Jun 13, 2011

The New Mortal Kombat

Well color me surprised. The new Mortal Kombat is actually good and fun.

What's different this time? well for instance, it isn't trying to be something it isn't. In previous games they tried to do stuff like going for 3-d movement, or adding changeable fighting styles, or weapons, and other gimmicks. My response? a profuse yawn.

What this new Mortal Kombat is, is just what makes Mortal Kombat good. Loads of blood, Gore with a touch of ridiculousness, a 2-d plane, and simple but fun mechanics. This MK isn't trying to be Soul Calibur, nor is it trying to have the depth of gameplay of street fighter 4. It's just good old fun MK.

They did add a couple of new toys. The Special Bar allows to power up special moves, to brek combos, or to perform a devastating X-ray move. The X-Ray moves are completely awesome, they pack a lot of hurt, and you can do them over and over again and never get tired of seeing those bones crunching or those internal organs exploding.

The Fatalities are the best the franchise has seen since MK2. Gory, splashy and satisfying. Also, this game boast one of the best Story modes I've ever played in a fighting game besides some of the soul calibur games.

Some of the characters I felt they could have done away with, like that stryker who looked like a dumbass back in MK3 and still does, or Sheeva who always was a pushover and still is. But for the most part, all the characters feel good and fun to play.

If this is the new road MK has decided to take then I see a bright future for it. This game isn't on par with SF4 or MvC3, but it is close when it comes to fun factor. Worth a try.

So after the frustration and disappointment that was beating FF13, I decided to go back and beat FF12. I never beat it back in the days, I don't remember why cuz I did get very far in the game.

Anyhoo, I'm having a blast with it. After ff13 I guess even the worst RPG will seem like heaven, but I think ff12 gets right what ff13 tried to do and failed.

As i said in my post-mortem, the FF12 battle system is similar to that of FF13, only that in this one you actually can stop and think for a while. You can issue specific orders to you party members, or let them go by themselves and act as configured by their gambits.

The world is Huge, it's also a bit linear, but never just a straight corridor with no turning back. You have exploration, backtracking, sidequests that don't necessarily involve KILLING something, etc.

It's as if Square took the great things about FF12 and disfigured them into some Frankenstein monster for ff13.

Anyways I'm hoping to actually beat it this time around, if my time with this borrowed PS2 allows.

In other news (but on the same topic) I watched the trailer for FF13-2 yesterday. "Shaking my head and sighing for one minute" sums my reactions.

Now I raise my coffee mug , here's to the old days where a new FF used to interest me.

So where do I start. Since this will be a long, looooong write, I will put it bluntly: Final Fantasy 13 is bad. It fails as a game on its own, and fails miserably as a final fantasy game.

Of course, it's not all absolutely terrible. Only most of it. Some of it is plain terrible, other things range from mediocre to bad, and the rest is garbage. But let's start with the bright side:

The Good:

The graphics are beautiful. They are simply stunning. The animation is very good for the most part, and the cutscenes are very elaborated. Sometimes too much, but eh I've come to accept that if there aren't 10,000 things happening on the screen at once in an action scene nowadays, be it videogames or movies, then it's "Boring".

Voice Acting:

The voice acting is top-notch, and the casting is perfect for all the characters. If only they were used for telling a good story...

The Mediocre:

Battle System:

Why are people praising this battle system, is beyond me. The battle system seems interesting at first, and I bet that the battles look awesome for someone watching another person playing the game, but the truth is that the battle system takes too much stuff from your control.

I know what they were trying to do here. They wanted to make the battles feel hectic, and fast. But this shit is going too fast to actually think of what the fuck is going on besides watching your green bars and the enemy's life and stagger bar.

This battle system in a nutshell: You go into a battle. You start beating on the mob, or buffing/debuffing, whatever the battle requires. As you do this you're hitting the x button for autofight/autoheal/autobuff/debuff or whatever it's all auto. When your life bars go down, you change to your healing paradigm, when your enemy is staggered or is about to stagger you change to your "GO ALL OUT" paradigm. You just keep changing paradigms, watching those bars and hitting that damn X button REAL GOOD.

Don't you miss those days where you actually had time to select which ability you wanted, or analyze what item to use, without the mobs beating the shit out of you in no time? Well I do. You want to customize your attack pattern? well you can select your abilities one by one, while the enemies turn you into a splatter of meat on the ground. After a while, you realize that it's useless to do this so you just hit that fucking autoattack button till your fingers bleed and let the cpu pick the abilities for you, because it's always going to be faster than if you did it yourself, the enemies WON'T STOP BASHING YOU while you pick them, and square-enix thinks you're too damn dumb to do this yourself.

Don't you miss the good old days where you had to actually THINK in a battle? I do now. This battle system does it all for you, and that's not fucking fun if you ask me. You get new abilities, new spells and stuff, but it's as if you didn't get them because you will probably never have to pick one. Remember how awesome it felt when you got Ultima for your first character in final fantasy 6? well, in ff13 I never noticed when I got my last spell. It's all the same.

So now you ask "Hey Mike, if you have so little control on your character, how about the rest of the party?" Well my dear reader, let me tell you how much control you have over your party members: ABSOLUTELY NONE.

Let's go back in time for a moment, and let's remember that Final fantasy that no one played, that a lot of purists hated, but was actually pretty good: FF12. In FF12, the cpu controlled your party members, that's true. However, you could take over at any moment, and that wouldn't give the enemy an advantage. The "Cruise control" was only there for the grind, which is part of every final fantasy truth to be told. Besides, you also had the gambits, and with gambits you could customize how your party members would react to ANY situation. You were in control all the time.

Now back to the present, in FF13 you have absolutely no control other than telling them to attack, or debuff, or buff, or defend, or heal, etc. That sounds like a lot, but in every role there's a lot of shit you can do and they don't let you control that. You can't tell the guy in charge of buffing "Oh, here, don't buff with haste first. Instead, use protect". Or tell your healer "Prioritize dispelling over healing on this battle". Oh no no no; That dumbass will always cast haste first, and your idiot healer will always heal everyone to 90% or more until he starts dispelling. It will drive you batshit insane, and it will make some battles harder than they should.

Another thing that will absolutely make you wanna stab someone in the face is how cheap some of the battles are, and most specially, how its game over when your party leader dies. Why can't they just transfer leader to one of the other party members when the leader dies? WHY CAN'T I JUST CHANGE LEADER MID-BATTLE? It's mind-buggling. In a game where there are enemies that can insta-KO you with a spell, it's fucking bullshit that you have to retry if that insta-ko falls on your leader. (BTW The last boss has one of those fancy Insta-KOs. LULZ)

Oh but you, you beat this game and you know there's an item that gives 80% insta-ko prevention. Well I know that too, but to get this item you have to buy it for a lot of cash and then upgrade it to the max by investing impossible amounts of cash that can only be attained by grinding for hours on end. Yeah NO THANK YOU GTFO.

The only reason I don't think this battle system is absolutely terrible, is because it actually manages to keep you on your toes most of the time. But that's also its downfall. It's too damn stressful to have your attention 99% of the time on the battles in fear of getting roflpwnt. Oh and believe me, if you falter for a while, you bet your ass you will get killed. For a game that requires 30 hours of grind before you can beat the final dungeon, the battle system is too needy.

The Characters:

This is more of a subjective aspect, but I didn't think much of the characters in this game. The looked interesting, that's for sure, but because the script and story is so bad, you never get to like them, or care about them. Lightning is kinda cool, I'd admit. She's tough, and she's never a crybaby. OH BTW NO CRYBABIES IN THIS FF THAT WAS GREAT. No one is emo for no reason here. I thought that was nice of them.

Snow tries to be cool, and well, sometimes you just want to punch him in the face (lightning did it like 3 times, that makes her cool in my book), but he's nice. Sazh is.. well, for me he felt the most real, but again, the story and script didn't help. He had a couple of shining moments though.

Hope is annoying at first, interesting for like an hour, and after that I completely forgot he existed. Vanille is annoying in every aspect, but not quite as annoying as the "token annoying character" in every FF game. Fang looks cool but she's.. meh.

The main bad guy? well visually he's a mix of the pope and Colonel Campbell. Personality-wise: I finished the game a few hours ago and I can't remember his name, that speaks volumes on how memorable he was.

The secondary characters came and went and they were all meh.

The final Boss looks completely ridiculous. the BAD ridiculous.

All that said, the cast isn't bad, but also isn't as good and memorable as they could have been if they had a good story going on for them. At least they weren't annoying, or emo.

The Bad:

The Character Progression:

The crystarium system is an epic failure. People compare it to the sphere system from FFX, and that's an insult to that system. The sphere system offered true customization of your characters. But due to the extreme hand holding that ff13 takes you through, you can't get to the customization part until the last part of the game, where you have to invest insane amounts of points to deviate from each character's set roles. What, you wanted to turn Vanille into a tank? well, have fun with your 40+ hours of grinding those gazillion points. Tell me if it was worth it.

Back to FF12 again, you had the license board, in which you could diverge into any path you wanted right from the start. It was awesome. But this crystarium bullshit... this is another thing in FF13 where you have no control whatsoever. Just keep hitting that X button, just like in the battles. Watch the spark slowly move through the lines while your hopes of customization fade away.

The Crystarium system is, in a word: Useless.

The Terrible:

The Music:

I know, I know. It's getting repetitive by now but: remember when Final Fantasy Had good music? You know, those awesome songs that stay with you after you play the game? Yeah those were the good days. Nowadays? well it seems that Square-enix thought that what a boring and terrible game needs is some boring and forgettable music.

This game has the most pathetic battle theme of all the Final Fantasy games. Enough said. You won't remember a single song, not even the fanfare. It's completely forgettable. Hell even bad FF games had some awesome music, like FF8. There's some great music in that game. Makes up for all the badness.

The World:

Never has been a FF so void of life, never has been a world so boring. Even when you reach populated areas, they feel completely fake because you can't go anywhere but where the game takes you.

This dead horse has been beaten before, but it's worth mentioning again: NO TOWNS.

The lack of towns kill this world. Gran Pulse is just a vast, hollow digital world which never feels real. The world from Final Fantasy 1 felt more real than Gran Pulse. Getting anywhere in gran pulse is a pain in the ass. Between loading times, no airships, sparse teleport points, Chocobos that you get too late in the game, this world is not only void but also stupid hard to navigate.

I remember playing chrono trigger. That was one world which changed dramatically depending on the year you were in. It could be said there were several different worlds, one for each time period. But you know what? after a while, you could remember these worlds like the palm of your hand You knew where in the map the millenial fair was, or where was lavos. These things you learned without even knowing because you were invested in this world.

That never happens in FF13. I found myself lost and looking at my map more than usual. Would 20 or 30 more hours of gameplay would have helped? perhaps. But I remember learning FFIV's maps on my first playthrough, as a natural thing. The lack of towns or important landmarks to identify each section makes the world feel static and hollow, and thus you never clearly learn any location by instinct.

Plus: NAMES. Oh Lordy.

In FF6, you could remember where was Figaro Castle located, and what was figaro castle. It's an easy name: Figaro. Easy to learn. Like Narshe, or Maranda, or ZoZo. Easy, recognizable names. Now in FF13, what do we get? we get this kind of bullshit: "Yaschas Massif – Tsubaddran Highlands" WHAT? say that 3 times really fast. Hell, try to say it once. How do you even pronounce that, let alone REMEMBER that? "Archylte Steppe – Haerii Archaeopolis", "Paddraean Archaeopolis", "Archylte Steppe"? what? no, FUCK YOU.

This game fails on so many basic aspects. Even in naming things with simple names people can hear, interpret and remember.

The Absolute Garbage:

The Story:

So I beat FF13 a few hours ago, and if you ask me what this game was about, I don't have an answer. And It's not that kind stories which are good but leave you with ambiguous meanings. No, this is a simple story, very simple compared to other FFs, it's just that I can't make sense or understand what the fuck was going on most of the time.

The game spends 30 hours throwing names like fal'cie, l'cie, ci'eth, and a lot of unrecognizable garbage at you mercilessly without explaining what the fuck they were or what the hell was going on about them. And even when they explained, the explanation didn't make much sense. Is as if they expected you to know all this shit beforehand, like all this information was was found a prequel, or a book or something that they expected you to have read. Seriously I have no idea.

So this doesn't even deserve a spoiler warning because I am saving you from this mess by telling you beforehand: The story is mainly about lightning's sister which gets transformed into a... something that you ALSO get transformed by a... semi-god/monster.. being which seems like exist in the world you live in and transform people into this things to do things for them or something I DON'T KNOW. Anyways she later gets transformed into crystal and then you start your quest to save her and sazh's son which had the same luck.

It seems that there are 2 worlds with their own gods thingies (they are called fal'cie, I think) that do this things to humans and the humans who fail to do what they were transformed for (they don't get told what they are meant to do) are transformed into monsters so the party is in a run against time. In all this mess there's something about some factions called sanctum and.. some rebels which I NEVER understood, and there's the main bad guy with the stupid and long name (bartholomeous or something like that) who is trying to destroy the world by bringing ragnarok through one of your friends, or so I think.

Understand all that? no, right? well I don't blame you because I didn't tell it very well, or took care to explain things right, JUST LIKE THE GAME. Final Fantasy 7 has a pretty complicated story, but I think that everybody who played it never felt confused about the basic premise, or the twists. But this story is just a huge mess and is told in the worst way possible.

Storytelling and character development in this game is absolutely terrible. There were absolutely no memorable moments of storytelling in this game. I still remember FFVI's Opera act, and subsequent meeting with setzer. Or how Kefka Destroyed the whole fucking world! that was badass, and unexpected. Everybody remembers the death of aeris, the transformation of cecil, those are some memorable moments there, and you will find none of those in this game, not. even. close.

Good stories about characters usually show the characters going through events that change who they are. It's the basic premise of a character tale. You can tell how Terra, Squall, Cecil, and Steiner went through a change since the beginning of their stories. But here, Snow is the same person he was at the start, he learned nothing, and pretty much every other person in your party was the same at the end, except for maybe hope and lightning. They learned nothing, this story changed nothing for them. There is no emotional investment in a story like this.

Tutorials, Tutorials, Hand holding... oh look another tutorial!

This is a HUGE issue with this game. The first 30 hours of this game consist of the game hiding features from you while hand-holding you through the environments and the fights. They stop you in your tracks for tutorials about EVERYTHING. Why did they do this, what were they THINKING?

You can't even change party members until you are 30 hours in the game. yes you read that correctly, it's unbelievable. You can't use the magic command till a few hours later when you do the tutorial for it. You can't use the crystarium until you do the tutorial. You can't use items till you do the tutorial. You can't wipe your ass until you do the tutorial. Tutorials, tutorials, TUTORIALS. Square-enix thinks we gamers are fucking dumb. 30 hours of tutorials and hand holding. 30 FUCKING HOURS!.

I don't remember this hand holding being so silly in FF7. There were a couple of tutorials for the materia system, which was pretty complicated and needed to be explained. But here, they have to explain the AUTOATTACK function. WHY? It's ridiculous. It's another of those aspects of the game which square enix stubbornly doesn't let you have control over, but taken to the extreme.

World and dungeon layout

Final fantasy 13 has 13 chapters. 10 of those are just one huge tutorial. But not only that, but you never get to an actual WORLD in those first 30 hours. Let's look back again: Final Fantasy 1? You talk to the king, mess around Corneria, and BAM, out world. How awesome. Final Fantasy 6? You do the intro, get out of Narshe, and BAM, beautiful, lovely outworld.

Final Fantasy 13? it's just one huge, long corridor where the only option is to go forward. You plunge through it for hours on end, straight corridor after straight corridor. Who playtested this and thought this was awesome? I really want to know.

all you can do in this game is move forward and fight, and watch boring cutscenes with characters blabbing about stuff you don't understand and ultimately won't care about.

After those grueling 10 chapters, you finally arrive to the "outworld" of Gran Pulse. And you say to yourself: "now the fun starts". But you are wrong. What starts now, is THE GRIND.

The Grind

The last part of the game is a bitch. You can't beat but the weakest of creatures, which you have to grind to be able to kill the next set of creatures in the food chain. Oh but you get SIDEQUESTS! Which are all about finding a monster and killing it. This part of the game does not forgive, it's merciless. The only way to advance is to grind, grind, and grind.

The grind has been present in every final fantasy but honestly, did you ever need to get to max level and deck everyone with ultima in ff6 to be able to beat it? of course not. After you gather your party and do some exploring and sidequesting, you were probably ready to go at Kefka, it wouldn't be easy, but you could probably beat him.

Not in this game. To be able to beat the final boss, you absolutely have to max out everyone's main crystarium roles, and deck them with fully upgraded weapons. Imagine that you had to max everyone's level and espers in FF6, and deck them with the best weapons and ultima to be able to have a fair fight with kefka. And he still manages to beat you twice or so.

You know what's that right?


For all the tutorials in the game, the game never fully explains how the upgrading works. So if you end up selling your components, well tough luck. Grind away more. Also since the game gates your crystarium progression you might at some point max out your main roles and think "well, I'll invest the points I get from now on in the other roles". Only that maxing out the other roles is more costly than doing the main roles and you get meager returns for it. So you might end up like doing what I did, spending all my points on other roles, then getting an unexpected final crystarium expansion, and not having points to invest in the main roles which give me the massive bonuses I need to progress through the rest of the story.

It's ridiculous and shows how poorly thought out was everything about this game. I need the points to progress, but I can't kill the enemies to get the points.

Anyways, the game goes from a tutorialfest to a brutal grind on a whim, and it seems like there were two separate teams working on each part of the game. BTW, there are no minigames at all.


Final Fantasy 13 sucks ass. It's definitely the worst final fantasy ever made, and took the throne of worst final fantasy from FF8 without much trouble. FF8 is light years beyond this mess of a game. I'd rather hear Rinoa annoy squall and squall say "meh" and "whatever" over and over and over instead of playing this game ever again. Fuck this game.