Just Why, Exactly, Did Final Fantasy XIII Suck so Badly?

Illustration for article titled Just Why, Exactly, Did emFinal Fantasy XIII/em Suck so Badly?

Boring. Bland. Linear. Those are three of the kinder things that can be said of Final Fantasy XIII, a game so poor it needed a direct sequel just to salvage some brand integrity. They're also disarmingly simple, and don't really get to the heart of just why the game was so disappointing to so many.

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This Gamasutra piece by Christian Nutt does, though. Taking inspiration from Red Letter Media's breakdown of the Star Wars prequels, Nutt goes to town on Square Enix's big-budget RPG.

The Star Wars prequels are full of things we recognize from the original trilogy, but divorced from any dramatic intent. For example, Plinkett astutely points out that light sabers are incredibly overused in the newer films, so much so that fights lose their uniqueness and tension—the constant battles becoming simple, garish light shows. Moments from the original trilogy are deliberately referred to, but without any parallel in meaning, just in form.

So, too, is Final Fantasy XIII filled with Final Fantasy Stuff—most notably and stupidly, crystals—and it's clear that all of that junk is there because the developers assume that it has to be there, not because it enriches the world or the game's play experience.

"The new films just borrow and recycle from the original ideas, as if there's no way to create anything new," says Plinkett. And that's what hamstrings Final Fantasy XIII, too.

Hell, the game's director, Motomu Toriayama, asked character designer Tetsuya Nomura for "someone like a female version of Cloud from FFVII."

That is not vision.

And unlike our own Michael Fahey's thoughts on the subject, Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn't fare much better.

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It's a cash-in, designed to scrape up the detritus left after a massive production that resulted in a lot of waste (including enough production art for a second game, and an expensive engine that the developer has already deemed all but useless) and do something with it.

Before you rally to the game's defence, know at least that Nutt is a die-hard RPG fanatic, not some blow-in hater of the genre. So his full piece below is definitely worth a read.

Questioning the 'vision' behind Final Fantasy XIII-2 [Gamasutra]

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DISCUSSION

Sorry, Luke, I don't give a shit if this guy is a "die-hard RPG fanatic." XIII was not terrible, it wasn't even bad, it was one of my favorite games ever made. I'm so sick of this bullshit. Let's see what he has to say. I can promise you that it's not even close to the intelligence shown in the Star Wars reviews. He merely evokes those reviews in a pathetic attempt to garner some credibility.

"Final Fantasy XIII does a little better — the characters have motivations. But though Lightning’s on the cover, she doesn’t have any sort of arc. She doesn’t even really struggle."

Wrong. She does have an arc, but it isn't about struggle, it's about the opposite. She's a soldier. Struggle is what is easy for her. Her arc is when she begins to open up to Hope, and realizes that it's worth it to take the time to care for others, rather than just focus on being entirely self-sufficient, which she is. Through her opening up to Hope, she realizes that she has shut out Serah completely and was the one who drove her away. She drove her sister away by rejecting Snow, who actually took the place of Lightning and was the main person watching after Serah. Lightning continued her arc of opening up and caring for others by forgiving Snow.

"Worse, the developers are content to shove the characters into situations that have nothing to do with the core story and force them to act in artificial or contradictory ways. "

Wrong. This is bullshit. FFXIII gets most of it's criticism because of it's linearity. They don't include random Inns for you to stay at and random weapon shops because they trimmed nearly all content that was NOT related to the core story. They barely spent time in cities because they were fugitives on the run. They never, ever took time out from their core mission for side activities, because of the way the story was written; with immediacy, and streamlining in mind. Complaining that the developers shove the characters into events that have nothing to do with the story makes literally no sense at all, and flies in the face of all the criticism that everyone else had for it.

"The actual core storytelling is, if anything, worse in Final Fantasy XIII-2, a new entry released in North America and Europe this week that was expressly aimed at addressing fan concerns with XIII."

No shit Sherlock. They focused the whole game on non-linearity, which hampers storytelling. They also went out of their way to stick in as many side quests as possible and areas off the beaten path that were NOT related to the core story, because the critics demanded it with pitchforks in their hands. This is exactly what everyone asked for.

"What possible motivation could the developers have for pushing characters into artificial situations?"

Fan demand. I just explained this. You guys DEMANDED side quests and random areas off the beaten path that were not related to the core story. Critics repeatedly said they wanted more silly content, and they delivered.

You linked to a video here of Hope's Eidolon challenge, so I guess you're implying that this scene doesn't make sense and is abstract? Let me explain the story for you here, including the character motivations since it has so clearly gone over your head. Hope has developed a crush on Vanille by this point in the story. They are all fugitives on the run, and just left Hope's house, where he got to meet with his dad one last time. So he suggests that they go to Vanille and Fang's home to try and look for answers. This is mostly because they are fatalistic and are facing their inevitable, inescapable fate; but he thinks they at least deserve to see their home one last time since he did. Then he says, go on without me, fully exposing his fatalistic thinking and that he has given up. This is when Alexander appears.

You may have noticed (probably not!) that every single character fights their Eidolon in the moment when they lose all hope. Eidolons were sent as protectors by the Goddess of Death, Etro, to help those with a fate worse than death, the l'cie. If they succeed in their mission, they live in a dream-prison forever in crystal sleep. If they fail, they are reduced to C'ieth corpses forever. When the l'cie finally face this fate and reach the rock bottom, with no hope, that's when they appear. If they can prove their strength, then Etro grants them the Eidolons as protection.

"So, too, is Final Fantasy XIII filled with Final Fantasy Stuff — most notably and stupidly, crystals — and it’s clear that all of that junk is there because the developers assume that it has to be there, not because it enriches the world or the game’s play experience."

You're kidding me, right? Fabula Nova Crystallis is translated as The Tale of the Crystal. So because it has crystals in it, it's stupid? That's like criticizing Star Wars for taking place in space. You don't actually even explain why it's stupid. Just a blanket statement; crystals = stupid. Great logic.

"Hell, the game’s director, Motomu Toriayama, asked character designer Tetsuya Nomura for "someone like a female version of Cloud from FFVII."

That is not vision."

Bullshit. Lightning is one of the most popular characters in the series, and her design was a complete success. It's also just ironic, because so many of the harshest critics are DEMANDING FFVII remakes. So if they listen and base some of the visual aesthetics off of that game, it's suddenly bad? Why exactly? You never really even explain why. Again.

""Our ultimate goal is rectifying every single point in Final Fantasy XIII that has been criticized by the users," Toriyama — who also directed XIII-2 — told me at last year’s E3. "We actually took those criticisms very seriously, and you'll notice that we tackled them completely and thoroughly."

That is also not vision."

No shit Sherlock. Of course that is not vision. That is a company trying to address the most insanely vitriolic, extreme, unfounded criticism to ever be seen in gaming. If you guys wanted "vision," you would shut the fuck up and let them make what they want to make. Talk about hypocrisy. I'm the one that wants vision; the one who loved XIII. You all want a checklist of things that the series has to have before you even consider it legitimate. Fuck that. They do exactly what you want and you still shove it in their face.

"It’s a cash-in, designed to scrape up the detritus left after a massive production that resulted in a lot of waste (including enough production art for a second game, and an expensive engine that the developer has already deemed all but useless) and do something with it."

This is factually untrue, and you have exposed your complete lack of research here. This is a flat out lie. If you search around for interviews with the art staff, they explain that they didn't actually use any of the assets they mentioned before. They used XIII-2 to experiment with new design techniques that would let them make games faster. The art designer explained in detail how he did not even do full drawings for many of the areas, but instead tried new techniques where he would use photographic reference material in collages. He said it was an interesting experience and he learned something. Are you saying he's a liar, or that you were a fly on the wall at SQEX Japan while they made the game? It sounds like you're just pulling shit out of your ass here.

All they are reusing is the engine, which they custom made instead of licensing Unreal like everyone else, and the mythology, battle system, and characters, which took them nearly 6 years to make. They are doing what everyone else in the industry has been doing this entire generation with games like: Mass Effect (1-3), Gears of War (1-3), Uncharted (1-3), Modern Warfare (I lost count), Elder Scrolls (4-5 and two Fallout games that are clones as well), and on and on. To criticize the company that always makes fresh games and unique game engines, that is known for reinvention, for merely doing what every single other developer has been doing for 6 years is the biggest crock of shit I've read in a good while.

""One of the criticisms that we received for XIII was that there weren't enough mini-games, for example, so we implemented more mini-games," Toriyama told me last June.

Is that vision?"

Are you for fucking real here? Like really, I can't even believe it. If you wanted vision, you would shut the fuck up and let the developers make what they wanted to make. Their vision was FFXIII, with no mini-games. But the fucktard "fans" blew a gasket so loud that the entire internet shrieked in horror. This is a direct response to what you guys wanted. You have said over and over that you couldn't give less of a shit about their vision. None of you wanted vision. You wanted a checklist of shit for them to do before you even considered it a legitimate FF game. You wanted a world map, non-linear gameplay, minigames, sidequests, and towns. Not once did anyone mention vision. Fans of FFXIII were the only ones talking about vision. They were the only ones that respected what the developers actually wanted to do. They wanted to create a story-focused FF that was more streamlined. When Toriyama had a vision for mini-games, he made Blitzball, the best mini-game in the series. But you guys don't give a fuck about vision. You want your checklist, and now you have the audacity to criticize them for giving it to you? Wow.

"As Plinkett ultimately argues, the blackest sin of the Star Wars prequels is that they lack a vision."

Quit bringing up Plinkett. You're absolutely not even close to him. The fact that you have to name-drop him 10x in that article is the proof. This article is a joke.