Above: Fortunately, Lightning is not introduced by removing a motorcycle helmet to reveal -- gasp -- she's a woman!
Still clearing out some of the backlog, my review of Final Fantasy XIII is up now at thephoenix.com. This one seems to be polarizing fans, but as I argue in the review, every new Final Fantasy game seems to polarize fans. Popular opinion only coalesces much later. At least, that's the way it feels to me. Is it true? I don't know. This review ran like a month after the game came out. I had to think of an angle.
Argh, still being flip. I like this game quite a bit. The criticism about it taking 25 hours to get good feels off-base to me, as I allude to in the review. I think it's great fun before it allegedly opens up, and didn't have any problem with the way the game was laid out. Besides, if you're going to suffer through 25 hours of something because you've heard it gets better after that, you may want to re-evaluate your priorities.
There's still the argument about what, at heart, Final Fantasy is. Lots of people argue that it's always been about exploration, but the exploration has never been what's attracted me to the series. In fact, I had a hard time getting into the games for a long time because of the open-ended style of play. Only when I used walkthroughs to get through parts 1, 6, and 7 did I start to appreciate what Final Fantasy does well. For me, that's the combat.
That's why I was taken with this one -- it's nothing but combat. I mean sure, it's more complicated than that, but everything is rolled out so slowly and confidently that I didn't realize just how complicated it all was until I tried to write it down. Try to sum up paradigms, stagger, the crystarium, and inventory upgrades in 600 words. Maybe you can do it, but it won't be much fun to read. That's why I said the hell with it and started making fun of fanboys.
On the other hand, maybe it's just auto-pilot at this point. I just went back to read my review of Final Fantasy XII and it says almost all the same things. Good night, everybody!