If anyone has been wondering where I've been for the most part, it's been a cocktail of "busy at work" plus "packing and cleaning for holiday" plus "five-day holiday visiting family including 18 hours of driving". I am back though, and on tap is a few favorites including the Lord of the Rings trilogy plus The Muppet Christmas Carol. I have also been watching "Soul Eater" recently through episode 10, though I'm not really able to collect enough thoughts for a blog post as of yet. There's also a possible review in the offing of the latest "Pixar Shorts" collection, though I may put as much effort into the review as they put into the collection -- namely, very little. However, I figured I'd take a page from Megane 6.7's book and delve into video game reviews.
While shopping at GameStop over the weekend, I scored one of the games that I've played through rentals and library lending... "Fortune Street", for Wii. For a mini-review, it's quite like Monopoly except you have the Mario people and the characters from Dragon Quests from the NES years through DQ8 (Jessica, Angelo, young(??) Yangus). There are a few differences between "Fortune Street" and Monopoly, namely that you can "buy houses" immediately, that anyone can buy you out for five times the current value of the property (including the value of the houses), and that you can now purchase stock which is computed via the values of the properties and the number of times players buy in / sell out stock in the same set of properties. The other key to this game is that you have to get to certain spots on the board to "pass Go, collect $200", but the board is not an absolute straight line, it gives you options to go in different directions. This game is a very good game for people who are into the "Tycoon"-type games and/or enjoy Monopoly.
But, you probably didn't click on this to find out my opinions of "Fortune Street". At the same Gamestop, there was a sale on used games, buy two get one free. After picking up "Fortune Street" and my wife finding a cheap copy of "Assassin's Creed", I also found a rather cheap copy of "Final Fantasy XIII".
I have a love-hate relationship with the series. It stretches all the way back to the very first Final Fantasy, with my balanced team of Fighter, White Mage, Red Mage, and Black Mage. Yes, I have exceedingly fond memories of the Bonk Branch. I played Final Fantasy IV and VI, otherwise known here as FF2 and FF3 on Super Nintendo, and managed to beat them both. Final Fantasy 3 was the game that I would rate as the best on SNES, with Crono Trigger coming in at a very close second. Final Fantasy 7 was the whole reason that I purchased a Playstation. FF7 also doubled as the last Final Fantasy game that I finished. I played 10, 10-2, and 12 as well, bringing 10 all the way to the end but just not keeping enough interest in the game to finish it.
So, that's what brings me to Final Fantasy XIII. I have only completed two hours of the game as of yet, and it happens to be the prologue... and it seems that I'm still in it.
[[SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD]]
What to say about the plot so far? It's almost as if they took The Fugitive, crossed it with Saving Private Ryan, and even threw in young comic relief to boot, evoking a very vague and tenuous connection with the immortal Pauly Shore vehicle, In the Army Now. The other thing that this has a tenuous connection to? Itself. All the plots don't really even touch each other yet. There's what looks like a funkadelic 70's team, purely based on the semi-Shaft-like afro-and-goatee-wearing sidekick to the main protagonist, who happens to be a female version of Cloud Strife -- she's a former soldier (not from SOLDIER, mind you), and carries the sword in this game. The second plot concerns a refugee from "Street Fighter" or "King of Fighters", a kind of cross between Ken Masters and possibly Clark Still (KoF/Metal Slug/Ikari Warriors). Better yet, the dude fights with his fists and the occasional hand grenade.
The final set though is what sends it over the top. In the middle of battle, we manage to find the last oblivious valley girl, Vanille. She and "Hope" (Hope??) make up the final third of the plot for the time being. Better yet, they take off and get lost -- just like In the Army Now! Despite being oblivious to both the fighting all around them and having Hope force-feed her plot because of her denseness, Vanille happens to be the longest-charging but definitely most damage-inducing character. She can bring down some of the tougher enemies all by herself in two turns, more than even Afro-dude can claim.
They managed to all find a floating temple. What it is... I dunno. What it does... I also dunno. Plot is VERY thin in here, though the spot that I managed to find myself in (Ken-Clark "Terry" Bogard going through the temple) points to a very heavy Harry Potter-type influence, when the stairs and platforms all flop down at the flip of a switch.
[[Spoiler space closed.]]
The "Final Fantasy" series has been a long meditation on the ability of youth to overcome people wanting to gain power. Youth, you see, has the ability to ignore their station in life and dares to change things that older people take as given. In this series, it is very little different... there is always a slot for an older character (the various Cids, including from 4, 6, and 7, Auron, Balthier, all the way up to my buddy Strago,) but in this situation, it seems so far that this spot is Sazh's, and he needs a long way to go to live up to this lineage.
It'll be nice to get to the plot at some point too. I feel almost as if I'm on the third prologue of a Clive Cussler book, where nothing really relates to anything else I've read up until now. It's not as if I won't be joining a separatist movement though, that's a fairly familiar ground they've stamped out as well.
In the next installment, when I have much more studio space to explore, the topic will be how Final Fantasy occupies the opposite side of the spectrum from "The Elder Scrolls". If one is like going to a new playground for the first time, the other is like living out the inside of an intricately-plotted movie. You will bounce off a wall or two in Final Fantasy, but you know (or HOPE) that the writers within will make the journey worthwhile.