Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
It’s been one week since the 3DS arrived at my doorstep, followed by Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and three other launch games (for review).
It’s been less than two weeks since Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy arrived at my doorstep, but I already have over 41 hours logged in the game clock, while Nintendo’s new technological marvel sits in a corner with dust beginning to form.
Don’t get me wrong, the 3DS delivers with its expectations, but Square’s follow-up to their first FF crossover has exceeded its own. Nearly every complaint I had with the first game has been fixed with the sequel (or expansion, call it whatever you want), including a more down-to-earth storyline that better handles the interaction between these multi-dimensional heroes. You get a better sense of camaraderie with the new cast of heroes (who are the main focus in the “12th cycle”), which is partly in thanks for the majority of them being better developed (and more confident) characters than the original cast of protagonists. This also makes the climax of their story all the more effective on an emotional level (no spoilers here), bringing back those feelings of nostalgia from classic FF titles that go deeper than the music, dialog quotes, and other easter eggs (though those help too).
The new characters are also a blast to play, whether it’s Yuna’s Summon combos or Laguna’s long-range weapons. Even Vaan has ended up a beast in battle, housing practically every medieval weapon known to man. But my favorite new character has to be (and I say this completely without bias) Tifa and her super-fast, super-deadly combos and feint abilities. At first I was afraid she would end up low tier, but once I got the hang of her feints, I can add a deep amount of strategy in each battle; her feints have several uses, including the ability to close in on dodgy enemies, pass through most projectile attacks, and even momentarily pause combos to further catch opponents off-guard.
It also helps that her attacks are among the coolest looking in the whole game. Ever wondered about that steel toe on her left boot? Turns out the point of that is so she can trail her foot around the floor, causing the spark to light her leg on fire and kick you with her exploding foot. There’s also her throw move taken straight from Advent Children as well as other super-fast special attacks. If Dissidia 012 ever ends up played in tournaments, I would be shocked if Tifa wasn’t among the top tier characters.
Thankfully, she’s also given justice from a character perspective; this is specifically FFVII Disc 1 Tifa, who retains her confidence and haughtiness in battle, and is quickly established as one of the main authority figures of the group (alongside Lightning). Her dialog is also memorable and is without a doubt the best job that Rachel Leigh Cook has done with the character. While her interactions with fellow FFVII veterans Cloud and Sephiroth are brief, they’re certainly interesting considering her amnesia upon being summoned to Dissidia’s world. If you’re a CloTi fan (to the point that you would openly use such a stupid nickname), you’ll definitely be in for a treat. If you’re a Cloud fan, you also have much to look forward to: not only has his wrist-slashing battle dialog been updated into something more confident, he also gets what is unquestionably the most badass moment in the entire game.
Sadly though, there’s still the issue of the game’s visual portrayal of the character. I touched on the subject before, and the same opinion stands: her breasts do jiggle, but it’s an incredibly mild effect. Any in-game commentary about her assets is also kept discrete, with the only fellow character to make a comment being the one character you would expect to do so (Zidane). She’s not slobbed over by every single hero or villain, and she’s treated with the same ounce of respect as any of the other fully-armored heroes.
That said, her in-game cutscenes don’t quite show the same level of modesty…
She doesn’t seem quite as “perky” in battle, which leads me to wonder if they’re using two different character models in the game. Even with this portrayal, it’s still not a big deal; her chest is pronounced but not protruding to obscene levels. Her CG model is practically medium-sized, which is just another reason that I want FFVII’s remake to appear in a high-def console.
But that’s not stopping the legion of fanboys from making typical comments. I’m convinced that Final Fantasy is one of the worst topics to discuss on the internet, because the “mainstream” point of view among people is positively headache-inducing. Try visiting the Dissidia message board in a place like GameFAQs and you’re likely to find at least a page and a half of masturbatory comments relating to Tifa. But I suppose that’s my fault for visiting GameFAQs in the first place…
But truly, I had given up hope until I came across one sensible article that shares my beliefs. I shouldn’t be disturbed about what the internet has to say since the simple truth is that Final Fantasy (and particularly FFVII) has a ridiculously huge fanbase, and like all fanbases there’s going to be an even split between conservative fans and straight-up teenage retards.
But again, I partly blame Square for fueling the fanboy fire by not attempting to match Tifa closer to her CG render and Nomura’s official artwork. Again, it’s a mild portrayal that comes nowhere near close to the FMV balloons in the original FFVII, but the simple fact is that she’s the only character in the game with jiggling breasts, and that is simply not the kind of attention she needs, especially since her actual role in Dissidia 012 is among her most notable crowning moments of awesome. It was an unnecessary amount of fanservice, when she already has plenty of the non-exploitative kind to deliver in the game.
I hate to keep harping on such a stupid topic, so I’ll conclude with what I’ve been saying for years now: Tifa is an attractive fictional character with a sexy body. She has luscious legs and breasts, but they are not this absurd gigantic size that so many people are convinced of; she’s not even the bustiest character in her own franchise. She is not “the de-facto sex symbol of Final Fantasy” because she doesn’t constantly bend over promiscuously or have her fellow party members slobbering over her. Her figure is rarely called to attention in all of her appearances, which means it’s purely secondary to her character.
You would think the fact that she fights like a super-powered version of Chun Li and has a deep-layered personality would be enough incentive to find her attractive. You want to ogle her body, that’s fine, it’s your right as a male gamer (or lesbian female gamer). But if you’re going to insist that she serves no purpose beyond her looks, or that it’s the only reason she’s such a popular character, than you’re a bigger character assassin than Sephiroth himself.
Honestly, get over it, Internet.
Now, to spare you folks the double-posting of FF articles, I have yet another topic brainstormed (and, if you can believe it, it is once again not the article I had planned months prior):
You may have heard the comments that Square has been whoring out their Final Fantasy series too much these days (as much as I’ve been whoring it out as a topic on this blog). You may have also heard the opinion that Square should lay off the FF brand and give it room to breathe.
I would tend to agree on this, except that I feel that they haven’t been producing the right kind of spin-offs for their premiere series. While now and again there will be a Final Fantasy variation that delivers creating a new experience with an old aesthetic (see Dissidia), there are still plenty of spin-0ffs, remakes, and other iterations that they have yet to cook up, yet are also bound to become much more successful than, say, The Crystal Bearers.
I’m sure many of us have had dream projects we’d like to see, so allow me to list my ten personal most-wanted ideas.
One complaint about Dissidia still remains in the sequel: the lack of an online mode. It stings almost more so this time around, as Dissidia 012’s extra features (such as friend cards and custom quests) encourage sharing among pals, but can only be accomplished through face-to-face communication or putting up the file up in a media-sharing website (Japan at least had MogWeb, which was an online hub for people to put their stuff up).
While the future of Dissidia remains somewhat uncertain, with Square’s wording suggesting that their FF crossover will continue, but possibly in a different shape or form (and probably under a new name), it would be easy enough to port Dissidia 012 as a PSN/XBLA downloadable title, featuring upscaled visuals along with the ability to fight one another online, as well as send ghost and quest data. It’s a quick port that would no doubt get as much attention as the latest Xbox Live fighting game.
Final Fantasy XI deserves some props for lasting as long as it has, even under the clutter of MMORPGs out there, not to mention the ever-looming shadow cast by World of Warcraft. While the game may continue to last for the next couple of years (especially with FFXIV failing to cause fans to move over), those servers won’t be running forever.
So what does that mean for the intricately detailed world that Square put forth? It’s a little-known secret to subscribers that Vana’diel has been home to some of the best plot lines and characters of the last few years of Final Fantasy. Just now folks are learning about the awesomeness that is Prishe thanks to her inclusion in Dissidia 012, but why stop there?
That is why I would love to see FFXI’s stories make their way in some sort of offline form, preferably in the form of an RPG. Whether it be a budget handheld title or an upscaled console adventure, there are plenty of FF fans who don’t have the time or money to commit to a monthly subscription who deserve the chance to experience Vana’diel and its lovable cast of heroes and villains.
While Square’s previous attempts at revisiting old FF settings have been met with mixed reactions (such as the Compilation of FFVII or FFIV: The After Years), there’s still a big demand for canonical sequels. And while nearly every FF title can potentially produce a sequel, I feel that none are more deserving than Final Fantasy IX.
The reason for this is mostly due to its aesthetics: the colorful and cartoonish world of Gaia has rarely been replicated, even among the FF franchise (the closest matching series is the Crystal Chronicles brand, which is handled by much of the folks responsible). There’s a huge amount of diversity in the locations and inhabitants, from river-dancing mice warriors to artificially created Black Mages, as well as superdeformed humans that come in all shapes, sizes, and even social standing.
And even though FFIX was as expansive an adventure as its predecessors, it also felt like we barely got a taste of the wonderful world it provided. In an era of samey looking settings (both in RPGs and other genres), a return to FFIX’s world would be truly refreshing.
You’ve read my opinion on the subject before, but much like the FFVII Remake, this is a rumor that continues to persist. We knew that Square was considering this at one point with a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XII (codenamed “Fortress“), which supposedly still exists (though whether it still takes place in Ivalice is unknown).
But regardless, it’s a known fact that Western developers have a much bigger handle on developing games for the current HD era than Japan, and that includes Square Enix. For all the talk about the series declining, a new Western outlook could potentially rekindle some of that lost magic. If nothing else, it’s an interesting experiment that I would like to see take place.
Whatever you may have felt about Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, it’s safe to say that the majority of you found it to be a visually entertaining experience. If nothing else, the movie was successful in reintroducing the beloved characters and setting of Final Fantasy VII, bringing our favorite heroes and villains to the modern age with a new look that still continues to be cosplayed to this very day.
Square had spoken interest before about making more CGI films in the vein of AC (while never reaching the ludicrous budget of Spirits Within, a flop that nearly destroyed the company), and I’m sure many fans would love more chances to set their controllers down and watch the FF heroes do the work for them. If CG is too costly, there’s always traditional animation, which previously led to mixed results. Still, if they can learn to replicate the excellent adaption that was Last Order (Case of Denzel was also well done, though the former had better animation), than it’s an alternative worth pursing. Just think how awesome Dissidia would be if it had an anime OVA tie-in.
Square has been making much of their money from the FF brand by remaking their earlier titles for handhelds, including the first four Final Fantasies. We’re now in a position where it’s more likely to see remakes of FFV and FFVI before FFVII ever comes along, most likely to be released on the 3DS and/or NGP.
But while these handheld remakes have succeeded in providing new localizations and bonuses to breathe life into these old games, there’s one factor that they’ve all failed in: the visuals. As many oldschool RPG veterans can contest to, sprite-based games are immortal in their visual aesthetic; this is why despite being a 16 bit SNES game, Final Fantasy VI is still more visually appealing than Final Fantasy VII’s outdated polygons and FMV footage. While Final Fantasy IV’s DS remake offered an interesting 3D makeover, it can’t really be said that it looks better than the sprite-based original (and it’s only destined to grow more outdated as the new handhelds hit their stride).
The alternative has been cleaned-up versions of the classic FF titles, including the recent Final Fantasy IV Complete. While these games retain the oldschool sprite look, the computerized visuals can be rather off-putting and sometimes cheap, like watching a flash-based game. It still lacks something from traditional hand-drawn sprites.
So my solution is to follow the example of niche companies like VanillaWare: fully hand-drawn remakes of FFV and VI. When I first played FFVI, I was dazzled the most by the giant and detailed monster designs. I always imagined that the next graphical leap in the series would be to take those Amano illustrations and have them animated in an almost film-like presentation.
VanillaWare’s games, particularly Odin Sphere, is precisely how I envisioned future FF games at the time, and now I want to see that dream realized with the next two remakes. It’s always been personally difficult for me to envision the cast of FFVI as fully proportionate 3D models (although Dissidia does a great job for both Terra and Kefka); a hand-drawn version that retains the super-deformed proportions while also bringing life to the towering bosses of the original game would not only be visually stunning, but would remain so for decades to come.
It may seem presumptuous to proclaim this, as Type-0 has yet to be released, but what I’ve seen of the gameplay has me convinced: this is what the console versions of Final Fantasy need to be.
It’s simply maddening that this PSP title manages to contain everything that FFXIII was lacking; real-time battles, the ability to switch between party members (with diverse abilities and weapons), a strategic use for Summons, and even multiplayer missions.
With this PSP spin-off dropping the XIII from its title, there’s a good chance that Square will be gauging the fan reaction to this game very closely. If we’re lucky, we could see Final Fantasy XV along with future titles building off the gameplay mold set forth by Type-0 (and already refined in Western titles such as Dragon Age 2).
Remember the awesome opening to Final Fantasy VIII, where Squall and his fellow students take part in a massive military raid on the island of Dollet, all part of an exam that judges their candidacy to become SeeD members? And do you also remember the raid on the school by Edea’s soldiers, which resulted in every student taking up arms in a massive magical battle in the campus grounds?
If there was ever a moment in Final Fantasy history that screamed “co-op”, it was those two. As Square continues to struggle in creating an MMO that would appeal to its audiences worldwide, they’re missing an obvious setting that was practically built for an MMO (even years before they took off).
In FFVIII’s world, you could choose your allegiance among the different schools, taking part in multiple mission to raise up your rank to SeeD and beyond. This includes taking out enemy forces stationed around the world, fighting off rival students, and chilling out at the Garden grounds, updating your blog and setting up class dances.
You would also get to pal around the grown-up heroes of FFVIII such as Squall (who would potentially be a full-fledged SeeD instructor), and for a social aspect you can trade drawn GF’s or spells with other players.
There, Square Enix, I just solved your MMO woes. No payment necessary, just make it happen.
HD re-releases of old console games are all the rage nowadays, especially if you’re a PS3 owner. We’ve already seen what HD-enhanced PS2 games can look like thanks to the God of War/Sly Cooper collections, and we have several more to look forward to, including the highly anticipated Ico/Shadow of the Colossus re-release.
So what, pray tell, is keeping Square from busting out their PS2 classics in a similar manner? Many gamers with big rig PCs have experienced for themselves how stunning FFX and FFXII can look with its textures upscaled, thanks to the power of a PS2 emulator (that still isn’t optimized fully). I’ve tried this myself, and the results are truly fantastic, especially with Kingdom Hearts I and II.
So how about making it official? Re-releasing these PS2 games as enhanced PS3 editions would be leagues cheaper than remaking them from scratch, and for an extra incentive, include the extras and bonuses included in the International/Final Mix editions that never saw release outside of Japan.
I would also be tempted to request that they also “finish” FFXII as originally envisioned by Matsuno (which includes Basch as the main character instead of Vaan, as well as the remaining 90% of the script that was taken out of the final game), but some dreams are simply too far-fetched.
Which is why my number one choice will seem very ironic following that statement.
You shouldn’t be surprised to find “Final Fantasy VII Remake” at the top of an FF Dream List.
You may be surprised to see Kojima Productions listed as the main developer. What possible reason would I have in listing the folks behind Metal Gear Solid as being in charge of what is probably the most highly demanded remake of our generation?
The reasons mostly have to do with the fact that Square currently seems unable to meet the demand for FFVII’s makeover at this time; with Nomura and his team tied up with other projects (including Final Fantasy Versus XIII and the soon-to-be-announced Kingdom Hearts III), and with Square unable to fork over the budget for such an undertaking (earlier comments say that it could be as expensive, if not more so, as FFXIII), the simplest solution seems to allow an outside developer to pick up the slack.
And it just so happens that Kojima is good friends with Square’s big wigs. In fact, he shared lunch with their president last week.
But what makes KojiPro suitable for such a grand undertaking? How does a man responsible for a stealth/shooting/action series seem worthy of handling the world’s biggest RPG franchise?
Here’s my personal reasoning: I consider Final Fantasy VII to have one of the best gaming storylines of all time. It hits all the right notes in an emotional and entertaining level.
It’s also incredibly ridiculous and unrealistic. As photo-realistic as a graphical enhancement may deliver, you’re still playing a game that features a cast consisting of a spikey-haired blonde wielding a ridiculous sword, a bartender in a mini-skirt who can punch through solid walls, a toy cat riding a bigger toy cat, and a dog/cat hybrid with a flaming tail. Also a psychotic warrior trying to dominate the planet by dropping a meteor on it.
But despite the wackiness of the setting, Final Fantasy VII embraces its uniqueness. It runs with its premise and takes it seriously just as much as it has fun with it.
The same could be said for Metal Gear Solid. You may have obsessively researched military procedures and high-grade weapons, but you’ve also got dancing vampires, a man who shoots bees out of his mouth, and a hero who is forced to do naked cartwheels while live footage of a Japanese woman plays on the screen. Kojima knows his shit is crazy, and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t cater to the audience until after he’s catered to himself. But when he does get serious, the fans cheer as Solid Snake lays down the smackdown in both gameplay and cutscenes. Hideo Kojima is like Michael Boy, only classier and less racist.
Much of FFVII plays out the same way. I’ve always considered the story to fall under three acts: You’ve got Act 1, which is the majority of Disc 1, which consists of some action-heavy set pieces that are also interspersed with lighthearted, often silly sequences (Cloud cross-dressing, playing the games at the Gold Saucer, hijacking a rocket, to name a few). Act 2 is a much more serious affair, often falling into grim and dark territory (taking place at the start of Disc 2, appropriately enough), serving for much of the emotional backbone of the story along with its most significant plot points. Finally, Act 3 is all about renewed hope, with the heroes overcoming much of their personal struggles and facing off against the enemy in the most action-packed climax yet (the final 1/3 of Disc 2 and the entirety of Disc 3).
This balancing act of action, drama, and comedy is one that Kojima and his team have been juggling since the first MGS, which makes them a good fit for FFVII. Another one is their attention to visual detail. The main reason we haven’t seen an FFVII remake churned out on PSP or some other handheld is because Square is aware of the demand to give it the highest visual makeover possible. As someone who obsessively looks over every single frame and detail in his cutscenes, Kojima would be the ultimate choice in re-interpreting FFVII’s most famous moments for the modern HD era. His cutscene direction would put even Advent Children to shame.
A remake of Final Fantasy VII is an inevitability, though the big question remains: when and in what form? While I won’t say that putting Kojima Productions in charge of it would be the most ideal choice, it is the one I want to see happen the most.
Now just imagine Cloud responding to everything that is said by other people, by repeating the last line of their sentence in the form of a gruff-sounding question.