Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday afternoon tidbits

The blogs go awfully quiet during the Game Developers Conference, although Twitter has been hopping. Sounds like a great time, and I'm sorry I missed it. I'll just have to look forward to PAX. Only two weeks to go!

-I'm a few hours into Final Fantasy XIII, and still trying to get a feel for it. When I've heard it compared to Final Fantasy X, and it's intended as an insult, I've thought, "Sign me up!" That said it is almost stifling in its linearity so far, which I didn't think about FFX. Even so, I think Jeremy Parish is right on the money when he wonders why it's such a bad thing that FFXIII abandons some long-held RPG tenets. "There are no towns" not seem to me to be an incisive criticism.

-Another great post from Sparky Clarkson this week, this time about the notion of "camp" in games, vis a vis recent titles like Deadly Premonition and Heavy Rain. I've wondered before whether games can succeed as camp, and like the commenter on the post, my feeling is it's hard because the gameplay still needs to be decent for you to appreciate the campier aspects of the story. I thought No More Heroes succeeded as camp, while its sequel didn't, and it was mostly for those reasons.

I also can't believe people have me honestly considering buying Deadly Premonition. It looks truly terrible. But everyone loves it!

-Neat article in the Boston Globe this week about the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Lab, whose members are doing some interesting and forward-thinking work, though apparently they're doing it for the Nintendo 64.

-The Huffington Post put together a slideshow of "the most controversial video games ever," which is not terribly illuminating but does show that today's controversial games are a little bit further along than those in the past. The difference between Postal and MW2's "No Russian" scene is the latter was at least trying to say something. Also, the article makes it seem like Six Days in Fallujah has been released.

-Yep, you need to watch this video:


Gary A. Lucero said...

I'm not a huge Final Fantasy fan (I love Xenosaga in fact, a series Jeremy Parish dismisses outright) nor am I a huge JRPG fan. The only current gen JRPG that I enjoyed was Lost Odyssey. The rest haven't been worth more than a cursory examination, IMO.

I wasn't looking forward to Final Fantasy XIII, and the more I read and heard about it, the worse it sounded. But it was worth a rental, and so far (3+ hours in), I'm actually enjoying it.

While XII was a definite departure, a more Bioware-style RPG but with a pretty weak story, XIII does seem very much like previous Final Fantasy games to me.

The visual style is much better in XIII than it ever was in X (that game had such a gaudy art style!), and while this game is quite linear, X started off that way too and even when it opened up I personaly felt it just made the game more confusing and harder to complete.

While Western RPGs try very hard to keep the player informed, with detailed maps and journals, JRPGs leave it all up to the player. While there may have been a time in the past when my brain could have kept it all straight, there's no way that's going to happen nowadays.

Bottom line is Final Fantasy XIII is a good game, with the battle system the real standout. Reviews claim it starts slow but pacing so far hasn't been an issue for me. The real question is, will I still be playing it 40 hours from now?

And while the story and characters in XIII are only so-so, the visual style (on the Xbox 360 in my case) is quite good, with generally good graphics, sound, and voice overs, and it appears to be a game worthy of my time and money.

Sparky said...

To be clear, I didn't care much for Deadly Premonition, and didn't even think it was good Camp because it's not genuinely trying to be serious (or rather, the tone vacillates painfully). My review, which elaborates on the ways I didn't like it, should be up in a day or two, I think. On the other hand, some of the ideas in there aren't half-bad. It's the sort of game I hope aspiring designers play, but not one I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.

I actually think you could manage to make a Camp game with lousy gameplay, but it would have to be very short and inexpensive. A 5-minute free browser-based flash game, for instance, might fit the bill. Given the tremendous number of excellent games in that space and their disposability, however, a bad one, even an intentionally bad one, would probably never even garner a cult following.

PC said...

I'm about 20 hours into FF XIII now -- the characters and story have grown on me a great deal (even the couple characters I really didn't like in the first few hours, while Lightning, Sazh, and Fang, all of whom I liked from the get-go, may now be my three favorite FF characters of all time). The battle system just gets better and better, and the very slow unveiling allowed me (an old-timer) to really learn to keep track of the often chaotic action.

While the story is more linear than previous games (in that there's no backtracking until well into the game), I don't find the maps (beyond the first couple hours) at all claustrophobic. Nearly every one has alternate paths and a little secret or mini-mini-game to mix things up, and the scenery is just gorgeous. Attention to detail, too -- at one point I was running through a city street (yes, there are indeed cities) and stopped to notice the mosaic on the wall. Incredibly detailed and attractive, but if I hadn't stopped and looked I would never have noticed! The game is full of stuff like this, extremely polished.

Finally, it's a little thing, but turning off the mini-map makes a big difference in immersion, I feel. Also, the sheer amount of ground to cover in this game is HUGE -- the maps are far larger than in any previous FF (except 12, of course, although those're pretty ugly in comparison).

In short: I suggest you stick with it and try just going w/ the flow. I haven't been this engaged w/ an FF game since 6, and I had a lot more time for sitting around being engaged w/ games back then.

Kirk Hamilton said...

Man, that Sabatoge video is the shiz. Though it really brings into relief how comparatively unexciting Caprica is.

I'm about 12 hours into FFXIII, and am digging it. I am, however, starting to get the itch for a little variety. Some of the dungeons, where I've got to take an ever-changing lineup of 2 characters through battle after battle (afterbattleafterbattle) have started to feel sloggish. But then again, as the battle system opens up, and as I get better at it, I'm enjoying it more and more.

Also, digging the music. The harmonica-playing is out of left field, as is some of the odd-meter jazz... but the incongruity actually works for me.

Unknown said...
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