Final Fantasy XIII and the platform philosophy

I could simply do an “In my hands” post like we usually do, but purchasing Final Fantasy XIII is a special milestone for me. You see, I hate Japanese RPG’s. I hate them with a passion. The why’s and wherefore’s are worthy of their own topic and I won’t belabor them here, but the end result is I don’t play JRPG’s. I attempted to play Lost Odyssey late last year. I bought the game for my Dad, which he loved immensely and played through it twice. With his passing I felt like it was an easy way to connect with him. I essentially inherited a game that I bought for him as a gift. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get into the game but it feels too much like a JRPG in all the wrong ways.

I am, for the first time, buying a JRPG for the story. Stories are important, don’t get me wrong. However, I want to play a game, not watch a game. I get plenty of stories from movies and books already and I don’t need games for their stories. When a game has a good story that’s just a bonus for me. Even Mass Effect 2, which you largely play for its story, is still primarily a game-based purchase, if such a term exists. However, everything I see in Final Fantasy XIII is just gorgeous. I am hoping against hope that they’ll resist to do the usual anime tropes. You know what I mean. The evil corporation, the needlessly convoluted storyline, the betrayal in the third act you saw coming from the first, etc. I’m sure they will, they can’t help themselves. JRPG’s and anime are addicted to a very predictable plot cycle that has made one much like the other in the past decade. Still, this game is brimming with so much potential that I have abandoned my strict “No JRPG” stance. I am hoping this is a game that will transcend it’s genre, like Dawn of War or Borderlands.

All that said, I bought this on the PS3. I like my PS3, but it’s a massive pain in the butt. The ridiculous installation process and the ponderous and intrusive updates actually make the infamously unreliable XBox 360 hardware look good by comparison. That’s an interesting accomplishment considering Microsoft effectively went into overdrive to deliver the most unreliable console of all time. Yet the 360 dominates because, when it works, it is simply a better game delivery platform. Yet there are games, even multi-platform games, that just feel right on a particular system. I loved Fallout 3 on the XBox 360, but the PC is definitely a better platform if you have the hardware. The 360 is my favorite, but I would lie if I didn’t admit Batman: Arkham Asylum just “felt right” on the PS3. If you don’t own a PS3 I’m sure Final Fantasy XIII will stand well on its own merits regardless. Don’t feel bad playing it on the 360. When someone asks me which version I’m getting though, it’s one of the few times I would answer snobbishly “The Playstation 3, of course.” This is a game that demands it look the best, and I’m going to play it on the platform that is best suited for it. Don’t get mad at me, I wouldn’t dream of playing Modern Warfare 2 without XBox Live and I switched Borderlands from the PS3 to the XBox 360 because I realized I had chosen poorly. I’m not a PS3 snob. All I know is that I want to play a game on the platform that will maximize my experience. Alas, like anyone, I often have to make do with the best I have on hand, not necessarily the best there is.

Comments

  1. Interesting. I’ve played Batman on all it’s available systems and it just “feels right” to me on the PS3. So does Assassin’s Creed II–even though I played the first one the 360.

    In the last year, I bought one 360 game (Borderlands) and quite a few XBLA titles. But it was the unreliability (three crashes in the last six months) that drove me to the PS3.

    As far as JRPG. The Chrono games are the only ones I’ve finished. I cannot get into them either. Brock, on the other hand, would die if he didn’t have the tropes, long bits of confusion dialogue, grinding level of play, and mundane battle after battle. 😀

    • You know, I caught that typo before posting and yet somehow went back to an old version. What I should have said was Arkham Asylum felt right on the PS3.

      Admittedly, that was a game I would buy for the 360 and it was the “play as the Joker” angle that got me to play it on the PS3. Yet as I played it, a lot of the usual PS3 weirdness for multi-platform titles (particularly how the controller is utilized) either wasn’t there or just felt natural.

      So if anyone were to ask me which platform to play Batman on, I’d have to recommend the PS3 even though I’m sure the experience is still great on the 360.

    • It would be great if you could qualify the “just feels right on the PS3” aspect of Batman. Not that I don’t believe you; it is just that I have played it on both the 360 and PC and think they are damn near perfect games. What is it about the PS3 version that pushes it beyond that? I should just rent the PS3 version and find out for myself.

      • I think it is a combination of small things that help contribute to the whole.

        A lot of games struggle with the configuration of the Dual Shock. It’s really a good controller, my favorite of the last generation, but the 360 controller is the better size for my hands. Still, everything felt very natural. I never fumbled for which button does what. I think the dual shoulder buttons were put to good use.

        I’m usually the first to scoff at graphics between systems. A lot of times there simply isn’t enough graphical fidelity to bother or care about in most games. Arkham Asylum is one of those games were they put overtime into the details, yet they did a good balance of not making everything too busy. This is where the rendering of the PS3 really shines.

        I think, finally, the game just runs smooth as butter. Maybe this is just something I notice more on my jet engine sounding 360, but I can see games stutter or experience minor pop-in especially when levels first load. Like the hardware memory is still trying to catch up to the player. That never happened in this game. Maybe it doesn’t happen on the 360 version either. However, I notice that a lot of those little technical glitches don’t happen in most of the games I have on the PS3.

        At the same time, if you’ve played the game on the 360 I simply could not recommend playing it again on the PS3. Your actual game experience is simply not going to be different enough or improved enough to justify the purchase or time investment.

        • I’m feeling the same way. My 360 is far too loud and just doesn’t seem to have the same processing oomph that the PS3 has, esp. for games designed exclusively (or primarily) for the PS3.

          Plus I love the Dualshock. The 360 controller is nice and all, but my hands just seem to have the right kind of gamer rigor mortis to grasp the Dualshock instinctively 🙂

  2. If you haven’t already, read Tim Rogers post about Japan over at Kotaku (http://kotaku.com/5484581/). I think you’ll find the reason why they can’t help themselves when it comes to jRPGs.

    I’m interested in your reaction to the game as an “outsider” of the genre. I’ve been pretty lukewarm on jRPGs for a long time now, but I’m intrigued by FFXIII.

    • If it’s the same post I’m thinking of, it is a MONSTER post where he diatribes about how he does not like certain things of Japan (all of it), but, hey, it’s Japan, and it’s elitist and cool to be there.

      • Yeah, it was a long post, but it had some salient points RE: Japan’s game development. They are very resitant to trying something new.

        The post is long, but worth the read. I think Rogers is a good writer, even though I don’t agree with everything he writes.

        • Yeah, some of the complaints were pretty nitpicky and really had to do with his own lifestyle choices. Japan sounds like hell on earth for a non-smoking vegetarian with an alcohol allergy.

          At the same time, the cultural insights were interesting but not surprising. I used to be pretty widely versed in world culture (sheesh, 10 years ago!) though it sounds like very little has changed. Which explains a lot about the games largely coming out of Japan these days.

  3. I cut my teeth on JRPGs. To this day, FFIV, FFVI and Chrono Trigger are in my Top 10 Games of All Time. Despite that, I’ve fallen out of the JRPG scene. Aside from the occasional Mistwalker title, I’m all Western RPG all the time.

    I have FFXIII because this is the first time in a long while that Square Enix has made a non-Playstation mainstream Final Fantasy title (yeah yeah, I’m one of those “Square betrayed Nintendo” people). I’m currently torn between positive and negative feelings on the game. I think it’ll take a few more hours before I can take a firm stance on this.

  4. FFXIII is a drop-dead gorgeous game and so far, the storyline is much more straight-forward than the usual anime malarky that the series can devolve into at the best of times. It takes a little bit to get up to speed on the lingo, but it’s a much more action-oriented take on the series.

    I don’t think that FFXIII will somehow turn a non-JRPG fan into a drooling fan-boy, it tends to streamline a lot of the usual padding that the genre resorts to in order stretch out playtime. I hope you enjoy the game, Jason.

    And there’s no install on the PS3 version. That was nice (as was only having to worry about one disc instead of 3!).

    • I popped the disc in on Tuesday night ready to go do something else while the game installed. I was pleasantly surprised that there was absolutely NOTHING the PS3 had to do.

      In fact, I was stunned. “You mean I can play it right NOW?”

      So very awesome.

      • I even went looking for an install option later on after putting some time into the game and there just doesn’t seem to be anything there. Very nice.

        That’s another reason I’ve started to shy away from the 360. Far too often these days do I hear that Game X runs better if you install it to the HDD but as I have an aged 20GB Premium edition, that’s not really an issue unless I purge a whole pile of DLC, XBLA games and saves. At least my 60 GB PS3 has a pretty decent amount of space and at worst I might have to dump the install data for a game which is easy to reinstall later.

        • I also went looking for the install option and saw there was none.

          If I had my choice, I’d rather a game not have to install and have no option to do so then a game that forces me to install without giving me the option to play straight from disc.

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