Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Final Fantasy 10 (2001: Square)

In Context
While I wasn’t living with my boyfriend when FF10 came out (and no, I don’t feel like using Roman numerals, thank you), I was spending about ½ the week at his house.  He, I and his roommate were all playing this game at the same time.  It’s actually where my rule “more than 1 person in the house cannot play the same game at the same time” comes from.  Too much Blitzball makes relationships suffer. 
The 3 of us really enjoyed playing this game, even with the multiple playthroughs going on in the house at the same time, and to this day it ranks pretty high on my Fun To Play list. 
The Plot
A “star” ball player gets thrown out of his super high tech world into a freaky post-post-apocalyptic religion-infused world.  While he tries to get back home, he falls in love with a priestess, and ends up helping her save the world.  It turns out he’s a ghost/dream/not real and he fades from existence in the end.  :(
As for subplots, there were surprisingly few.  The villains had motives and plots, but they were kinda weak, so I’m not gonna go deeply into them (that’s what she said?).  This game, even more than FF8 really focused on one character and his story.  Personally, while I like the attempt to focus the game into a cohesive single story, I felt that Titus (the main character), wasn’t strong enough to hold the game on his own, and would have liked it if the other characters had a lot more development, or subplots than they did.
The Characters
Titus was a bit whiny, and very immature.  Honestly, this seemed to be more of a coming of age story of Yuna, losing faith in her corrupt religion and finding faith in herself.  The other characters are literally there only to support the main characters when they need it, and to provide convenient devices to move the plot along.  They’re pretty weak. 
I’m really upset at the villains in this story.  The blue-haired freaks’ motivation is that he wants to kill everyone to save them.  I’d have been okay if he just wanted to cleanse the world, but saving people by killing them?  Unrelatable, and therefore, uninteresting.  The corrupt religion being a corrupt religion?  Sure, I’m down.  But then the main evil baddie of the religion turns out to be a freaky monster that doesn’t even say anything.  Weak. 
Personally, I really like people to hate while I play a game.  I like screaming at the screen how much of a bastard they are and how I’m going to kill them dead.  But in this game, I couldn’t really do that.  Every time weird blue hair came up, I groaned that I’d have to fight him again.  I wasn’t really upset, nor worried by it, because I didn’t care.  The villains were weak, and this was a letdown. 
Because these characters are so weak, there is a lot of room to “what if” the character’s storylines and backstories.  However, unfortunately, this week I’m so bogged down in Real Job, I really can’t take the time to do it just now.  Please, if you have your own ideas, let’s continue the discussion in the comments!
Game play
This game was fun to play.  Period.  The fighting system in this game, hands down, was the best system they’ve ever had. 
Now granted, give me the system in FF6, and I’ll play it all day, but the bar that showed you the order in which everyone would take their turn was phenomenal when it came to strategizing.  The fact that you could, at will, change out any of your 3 characters with any other character in your party (because they are standing right there, they should be able to fight), and change your weapons mid-battle was fantastic.  This was the mechanic that was missing from all prior FFs and honestly, has been missing since.  Because of this added dimension of complexity, actually playing this game (and I am referring to the grinding of leveling that is most of the gameplay in older FFs) was fun.  I didn’t mind having to fight and fight and fight some more, because the fights themselves were interesting and complex and at my control.  And, yes, I do like being in control.
Again with the minigames!  And yes, when you have to play at least one to progress, the game should be more interesting than Blitzball ever was.  The hours that we listened to this music was just painful.  The roommate got totally into it.  And that was awesome.  On my first playthough, I played entirely too much as well, but the games were slow.  And the game itself, while the idea was interesting, didn’t hold up to what it could have been. 
They wanted this game to be a 3D soccer style game.  But it wasn’t.  It was 2D, and even then, you didn’t play soccer—you played a command action with variable results.  At the end of the day, it left much to be desired, and was just another way to waste time in the game.  Yes, if you were really good at the game, you too could spend 30+ hours and get that awesome thing.  But personally, I’d much rather just play the regular game and synthesize a similarly awesome thing. 
Speaking of synthing
Synthesizing items is not something that I’m going to discuss much, either here or in subsequent posts.  I don’t like doing it.  Mostly because there are lists of the items online that you need and that you can synthesize, and I really don’t enjoy aspects of games that force you to 1) muddle through on your own, wasting gobs of time experimenting, or 2) look it up online because it would be stupid not to.  Puzzles are fun.  They make you use your brain.  Trial and error using rare items hoping for something awesome is not fun.  It is lame.
Quests for items
This game had quests that you could accomplish in order to unlock everyone’s ultimate weapon.  And they were hard.  That makes sense; finding and getting to the ultimate weapons should be hard.  But these were just ridiculous.  Pressing X at the appropriate time to dodge 200 lightning bolts in a row is redonkulous.  And I’m just not good enough of a racer to ever win the chocobo races.  Again, this is a Final Fantasy game.  It is a RPG with the emphasis on fighting.  There is no reason why I should be playing other games within this game in order to get stuff.  Where’s my old fashioned dungeon?  Where’s my really hard boss that I have to beat to get through to the final room of this dungeon?  Why am I pushing columns of stone around in order to get through a puzzle?!?!?!
Level up system
This was the first game that I played that didn’t have level numbers, but used a completely innovative system in which you got points, you spent points and you learned things.  I thought it was neat that you could learn all of these things on the same grid, so that eventually, if you leveled up enough, everyone had everyone else’s abilities.  Unfortunately, by the time you got to everybody else’s areas of the grid, you were such a high level that casting a level 1 fire spell was less than useless. 
Interesting idea though, and I did my best to max out the grid on everybody.  I liked it okay.  What I didn’t like was that there were some areas that you had to choose, because there was a finite number of certain spheres (used for unlocking things) in the game, and because of this, sometimes you had to choose to not learn certain abilities.  The completionist in me hates this idea.  But if it weren’t for this, there would be very little reason to not have the characters just level linearly.  So why not have them level linearly, and choose which job class they are to level in.  Oh wait, didn’t they do that in earlier games? /sarcasm
I can understand if you want to make someone max out one job class before beginning another one.  That seems like an interesting mechanic (although I’d prefer to just go a little slower and do one level in thief, then one level in black mage).  But that can be done without the whole grid necessity. 
In conclusion
For the most part, like I said, I liked this game.  I’d go so far as to say I really liked it, because of how much fun it was to play, and coming off of FF9, it was a blessing to the series.  I didn’t really like the plot, but the game play, the fighting, the summons, and many of the puzzles were cool, if clunky in actual gameplay.  Personally I liked the idea of the corrupt religion storyline, even if the execution of that line was extremely weak.  I wish the characters had been a little stronger, and I really really wish that the fight system had been continued to be used, instead of every game that has come out since developing an all new fighting system.  The wheel’s already been invented, Square!

1 comment:

  1. I think that the core of FF12's combat system is the ideal for the genre, now that they have the technology. It's basically the same as 6, except when it's someone's turn he goes ahead and attacks what he was attacking before. If you want to change how people are acting you pause the action (the big problem with 10-2's combat system being it never quite paused) and deliver alternate commands.
    The two problems were range (your command bar could fill and you still can't attack because you're not in melee yet) and hiccups in programming, most notably (to me) the need to assign inane tasks to people to keep them from killing your steal target pre-steal.
    So, yeah. My ideal combat system:
    3-D but instanced, like 10.
    Default to attack when your bar fills (fill at variable rates, allowing for "fast" characters).
    Button lets you change what upcoming action will be.
    Include a "hold until other dude's action is done" action as one of the options.
    Attacking a "mobile" enemy could take extra time for melee characters; an interesting alternative to the insensible "flying but don't fly out of range like they should" high-evasion enemies.
    Class system similar to D&D 4, taking a class gives you one of four options at each level. These can be switched around outside of combat to allow for different strategies.
    Each character just has one class. The multifaceted level-up should give enough variability in play-style.
    Oh, and the Kingdom Hearts style "Everyone and their mama on the heroes' side has the same XP bar, whether you're using 'em or not."