Monday, November 5, 2012

A childhood vendetta coming to an end

Looking back on my gaming past there is this one thing that has always bothered me. It's not spending a 100 hours in Morrowind, or standing in line all night in the freezing cold to buy a Wii. It's not even joining an older bearded man in his van to warm my hands at said launch day event. I'm actually not sure I regret any of them, except maybe going into that van, that could have ended badly. No, what I have always regretted has to do with one of my favorite games of all time Final Fantasy VII. As a kid I absolutely loved this game, the memorable character, the fantastic story, the clever Materia system, I loved it all. However for some unknown reason I never defeated Sephiroth. I got to his second form, that borderline homoerotic one winged angel thing. Thinking back it might have been the frog transformation that got the better of me, I could never remember the right item cure that and would simply try everything, wasting valuable turns.

Now more than a decade later I have been slowly replaying the defining role playing experience of my childhood, thanks to the excellent Playstation emulation of the PSP, until I last night came face to face with my pretty boy nemesis. I was at a mere level 50, and got my ass handed to me, but after some leveling in the surrounding areas and dropping by Rocket Town to stock up on Maiden's Kiss I tried again. On my second try this god-like boyhood rival of mine offered little resistance. A few hits with Ultima and the bitch went down. Kicking his ass felt so good that I actually booted up my last save this morning just to beat him down once more. Triumphantly I can now check off 'Finally beating Sephiroth' at the top of my bucket list.

A pleasant journey through time and space

Final Fantasy XIII was criticized for being a very linear experience. Its sequel can best be described as a mix between Chrono Trigger and Super Mario 64, where the player is free to jump between time periods and location and tackle things at least somewhat out of order. It's pretty much the RPG equivalent of Mario jumping in and out of paintings. Only Peach's castle has been replaced with a menu representing a tree like timeline.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a story attempting to motivate all this time-hopping, but it's very convoluted and works best if you simply think of it as an excuse to explore beautiful environments while enjoying a good combat system. If you simply want to level up your party while taking in some stunning visuals this game is for you.

Not being a 'real' numbered entry in the Final Fantasy series probably benefitted this game. There was no pressure on Square-Enix to deliver some life changing experience. Instead they have delivered a very pleasant role playing experience, that is unlikely to top anyone's top 10 list but also won't inspire the nerd-rage its predecessor generated. Since this is simply a game that is very hard to dislike.