Month: February 2012

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Following the release of Final Fantasy XIII, the segregation between Final Fantasy fans has become abundantly clear. Many fans were dissatisfied with the quality of the release and the apprehension regarding the release of Final Fantasy XIII-2 became apparent. I, for one, enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII immensely but still proceeded to approach this release with an unbiased opinion and open mind.

Despite the appearance of this title closely resembling its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII-2 showcases enhancements to gameplay and an extremely engaging plotline and narrative. Although it is indeed a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, there are clear examples of alterations throughout this title.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 features random encounters as you traverse a location. This feature allows for bountiful combat opportunities, but can be somewhat frustrating as they appear frequently and can hinder your progress. As these random encounters take place, you are greeted with an encounter circle. If you vacate so that no enemies are present within the circle, you flee the battle and are not required to engage in combat. A mog clock is also displayed upon enemies appearing .The mog clock is a countdown system that represents the opportunity to achieve a pre-emptive strike upon the enemy. The quicker you engage the first strike upon the enemy, the more opportunity there is to successfully administer a pre-emptive strike.

 

Paradigms allow you to customise your party’s formation and strategy for battle. Various formations will aid you in combating enemies and bosses. A formation that allows you to defeat one group of enemies may not work on others. Players can now assign monsters to their paradigms within Final Fantasy XIII-2. Upon defeating a specific enemy, you are granted access to allocate them to your paradigm. Each monster possesses unique abilities and attributes, which can be developed within the crystarium. Upon selecting a monster, the formations available to you within the paradigms expand.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 grants you access to a trusty companion known as a Moogle. A Moogle’s bobble will glow when you are within the vicinity of special items and treasures. It may also help you discover artefacts and lead you to locations where live triggers are present. A Moogle also has a unique function known as ‘The Moogle Hunt.’ Treasure sphere and other objects which are out of phase with the current timeline will reside across various locations. These hidden objects will be made noticeable by a shimmering aura. With Moogle’s assistance, the paradox effect is dispelled and will allow access to the now-tangible object.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 places a massive emphasis on conversing with people throughout the various locations. You are able to converse with individuals and discover information that is sometimes helpful regarding the storyline. The characters may also converse amongst themselves, especially during live triggers. These live triggers appear occasionally and are an opportunity to discover more about the character and sometimes topics such as location and history. Upon receiving a question during these live triggers, there are four unique responses present, depending on the nature of the discussion. This directly affects the response of the other character you are conversing with. As you make progress, people may proposition you with missions you may wish to undertake. You are not required to partake in these missions, they are simply side missions. Upon completion, you will receive a reward for your efforts.

During selected parts of the game, you have access to Chocobos. Upon mounting a Chocobo, you may traverse the map freely with no worry of being attacked or having to engage in combat. Chocobo’s also grant you access to locations you may be unable to reach on foot. You must feed a Chocobo a gysahl green before they will allow you to mount them.

Throughout the Final Fantasy XIII-2 experience, you are required to time travel through the Historia Crux. It acts as a compass for navigating time and allows you to select a year and location that you wish to travel to. With each gate successfully unlocked, more locations become available to you. Gate seals allow you to close various locations within the Historia Crux. Upon closing a location, it resets part of their history. It can also be utilised to rewind to a point before an artefact was obtained, allowing you to complete past mysteries again.

Whilst you travel to plentiful locations, you may discover a function known as a temporal rift. To progress further, you must unravel the mystery presented and resolve the anomaly. You may also encounter cinematic actions within Final Fantasy XIII-2. During the cinematic action segment, you will be prompted to complete a button sequence. Upon completing this sequence perfectly, you receive a random bonus. Decision making is a primary feature within Final Fantasy XIII-2. The game will present you with a situation and prompt you to select an action to resolve the predicament.

Owing to the difficulty of individual enemies within Final Fantasy XIII-2, you may find yourself seeking robust weaponry and items to aid you in your quest. Chocolina’s Shop appears in various locations throughout the game. The shop grants you bountiful amounts of weapons, items and accessories to compliment your character’s abilities. Each accessory possesses a unique attribute, and clever combinations will improve the capabilities of your characters. Weapons can also be optimised to focus on strength, magic and HP.

The quality of presentation within Final Fantasy XIII-2 is phenomenal which swiftly captured my interest. The inclusion of music and sound created a powerful atmosphere in specific sections of the game. I did find occasionally the use of specific tracks became repetitive but, was utilised effectively for the most part. Final Fantasy XIII-2 combines a harrowing storyline with a light-hearted connection between two protagonists, creating an emotion-wrenching experience for the player. If you were not a fan of Final Fantasy XIII, chances are this title will not sway your opinion. If you’re possibly a fan of the older releases within the Final Fantasy series or have not played the prequel, this game may present a new lease of life for you. It provides a brief summary of the prequel so this game is accessible to avid fans of Final Fantasy or those who are just beginning their journey.

Thanks for reading,

Hannah

Hidden Gem: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles by Corey Sexton

The Final Fantasy franchise isn’t exactly known for its sequels and spin-off titles, and until Final Fantasy XI, neither was the franchise normally associated with its multiplayer capabilities. Shortly after Final Fantasy XI’s debut, Square Enix released yet another multiplayer game for the Nintendo GameCube (the first time an original Final Fantasy title had graced a Nintendo system since Final Fantasy VI) called Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, which featured for the first time ever a fully real-time combat system, and the ability to team up and play with friends through the use of your Game Boy Advances and link cables. This game’s art style is more animated and cartoon-like than the realistic-looking approach most other FF games have taken. However, there are many elements such as classes, moogles, enemies, bosses, magic, items, equipment and classic Final Fantasy staples that fans expect out of any installment to the series.

In this new world, everything has become shrouded in a poison referred to as “miasma,” and only the crystals that each city is built around have the ability to keep the poison at bay. The crystals however, are powered by a substance called “myrrh,” which can be harvested from any myrrh tree and stored in a crystal chalice once annually each year. Each town sends out a caravan once a year in search of myrrh, in an effort to keep their homes safe for another year. As one of the citizens of your hometown joining the caravan, this is where your quest begins.

As you start your journey, you select from one of four different classes. Each of these has their own special fighting techniques, weapons, and statistic set.
From there, you’ll choose your family’s trade. This will affect the types of services that will be available in your hometown such as blacksmiths or merchants, altering the types of crafts that you can construct or the ability to purchase items. Throughout the game, after you complete each area, one of your familymembers will send you a letter and your response affects your relationship with each member. The gifts that you receive when you return home at the end of every year are determined by your chosen family trade, your relationship to each member, and the gifts you send them while out on your quest. This is also how you get some of the best items in the game, so it helps to stay on good terms with your family.

Once out on the world map, you will be able to move your caravan along the roads that connect various towns and the individual areas that you must traverse in order to collect myrrh. While moving your caravan from location to location, you sometimes trigger short cut scenes involving relationships and conflicts that you and your party experience with other travelers. In my experience, these incidents can become a bit annoying when you need to go back and forth between different areas on the map.

While out on this adventure, it doesn’t take long to realize how essential the crystal chalice is while progressing throughout the world; the chalice creates a protective barrier around the party from the toxic air. As a result, one player will always have to carry the chalice in order to move around. While playing solo, a moogle assistant will be provided to carry the chalice for you. You will also have the ability to attribute different elements to your chalice which plays another important role in advancing across the world map, allowing you to cross through gates called “Miasma Streams.”Seemingly useless, each miasma stream requires a certain element to be attributed to your chalice, which can be done simply by traveling to an area with the required element and selecting it from a menu. However, that can become quite annoying as each miasma stream’s element changes every year, forcing players to redo certain levels while they wait for the elemental requirement to change. But if there’s one thing Square Enix knows how to do right, it’s creating visually stunning environments, and even in my re-visitation of this last generation title, I still enjoy simply walking from one side of each deadly stream of miasma to the other.

The GBA may have seemed like a primitive controller at first, however, the controls are actually quite smooth. You switch between your attack, magic, and defend commands on your HUD with L and R, and can even equip single use items for quick and easy consumption. When attack is selected, players can either mash A and deal multiple quick weak strikes, or press and hold A to perform a focus attack, creating a target circle on the ground that allows them to move around freely and attack any enemy they wish. This also does significantly more damage and varies depending on your weapon. When selecting types of magic, players must press and hold A to create a target circle, and line up their attack over their enemy to unleash their wrath endlessly, as the “magicite” players pick up throughout each level does not require MP! Unfortunately, the downside is that the magicite doesn’t leave the level with you.

The Defense command varies from class to class. Races like the Yukes with lower defense can make their bodies intangible and protect themselves from any attack, whereas Races like Clavats, who have higher defense, are only able to defend themselves from frontal attacks.The GBA screen proves to be very useful as well, as each player receives their own specialized map to help guide the party forward throughout each level . One screen will have a scale map of the area, while another has upcoming enemy locations marked. If there are more than two players, there is also a map indicating treasure chest locations and a screen with information about the enemies that you are currently battling. Of those last two, someone will have one or the other if there are only three players.When you are exploring the vast maze-like mushroom forests, goblin-overrun mines, treacherous deserts, and many other memorable environments, you really get to enjoy the simple beauty of FFCC. By incorporating the ability to team up with your friends, gameplay becomes far more enjoyable because players will encounter large amounts of enemies that could be a little overwhelming while playing alone. The ability to stack your magic together and create new spells by yourself in single player mode is beneficial, but not quite as satisfying as using teamwork and strategizing with your companions.

This is a great game for any group of FF fans or for anyone who has ever been turned away by the slower-paced turn based titles. As I had previously mentioned, the Final Fantasy franchise isn’t quite known for its spin of titles, and that could be part of the reason that FFCC is largely overshadowed by its numbered ancestors. Another reason could be that the game simply required too much extra hardware for a system that wasn’t as popular as its competitors at the time. Whatever the reason may be, this is a game that I feel deserves more attention and should at least be given a fair chance alongside the rest of the FF canon.

Final Fantasy X

You know how growing up, we all had that series of games that helped us through that awkward times in our lives? Yes I’m talking about that times where you were trying to find your way in about high school after primary school and that word sex was still a bit of a giggle. No? Just me? Okay I’ll move on to what this post is actually about and not an embarrassing story of me growing up.

Everyone that I’ve spoken to recently about the Final Fantasy series has played them when they were growing up and none of them have a bad word about them. Sure, there is a difference in opinion when it comes to which is the best one but nonetheless, each person has a personal favourite. Now I shall confess here, I never played a Final Fantasy game growing up. When I witnessed someone playing them before, I always had the same opinion – what a pile of rubbish. They never appealed to me – the characters didn’t have a gun in their hand and they were not shooting everything in sight however, I had never really given the Final Fantasy games a chance to win me over. Recently, I’ve decided I wanted to change that first opinion I’ve had since about the age of twelve so here’s my story of one Scottish girl playing Final Fantasy X as a newcomer to the Final Fantasy series.

Now I could of started playing with hate running through my blood  but I decided that I would start with a clear mind, cram all my teenage opinions to the back of my head and give FFX at least a couple of hours to try and win me over out of the dark side. It’s safe to say that couple of hours were not needed – half an hour later and I had found a new love in my life to join the likes of Ezio Auditore and Batman. My thoughts for the rest of the night were based around three things; “Why did I ever think these games were crap?”, “My god look at the time! That is no way the time” and “Tidus *swoon*”.

The first element of FFX that grabbed my attention was in fact, the soundtrack. An odd component of a game to pick up on within the first initial hours of playing but nevertheless, it impressed me. I felt each song complimented the story perfectly and with the exception to the Assassins Creed series, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed listening to a video game’s soundtrack so much without having to sit and play the game to enjoy it. I’ve often found myself just chilling out with it playing through my iPod.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started really liking the main character, Tidus. Whether it’s wrong for the fact that he is no doubt younger than me or the main one – he’s a video game character, it didn’t dawn on me. There was something about his cheeky humour that he’s surrounds himself with that made me realise that made me love playing as him and notice Final Fantasy X was going to provide me with a brilliant experience that I’ll never forget. I’m not  wanting to spoil too much of the story behind Tidus’ character for anyone who hasn’t played FFX but, for those who have and will know what I’m talking about, I felt like I could relate to Tidus’ background on a certain level.Between the constant arguments with his father and what happened with his mother at a young age as well, even if you can’t relate to what’s happening in the story, the way they are told pluck at the emotional heartstrings. I really enjoyed and admired the storytelling in the game which is where the FFX characters come into this review. Square Enix (was named Square Soft at the time of FFX being released) have really ensured that every character has a gripping and emotional story to tell,  which is unravelled throughout your time playing the game.  As well as Tidus, you can play as a variety of characters such as Auron, who I felt brought an aura of wisdom yet something was mysterious about him that I couldn’t quite figure out. Wakka who brings a high level of enthusiasm and his hair was impeccable. Yuna appeared to be the shy person of the group however there is something about her that makes her a very dangerous woman to be around which I really liked. Adding in the goth-like appearance of Lulu carrying that adorable Moogle and the excitable Rikku and I was rapidly running out of places to hate with this game.

Final Fantasy X isn’t the most recent instalment of the Final Fantasy series, what with it being over ten years old now that we’re in the year 2012, so I fully expected everything visual about the game to be less stunning compared to nowadays. Sure, the initial gameplay graphics are that of which you would expect of a game of FFX’s age – slightly blocky and animations not exactly perfect but, the one thing that shocked me where the cut scenes. After ten yearsm they appeared as if they look as they should belong in a Japanese animated movie with the characters faces reflecting so much emotion, the buildings holding so much detail put into them and the effects on the water along with everything else that Spira offers left me in awe.

As expected, the enemies that you encounter on your time spent playing FFX is something that on one hand, funny and yet on the other, downright frightening. The appearance of some of these enemies have made me laugh and/or be frightened but they’ve always made me admire the work that’s gone into taking a normal ‘monster’ such as wolves or trolls, then making it almost an entire different monster just for the game but , in the process, still maintaining the features of the initial monster such as, the Wendigo for example – appears to be a troll-like monster however has some moves hidden under his fur.

As I’ve mentioned before, 99% of the games that I have been playing recently involved guns and running around as a macho man so FFX provided a real big change of pace for me. My feet (or my hands really) were in unfamiliar territory when the moment for a battle arrived. I had played some turn-based-strategy games growing up, such as Pokemon although, I was never any good at them due to that big ‘S’. Strategy has never my strong point when it comes to games as I forever dive head first into the battles and not think about my actions however; I gave FFX my best shot. With some help from friends and the internet to take down some of the bosses in the game, I now feel more comfortable playing strategy games than what I was before although there is still room for improvement. By me slowing myself down to play the game properly, I found FFX to be a relaxing game to play as I was forcing myself to slow down and just enjoy wonderful world that Spira brings to you.

A feature that I wasn’t looking forward to adapting myself to was the levelling up of the characters. Again, this is unfamiliar territory for me however with the helpful step-by-step tutorials for each part of the process, I was soon dipping my toes into the big sea of levelling up. Soon I was finding my battles easier; strategies were slowly forming in my head, what was the best attack against this type of enemy and so on.

It’s safe to say after playing Final Fantasy X for twenty odd hours although loosing what feels like days, my love had flourished into a massive fan-girling one. My opinion has changed dramatically with regards to not only the Final Fantasy series, but the genre as a whole. As well as wanting to delve into the realms of Gaia, Blue Planet and most recently, Gran Pulse, I want to venture into the spin-off games from the Final Fantasy series – Kingdom Hearts. I really wish that I had gotten into the series at an earlier age as I’ve found that, if FFX is anything to go by, I’ve missed out on an amazing series of games. Providing a game that covers puzzles, strategy battles, action and a compelling storyline, it’s safe to say that Final Fantasy X is a game that I’ve never played the likes of before. I’m surprised at even putting in 20+ hours into playing FFX , which is where most games nowadays would have already drawn to an end,  I’ve still got a lot of story to cover in the game and I’m looking forward to what the experience is like.

If you’ve never played the Final Fantasy games like myself, my one piece of advice would be to go play it, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. FFX deserves at least a couple of hours to try and win over your heart like it has done with mine.