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Final Fantasy XIII - Beaten, But Not Finished
I have finally beaten Final Fantasy XIII - or at least the game proper - and am currently deep within the post-game. The end of the game itself brings the question marks surrounding this game and this franchise into clearer focus, which is nice, but concomitantly puzzling. I just cannot wrap my head around this franchise.

I watched the ending, and without revealing too much, it wasn't bad. There was a twist, and there was a sacrifice, and things were not completely sparkles-and-rainbows happy at the end, which is something I like and appreciate. That said, I could not bring myself to care even the slightest bit. I might as well have watched a trailer for a game I'd not heard of for all the emotional investment I had in it - and it was a game I'd spent forty or so hours with. Part of this is due to the incomprehensible plot, which is ridiculously overwrought and spilling over with dumb, unnecessary, needlessly similar terminology. Luckily I had a friend on hand who had beaten it, and who I could ask "wait, now that's actually who?" and so on. Part of it is due to the fact that I never liked any of the characters in any fashion. Fang is kind of a badass, in a cardboard cutout sort of way, and Sazh is certainly the most human member of the cast, but that's saying very little. When it comes down to it, I just don't care. I wanted the cutscene to be done with so I could move on to the post-game.

There are two other things that bugged me as well. The first is that Square (Enix) has never been one to let plot continuity and world building get in the way of a pretty cutscene. If it looks really sweet to have tendrils of rainbowy doom shoot out of the main character's eyes, then that's what'll happen, plot holes be damned! And this, needless to say, bugs the ever living shit out of me. I was peppering the aforementioned friend with questions through the ending of the game. "Where did they get the power to do this all of a sudden? Why can't X do Y? Why do they need this to do that?" All he could really do was shrug. Square Enix does not let consistency and sense get in the way of constructing their overwrought dramatic showdowns.

The other matter that perturbed me was, well, the whole thing, really. How little it has changed since the first, er, "modern" FF I played, FFVII. They have the same plot - rag-tag band of adventurers thrown together by fate must take down an ancient evil bent on destroying the world in order to see it reborn - and the same character archetypes and the same dialog and the same conflict and the same emotions. Final Fantasy has not changed since high school. I have. This is a problem. It has grown up in virtually every other way, but the heart of it, the writing, has not matured. It's like going back to a high school reunion and seeing a girl you used to know and have a crush on, and she's a grown woman and she's beautiful and curvy and well dressed and then she opens her mouth and begins to talk and ohmydearsweetlord she's still a goddamn teenager. There's this horrible dissonance between the way the game looks and plays and sounds and the way it's written. One aspect - one crucial aspect that the game is all but dedicated to - has been stunted.

It's hard to say why this is. Maybe these games speak to the Japanese psyche, but not the Western one. I do not understand the motivations of half the characters in this. The bad guy makes absolutely no fucking sense to me. Most of the dialog and shallow grabs at philosophy are pathetic to me. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Maybe Square Enix is catering directly to the teenage crowd, and I'm simply not the target market anymore. Maybe I'm an asshole. I don't know, but it bothers me.

And it really only bothers me because I really do enjoy the hell out of the game. I've put in at least as much time doing missions and exploring and item gathering and trophy acquiring as I have actually pursuing the plot. I have a checklist of things yet to be done, and I can all but guarantee that I'll get my third platinum trophy for this game. I love playing it, really. I just cannot find any interest in the goddamn plot.


 
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