Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
That’s three Final Fantasy posts in a row. Well, I did warn you about such an outcome in my About page, but considering that the last few days have seen an increase in FF related news and releases, I can’t be held entirely in fault. If you have no interest in the series, I urge you to check back later this week, when my Mirror’s Edge review will go up, and another three weeks when my Persona 4 review will be due.
If you want an early synopsis without checking back, I’ll assure you that “they’re both great” and bid you adieu. Moving on, today’s preview looks at the newest media released for the Fabula Nova Crystallis series (New Crystal Story), making up Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Final Fantasy Agito XIII.
Last week saw the release of Japan’s CLOUD magazine, releasing brief but new information on the FNC series. That same week saw the release of a new DVD magazine, called Re: (for Replay):
The “Re:” magazine was the real meat and potatoes, as it came with a DVD showcasing the trailers from TGS2008, previously only shown behind closed curtains to the dismay of cellphone users everywhere.
It didn’t take long for importers to rip the trailers from the DVD and put them up, but it took some searching to find high quality rips that weren’t horribly compressed for streaming sites like Youtube (another reason I miss Stage 6).
In this blog post you will find, as of this writing, the best quality rips of the trailers, downloadable and fully playable on your Playstation 3. It’s the next best thing to playing a demo of the game (which will be out in March). If you just want to watch a streaming link, you’ll find them here too. Read on for those links along with a short preview for all three FFXIII games.
Synopsis: The primary entry of the Fabula Nova Crystallis compilation, Final Fantasy XIII features the return of many of the key players behind Final Fantasy X. For fans of Final Fantasy XII, this news comes as a bit of a disappointment, as it potentially decreases the chances of many of the new ideas set forth by FFXII. For me, I couldn’t be happier, having thouroughly enjoyed FFX. Also, while the story may not hold a candle to the mature and expertly written scenario from FFXII, it’ll definitely end up as a more heartwarming tale with more character interaction than the entirety of the previous FF (which felt like the Cliff Notes version of what should have been an epic narrative).
The story itself sounds pretty familiar: We’ve got two sides of the world, Coccon and Pulse, the former a futuristic city featuring clean streets and a tight government running things (i.e. Evil Empire) and the latter a barren wasteland resting below the peaceful city, where those who possess an inkling of magic are considered unclean and immediately banished to the hellhole below.
Except (surprise!) Pulse is actually a pretty nice hellhole, teeming with lush forests and animals. Chosen by the Crystal (FFs I through V), Lightning and her cohorts venture forth to free the people of Cocoon (get it? it’s a metaphor.) from their oppressors and show them the truth of the world outside.
It basically borrows plot details from several FF games and mixes them all up into one, but the info is still sparse at this point, but even if that’s the gist of it, the real appeal is the cast of characters, namely the protagonist.
Lightning: True story; A couple of days before FFXIII’s unveiling at E3, I had thought to myself, “It’s about time for the next FF hero to be a woman”. After the last (and until now, only) female protagonist in FFVI, we’ve had two unfriendly, emotionally unstable protagonists, two goofy, fun-loving protagonists, and whatever the hell Vaan was supposed to be. For Final Fantasy XIII, we have a female protagonist, and I think that’s just rad.
Lightning (a code name given to her, as she has no recollection of her true past) has been given the task of keeping people interested in FFXIII’s slow development by being the sole star of the first couple of trailers, but she certainly has left quite an impression: This one-woman army has demonstrated acrobatic maneuvers mixed with deadly spell combinations that almost makes it seem like she’ll be soloing the entire adventure without a party. Considering the fast paced nature of the battles shown along with the amount of property damage caused to the surroundings, it’ll be interesting to see how two or more party members will fit into the chaos.
Nomura has described Lightning as being a real “macho” type of character, originally going to be much more buff until Square demanded she meet the feminist preferences of Japan. She is also known to “hate crybabies”, and will rally her party members like a Drill Sergeant whenever they have one of their cliched moments of depression. She’s also mentioned to be the oldest protagonist in FF history, although that isn’t much of an innovation when the previous characters were, at the most, in their early 20’s.
Regardless, Lightning sounds like a very promising lead character, especially if her personality closely matches fan favorite MGS3 character The Boss. Just try to block out the claim that she was initially designed as “a female Cloud”.
Sera/Sarah: Called “Pigtailed Girl” by casual observers and “NomChan” by psychopaths, Sera serves up the requisite cute girl portion of FFXIII’s party. The difference between previous characters like Penelo and Yuffie is that Sera seems to actually be integral to the story. One of the aforementioned magic users (called “Luci/Lusi”), Sera was kicked out of Cocoon and banished to Pulse, being one of the first to discover its true beauty. She is seen acquiring the Carbuncle summon from a CD-shaped disc, and also escorted by soldiers along with the game’s possible main villain.
I haven’t met a variation of the “cute girl” party member that I didn’t like, so Sera should be no different. Her design is quite sweet, looking like a young Aerith. Usually the cute girl character comes in two types: pure and innocent, or hyper and bratty. Sera’s probably the former, and it’ll be interesting how she’ll interact with “Crybaby Hater” Lightning. Personally I’m hoping they form the main relationship of the game (ala Final Fantasy XI’s Prishe and Ulmia), rather than turning Lightning into a hopeless romantic.
Snow Villiers: Called “Mr 33cm” by the staff, in reference to his shoe size, Snow was the second FFXIII character to be unveiled with mixed results. People were intrigued by the character due to the simple fact that he has facial hair (and is thus far manlier compared to characters like Vaan), but they were also put off by the rather ridiculous “Shiva Bike”, a summon of two Shivas that transform into a mortorcycle. I’ll just go on record by saying that I would really love a transforming Bahamut Airship and leave it at that.
Snow is classified to be Lightning’s “bodyguard”, to her annoyance; His carefree, joking attitude is said to get on her nerves, but she still ends up giving him a pep talk when he is seen doubting his abilities in one of the latest trailers. Snow vows to Lightning that he will “Finish the mission, and protect Sera”, but it’s unclear if protecting Sera is the mission, or if one objective conflicts with the other. His desire to protect both girls give me the feeling he’ll fulfill the Big Brother role seen in other hulking characters like Barret, Steiner, and Wakka.
Mysterious Woman: Shown in the newest trailer, this female soldier is seen during Sera’s escorting. Based on her outfit and affiliation with the other soldiers, she’s likely an enemy, but it remains to be seen if she’ll end up the main villain of the game. The odds are good though based on her design; If Lightning was modeled as a female Cloud (again, try to suppress your discomfort), it only makes sense that her rival would be a female Sephiroth. She’s got the coat and long hair down, but her sword is noticably shorter, almost like a dagger.
Regardless, I would love a swordswoman adversary to quarrel with Lightning, so I hope Sephirotica here delivers.
Battle System: Gameplay is said to utilize the popular but not-quite-perfect Gambit System from Final Fantasy XII, with more control given to the player. All enemies will appear onscreen, and some are said to vary in size (with large enemies said to be “very large”). Multiple party members are confirmed, but there will be many occasions where the group will split up into one or more teams, ala Final Fantasy IX. This time, however, you’ll be given a realtime look on all the characters via split screens.
The battles are also said to be quite frantic and furious, as the teams behind both this and Versus are competing to see who can recreate Advent Children’s fight scenes more accurately.
Artwork and Concepts (click for bigger size):
Synopsis: Tetsuya Nomura gets a lot of flack from westerners for his overuse by Square (he’s mentioned to currently be working on over five games at once) as well as his affinity for dressing characters in black, and inserting accessories in any part of their body that he so chooses, even if he is well aware that zippers do not belong on hats, nor are belts to be worn as armbands. But the majority must clearly favor him if he continues to work on most of Square’s projects, and Square clearly loves the guy so much that they’ve given him free reign to develop his own Final Fantasy XIII title alongside the main game (although keep in mind that’s not what the “Versus” in the title refers to, but rather to symbolize it as an extra chapter alongside FFXIII).
Me? I love the man’s work. Even if he does get a bit repetitive with his designs (as many game artists do), they still reek of coolness and otherworldly fashions. And if nothing else, he knows how to grab players emotionally; Kingdom Hearts I and II (his first gig as main director) resulted in several tear-inducing moments (in the latter’s case, just under 2 hours from the starting point). And the ever praised ending of Final Fantasy VII’s first disc? It was his idea.
That is why Final Fantasy Versus XIII, his first directed FF title, and the first game where he’s allowed full control over the story, gets my full attention. The game’s first trailer was one of the best teasers I’ve ever seen, showcasing a gritty, moody setting full of Shakespherian quotes, beautifully tragic music, and a main character who doesn’t look like the heroic type. Versus has been referred to as “the darkest entry in the FF series”, full of characters neither good nor evil, but forced into opposing sides due to a war of terrotories and beliefs, and a plot that draws upon Shakesphere’s stories to create a branching cast of characters that may, inevitably, fall into tragedy.
It’s going to be awesome. So awesome.
Noctis: The “hero” of the story, Noctis is described as the prince of a forgotten aristocrity, fighting off invaders from claiming his kingdom’s crystal. Despite the uncanny resemblance to Naruto’s Sasuke, Noctis has showcased moves and abilities even more impressive than Lightning’s. He has ten swords levitating around him, and frequently switches between the weapons during combat. He also has a teleporting ability that lets him instantly warp to whever his swords are thrown, and is shown to be utterly mercilous with whoever he fights (he is shown snapping the arms and necks of several of his attackers).
For people who couldn’t stand Cloud or Squall’s depressing personalities, Nomura has stated that Noctis has a personality completely different from the two of them. Just how different is unclear, but he’s also said to be rather arrogant, as well as somewhat shy. His chance meeting with Stella proves he makes a bigger effort to chat it up with pretty ladies.
Stella: Looking like a cross between Celes and Rinoa (I can only hope she shares more traits with the former rather than the latter), Stella is seen as a sword wielding girl with magical powers, and will undoubtedly form a relationship with Noctis. The two meet for the first time in a banquest hall, with Stella fully aware of Noctis’ royal heritage, as well as knowing that he has made contact with a Shinigami (displayed in the painting behind them), a sort of God revered by the citizens of the game, and ultimately having a greater role in the destinies of the two characters. The two characters have been shown engaging one another, their eyes filled with sadness rather than hatred. Undoubtedly, their “lover’s quarrell” will make up the bulk of the game’s promised tragedy. Just try not to make the obvious joke about her name.
Noctis’ Posse: Consisting of a wisecracking shotgun guy, an upbeat mullet guy, and a coolheaded glasses guy, these three guys are only confirmed to be “old friends” with Noctis, and apparently work with him to resolve whatever conflict is plaguing his kingdom. Noctis is shown to have a softer side when Shotgun Guy gives him a noogie embrace, whereas Cloud or Squall would instead make a face and push the guy off. It was confirmed that Noctis would have AI party members assisting him, just like Goofy and Donald in Kingdom Hearts, so it’ll probably be these guys.
My guess to their role in the story? They die. Yeah, all three of them. Calling it.
White Robed Character: There’s next to no details on this guy…assuming it is a guy (I won’t dismiss the possibility that it’s Stella), other than it seems that Noctis hates this person to death. Without a word, he unleashes his swords on the White Robed Person, who in turn summons up a magic circle, putting the two into a magical John Woo standoff.
Gameplay: Described as an action game similar to Kingdom Hearts, but with more emphasis on weapons, Nomura promises that players will be able to perform all the cool moves Noctis uses in the trailer…except that he might then lose all those abilities after the opening level, in a nod to Metroid Prime. There will also be firearms in the game, requring a switch from third person to first (likely for sniping). The two Kingdom Hearts games feature a very fun and exciting battle system, but lacks somewhat in challenge. If Versus can replicate that with more dynamic spells and abilities, along with battles that are more challenging (and undoubtedly, more violent), then Versus will no doubt be as fun to play as it’ll be to watch.
Artwork and Concepts (click for bigger size):
Synopsis: So originally the third title in the FNC series was meant to be a cellphone game, so I was all “oh”. But now it’s going to be a PSP title, and now I’m all “whoa!”.
This game probably has the least information out of the three titles, but what is shown looks promising; Having a somewhat MMO feel like FFXI, you pick a character class of your choice and work with a group inside a magic training school, similar with the Gardens from FFVIII. I’ve said before that a FFVIII MMO where you can join the school of your choice and engage in missions would be entertaining, so Agito has my attention.
Also, its characters wear scarfs. Scarfs are awesome.
As mentioned before, players choose whatever character and class they want. You’ve got gunslingers, martial artists, swordsmen and swordswomen. The one trait they share aside from the kickass scarfs is that they all use cards, though it’s unknown what the cards are for (magic, no doubt).
Gameplay: It’s an MMO. With Cards. Right then.
Artwork and Concepts (click for bigger size):