Superman vs. the Terminator #2 Review
~Zero_Diamond - 05:57pm 01/03/13
Let's Play EarthBound Dog Bat, Part 1
~Spoony Spoonicus - 01:24pm 05/29/12
Let's Play Suikoden II, Part 9: Unite the Clans
~Spoony Spoonicus - 01:43pm 05/28/12
Diablo 3 review
~Spoony Spoonicus - 08:34pm 05/21/12
Star Control 2 (GOG.com)
~Spoony Spoonicus - 01:34am 05/20/12
suck it zeke
~zvalkyr - 07:43pm 04/23/12
JERK DIDN'T TITLE THIS.
~Spoony Spoonicus - 07:45pm 06/22/11
JERK DIDN'T TITLE THIS.
~Spoony Spoonicus - 07:44pm 06/22/11
shittle 3814 & shittle 5071
~vinic - 11:53pm 05/31/11
Spoony Spoonicus made me do this.
~Dudley - 11:24pm 12/14/10
Longest sequel gaps
~Spoony Spoonicus - 12:25pm 03/28/12
Spoony's Video Game Junk (for sale)
~Spoony Spoonicus - 07:07pm 06/16/11
Radio Transmission #1
~Buddy Hatchett - 02:54pm 08/07/10
Viewtiful Gonterman: The Return + Bonus MSTron mirror!
~Spoony Spoonicus - 11:34pm 05/28/10
A letter I sent to Chase Bank
~Spoony Spoonicus - 04:43pm 05/03/10
~George Foreman - 02:43pm 02/26/10 (02:39pm 02/26/10)
~George Foreman - 11:15pm 06/13/11 (11:13pm 06/13/11)
The Top Ten WORST RPG Cliches
~Spoony Spoonicus - 12:47am 02/27/10 (12:44am 02/27/10)
My Top 30 Favorite Games
~Spoony Spoonicus - 12:16am 07/14/10 (12:06am 07/14/10)
Super Rare Games
~Spoony Spoonicus - 05:11pm 03/10/10 (05:11pm 03/10/10)
the waggoner § articles and general riff-raff exceeding your expectations of worthlessness.
~Spoony Spoonicus on 06:03pm 03/20/13 (10:24pm 01/10/12) in 11h27m11s § 4214 eyeballs
Bustin' down plots like the T pities fools.
It's the last year of the Mayan calendar, I'm ill with a horrible stomach virus of some kind, and the Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo is on the marketplace. I'm already in considerable pain and discomfort, but you know what? I'm going to download it anyway and you're going to get the play-by-play of my experience. So let's do this.
Before we've even installed the game, we're already in trouble. It's a 1.7 gig download just for the DEMO of the game. Yeah, the demo. You could fit a quarter of Final Fantasy XIII-1 in that space, what could they possibly have spent all of that on? I guess we'll find out. (Here's a hint though: Nothing substantial whatsoever!).
Well okay, I should at least begin on a high note, I suppose. Let's look for one in the options menu. ...Shit, there is a plus! An option to use a bigger font, so SDTV users no longer need a fucking magnifying glass just to read any of the text! Incredible! It only took them SIX YEARS to implement that in this era of HD gaming!
Anyway, story. Don't expect any context for anything said or done, becuse once again, the hated CODEX makes a return! We don't have to explain a thing as long as this lazy-ass design element exists, just cut-and-paste paragraphs wholesale from the project portfolio, pad out the extra disc space with wave after wave of boring monster fights, and call it a day! We're taking notes right out of the book of top selling games Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Star Ocean 3 and The Witcher, all the while forgetting that those games also had one other big thing in common:
THEY ALL FUCKING SUCKED!
As with my previous nutshell for Dragon Age 2, I refuse to read anything in the Codex on principle, because I hate it as a design choice and want to see it burn before another genre gets irrevocably dumbed down forever. So you're just going to have to bear with me as I try to make sense of what's happening from events that actually unfold before my eyes. Which is AS THINGS SHOULD BE for a genre where the story is the central focus. But... I digress.
Our heroes (Noel, Serah, and a totally superfluous moogle tacked on in a blatant display of fanboy pandering) leap through a... time portal, I think? And come face to face with a giant golem. Naturally, said golem is covered in shiny aurora effects because, being a modern Final Fantasy game, we can't go twenty seconds without seeing one of those. We're dumped right into our first battle straight away against a giant stone fist attached to a transparent golem, and it's just as uninvolving as it was in Final Fantasy XIII part 1 - you pick "auto battle" every time the bar fills up. That's pretty much it. Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.
Spoony: Say what you want about Final Fantasy XII's Gambit system making all the combat automated - at least you were playing an active role in your characters' strategy and had to change it accordingly when a tough new boss came around. Here you just click "auto battle" and watch them run through one of a half-dozen preset motions over and over again. There's not even any elemental spells anymore, you just get one generic physical attack and one generic magical attack to throw at your enemies. It really saps any feeling of strategy or involvement from the game in favor of just pressing one button repeatedly and watching the same combat animations play out again and again, which - let's be honest - isn't all that exciting to watch and isn't fun in the slightest. Hell, I've made no secret of my hatred for Final Fantasy X, but at least the combat in that game required some degree of forethought and improvisation.
After what feels like ten minutes of this, a quick-time event starts playing out, requiring you to move the analog stick, press buttons, or mash a single button on a short timer. Hooray, another worn-out video game trope Square's just now jumping on the bandwagon for. Next thing you know, we'll be seeing unlimited MP, regenerating health to full after each fight and having enemies drop restorative items faster than we can possibly spend them to further drive thought process from the game.
Oh wait, we already have those. Shit. So what's next, is Final Fantasy 15 going to be a zero-player game? We're certainly moving in that direction. But to be fair, Conway's Game of Life is a lot more interesting than this dreck could ever hope to be, so maybe that won't be a bad thing.
So what happens if you fail the event? ...I don't know, and I don't care to find out. Not that you have to worry about that because the time limit for each input is surprisingly lenient. Better that than Resident Evil 5 sometimes giving you a literal millisecond to react and failing to register inputs constantly in co-op due to connection latency, I suppose.
Anyway, Noel runs up the golem's arm, onto its back, and then hits it once in the head with his swords, doing absolutely no visible damage. Then, instead of staying at a point that the golem can't easily reach and continuing to hack away at it from there (you know, the logical thing to do), he jumps back to the ground and starts uselessly swinging at its fist again. But it's okay, because now we mysteriously do ten times as much damage with each hit, and after only a few dozen more rounds of that the creature is defeated.
A screen pops up to recap all of the events we've seen so far, which tells us exactly nothing we don't already know. Seriously, we don't know who these characters are, how they came here, or what they intend to do here, so this screen was completely pointless unless you have the attention span of a goldfish. That's pretty bad.
Once that's done, we're deposited in some ruins, where it starts raining (just to show off more shiny effects and light sourcing! Sorry guys, they're NOT THAT IMPRESSIVE.*). Shockingly enough, we're actually afforded a small shred of nonlinearity here. We can venture around! We can talk to people! We can find treasures off the beaten path! I actually have control over the camera on a consistent basis! Wow, we're already leagues beyond the design of Final Fantasy XIII-1!
* You guys were the kings of visual effects back in the later years of the PS1 and the early days of the PS2, but that ship has long since sailed. Take a look at Bioshock, Bayonetta, King of Fighters 13 or hell, even Disgaea 4 - all visually beautiful games easily on par with this one, and all featuring far better gameplay than this turdswish. You can't hide mediocre products behind "pretty, cutting-edge graphics" anymore, chumps.
Well, let's savor the palate while it lasts and take a listen to some of the painfully trite dialog we're in for here.
"An unexplainable phenomenon... a contradiction. That's the paradox."
Yes, they've listed off a textbook definition of "paradox" in a bid to sound deep.
"What a cute little pet!" "We call him... Piggy Kitty."
And not "Mog" as he's identified in the text boxes. This is Tales of the Abyss-level stupid shit here.
At the very least the voice actors attempt to put some emotion behind these lines, as dumb as they may be. That alone puts it miles above dreck like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where the dialog was so bland and the actors so uninterested that they may as well have just saved themselves a bundle of money and hired Microsoft Sam to voice every character. I'm actually kind of surprised they didn't considering how many corners their writing department managed to cut by shoving 85% of the story into the plot codex.
Anyhow, we continue up a small flight of stairs and encounter... recycled enemies! The same box-with-an-orbiting-square enemy from the early stages of FFXIII, and a cat in a sock named "Cait Sith" (more pandering!). Like every enemy, they're easily dispatched via clicking "Auto Battle" repeatedly, and we're immediately dumped into another tutorial.
...Oh, delightful. In a bid to add some "depth" to this game, we now have a monster-training system implemented. By defeating enemies, you turn them into "crystals" (more pandering!) which adds them to your repertoire of playable characters (whom are automatically summoned when you swap paradigms). By using items in the Crystarium, they level up and gain new stats and abilities. And since they only seem to need a single item to gain a level and you gain said items after seemingly every fight, they gain power far faster than your human characters. Hell, you could probably have Cait Sith here at level 99 before even leaving the first area if you didn't mind enduring the droning, tedious combat system for that long. I'm not that patient (and the "challenge" in this game is a complete joke as it is) so let's just continue on.
Spoony: Yet part of me just knows that one of the trophies for this game is going to be to raise every single monster in the game to level 99. And there will be people who will spend weeks, possibly months, farming items to do just that. Yeeuuughh.
Oh, and they also more or less serve as this game's "limit breaks" - once their "Feral" bar fills up, you press Square, then punch in a couple more quicktime events and they unleash a stronger-than-usual attack. Alright.
The Crystarium is just as pointless as it ever was, by the way, giving you exactly ONE path to follow for each of the numerous class archetypes. There's no customization, no variations between characters, and no real point to even having a choice of what class to level up, since in my experience the only useful ones were Commando, Sentinel and Medic. Commando has the best attack power and a ranged magical attack, Sentinel is useful when you're low on HP since it has absurdly high defense (just swap to that and heal yourself up), and Medic... well, if you've ever played any RPG before, you know how important healing is. I suppose later on there might be a point to using classes like "Ravager" and "Saboteur", but I kinda doubt it - it's Final Fantasy, raw physical strength invariably dominates everything in the game.
But I digress.
Actually, no I don't, not yet. Why is there a "randomize" option for Paradigms? There's no good reason for that to even exist. It's just something you'll probably click on by accident and completely ruin all the Paradigms you've set up, forcing you to wipe them all again and spend several minutes setting them all back up the way you want them. That's like if they had an option to scramble all of your Gambits in Final Fantasy XII, or all of your party AI settings in Secret of Mana. Why even have that at all?
But I digress. Again.
Up ahead, we see what looks like another one of those time-gates we came through earlier. Does this take us to a new area? Nope. Can we interact with it at all? Nope. Not even that "gate key" I picked up earlier seems to be an option here, so there's no point at all in having this gate exist. There are some soldiers here, though - ones wearing what looks like the bodysuits from Mass Effect and Stormtrooper helmets modified just enough to avoid copyright infringement (more pandering!), so let's see what they have to say. Oh, they want me to do some sidequests. One item-hunting sidequest and one monster-killing sidequest. Okay.
We also encounter the game's shop system here - a time-travelling character in an absofuckinglutely ridiculous red chocobo costume. Like every supporting female in a Square game, she's a bubbly airhead with an annoying voice who never shuts up. Thanks a billion for that one, guys.
Spoony: It's a cold comfort that wanting to strangle this character is more of an immersive experience than I felt by buying shit from save points in the first game.
We continue past them into the ruins, fighting a lot more of the same half-dozen enemies, and see that the dungeon design is still just as bland and linear as always - every path that's not the way forward is a dead end with a treasure chest. I also learn that there's even less challenge to the fights than there was in Dragon Age 2 - if a fight starts going badly, you can just hit Pause and choose "retry battle" any time you want. Yes, seriously. You don't even have to die first now, you can just pick that at any time and start fresh and new.
Spoony: You know guys, the word "game" implies that a) there's a fair amount of involvement on the part of the player, not just pressing one button and watching automated events play out and b) there's at least a possibility of failure, be it through poor planning, a critical mistake, or just bad luck on the player's part. If there's absolutely no penalty for losing battles or failing to employ any kind of mental investment at all, it just makes the entire experience pointless and boring. Unless you're just in it for the story, which I will readily admit that I am not - Final Fantasy has NEVER excelled in telling a gripping story. Some of them may have a unique fantasy setting and entertaining gameplay (3, 5, 9, 12 and Tactics being my favorites), but the stories have always been generic good-versus-unspeakable-evil scenarios with predictable twists and the characters are (with VERY rare exceptions) always stock, stereotypical and instantly forgettable*. Plus the narrative doubly fails to be engaging here due to the aforementioned Plot Codex ensuring that no story element is ever given any attention or explanation, so yeah, XIII-2 is just one big, long exercise in aimless tedium.
*And for those who love to fall back on the old chestnut of telling me [Insert Final Fantasy game of choice]'s story and narrative "WAS REALLY GOOD FOR ITS TIME YOU UNCULTURED FUCKWIT", it really wasn't. Compare Final Fantasy 6's characters, writing and atmosphere to Ultima 5-7 on PC, or Illusion of Gaia on the SNES, or Phantasy Star 2 and 4 on the Genesis, or either of the 16-bit Shadowrun games. Then try stacking up Squall and Mary Sue's much-vaunted "love story" next to those of Lunar, Grandia or Baldur's Gate 2. There's no contest at all.
But I digress yet again.
There are at least two slight improvements to the combat engine this time - enemies aren't visible from miles away (they appear around you after a certain number of steps, which adds an element of surprise to the game), and you can get a surprise attack by striking them before they do the same to you. More importantly, though, is that you can run outside of the circle that surrounds the enemies before one of them touches you or vice versa, and actually avoid the fight! Pressing "retry" also puts you in this pre-fight phase, effectively giving you the ability to run from battles again! Quite nice.
Spoony: "Nice" in the same way Xenosaga Episode 2 removed shops in an attempt to further railroad the game, then reintroduced them in Xenosaga 3 as a "new feature", but nice nevertheless.
We're also getting inane radio chatter from a character we don't know, who once again tries to sound "deep" by waxing poetic about parallel versions of herself in parallel dimensions or some such nonsense. Say what? I thought this was a game about time travel!
Spoony: I would say the time travel element was included solely to pander to fans of Chrono Trigger, but let's face it - anything with the words "Final Fantasy" on it is not even worthy of licking Chrono Trigger's muck-encrusted boots. I'm sure anyone who played that game probably agrees with me.
There's also a soldier along the way who mentions a giant monster, which pops up a reminder window about that subquest we already accepted, as if I'd already forgotten about something I discussed with a character only minutes ago.
Spoony: Is that Square Enix's target audience? People with an incredibly short attention span? Because if that's the case, they're bound to make them fall asleep with this dull combat system that draws out every fight for about 3 minutes too long and saps all notion of tension, planning or strategy from the game.
Anyway, after that long corridor full of monsters, we come outside to see... that golem we fought a minute ago! Serah says that we have two choices here: We can either face Atlas (the golem, I assume) head-on, or we can take our chances with "the device" (What device? Where is it? How do they know about it? Never explained!). Puzzlingly enough, we're given a choice of four options here, but none of them are "Face Atlas" or "Try the Device." Instead, we can ask Serah, ask the Moogle, make a tough-guy comment or a wishy-washy comment. I decided to ask the moogle because, being a magical creature and iconic of the series, I figured he'd have some insight on the situation.
...Of course he doesn't. Instead, he just says he likes Serah better than me. Thanks, you winged cotton ball. Lord knows you couldn't contribute anything useful, considering you were only added to this game in a desperate attempt to redeem it in the eyes of older Final Fantasy fans.
Spoony: Although in retrospect, I guess I should have expected that. It's a JRPG, after all - none of the dialog choices ever make any difference whatsoever!
So anyway, I decide to look for the eponymous "device", going up a ramp into a new area. In here, we reunite with Chocobitch, who's still as annoying as ever. We also get reminded yet again of the sidequest monster. Venturing down a dead-end path in search of more treasure-Pokeballs, I happen across... that sidequest monster! Who just appears out of the ground to attack me like every other random encounter in this place. Kind of a lame way to get you to explore every nook and cranny in the dungeon.
Just like every other fight, he's pathetically easy and requires virtually no strategy. You might have to switch to the Medic paradigm once in a while to undo some of the damage he inflicts, but that's about the extent of it. Hit him about a billion times and he goes down like all the rest. But I'm too lazy to backtrack through dozens of dull monster fights and claim my reward (chances are it's not going to be worth it anyway), so I just move on.
Past more corridors and more slow, tedious, uninvolving battles, we finally come to "the Device". Upon touching it, we're assaulted by Atlas' fist bursting in through the ceiling, and then we suddenly end up somewhere else entirely by means that completely baffle me. I guess the Golem cast a Maze spell on us.
Spoony: Why am I even trying to rationalize this? Your average Final Fantasy fan has put about 7,000 times more thought into the story of any given Final Fantasy game than Square ever did.
So what are we doing here? Why, busywork, of course! Specifically, those lame puzzles you've seen in a billion other games where you have to pick up all the items while never crossing over the same square twice. Better yet, there's no penalty for failure apart from having to do the current room over again, just like the rest of the game. This is third-grade shit here.
Spoony: Actually, I take that back. I played educational games in third grade that had a far greater degree of challenge and palpable consequences for failure. ...In fact, now that I've brought it up, I'm so nostalgic for the days of handholding-free gaming that I take a break to play some Oregon Trail.
After dying of dysentery, we return to Final Fantasy XIII-2, finish the puzzles, see the golem get noticeably weakened, and then we backtrack all the way back outside where Chocobitch awaits once again. I guess this is the prime time to upgrade our equipment, seeing as we're about to enter a boss fight, so I do that. Okay, let's take this Atlas down.
Oh, wow, this fight actually has a touch of strategy to it. For you see, his attacks inflict "wounding" on your characters, which gradually reduces their maximum HP with each hit they take, and this reduction can only be cured by a Wound Potion. But if you neglected to buy any before this fight, don't worry! You can quit out at any time, walk back to the shop, and buy as many as you need. If you're short on cash, just sell a few of your twenty or so Phoenix Downs (why would they even provide you with that many? This game's challenge is on par with playing System Shock with the story, enemy AI and puzzles all set to "Off".).
Aside from that minor tidbit, one button press perfectly sums up this and every other battle so far.
More quicktime events play, Atlas dies, which somehow puts the ruins back together, and we cue what a good 80% of that 1.8 gigabytes got put towards - a long, noninteractive cinematic showing off more of the full version of the game!
It's some guy! It's a quicktime event! Here's Lightning riding a chocobo! Here's a chocobo racing minigame (more pandering!)! Here's some more random battles! Here's a slot machine minigame! Here's a tonberry (more pandering!)! Here's more flashy and totally impractical weaponry from our heroes! Here's some banal banter between Lightning and Some Guy, revealing that Some Guy has the exact same motives as every cliched Final Fantasy Villain ever (destroy everything for no real reason!). Here's Omega Weapon (still more pandering!).
After a good three minutes of this, the demo finally ends, showing a splash screen with a release date.
Spoony: Sorry guys, nothing I've seen here compels me to invest in your product. It does improve on the last entry in several ways, but it's not nearly enough to redeem the franchise. The phrase "polishing a turd" comes to mind; you may have fixed a lot of the minor issues that fans complained about with Final Fantasy XIII, but when the game's design and direction as a whole was so fundamentally flawed, that's a small blessing at best. I'll save my money for something that isn't just a cheap rehash of a particularly bad game in a series that's well over a decade past its prime anyway, thank you very much.
In short, you should do yourself a huge favor by skipping this garbage and saving your money for Xenoblade Chronicles. Which not only features much better writing, a memorable cast of characters, and even some pretty impressive scenery and visual design for a Wii game, but also has a well-crafted real time combat system that has unique mechanics and a surprising amount of strategy. A far more worthy investment if you're at all a fan of RPGs.
rawks § rad comments, dogg.
~Azul Rojo § at 01:37am 01/12/12
Gee, this reminds me of FFX to FFX-2. Didn't that involve taking a crap game and making it into a different type of crap? Why, yes!
It's amazing how people think FFXIII and XIII-2 are the best games ever made, simply because game magazines give them glowing recommendations. And some people actually enjoy the dumbed-down gameplay because...well, fucked if I know why. Eye candy, I guess, because they shit upon anything with similar gameplay and less flashy graphics.
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 12:15pm 01/12/12
The only ones still desperately clinging to this junk are the worst of the worst of fanboys. They're so desperate to hold on to their nostalgia for a mediocre childhood favorite that they'll ignore any other RPG that comes out or just dismiss it completely after watching a 30-second trailer or 5 minutes of gameplay on Youtube because of its 'bad graphics, flawed gameplay and flat characters' (translation: "it isn't an exact copy of my favorite Final Fantasy game"). Either that or write it off instantly because it's too "immature" (Yeah, that's a laugh. Being lectured on "maturity" from a fanbase that worships Yuffie and Selphie and takes every banal, idiotic nugget of "wisdom" in Final Fantasies X and X-2 as gospel.) And we wonder why virtually every Square game released since 2001 is just a cheap rehash of the scenario, characters and visual elements seen in Final Fantasies 7 or 10 - it's because their fans don't want anything new, they just want the same crap over and over and over again. "More pretty graphics! More androgynous heroes with giant swords, huge tits and gaudy-colored asymmetrical outfits for us to masturbate to! More androgynous villains with no actual motive or personality whatsoever so we can fill in the blanks with shitty slash fics about them! Strip out more gameplay and plot so we can get to the pretty CGI cinemas quicker, please!"
Come to think of it, that's probably also why Final Fantasy XII is so heavily panned. "It's too hard! It's too different! It tries new things! It has actual, competent writing and a legitimate story to tell! Sell it back to Gamestop for 35 cents, put FFX back on! Yarg blarg!"
Oh yeah, and here's a hint as to why game magazines consistently give Final Fantasy games 9/10 and 10/10 scores with three-page long reviews full of mindless praise while all of their competitors get a 7 or 8 with a one-paragraph review and a single screenshot, at best. Check out all the ads in that magazine in the months leading up to that glowing review of XIII-2. There sure are a lot of ads for Square Enix games, aren't there? A couple interviews, previews in practically every issue with dozens of screenshots of cinematics, maybe they've even made the cover a couple times. It ain't a coincidence - their publisher dumped a lot of money into that magazine's coffers and BOUGHT that positive review before the game was even available to be played. And if they don't get what they paid for, guess what? Either someone's getting fired or the company's pulling their advertising and the magazine loses a lot of future income as a result. Really makes you think, doesn't it?
~Spoony Spoonicus § at 11:55pm 05/30/12
Let's Play Suikoden II, Part 9: Unite the Clans
Let's Play Suikoden 2
Star Control 2 (GOG.com)
Downloadable Games Quick Hits
Let's Play Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Finale
Let's Play Baldur's Gate
Viewtiful Gonterman: Diminishing Returns
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Demo) in a Nutshell
Games in a Nutshell
A standalone Heckle - Timespiral ~RahuBrouhaha
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
MiST on the Ghost Planet - Sonic: The Mobius Chronicles Chapter 1: Conclusion ~Davey-kins
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Duke Nukem 3D Mod: Naferia's Reign ~creepy fanboy
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Monster World IV (Sega Genesis) ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Demo) in a Nutshell ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus rawked.
Another Brief Treatise on Plot Codices and Final Fantasy XIII-2 (and Mass Effect, again) ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 4.
My Top 30 Favorite Games ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.
The Five Most Disappointing Games of 2011 ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.
Spoony's Top Ten Games of 2011 ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.
- ~Spoony Spoonicus
Spoony Spoonicus bombed 5.