need a Commando or a debuffing Saboteur to stabilize it so that it drops much slower. The entire battle system is built around monitoring your opponents chain gauge, buffing yourself and debuffing them, and keeping yourself healed while you wait for them to hit their stagger point and then go in for the kill.

Healing items basically don’t exist. You are given two healing items the entire game, a simple Potion, and an incredibly rare full-healing Elixir (there are something like five obtainable Elixirs in the entire game). The Potion is obsolete even by the third chapter or so, it only heals a set number of HP, and there are never any upgraded Potions available at any point during the game. It’s like they’re only there to taunt you. You absolutely HAVE to have a Medic in your party, healing you almost constantly, or you will go down quickly. This makes party customization (when it becomes available extremely late in the game) very difficult, because there are only two apt Medics in the entire game, Hope and Vanille, and they happen to be the characters with the lowest HP, particularly Hope, you will have to spend a good amount of your time either healing or bringing back to life with Phoenix Downs (luckily those are still pretty useful, if expensive).

Even though each character has a unique set of three roles available to them (ability to unlock other roles becomes accessible later, but the amount of experience required makes it nearly impossible, and even still, not all characters can excel in every role), there are essentially three presets: tank, mage, and all-rounder, and you are given two of each. In order to succeed, you basically need to have one of each kind in your party if you want to win. For example, the two all-rounders are Lightning and Sazh, the two mages/healers are Hope and Vanille, and the two tanks are Fang and Snow. This means that it’s almost impossible to have a successful party setup WITHOUT Hope or Vanille, and attempting to use both Sazh and Fang at the same time means you have to subtract Lightning, or if you want multiple tanks in your party your other character can’t be an all-rounder, they need to be a healer. This isn’t about Paradigm roles, it’s the way the characters are designed.

I personally like characters to have limited designs (for example: Vivi is the only black mage in Final Fantasy IX, and cannot be turned into a tank no matter how hard you try, whereas Zidane is a physical attacker and can’t learn magic whatsoever), it’s definitely preferable to the blank slates of Final Fantasy VII, where each character is an interchangeable carbon copy of one another and the ability to overpower characters with Materia makes the characters themselves inherently pointless with no noticeable stat differences. However, the battles are set up in such a way that you simply CANNOT survive without having an adept healer, so Lightning isn’t good enough, and if you unlock the Paradigm roles for them, neither are Sazh, Fang or Snow. Only Vanille and Hope can be counted on to reliably heal the party, so this means you HAVE to use one of the two of them at all times. I don’t mind these characters, in fact Vanille is one of my favorites, but you can see how this becomes limiting quickly. This preset character type also means that the only way to viably use Sazh in your party is to replace Lightning, in which case you have an all-rounder that can’t heal, or replace your tank, in which case you have to repurpose your all-rounder in a tank.

Odin

Characters level up through “CP,” or Crystogen Points, which you use to increase their stats and abilities in the Crystarium, which is more less a very limited version of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid. The Crystarium actually caps at a certain point in each of the game’s thirteen chapters, and you don’t actually unlock the entirety of the Crystarium until after the game is completed. Grinding for crystogen points can be incredibly monotonous, particularly if you don’t have the Growth Egg accessory which doubles CP and is very difficult to acquire when it becomes first available. Though each character is eventually granted access to every role in the Crystarium, each Crystarium is different for each character, and no matter how much you grind, certain characters will never be able to excel at certain roles or obtain certain abilities. For instance, the healing ability Curaja is available to only two characters in the game, the dedicated healers Hope and Vanille. So, no matter how hard you try to make Sazh a capable healer, he will never have access to that spell, basically making your efforts to turn him into your parties dedicated healer useless unless your incredibly overpowered. Lightning and Hope both have unique versions of the Sentinel role which allow them to sidestep enemy attacks rather than take them with the damage mitigated, but you don’t really get the chance to use Lightning in this role until after the game’s completed and you’ve already got plenty of other capable Sentinels, and Hope manages to be a damage magnet with the lowest HP in the game even when he isn’t a Sentinel, so making him one would require incredibly careful repurposing of your other party members.

Because of how limited the characters are, it’s incredibly difficult to choose a weapon. The weapon in system in Final Fantasy XIII is probably my favorite aspect of customization, despite how flawed it is. No weapon in the game is truly bad, they’re all just suited to different purposes, and each one has a catch. If the weapon has incredibly high strength growth, it’s probably at the expense of magic growth, and if it excels in both, it will probably come with the Stagger Lock property which prevents that specific character from being able to stagger enemies. Some weapons have great secondary bonus effects like improved healing or extension of buffs/debuffs/stagger time, but this usually comes at a cost of hugely cutting the weapons stats, to the point that you can’t rely on that weapon to increase your stats at all and you have to use accessories, of which you have a limited amount of slots.

Because you can’t really tell what the stat growth for each weapon is like upon receiving them, you’re basically forced to use a guide to tell which weapon will have the stats you need for the role you’re intending to use that character in, and if you make a wrong choice you can waste a LOT of resources leveling up a weapon that doesn’t suit your purposes, with no way to get back all that money you spent on it. And money is an incredibly limited resource in Final Fantasy XIII. LITERALLY the only way to get money is to sell items that you find in the field, usually weapons you aren’t using. This is frustrating if you’re attempting to get the Treasure Hunter achievement/trophy, which requires you to possess every single item in the game, and it’s upgraded form, at one time or another. Either you sell the equipment now and buy it back later to upgrade it for the achievement, or you give up on the achievement altogether. Ultimately it’s an achievement not truly worth breaking your back over, you don’t get any other in-game reward apart from the achievement itself, but for die-hards who want to unlock everything, it’s very frustrating.

So, put all of this together and you can see where the criticism comes from. Final Fantasy XIII is a game with a contrived plot, which takes place over several linear chapters where you travel on rails from point A to point B, fighting battles in which you’re forced to keep everyone in their boxes without much chance for customization, given incredibly little money or resources to upgrade your equipment or buy new items, a character growth system which provides only the illusion of customization (every character will cap out with the exact same stats every time you play the game) and level caps for each chapter, and a system in which truly excelling at battles isn’t permitted until after the game has been completed.

So… why do I like it so much?

archylte_steppe_-_central_expanse

It’s hard to tell. I once had a friend who accused me of being in an abusive relationship with Lightning, that I had convinced myself the game was fun and stayed with it even though it was doing absolutely nothing for me. And I’ve actually wondered that a few times too. I see the games flaws, I’m not ignorant of them. I’ve sunk SO many hours into this game, replaying from the beginning many times, that I recognize these problems probably more than casual gamers who gave up on Final Fantasy XIII (and I have met a lot of people who said they gave up and never finished the game).

But there’s something very charming about it. The story is mostly nonsense, but it’s fun nonsense, and there are some worthwhile concepts being explored, even in Final Fantasy XIII’s obtuse way. The characters are fun, Lightning herself is an awesome heroin, Fang and Vanille provide the first example of an LGBT relationship in the Final Fantasy series, even if it’s entirely subtext. Snow annoys the hell out of me, but at least I get to see Lightning punch him and Hope call him out on being such a chummy douchebag. Sazh is one of the most well-rounded characters in Final Fantasy, humorous and emotional at once, with perhaps the most believable motivations in the game. The flashbacks are odious, and the game drags at several points, but there’s something about Final Fantasy XIII that makes me want to put in some headphones and listen to podcasts or an audiobook while I while away forty hours trying new things that I didn’t before. I’ve replayed the game many times, and I’ve been impressed by the versatility of the characters if you know what you’re doing and put it to good use. It’s possible to make Lightning a better tank than Fang, to have Sazh excel in either damage dealing or magic (he happens to have the best weapon/ability combination for building chain gauges in the game), to use Snow… at all.

No really, I would estimate that I’ve probably put a combined… three hundred to four hundred hours of my life into this game, and I only recently on this very last playthrough ever used Snow at all, for anything. Previously I had only used him as my human shield while Death-spamming the Ochu that gives you the Growth Egg. Fun fact about that, by the way: it usually takes me hours to get Death to work on it, this past attempt it worked on my FIRST try. Sorry, I just needed to share that.

Final Fantasy XIII, for all it’s limiting narrow linearity, actually has a fair amount of versatility. If you go into it wanting it to be Final Fantasy X, you’re going to be disappointing. But if you accept it for what it is: a deeply flawed but still fun game, with stunning visuals, a mostly excellent score (even if it is repetitive), and an immersive world, even a silly immersive world, then you can have fun with it. After my first time conquering the game, I thought maybe I’d be done with it, but found that I had much more fun in the post-game than I did during the story. The world DOES eventually open up, even if it opens up to the Archylte Steppe, a huge (gorgeous) sandbox filled with wolves and Adamantoise, and several hours worth of monster hunts.

Final Fantasy XIII will never be the open-ended, super customization adventure that most RPG’s attempt to be. But it wasn’t actually trying to be. It was trying to create a method of playing so streamlined that it felt like an interactive movie, where battles happen in the illusion of real time, the characters traversing narrow catwalks are actually experiencing this real journey on foot, and the story takes precedence over everything. It is riddled with flaws, and I wish that there could be a re-release of the game that just fixed a few choice issues: lack of customization in the Crystarium, lack of money, and better access to weapon customization materials. It isn’t the linearity that bothers me as a player, it’s the lack of ability to make each playthrough different from the last. It’s possible, but the differences are subtle.

I genuinely don’t know why I learned to love this game, but I did. I see it’s flaws, and I enjoy it anyway. It is not as immediately fun to pick up as past Final Fantasies, but for some reason, when I want to binge on an RPG and mindlessly level up a character for hours while I’m listening to audiobooks, I tend to choose Final Fantasy XII.

This post was initially meant as an overview of why I like the entire Final Fantasy XIII sub-series, but it accidentally turned into a review of the game, which is fine because I attempted to review it once and made a huge mess. So, maybe sometime I’ll come back for “Why I Kind of Like Final Fantasy XIII-2” or “Why I Mostly Like Lightning Returns.”

 

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“Friday” Five: Vampires And Knights

A long while back I borrowed a friend’s weekly blog feature called the Friday Five. I thought this might be a fun thing to try again, because usually the reason I don’t blog about things is because I don’t feel I have enough to say or don’t know how to say it. Also, this is not Friday, and I don’t care because rules don’t matter and it’s my blog, goddammit. Most of what I have to talk about today is Final Fantasy related, but I’ll begin with the one thing that’s not!

Tale of the Body Thief

1. The Tale of the Body Thief

I finally finished reading the fourth installment in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, The Tale of the Body Thief. This book centers once again around her vampire anti-hero Lestat de Lioncourt, and focus on his desire to become human again, as well as his relationship with a human man called David Talbot, head of the reclusive paranormal investigative organization, the Talamasca, and his regret concerning his lost vampire daughter, Claudia, who died in the first book.

The book begins with Lestat deep in an existential crisis about the nature of being immortal, and is haunted by memories of Claudia, as she appears to him in ghostly form and taunts him. He also begins a close friendship with David Talbot, with whom he has many theological arguments about the existance of God and Satan, and who he desperately wants to make a vampire, so that they can be partners, but David refuses and claims he will never accept the “dark gift.” Lestat begins to loathe his own immortality and decides to take his own life, traveling into the Gobi Desert and rising up into the sky to meet the sun and burn to ashes. However, he discovers that he can no longer be killed by the light of the sun, and is instead extremely wounded. After finding his way back to David, who gives him safe haven while he recovers, Lestat meets a psychic who has the ability to switch bodies with people, and discovers that he has the chance to become human again. He makes a deal to switch bodies with the psychic for a few days and live life as a human again, to discover if this is what he truly wants, but when they switch bodies Lestat quickly discovers that the psychic has stolen his body with no intention of ever returning. Before he can try anything to catch the thief, he becomes sick and is hospitalized, only to be rescued by a nun who takes him home with her and nurses him back to health, falling in love with him in the process. Still enduring visions of Claudia speaking to him, he travels to New Orleans to find Louis, his vampire child, in the hopes that Louis will give him vampire blood and make him immortal, so that he can go after the body thief. Louis refuses and leaves him, and with nowhere else to turn he finds David again, who agrees to help him get his body back.

The two track the Body Thief by a string of killings clearly committed with Lestat’s body, and find him on board a luxury cruise ship, where they board and confront him. Lestat gets his body back, but has to get away from the light of the sun and rest for the day, leaving David to fight the Body Thief alone. When he awakens he discovers that David has escaped the ship, but before he can travel to New Orleans to rendezvous with David he first visits the South American jungle, where the nun who had nursed him back to health had returned to care for the sick. He reveals himself to her and proves that his tale of being a vampire was true, but she is unable to comprehend the reality of it, and runs from him, praying before a cross and receiving stigmata, while Claudia continues to taunt Lestat from the shadows. He leaves his lover in the jungle, and returns to David, who finally accepts the dark gift, but when Lestat begins to drain him, he realizes that it’s the Body Thief in David’s body, and in a rage, he mortally wounds him. Distraught, he finds David, now in the body of the young twenty-seven year old man Lestat himself had inhabited during his time as a human, and David is delighted to be given another chance to be young, still refusing the dark gift. After meeting up with Louis again and chiding Louis for turning his back on him, he finds David again and makes him a vampire against his will, proclaiming himself to be evil, and that David never really knew who he truly was.

In the end, David escapes Lestat, and Lestat finds him back in New Orleans, living with Louis in the little house where Lestat and his vampire family had once lived themselves. David has come to terms with being a vampire, and Lestat is finally able to let go of the memories and regrets tied to Claudia, beginning a new chapter in his life with David and Louis as his companions.

This book definitely had a more episodic feel to it than the first three Vampire Chronicles, which all seemed to be a part of one larger tale. Lestat’s interactions with David and their musings on the nature of the existence of God are very interesting, and every scene with Claudia’s ghost is intense and gratifying. Ultimately Lestat’s adventure comes to a close with the only true change in his life being the addition of David to his coven, and the story is over for now. I enjoyed the book, but not as much as the densely packed second novel The Vampire Lestat. Still, I’m sure I’ll pick up book five and continue to read about Lestat’s adventures whenever I can muster up the strength to make my way through another Anne Rice novel.

Terra2. Final Fantasy Everywhere!

Last year I finally got my own Playstation Portable, after years of wanting one, and I’ve managed to amass a pretty nice Final Fantasy collection for it. There was a sale this past week on the Playstation Network Store on many of the Final Fantasy titles, and I got my hands on the Playstation Classics versions of Final Fantasy V, VI, and VII. For me, having Final Fantasy VII on a portable device is literally the realization of a childhood dream, as I used to fantasize about just that. I remember hearing from someone when I was a kid that the Gameboy Advance was technically as powerful as a Playstation, and I used to fantasize about having a Gameboy that could play Final Fantasy VII. When Sony released the PS One, which had an attachable screen, I used to want one so that I could take it with me on car trips (although I don’t think I realized that there are no wall outlets in cars). Now, I finally have Final Fantasy VII in portable form, and it may seem silly, but the seven year old in me is still pretty psyched by this.

In addition to getting the PSP games, my boyfriend surprised with a copy of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls for Gameboy Advance, in the box with the booklet, that he found at our local game store. This means that I now technically own all of the Final Fantasy main series games in one form or another, with the exception of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy XI. Once I have Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for PSP, I’ll have almost the entire series up until Final Fantasy IX available to me on one device, which is just pretty amazing to me.

Dissidia 012

3. Dissidia Duodecim

The very same boyfriend mentioned above (with whom I will soon share a two-year anniversary, by the way) also ordered a copy of Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy for me recently, which until the recent sale, I have not put down for a single day. It’s an RPG-style fighting game with a huge storyline that is the prequel to the first Dissidia. It has a lot of new characters, and actually has all of the content from the original game, including the story campaign, with tons of new content and features. Had I known this from the beginning I probably would have skipped the first Dissidia and gotten this one right away, but at least I’ve fully experienced the original before playing the new game. It has some of my favorite characters from the series: Lightning, Tifa, and though I really don’t like Vaan all that much, he is a representative for Final Fantasy XII, which is one of my favorites. All in all it’s a massive game with a ton of story, characters, abilities to learn, gameplay modes, customization, alternate costumes and additional stages to earn, plus a whole lot more. It’s absolutely a triumph of a game, and I reccomend it to any Final Fantasy fan.

Bravely Default

4. Bravely Default or Lightning Returns?

In even more Final Fantasy-related news, two games I’m looking forward to are coming out this month: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XII, the final installment in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and Bravely Default, a pseudo Final Fantasy game that began as a sequel to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and eventually evolved into it’s own universe and has been marketed as such, though it uses the classic Final Fantasy job system and has many other staples of the series. While I’ve been looking forward to Lightning Returns for a LONG time now, I’m honestly not nearly as excited as I was around the time of the game’s Japanese release last year. I have no idea why they decided to delay the American release of the game, but Square Enix has already ruined most of the game for me with trailers and information they released before the Japanese release of the game, and the internet ruined the rest because I couldn’t resist the temptation to watch the ending. For the record, if you look at my “review” of Final Fantasy XIII, you will notice that I totally called the ending of this trilogy a year ago, right after I beat Final Fantasy XIII-2. If you don’t want me to spoil it for you, then you probably shouldn’t read about it, but suffice it to say my prediction for the ending of this trilogy was almost exactly spot-on.

At any rate, I’ve sampled Bravely Default and it looks INCREDIBLE. I may have some extra money to spend on a game this month, and though I’ve eagerly anticipated Lightning Returns for over a year now, my excitement for the game has long since fizzled to a casual interest in finally completing the trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played the demo and the game looks extremely fun, continuing to revolutionize the combat system and finally tying up all of the loose ends in the trilogy, but at this point I’m fine with waiting and buying Lightning Returns when the price goes down or getting a used copy. Bravely Default is something brand new that looks much more exciting to me, and though I’m currently in the midst of playing through Final Fantasies III, VII, VIII, and Dissidia 012 (with V and VI still to go), whenever it’s time for a new game, I really think I’m leaning toward Bravely Default. For the time being though, it’s probably best to just hold on to my money and finish the games I’m already playing.

Onion Knight

5. Behold, I am The Onion Knight

And finally, after putting off making an account there for years because I couldn’t come up with a username I liked well enough, I have finally made an account on the Final Fantasy wiki. My profile is currently under counstruction, but I went with the username TheOnionKnight, because he’s an awesome character in Dissidia and I’ve always liked the job class, even though powering it up in Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is so tedious that even I, with my seemingly unlimited patience for grinding, will probably never achieve it. Still, I’m really excited to finally be an actual part of the Final Fantasy Wiki community, and who knows, maybe I’ll try writing a walkthrough at some point. At any rate, there are lot of people to ineract with and now I’m not just some faceless stranger posting questions on the wiki’s talk pages or laughing uproariously at BlueHighwind’s walkthroughs from behind a shadowy veil of internet anonymity.

That’s all for me today, I think I’ll go back to playing Final Fantasy VII now… or III… or Dissidia… or VI…

…dammit.