Fanfiction Fridays: Boom by Soyna

After the abysmal catastrophe that was Final Fantasy XV, I found myself in need of Final Fantasy stories that didn’t suck. As VII’s remake won’t be released for quite some time, though, I decided to turn to fanfiction. Boom is a humorous Final Fantasy VII oneshot written by Soyna, featuring the characters Cid and Rude. Despite being former enemies, these two opt to test fly a new plane together for Rude’s employer, Rufus. Unfortunately, a dragon attacks mid flight, causing them to crash into a chocobo farm. Now in a fight for their lives, things look hopeless, at least until the dragon pisses off a chocobo and the bird takes that motherfucker down, successfully saving the day. Like a boss.

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Final Fantasy XIII-2

So here’s another belated review of a video game on my part, but are any of you even surprised by this anymore? Just you wait and I’ll have the Arkham City review up sometime next year! Okay, okay, putting all the jokes aside, let’s get right to it.

Now, before we even get into this game, we need to talk about the first one, and quite possibly the franchise as a whole.

So Final Fantasy XIII originally came out only a couple years ago, and it didn’t do very well. Oh, it was successful, but it got a lot a criticism. It’s not even the fact that it wasn’t a good game, but it certainly wasn’t a good Final Fantasy game. Ever since the release of Final Fantasy X, I kind of felt as though the creators were expecting the title to carry the games alone without any real effort being put into the works. The games as a whole have a lot of reccurring elements, and for the Final Fantasy franchise, that’s not bad, but it does give the game makers a lot less room to work with.

For example, there has to a character named Cid, an airship, summons of some kind, a world-wide catastrophe, Chocobos, Behemoths, and a variety of other beasts, etc. Not to mention the romance story that’s been prevalent for quite a few of the games. Also, at some point, the main characters will be excommunicated from and/or used as scapegoats for a powerful organization and spend the rest of the game on the run while trying to save the world from the aforementioned catastrophe. Another similarity is that the lead character will fight with some kind of sword, despite living in a society that has things like machine guns.

And yeah, all of these elements have been repeating throughout the games over and over again. But regardless, each game could still stand alone. Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII both have everything I just mentioned and more, and they are still two very different stories.

As of late, however, the games have been moving away from these things. The airship is all but nonexistent at this point, summons are occasionally absent—especially in the sequels—and that pesky romance has deteriorated into just about nothing since the release of XII. And while I’m all for a story that doesn’t have a romantic interest—because let’s face it; a romance born while saving the world from an all-powerful sorcerer is doomed to failure—by moving away from these things, the games are slowly losing what it is that makes them Final Fantasy to begin with. And that’s not to say that all the games absolutely have to have everything I just mentioned. I can think of plenty of traditional Final Fantasy elements that don’t appear in numerous installments, but those games still have enough of everything else to make up for it in order to deserve the Final Fantasy title.

Now, yes, I thought Final Fantasy XIII was a good game. And no, it didn’t need the airship. It didn’t need a love story between the main character and a girl with magical powers. And it certainly didn’t need Moogles synthesizing weapons to make good gameplay. But this game needed a lot of things that it didn’t have. Yeah, I said it was good, but I’m going to reserve using that adjective as a description for the first five hours or so of playing. There are very few things at the beginning of this game that I can describe as being good, outside of visuals. That the game is boring as all get out for the first part—you know, the part that’s supposed to grab the player’s attention—before becoming enjoyable is not a positive. To be honest, I would much rather play games that start bad and end well than vice versa, but that’s still no excuse for a terrible beginning.

It doesn’t help that it’s near impossible to know what’s going on simply by playing the game and watching the story evolve. I believe I mentioned this in my Trailer Tuesdays: Final Fantasy XIII-2, but let me say it again: having a built-in dictionary is not a substitute for storytelling. At the beginning of the game, a whole bunch of what I assume to be innocent civilians are being murdered by some army called PSICOM during something called the Purge. Why? Well, it seems like a good way to draw a player in, because yeah, having this situation explained to us would be very interesting; however, new players of this game should be informed that an explanation isn’t going to happen because why the hell ever should anything about the situation we need to be invested in be explained to us when we can just read about it on our own time?

And for those who do read about it will also discover that the Purge cannot be explained without learning what the crap the fal’Cie, l’Cie, and Cie’th are. No, not even just that. The difference between the Pulse fal’Cie, l’Cie, and Cie’th compared to the Sanctum fal’Cie, l’Cie, and Cie’th. It’s like a word bomb just goes off, and until a player knows what everything means, nothing makes sense.

The problem here is that all the characters we’re introduced to already know everything about the situation, and therefore there’s no need for them to explain it. Sure, Sazh doesn’t know why people are being murdered rather than dumped down on Pulse, and Lightning, our main character, responds by saying that the Sanctum wouldn’t bother taking the danger all the way to Pulse when it can just get rid of it.

Now, I know those of you who have played this game will know what’s going on, but for those of you who haven’t and just read this explanation, I know you have to be confused, because what I just said tells you nothing. And that feeling of confusion is going to stick with you for the first eight hours of gameplay. It wasn’t until my second time through when I was more familiar with all these terms that I fully understood what was happening.

So not only did we have this problem from the very beginning—which, to be honest, isn’t so much a Final Fantasy problem as it is a storytelling problem in general—we had no sense of the world we were in. Final Fantasy games will span entire globes. Players can run around, explore new areas, chance fighting creatures they can’t possibly beat, you name it. In XIII, we have two worlds instead of one: Cocoon and Pulse. So, yeah, you may be thinking, there’s a lot of exploration to be done.

No, that doesn’t happen. Until the characters reach Pulse, which is over halfway through the game, the path is very linear. There are so many times the characters run through towns and have to stay on the main street, or they go through a forest and there’s only one trail. On top of that, after going through these areas, there was no going back. This is probably why the game didn’t get really enjoyable until Pulse.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out to tie up some of the holes in the first one. And according to the ending of this game, it’s not going to be the last FFXIII installment. Now, as to whether or not the sequel deserves the Final Fantasy logo, let me just say that it deserves it a lot more than the sequel to X did. X-2 may have been really fun, but it should have been called Final Fantasy Dress Up. (Though, to be honest, XIII-2 should probably be called Final Fantasy Pokémon.)

However, as a sequel, it didn’t meet all of my negative expectations. It still met some of them with flying colors, but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Yeah, the makers apparently didn’t learn anything about introductions for this installment. It has a twenty minute intro where shit happens. What shit? Well, now that I’ve played the game for thirty hours I understand it, but actually watching it for the first time, my thoughts were along the lines of: What the crap is this?

It opens with Lightning, our previous main character, fighting some dude. Why? No one knows. What are the stakes? Take your pick. Why do we want Lightning to win? Because she used to be the main character, damn it!

Somewhere during all of this, a boy called Noel falls from a clock in the sky, and he and Lightning proceed to have a nice little chat, as though this is an everyday occurrence. We have the same problem here as before; there’s no outsider that needs things to be explained. Everyone knows what’s going on. When the audience is confused, we need a character who’s confused to relate to, and we’re just not getting that.

Noel eventually goes off to find Lightning’s sister, Serah. Serah is our main character this time. I like this change. We don’t get to see much of Serah in the first game, because she’s too busy being turned into a rock and remains crystallized until the very end. So it is nice getting to see more of her. Another reason that I like this is because I don’t really like Lightning. Had I not played Final Fantasy VII, my opinion would probably be different.

The franchise kind of started going downhill once the personality type of the main character went from badass emo, like Cloud and Squall from VII and VIII, to happy-go-lucky, like Zidane and Titus from IX and X. Even Vaan from XII is pretty abhorrent, especially considering that he has no reason to even be in the party, outside wanting to be a sky pirate. That whole story was carried by Ashe and Balthier. In XIII, the story is pretty much equally carried by all the characters, but Lightning was a means to cash in on the success of Cloud. She is a female version of him. I don’t need a female version of Cloud as my main character. If I want to play as Cloud, I’ll pull out FFVII. If I want a female Cloud, I’ll log into fanfiction.net. I’m sure I can find something. Oh, here‘s one. Enjoy.

What I want from a main character is for that character to be her own person and to not ride on the success of someone else. Even right down to her occupation, she is the same person as Cloud. As I said, I’d like her more had I not played VII, but I did. I don’t hate Lightning, but I am disappointed that there wasn’t more originality to her design.

So I did find playing with Serah much more enjoyable because of that. Our party consists of Serah, Noel, Mog the Moogle, and different monsters that they can tame—like I said, Final Fantasy Pokémon. After his meeting with Lightning, Noel finds Serah and explains that he’s from seven-hundred years in the future, and that the world is dying. Cocoon is going to fall from the sky in a couple hundred years and wipe out most of humanity in the process. On top of all that, because of all the time-jumping, paradoxes have started cropping up and this is only adding to the disaster.

I should mention that the plot of this game has almost nothing to do with the plot of the first game. Remember those words I shoved on all of you: fal’Cie, l’Cie, Cie’th? Yeah, those ones. The entire plot of the first game centers around them and bringing down the government known as the Sanctum. I expected going into XIII-2 that the characters would be adjusting to life without the Sanctum and dealing with issues of massive amounts of people having to move from Cocoon to Pulse, a place that the inhabitants of Cocoon are terrified of. I was not expecting time travel. The two games tie into each other very sloppily. In some ways I feel as though the writers had this all planned from the first one, and in other ways I don’t.

For example, in the first game, it’s kind of implied that Serah can see the future, and this really comes into play in this game. But at the same time, l’Cie and whatnot have nothing to do with anything anymore. It would have been very easy to just cut the first game out and start at this game and very little would need to be changed to do that. I don’t know what the next installment will be like, but this is my current feeling on the matter.

Other than all of that, my opinion of this game is pretty high. Much higher than I thought it would be. So here are a few points I like about it:

  • People don’t trust Noel the moment he first arrives. He comes back in time and appears during a bit of a crisis. After saving Serah’s life, he info-dumps on her the whole time-travel thing and the problem with paradoxes. Serah and her friends are thankful for his help, but they don’t believe him at first, as they shouldn’t.
  • Serah does not have Cloud’s personality, nor is she a carbon-copy of any other Final Fantasy character.
  • There’s no dumbass love triangle. Serah is engaged to Snow, one of the characters from the first game. We only see Snow a couple times during Serah’s and Noel’s journey, and he does not worry about her hanging around another guy. What I like here is that Noel and Serah develop a platonic affection for each other. They love each other, just not romantically, which is not something we see a lot between a male and female character out saving the world. Furthermore, Snow isn’t jealous of the time they spend together. This is refreshing and it makes the relationship between him and Serah so much stronger, because it helps show how much they trust each other.
  • It is possible to go back and re-explore areas that I’ve already been to.
  • The battle system, which is very similar to the battle system of the first game, is still a lot of fun.
  • Mog. He’s a lot of fun in this game, and he does have a bit more of a personality, such as being very greedy and always talking about what he’d do if he were rich.
  • Hope’s character is much more grownup in this game. In the first game he was, I think, around twelve, and though I know a lot of people didn’t like him, I liked his character. In this installment he’s had a lot more time to come to terms with his mother’s death and everything else that has happened, so he’s also a lot less whiny.

I would check out this game if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to be really bored for the first hour or so. This is one of those games that just grows on me as it goes on, but it doesn’t have a strong start, unfortunately. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope

Yeah, here’s another thing I’m getting to really late, but oh well. Whatever, right? The Star Ocean franchise reminds me very much of Final Fantasy. Except where each Final Fantasy takes place in different worlds that do not impact the other games, Star Ocean spans across one universe for all four games, just at different time periods. Now, I haven’t played the first two games, so I don’t know where they fit into on the timeline; however, I do know that the third one takes place almost four hundred years after the latest installment, making The Last Hope something of a prequel.

More accurately, this game is called Star Ocean: The Last Hope – International, as it includes a very welcomed option to play with the original Japanese voice track, as well as the option to change the HUD back to its original design which looks more anime-esque. While I rejected the latter, because I thought it was ugly, I very much love the Japanese voices, and that’s one of the things that sold me on this game.

To start off, let me just say that the plot sucks. Not at first though. It pulls the player in with a more-than-decent beginning and fun gameplay. The Earth is doomed. Our two main characters, Edge and Reimi are post-WWIII kids, who worked hard to get into the SRF program, so they could travel together to other planets and find a suitable place to live. Along the way, they encounter Faize, an Eldarian boy, and it’s from Faize that they learn of the existence of intelligent alien life and that the Earth has been in contact with the Eldarians for quite some time. Something goes wrong, however, and one of the other SRF ships crashes and the remaining one piloted by Edge’s best friend Crowe disappears. Thus, Edge, Reimi, and Faize embark on a mission to find it. Pretty simple, right? It’s a good start to what could be a great game. And as I said, the gameplay is fantastic. The battle system is fun and the visuals are pretty damn good.

All of that goes to hell pretty quickly once we get our first taste of the characters’ personalities, which I’ll get to in a bit. I should also mention that while the main plot does rear its head from the beginning, a lot of shit that has nothing to do with anything happens along the way. We even get our own filler arc to introduce the character Meracle, because introducing her during the actual story would be much too simple.

Somewhere along the way, our crew gets sent back in time through a black hole. They end up orbiting the Earth and decide to land ship in Area 51, because why the hell not there? This is where they find Meracle, our resident cat girl, who Welch very appropriately calls out for looking like an anime character. I love when Welch sees Meracle and comments on her catlike appearance, claiming she feels as though she just walked into an anime convention, because yeah, that’s how this entire game feels. It really is like someone turned a manga into a video game and slapped the Star Ocean label onto it.

Some shenanigans happen, and Edge fucks up and explodes the Earth. But thankfully it’s from a different reality, so don’t worry. Now, I have so many problems with this. But here’s the main three:

  1. Edge’s reaction. Yes, he does feel sorry and down about what he did, but that’s all he feels. I kind of wanted more emotion from him other than :(. Edge’s character is kind of like a competent Naruto who’s not a complete dumbass. He’s the every hero who has every-hero thoughts and does every-hero things. He just wants to help people and become the best. His cocky attitude takes a leave of absence once the alternate Earth is dead and he realizes that he’s killed about six billion people. And then he sadly mopes… with sadness. Then, in an entirely-too-long cut-scene some character that we never see again bitch slaps him with words and Edge decides to get over what happened. My problem here is that he learns nothing. He goes from cocky to 😦 to cocky again. And the other characters just cannot stop giving him little emotional ass pats while he’s being all depressed and trying to tell him what a wonderful person he is, because as a Gary Stu, not even blowing up a planet and mass murdering people can make the other characters not endeared to him. And yes, blowing up the Earth is his fault. Entirely. The difficult situation back in Area 51 aside, he knew exactly what he was doing and the possible repercussions of it.
  2. Meracle’s existence and her knowledge of things from the ordinary timeline. It should be stated that other species discovered space travel before humans did. The game never exactly explains whether or not Meracle traveled back in time or whether she was from the alternate past reality and just crash-landed. I’m going to assume the latter, since she has trouble recognizing her home planet in the regular timeline. And it never explains whether or not that’s where she’s even from, but regardless, she’s heard of a woman named Elenya, who’s a bit of a soothsayer and Meracle’s favorite person ever, so I think it’s safe to assume that Meracle is from Roak. So just to recap, Meracle’s from over a hundred years in the past, and yet a woman who couldn’t have possibly been born yet is her role model. Furthermore, the planet they live on is not advanced enough to have space travel, so how Meracle even ended up on a ship and crash-landed on Earth is one big gapping plot hole. Granted, despite how much I greatly dislike Meracle’s introduction into the series, her relationship with the professor who first found her and his love for his crazy wife makes the whole in-the-past part enjoyable. It’s a little sad that both he and his wife don’t make it off planet, but they are likable characters, and the ending scene with them makes what’s happening have some sense, even if it doesn’t add up with the rest of the story. Which brings me to my next point.
  3. Going to the past could have been entirely cut out from the game and nothing would be lost. It affects nothing, and not even the big bad trying to destroy the universe has anything to do with time travel. Before the game shoves Area 51 on us, we see bad things happening and maybe they’re not the most interesting things, but they certainly keep the player going. But traveling to the past played as though the game wanted to take a break from itself. Multiple times through this game and I still cannot figure out why it happens.

And that’s hardly the only thing that doesn’t add up in this story. Like the big bad, for instance. It has no origin. It’s just there, because why spend time coming up with actual villains and backstories when you can just throw in some space phantoms? Of course, my favorite part about the Grigori is their artificial and lifeless planet having enough oxygen for the heroes to not suffocate on. The best, though, is the asteroid belt they run across. It also has suitable atmosphere and temperature.

Out of all Star Ocean games, I’ve only played three and four, and I’ve only beaten one of them. Oddly enough, I’d say three is my favorite of the two, despite the fact that I stop playing every time I finally make it to the second disk, if only for my disdain of not being able to take both Nel and Albel off world with me at the same time. I grit my teeth at the inability to collect all the characters every play through, but overall, I’d say it’s the better story. Of course, I may only think that, because between the two of them, at least the third one knows whether or not it wants to be a game or an annoyingly long anime. The Last Hope can’t decide.

This game has infamously long cut-scenes. I remember playing it one day before class. I had fifty minutes to catch the bus, but the cut-scene I had gotten to just would not end. I didn’t start timing it until partway through, but when my annoyance finally pulled me around to doing so, it was over half an hour long and I was about to miss my ride.

I suppose the cut-scenes wouldn’t bother me too much, if they had some point to them. A lot of them have no impact on the overall-arching plot, and that’s not to say they shouldn’t exist in those cases, but they could at least be shorter. They just go on and on.

Now, I know this may not be fair to say—though it is without a doubt entirely accurate—but I finally realized my biggest issue with this game and why I loathe all the characters. The Last Hope is much like a manga turned into a game. Again, it’s not a fair comparison as I’m sure an actual manga was not involved in the making of this game, but I base this on how the story progresses and I don’t think this conclusion is at all surprising, considering the game is from Japan. The story arc progressing like a manga is not a bad thing. I love manga. And dare I say it, so do many of the writers here at LGG&F. The Last Hope unfortunately is like a stereotypical manga filled with every cliché character type and plot point Japan has ever given us.

So, yeah, the plot is a little dull, and when it’s not dull it makes no sense. Plot alone does not always carry a story. Even if it lacks cohesion, if the characters are interesting enough, many of the story’s flaws can be forgiven.

The characters in The Last Hope are not that good.

I’ve already talked about Edge, but let’s talk about him some more. His Gary Stu-ness knows no bounds. All the other characters rely on him, and even if they manage to beat him at something, they’re always quick to amend that it was for some non-feasible reason and that Edge really is the best. Hell, Edge is so awesome that he beats the character Bacchus at a chess-like game the second time he’s ever played it. Upon winning, Bacchus comments that he’s the galactic champion of the game and that now Edge gets the honor of the title. Edge is the topic of discussion for most of the dialogue as well. The game likes to break from the story so the other characters can talk about how wonderful he is.

Of course, Edge’s character is nowhere near as annoying as Faize’s. While the other characters praise Edge for everything he does, Faize exists solely for the purpose of worshiping him. He has no other identifying characteristics. Hell, even when the alternate Earth blows up, Faize comments, “Don’t be so gloomy, Edge. As far as we’re concerned, you made the right choice back there.” Even the few times Faize does grow a backbone and manages something for himself, his character almost immediately reverts back to the constant Edge worship. My best comparison for Faize would be Roger from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Roger is the most annoying character that has ever been introduced in a video game. Surfing the internet, I cannot seem to find one person who actually likes this kid. But at the end of the day, I can’t hate Roger too much. Yeah, he’s obnoxious, but he’s meant to be that insufferable. We, the audience, are supposed to hate him. Faize, on the other hand, we’re supposed to like, but I can’t like someone who’s completely incapable of doing anything for himself without his crush holding his little extraterrestrial hand. Even at the game’s end when he’s off being evil and possessed, I couldn’t think of anything but how much I wanted him dead and that he and Edge should stop having their lovers’ goodbye and leave the soon-to-be exploding planet they’re on.

Spoiler Alert: Faize dies.

The next main character is Reimi, and she suffers from ‘I’m a girl so I must be incapable when I’m really not’ syndrome. Well, she has more self-confidence than Faize, at least. Reimi exists so the camera can zoom in on her butt and then she can freak out about sexual assault in every other cut-scene she’s in, and her actions are supposed to be ridiculous, because she sees assault where it doesn’t exist, like the time Edge wants to climb down a citadel first to check that it’s safe, and she calls him a pervert for possibly wanting to look up her skin-tight shorts. The game makers actually go so far as to include a supposed funny scene of Edge watching her in the shower so we can witness her overreaction at discovering him. Of course, I fully approve of her loosing arrows at his ass. The sexual-harassment issue brought up with her character wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t used to show how ridiculous the writers feel the issue is. Yeah, some of her reactions are uncalled for because she sees harassment where there isn’t any, but in other situations it does exist and it’s treated with the same flippant attitude.

This, however, is nowhere near as creepy as the love relationship between Faize and Lymle. I should probably mention that Japan is much more accepting of pedophilic relations in fiction than Westerners are; however, this is pushing it. I can only assume that after her character design, the writers also realized how messed up what they did was, so they made Lymle fifteen and Faize eighteen. That’s still a little weird by my standards, especially because Lymle was obviously not written with a teenage girl in mind. She acts and looks like a five-year-old. She draws on the floor, lacks any concept of socially acceptable norms, has the emotional capacity of a small kid, and doesn’t like taking her nappy time alone. I’m beginning to feel as though the game makers have no concept of age. The creepy relationship with Faize aside, Lymle is probably the most adorable character, at least in my opinion.

I think my favorite character, however, would be Sarah. I say Sarah because while she is also completely oblivious and naïve, she at least acts her age. Sure, she’s soft spoken and overly polite. But compared to the other women, she’s not bringing up sexual harassment cases for no reason like Reimi, nor is she shoving a ginormous chest into our faces like Myuria, which is actually the first thing Myuria does. Out of all the female characters, Sarah’s the most realistic. At least to me. There’s no creepy relationship or anything like that; she’s just along for the ride because she sees the other characters as her friends. I may be a little biased, though, because for fear of revealing my identity, we share the same name and we kind of look alike. (It must be the glasses.) That, and I can connect to her on the bases of her utter refusal to pay any attention to the stupidity around her. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I don’t pay attention to things around me if they upset me or are just not worth the effort, like the Green Lantern movie. That attitude seems to be what Sarah holds for the rest of the Star Ocean universe. The Grigori are trying to kill everyone—well, screw that, ‘cause Sarah can’t even be bothered to remember what they’re called.

One thing that should be said about The Last Hope’s characters is that the females outnumber the males. There are nine playable characters, and only eight in the party, because Faize goes off to become evil when the last one joins up, leaving us with three boys and five girls. Six girls if you include Welch. I did find this surprising my first time through, because I’m used to just the opposite when playing games. The Last Hope doesn’t really cater to either a male or female audience, and with the exception of a few things here and there, most of the genders could be changed and the plot would be more or less the same. I give it props for being pretty gender neutral. I mean, I could go on and take the feminism stand and bitch about the bad female characters who can’t do anything without Edge, but the same applies to male characters as well.

Despite some very questionable decisions in the storyline, it is fun. Maybe I expected more out of a Star Ocean game, especially one that obviously had so much effort put into it. And I’m not going to lie, The Last Hope disappoints me, but I wouldn’t call it completely awful. This is a guilty pleasure. My conclusion is that it’s simply mediocre and that hopefully any negative backlash from this installment won’t be the death of the franchise.

On a happy note, it does have giant bunnies that you can race. They’re so cute that I’m willing to forgive how much the bunny usage in this game is a complete rip off of chocobos.

Can’t you see the resemblance?