Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Which Meg Reviews Games - Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus

Overall, I enjoyed it. The gameplay is fairly easy to get the hang of, and once I'd realised that the "attack" and "jump" buttons were the other way around to the ones in Kingdom Hearts 2 (which I'd been playing before I started DOC) I was relatively okay. I'll never be an expert gamer, but I can definitely manage the "point and shoot" interface of this game without too many problems. My biggest annoyance throughout the whole game was when I was attempting to keep track of something which moved fast, I'd inadvertently drop into "scope" mode, which was rather annoying (particularly since at those times, I was attempting to keep track of it in order to dodge the bastard... dropping into a closeup of the surrounding scenery was therefore intensely distracting at such moments).

One other thing I've realised since starting a different game (Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King) is that this game has a very good mid-game, which is where a lot of RPGs tend to fall down. There's the early game, in which your character is underpowered and you're just starting to collect the plot coupons. Then there's the late game, where you have all the plot coupons and you can send away for the major mcguffin, and in between there's a lot of pointless running around collecting levels so you can beat whichever boss character is next on the list. I tend to find the mid-game section the most boring of anything, since I tend to get annoyed by having to do the same thing repeatedly for no real reason. FFVII:DOC avoids this, by having mid-game sections which largely serve to advance the plot and which don't require an endless repetition of the same basic process. No, I'm not fond of level-grinding, why do you ask?

So, now on to my comments about the plot and suchlike. Most of these are within the context of Final Fantasy VII fandom, and relate the game to previous episodes in the continuity, such as the original game, the Advent Children movie, and what we know of the plot of Crisis Core (which is as yet forthcoming). There will be spoilers (although they're mainly mild ones, and tend more toward characterisation than actual plot points), and there may be obscure jokes.

* Shinra has apparently done a graduate recruitment sweep through Trans Poly U (Transylvania Polygnostic University of Mad Science) in order to have netted both Doctor Hojo and Doctor Lucrecia Crescent.

* Shalua Rui is wearing an outfit which would make the average hooker reach for a nice warm jumper and some comfortable shoes. She's supposed to be a scientist, so why wasn't she portrayed as wearing jeans and a t-shirt, rather than an outfit which makes it look as though she gets her main scientific funding by selling BJs on the outskirts of Edge? Putting a lab coat on over the top doesn't help at all.

* As per the standard anime trope, it appears uncovered female skin is invulnerable. This explains the skimpier armour on both the WRO and Deepground female troopers. I suppose it also explains Shalua's outfit, to a degree, while Rosso the Crimson, being a psychopath, needs no explanation for anything she does anyway (mind you, they should have trimmed the bathmat they attached to her arse - how does she manage to avoid tripping over the silly thing?). Given Shelke appears to be wearing pretty full armour, the development of feminine invulnerability on Gaia is presumably a function of puberty (and Shelke's had hers delayed for about ten years).

* I'm sure there's a reason why Vincent Valentine gets to have all the younger chickibabes (Yuffie, Shelke) throwing themselves at him. I just wish he didn't seem so completely kerflummoxed by it.

* Vincent appears to have a thing for women in lab coats (given he appears to fall arse over ted for Shalua having only seen her twice).

* Vincent on waking up after the events at ShinRa manor: "I'm in hell, and it's full of Yuffie".

* Lucrecia should say what she's sorry for, rather than just being sorry all the time. It'd make everyone's life a lot easier.

* Yuffie appears to have a killer crush on Vincent. Pity he's not able to reciprocate at this stage (maybe she needs to wear a lab coat?).

* It's interesting that they use guilt and emotional manipulation on Shelke, despite the fact she's been effectively living as a computer plug-in for the past ten years. What's even more interesting is that it works!

* More than three words in a row from Cloud Strife - presumably he's now going to remain silent for another three to six months to make up for it. Or maybe he needs to find another "dialogue" materia.

* The phone conversation with Cloud, Barrett and Tifa appears to happen while they're in the middle of a battle - presumably this is just the right time to stop and phone a friend.

* "I don't want the world to end. I just don't want there to be any more pain." - Shelke, showing she is a child after all.

* This story has plot by the bucketload - both in volume and delivery. I'm sure I have bruises from some of it landing on me in lumps.

* Yuffie really has a crush on Vincent. Unfortunately, I doubt he's even noticed, aside from her being a little more annoying than usual. (She really does need that lab coat.)

* I'm picturing a conversation between Cloud and Vincent along the lines of "Now you see why I went off into the wilderness and sulked, right?" - the consequences of saving the world. I can't help but think Cloud's probably glad to be able to hand the job on to someone else.

* I'm not certain what the relationship between Vincent and Shelke is going to turn out to be. I have a feeling she's still dealing with the after-effects of sharing her brain with Lucrecia Crescent, which may mean she's going to wind up treating Vincent as surrogate family. I can see him picking up the role of "big brother" or "random older male relation". I can't really see him feeling anything sexual for her.

* Some questions I'd love to be able to find out the answers to:

- Will Shelke resume the normal aging process now she's not actively required to perform her Deepground function?
- Now Chaos has returned to the planet, will Vincent pick up aging where he left off?
- Given the "G Reports" hint very strongly that Genesis is still alive and with us, can we expect more Jenova-related problems in future?
- What was the story with Cloud and Tifa not being picked up by Deepground in the attack on Edge? Were they forewarned, or just lucky?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

In which Meg Explains What The Hey She's Been Up To

So a couple of weeks ago we got ourselves a Playstation - PS2, to be exact. Why a PS2, now the PS3's come out? Well, one reason, really - the PS2 is something like a fifth of the price. I picked up a couple of games - Kingdom Hearts 2, and Echo Night: Beyond, then spent most of the last week and a half playing my way through KH2. I ordered Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus online, and it was delivered on Monday. Tuesday night, I started playing it (having completed KH2).

As you may or may not have gathered from these disclosures, I tend to get just a little obsessive about new distractions. Particularly when they allow me to feed into fandoms which have suddenly become rather intense interests themselves... (hello, FFVII fandom, and thanks for the slash).

I've decided I quite like Square Enix (aka Squaresoft, or Squeenix if you're talking to the fangirls) and their way of dealing with a game. There is plot. There is plot with extra plot and plot sprinkles, plus chopped subplot on top and the cherry of genuine character development. It is convoluted. It is involved. It is *interesting*, gods help me, and it's something I've been looking for for ages. I've no idea whether the differences are just a result of the difference between the Japanese and the US psyches (the Japanese seem to have no problems with assuming that their "readers" can and will understand such an involved plot, or that they'll have mental equipment capable of handling such a thing. Neither game is aimed at the stereotypical nine-year-old (KH2 is the closer of the two, but I'd say you'd have a minimum age of about twelve for the plot elements - I shall have to find out whether my niece plays it with the cutscenes in or out), which, again, is a wonderful thing. I like games which assume the player is a grownup, rather than a child.

It sometimes astounds me that there aren't more games like this out there - maybe there are, and I've not seen them. Most of the games I play on the PC are very much the long-playing role-playing type. I like the sensation of getting lost in a different world, and slowly finding out what happens next (which may be why I've gone off Dark Age of Camelot a little lately - I've done all the exploring, and I'm down to the boring bits of levelling up characters and hanging around until odd hours of the morning to go on raids). I like plotbits. I like interesting characters (most computer game characters aren't that interesting to me). I'm not actually a huge one for the whole hack & slash side of things, or even for the run & gun side of them (I'm playing Vincent Valentine as more of a sniper - get the shot right the first time, and you only need the one). What makes me stick with a game is wanting to know how it turns out (which is why I sometimes find "boss" battles to be thoroughly annoying: that's not plot, that's diversionary tactics!).

So, does anyone else know what might be a good, plotty game to fiddle around with on the PS2? I already have KH1 and FFVII (the original) marked on my mental "get these at some stage" list, as well as an entry which says "anything by Squaresoft/Square Enix" - what are some others?