Here’s something about my gaming life which will horrify Final Fantasy fans. The only Final Fantasy games I have ever finished are FFIII on Nintendo DS and FFXIII (including part 2) on PS3. I have also played FFXII but never finished it. This post is by no means a dig at the FF series by the way – I think they are wonderful games, just not for me. This is more about my attempts to play them. I think the reason I never got into them was because the early games are turn-based and I find that very disruptive to the gameplay flow that I’m used to. The only turn-based games I ever play usually are Pokémon games. Also, I appreciate that they are heavily story based but I have no idea what is going on half the time and there are so many cinematic breaks it sometimes gets to the point where I feel like I’m watching a movie rather than playing a game.
I don’t remember exactly how I came to have FFXIII. I played it during my first year of University and to be honest probably wouldn’t have continued with it but my flatmate was very keen on watching me play. We had some long-standing banter going on (to this day we will still yell “SERAAAAAAAH” at each other) and I would usually wait for her to be there to watch me play. It ended up being like watching a TV show together and we both got emotionally invested in it. I’m not really defending the game. I can recognise its faults, for example: I had absolutely no clue what was happening most of the time, the end was super disappointing, and in part 2 there was a really difficult battle with a giant tomato and that was just weird. It was a beautiful game though – the characters (particularly Fang, who was my favourite) were cool and at the end of the day I enjoyed it, and that’s the main thing, right?
When I told my boyfriend, who is a big FF fan, that the only game in the series that I’d ever finished was XIII (and its sequel, too no less), and that – the worst crime of all – I had ENJOYED it (*gasp*), he was horrified and couldn’t understand how I had made it through that but hadn’t played any better ones. Disgusted and appalled at my life choices, he tried to get me to play FFVIII which is his joint favourite of the series (tied with VII). To his dismay I was not a big fan, and got bored pretty quickly. I put this down to several factors. He was telling me what to do rather than let me run around and enjoy myself (I totally get this though in his defence, it is so hard not to tell people what to do when you’re watching them play a game you love so much); I was immediately marched to the beach where I spent about 2 hours killing floating fish at an alarmingly slow pace, then I went to a cave and ploughed my way through it and the boss at the end with a cocky “Is that it?” attitude.
Another reason is that turn-based battling is so slow and unnatural to me. You stand there waiting for your stamina bar to finally charge so that your character can lunge forward then they have to stand there and just take whatever the enemy throws at them. There were times where it would just be the fish and Squall making uncomfortable eye contact for what seemed like hours before someone’s stamina bar finally filled up.
I was also not a fan of the complicated menu sorting, I’m sure this gets better as you get more used to the game but I found it hard to understand what it was I needed to do and what meant what.
I was dealing with all this by supplying running commentary and taking the piss out of the game. I figured that if I did that then it would help me to enjoy it more, like I had done with XIII, but my other half was not a fan of me laughing at the sometimes awkwardly-translated dialogue and taking the piss out of everything – apparently doing that sort of thing to beloved, nostalgic games is not funny (it totally is). This made stuff a bit awkward when he told me I was rapidly changing his mind about playing FFVIII together and we continued playing in silence. We abandoned the playthrough shortly after completing the Fire Cavern, the silence was getting a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes being a gamer couple is hard.
All was not lost though! We found a compromise in FFX (the remastered version). The battling system changed to active time battle, so while still not quite what I’m used to I found it to be more realistic, the story was more engaging, and the menu was better explained. Also my commentary and making fun of it did not cause offence, as it wasn’t as dear to my BF as FFVIII was. So far I have got as far as finishing the manic laughter scene, which was a bit bemusing but if that’s what you want to do to relieve some stress that’s fair enough. As with most protagonists Tidus (or Clut, as I called him) is a bit annoying but I like Kimahri and Lulu (he’s a Unicorn Lion and she’s down to earth with an epic cloak – that may seem shallow but I haven’t seen much of their personalities yet.)
Doubtless I’ll have more to say about FFX when I’ve played some more of it and gotten hooked on the story. To be continued!
Finally, question for FF fans: which fantasy is the final one?