So usually, even if I'm reviewing something (which currently I am, final review of the year fortunately before I lounge about trying to convince myself I'm not useless) I'll have a game to just faff about with on the Vita or 3DS. Something mobile for times when I want to stay in bed rather than face the things beyond the veil (read as: covers).
Lately my chosen delight is a game that I keep revisiting over and over and yet, for some reason, just stop part of the way through. This time, I'm determined though, more so than Persona 3 which I stopped at the final hurdle. More so than the Dark Souls series which will forever be the forbidden fruit that intoxicates me to an extent I must always turn away. Even more so than Final Fantasy 7 and 8 which I would arrive a stone-throw away from the final boss. This time, I will complete Final Fantasy 9.
So far I'm up to the part where I have to take a stroll to the desert tree that is Cleyra, while playing through it mostly blind. The first thing that struck me was the awkward nature of replaying a game you've never completed: You don't have the mystery since you've done the parts but you also don't have the hindsight of the final reveal to recontextualise the events. Instead, it is a carbon copy repeat with the same familiar story flourishes and narrative dance.
Although despite seeing the same things I had seen before (I think I got 2/3rds the way through before), I'm still having a lot of fun in the narrative. It is the type of dramatic presentation that caters to all walks of life, the type that was best summed up in Black Books: “It'll make you laugh, make you cry, change your life”. Yet, rather than feeling unfocused, emotional whiplash inducing or suffering from a chronic case of “YOU GOT YOUR X IN MY Y!”, it plays out in a natural style like an uninterrupted train of thought. If you want to get cheesy like a critic quote on a film, you could even suggest it is like life's twist, turns and loop-to-loops rather than a monotonous delivery.
Some critic quotes on posters aren't cheesy. Others aren't even critic quotes but rather instead 1 star Amazon reviews.
The reason why I think this is particularly impressive is I believe other Final Fantasy (since 7 anyway) games don't quite manage to achieve such a spectrum. Namely, I struggle to think of a title in the series that managed to achieve such straight-faced silliness; where you smirk at the light-heartedness but it fits without dampening the drama. The closest is perhaps 10 with Tiddy's laugh scene but, well, less said about that perhaps?
There is a chance I've forgotten a classic silly moment, like Cloud's cross-dressing scene, the odd band performance by Squall et al or, well, all of FF X-2. However, I would argue most of these moments do not lie so critical to the story that if you cut them you'd have narrative problems. To use an early game example in FF9, you need Zidane to want to kidnap Garnet while Garnet wants to escape. Without this set up, all of Garnet's character development is rendered awkward and forced, Zidane has no reason to develop beyond a thief (as it comes about via conversations with Garnet) and you do not get the interesting clash between Steiner's rights of duty (i.e. in service to the Queen, he must protect the princess, so what if The Queen is corrupt? Does he stand by The Princess or The Queen?).
This process of using silliness to create drama not only serves to make it relevant to the story (i.e. the band performance in FF8 could have been just removed easily), but also to slip past your guard to gut punch you. Rather than catch on instantly that something is wrong with Alexandria as the princess is trying to escape, this revelation is slowly unwrapped like an insidious dramatic form of the party game Pass the Parcel under the humour of coincidence. I do not believe any other Final Fantasy game (7 onwards anyway, haven't played 6 or prior, nor much of 12 or any of 13) has managed to achieve this form of story.
After X-2, I knew Final Fantasy was no longer for me. I had enjoyed the mechanics but the narrative grated on me. Someone I knew at the time told me "no, 12 is different, just try it", so I did. I admit, a Final Fantasy from a 2nd person perspective (i.e. side character Vaan's perspective on the plot) is different but quickly reinforced "no, really, Final Fantasy is no longer for me at all".
Anyway, I hope I continue onwards. I tried to get the Excalibur weapon early on (only thing I looked up, promise) but sadly the Rat's Tail wouldn't go on sale no matter how hard I kept stumbling in and out the Auction House like an indecisive nobleman. Oh well, hopefully will be able to go back there and get the sword later in the game. Anyway, maybe in a future recap the game will surprise me with something else interesting to banter on about. Until then, let's go onto the recaps!
* - ShadeOfLight gleefully talks about how Xenoblade Chronicles X uses its strength of the world to its advantage by embracing it and, oddly, how the marketing set up a challenge to players. It really makes me wonder if without the marketing boasting of zero load times and being able to reach anywhere you can see, if players would have pushed the boundaries enough to see that, yes, everything they see they can actually in fact reach. In a similar way that Demon's Souls and Dark Souls took a few years for people to really notice the narrative built up by the world around them and the characters that inhabit it, as no one really drew attention to it prior to the fans.
A – Rico the Penguin starts off their Best 12 Games of the Year with a controversial pick: Batman: Arkham Knight.
S – Here's to you, Comments of the Week,
The last and final moment is Dreamweaver's,
Being noticed is your triumph.
This week, I've been mostly listening to Tender by Blur.