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On Unreasonable Expectations

 For so many years, I have seen of FFVI as the best of the series, that I think I built up my expectations too high.

I'm mostly cranky because I just got killed for the second time in as many days by yet another timed fetch-quest. I hate those. Hate hate hate hate hate...ahem. So I will now be playing through the Floating Island sequence and its timed-quest again, and then, if I survive, I can look forward to the timed-quest that just killed me. Hello, arthritis!

But it's not just the timed-quest problem. I've come to realize that I depend more than anything else on characterization— mannerisms, speaking styles, personalities, past histories, interactions, dialog, speeches.  Follow that up with worldbuilding and interesting settings. And then, at the bottom of the priority heap, plot. Sounds a lot like my writing. I also wither up and die in urban and technological dystopias, which is why Midgar has always given me trouble (luckily, FFVII has some well-defined characters, dialog and interactions). 

Or maybe I just don't like clowns. Or maybe I'm confused because the cackling purple octopus seems like it belongs in a much sillier game than the rest.

I don't know. There are character developments, and Celes is interesting (like Beatrix in IX, except as a PC). But I still feel like I'm bumbling around Twilight Town waiting for the party to gel. It's a huge, huge cast of characters, and since they can't count on any one set of party members at any time, there's a lot less person-specific dialog and moments.

It's not really that I dislike VI, but after everything I've heard, I expected it to knock my socks off, and so far, no luck. Whereas V, with all its shallowness and early-early RPG simplicity, amused me more. Maybe because it was more lightweight. But I still got to know the main party's characters better, because there were only 4-5 of them, and they all had something to say at major plot points. VI can't, again, because only a few of the characters are fixed for any given scene.

I had no idea I was so dialog-driven.

Kefka helps, because he's got distinct mannerisms and animations, but few of the characters do.

The funny thing is, I'll take choppy voice acting (X) and worse translations (V), so long as there's enough information that I can figure out what people are supposed to sound like. It's the same way I can listen to fiction (Dorothy Sayers, Justira's writing, Ellnyx's writing) read aloud by my lousy text-to-speech program and fill in the real voices in my head. 

Then again, I am consistently backwards from everyone else; my favorites are X, XII,XIII, V, VIII, roughly in that order.

P.S.  Updated Flist from DOINK friendmeme; apologies. I thought when I added someone as a friend it granted access, too..*peers at DW*

This entry was originally posted at http://auronlu.dreamwidth.org/189029.html, where it has comment count unavailablecomments.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2011 06:15 am (UTC)
I'm kind of surprised to see you put XIII so high, given that it seems to be the one that most people place so damn low on their lists. What did you dig about that one? I thought it was fun, but very, very different from any other FF title. At times it didn't even feel like FF to me, and I really can't explain why.

And yeah, the cast is huge in VI. Makes it kind of hard to get a feel for some of the characters, but then again, I like that you don't end up with the same focus on just one that you get in say, VIII with Squall. If VIII and VI could have a baby, then it would be the perfect cast. (or would that be considered a litter? I don't know. I don't breed.)

Nov. 22nd, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
This should be a new post.
Oh, FFXIII. There's another game where everyone spent so much time running it down that by the time I played it, my first reaction was, "Wow! This is better than I expected!" followed by, "Okay, well, the plot and world are strangely empty; I see why people are disappointed," followed by, "Oh, but I like these characters, I just wish I cared more about their stupid-ass world."

I have to admit, I'm swayed by FFXIII's rich and vivid MYST-like landscapes, although it also suffered painfully from a lack of metaphorical depth— no meaningful interactions with NPCs or town-exploration. The worldbuilding was physically elaborate and poetically poor. The storybuilding is labored and the storyline too simple (especially compared to XII, which was gloriously Byzantine). The bad habit of shoving backstory into "the manual" instead of dramatizing it is almost unforgiveable.

Yet XIII at its core comes down to really well-defined characters, which as I noted above, takes priority over lush landscapes (which it has, godalmighty), worldbuilding (which it fails), and plot (which is patchy and not well-paced).

Mainly, I liked the characters. It took me a little while to warm up to them, like XII, but I like the party members (even Vanille, once I had her Japanese dub to drive the English one out of my head a little bit).

Most of all, Fang. It's the first time there's been a canon lesbian relationship, and that one scene when Fang's giving Vanille a "don't you worry, honey" look as the door closes between them won my heart as much as "I had a terrible nightmare -- I dreamed I was a moron" made me howl and fall instantly in love with VIII for a totally different reason. Both are character-defining moments for very, very different characters! Fang's whole arc (and, let's face it, the great honking Angst and TORTURE scene) pleased me very much.

Also, I have a real sweet tooth for voices, as you know. There's no one with quite the cachet of Balthier's unforgettable sardonic tones, but both Fang and Lightning have voices I sink into and roll around with like catnip.

Even Snow in his PIE IN FACE bozohood amuses me. How many video games have there been with a self-appointed hero, the all-American Dude, who's supposed to be nice and decent and heroic and badass and you want to PIE IN FACE?!!! Well, XIII has him, but the game designers realized he is a PIE IN FACE and made it a running gag throughout the game, giving you the great satisfaction of watching Lightning give him PIE IN FACE physically or verbally. Until, finally, you figure out that honestly he's human, and he's flawed, and he's okay after all.

Every single character starts with a stereotypical mold and then breaks it.

And it also helps that Lightning has the whole guardian/mentor trope I love so much (Lulu) even while upping the Badassitude about ten jillion notches. I also appreciate a female character who isn't always nice, and is sometimes downright rude and insensitive -- why do the guys get a free pass on that? But she is good, at her core, and the "I will do anything to save my sister [literal or non-literal, hello Yuna]" is secondary only to "I will rip the sky apart to save my girlfriend" as a driving plot motivator.

So, er, yeah. Maybe I should've written a separate Why I Like FFXIII, In Spite of Its Flaws, Which Are Legion post.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
Re: This should be a new post.
Heh. Snow. Seifer's stoner younger brother.

Fang, Fang, Fang.


I really meant to say something semi-intelligent because I was genuinely curious about what made this game work for you when it didn't for so many other fans, but then I started thinking about Fang.

Damn it, woman. You broke my brain.
Nov. 21st, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
The poor game really suffers for being (I believe) the first one where they worked out a system for changing characters without having to kill one off to make room, so in their enthusiasm about getting the most out of it you end up with several random people who just seem to be there without much reason for it.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:42 am (UTC)
FF VII isn't even on your list of likes? Wah! My favorites are definitely FFX - closely followed by FF VII. FFXII is a bit back from that. [I have played FFs 1-5, but did not find them tremendously special. I have not played FFs VI, VIII or IX - owning IX & XIII but not yet having given them a play.]
Nov. 22nd, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Oh, heck, I do like VII. I do. I even like Dirge of Cerberus, and I'm probably one of the few. I just don't put VII on a pedestal quite as much as most of fandom.

I like the characters of VII. I've read too much good fic not to be interested in them. But I think I enjoy the canon (and permutations) rather more than playing the original game.

It's funny. My old gf and her wife were sure I'd love IX better than all the others put together -- as they do -- and it's nice, but there are particular aesthetic issues and a couple annoying party members that caused me never to give it the love it deserves.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 03:43 am (UTC)
IX is a strange one for me too. Aesthetics. Lord, yes. It's so hard to enjoy the story and the characters because they look like marionettes. I think the world was pretty in a storybook sort of way, and I adore the music, but I can never appreciate IX the way I want to. The character designs bug me. Look at Beatrix's hand in this picture:


Her fingers are huge. It's one of the many things that bother me about this game. The characters look like weird child/sexy adult hybrids that all have freakishly exaggerated features. It doesn't work. It's one thing to have unrealistically proportioned characters, but there has to be consistency in those proportions. The combination of realism and cartoon-y art just didn't jive with me at all.

Plus, Freya looks so much like a Gelfling that I keep placing events from the Dark Crystal in weird spots during game play. It's distracting.

Honestly, Beatrix and Vivi are the only things from IX I really enjoyed without having to think about it. Everything else requires me to justify or explain it to myself before I can like it.

Edited at 2011-11-22 03:45 am (UTC)
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC)
(My favorites? Not counting Tactics and other numberless games in the franchise, the list goes 4, 2, 8, 6, 5 ... and the others. But 13 is definitely at the bottom for me. ^_^; )

For FF6, I can see it suffering from the same problem as FF4: If you didn't grow up with it, it loses a lot of the impact. I feel those games in my bones because I've spent so long with them.
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