Digital Salad & CakeBoxFox: Final Fantasy XIII 3 Lightning Returns

This week is Voluntine’s Week, and to celebrate CakeBoxFox and I have joined forces to write this blog about the newly released Final Fantasy XIII 3 Lightning Returns. Give it a read, enjoy, and maybe write a guest blog for one of your favourite blogs. You’ll see us both popping up as guest bloggers this week, in partnership with the fantastic Mr Murf. Have a great week!

 

Its release season and the latest installment of Final Fantasy hit the shelves on Valentine’s Day, last Friday. CakeBoxFox, life-long Final Fantasy fan and Digital Salad, newcomer to the series, thought we would get our thoughts together on the new release and answer the killer question. Will we buy it?

CakeBoxFox will be in italics, and Digital Salad will be in normal formatting.

Final-Fantasy-XIII-Lightning-Returns

I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. I’ve certainly been aware of them, I think they’re on every gamer’s radar, but I never tried one out. I was aware of the good reputation that Square had built up for the brand, but I was never much of an RPG gamer.

That has all changed in recent years. Tastes change over time – and that’s a great thing! Since living with flatmate CakeBoxFox I’ve been introduced to all sorts of RPGs, and re-introduced to MMOs which I was into way back in my early teens. CakeBoxFox has always been a Final Fantasy fan, but I’ll let her explain that some more later on, so I got the bug to try one out. Very late to the party, but better late than never!

That’s where Final Fantasy XIII 3 comes in, the newest release and the game that I would like to kick off an introduction to Final Fantasy with. Or would I?

Like the cautious gamers we are these days we generally hold off buying games on release day and wait to see how the reviews go down. We’ve been browsing the youtube channels picking up bite-sized chunks of gameplay and opinions; mushing them together to try and get a clear picture of the game. That said, the only use the mainstream reviewers (the IGNs and Gamespots) have been is to provide some extra gameplay footage – their commentary is next to useless! We’re gamer hipsters it seems.

Useful gameplay footage, but just ignore the opinions and commentaries from mainstream websites
Useful gameplay footage, but just ignore the opinions and commentaries from mainstream websites

Having played FF 6 to 13-2, not including 11 and 9, I’ve been with the series throughout many of it’s twists and turns. FF13-3’s coverage has done little to inspire me with regards to the gameplay mechanics, but I am glad of the change of scenery.
I mean, revisiting old places is great, but only if you liked them the first time round- otherwise the game drags you kicking and screaming back to somewhere where, really, you’d be happy to see it squashed by a dragon angry at the colour palette of the place.

So; what do we reckon?

For me, the timer counting down throughout the game is a massive negative. Square made it pretty clear that time was going to be pretty critical to the game, but I was hoping and praying that they wouldn’t have a clock ticking down in the corner of the screen all the time. I just hate that. I’ve spoke of this before, and feel that it’ll drive me more to the strategy guide than any previous encounter with the series has done.  *cough* FF12 Zodiac Spear *cough*

Time's a big thing for Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII 3
Time’s a big thing for Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII 3

I want to be able to enjoy the game at my leisure, especially when its such a rich world as that in a Final Fantasy. I don’t like being rushed when I’ve sat down and decided to invest so much time, effort and even money into the game. Even though the time limit can be expanded by completing certain missions, there is still a perpetual clock ticking away – which just leads to a rushed experience.

Add to the clock of doooooom the strange decision that ordinary monster encounters in the world don’t give you any experience, and suddenly the classic RPG is looking very linear. With the ticking clock, and no rewards for hanging around and training, you end up rushing from mission to mission. It suddenly sounds more like an Action/Adventure game than a stalwart of the RPG genre; and that really saddens me as a potential newcomer to the series.

Personally, I have no attachment to previous Final Fantasy menu systems, and XIII 3 apparently rides roughshod over those. For me, it only matters if the new version makes sense and works; and it kinda does. Less menus seems to be the theme of the day, and that’s fine, just so long as it works. But I love menus! I love tinkering with things and looking through my inventory, this drive towards no menus does more damage to the immersion for me than a ticking timer could ever create. FF13-2’s menu was just fine.

I like customisation, but I have a real problem with it being focused around Lightning’s outfits, with 3 different outfit and weapon combos being able to be switched at any point in combat. Sounds like an alright idea, until you see what that ends up with. Lightning – who isn’t exactly personality central – is suddenly massively over-sexed up with stupidly skimpy outfits to cater to a certain fan base. I’m not part of that fan base, so I don’t like it being thrust on me.

There’s a trend in final fantasy, the more sequels there are, the less clothes there are available for the cast. FFX-2 was an all female cast, and did have some revealing outfits but I guess higher boob-rendering capabilities are a draw for some. The lore nods are great and all, but please don’t shove Lightning’s body in my face. If I was a raging feminist I’d be up in arms about it all.

I’ll say this- I prefer characters with personality over looks, and Lightning here is nothing more than a dress-up doll from what I’ve seen. It’s kind of a sad note to leave it on really. She had some character, so let her keep that, not make her into a doll for some fanboys to fantasise about.

I want a female lead with a combat system that isn’t about dressing her up. X-2 and X111-3…

Lightning ... what have you done?
Lightning … what have you done? (been on a diet by the looks of things!)

I can potentially work with those big nagging doubts though, and I’m left very 50/50 on whether I will take the plunge and buy the game. Perhaps the time limit will actually work for me as a time-pressured gamer? I won’t know for certain unless I buy the game, but for that plunge to be taken it will most likely have to be a lot cheaper!

I will probably buy it, but only when the price drops. The reviews have been pretty damning and amusing across the board for the North American and European releases, which means it will drop pretty soon.

I’m interested to try out the combat mechanics and explore the new world, but I kind of feel that I’m going to be doing that without the usual backdrop of story telling I’ve come to expect. Change can be a good thing, but I think in this case, they’ve changed some bits but not others.

For the presumed final goodbye to this console generation, it saddens me that they used the same engine as FF13 from 2009. It could have been beautiful. Let’s hope 15 shows a return to fresh thinking form for the next gen.

Expect a joint review in the near future.

CakeBoxFox – cakeboxfox.wordpress.com

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

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One thought on “Digital Salad & CakeBoxFox: Final Fantasy XIII 3 Lightning Returns

  1. C. T. Murphy February 17, 2014 / 11:46 pm

    You two need some Bravely Default in your lives!

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