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July 8th, 2014
Welcome to the first of two mailbags this week! I was a bit under the weather last week, so that's delayed my own Final Fantasy second chance writeup a bit. That will go up at the end of this week or in the mailbag next week. Also just want to remind people about the contest I announced last week:

"Hey gang! Time for one more Mailbag contest, and it's a simple one. All you have to do is play and beat Crystal Bearers and then take a picture of yourself giving the credits a thumbs up (or other gesture). Play it with an open mind! Everyone who enters will have  a chance at a free game of their choosing (no not super-rare retro games sorry). Your thoughts on the game will be passed along to the next Mailbag host. That should be fun!"

Anyway, let's get to it, I've got Demon Gaze and Shovel Knight to get back to still...

- Michael "Wheels" Apps

This Edition's Contents:

Final Fantasy Second Chances

Reading that someone retried XIII motivated me for a few comments.

1) I'm glad you gave it another go and passably enjoyed it. I love XIII and think it gets a bad rap. Most of the issues have been talked into the ground, but the key one that sticks me is that it's "too linear," while nobody has a problem with the Mi'ihen Highroad being a tunnel with battles every 10 seconds or the general artificial nature of exploratory choice in the series. I don't buy VII-IX being less linear just because you could "choose" to go to the screen above or below, when the game clearly feeds you into the screen required to advance the plot.

Wheels' Comment

I've been trying to point that out for ages, no one wants to listen. I think the upfront nature of the linearity can be pretty jarring though. While you can wander around the worlds in the other games and do random pointless things, that isn't really the case in XIII making the straightforward nature of things too apparent. Even in Final Fantasy X which had similarly designed areas you could at least sample the side activity of Blitz Ball (and a more precisely defined world as well). So I can certainly understand the complaints from that perspective. That said, if you are one who mostly follows the straight and narrow Final Fantasy path like I think many do, then the complaint comes off as a bit silly.

2) I always appreciate how well-mannered and open Q&A has been towards people having their own opinions. Makes for a much better read than most other spots I've found online =)

Wheels' Comment

I appreciate that! I try to be open minded, even towards those that like games I particularly dislike. Of course I'll still try and get some fun jabs in. Of course if your opinion is that Kawazu makes bad game then we may just have to Karate fight.

3) The FF I've been meaning to give another go has been XII. I haven't been able to do it, but maybe not for the expected reason. I've realized I'm so used to playing games based on Achievements/Trophies, that thinking about playing one without them is kind of mind boggling. I want a little list to check off as I beat all the optional Espers and get the arguably asinine Zodiac Spear. Without that list, it's been really hard to actually just start the game again!

Thanks as always for the thoughts and work on the column =)


Wheels' Comment

I can understand that. That isn't my thing, but I can see the appeal to going after a bunch of achievements and and enjoying the challenge of getting all the hard ones. That said, we are united in a desire for Final Fantasy XII HD. That game would benefit greatly from a nice graphical update, reduced loading times, and presumably the additions from the Zodiac Job System version that we never saw in the west. Make it so Square Enix!

Thank you for writing in!

Even More Final Fantasy

Hey Wheels,

I suppose I'd like to weigh in on the Final Fantasy XIII discussion. FF 13 had an amazing story. Start to end the characters were great and I wanted to see what they were gonna do next, even the more annoying characters like Hope had a strong enough of a story arc that it made for a compelling story to watch. The gameplay was awful. Obviously just my opinion, but it was awful. Auto attack? You can spend combat in 90% of the game, maybe more, just hitting auto or whatever...boring. Abysmal AI, doesn't seem to understand that the only party member that absolutely need to stay alive is the party leader and healers will prioritize other characters for heals/buffs over the party leader. The way the levels were capped, and the game was on rails until just about the very end. I forget what the item was called, but that item you could use to skip enemy encounters...used them almost the entire final dungeon. I wanted to see the conclusion to the story, but man I didn't want to have to suffer through combat to get it.

Wheels' Comment

Yeah I can't really agree with much if any of this. Lots of auto attack? For starters, you can control the healer, or the one giving out the buffs, so pretty confused by that complaint. As far as auto attack goes that's largely accurate, but only because the battle system is designed to be controlled from more of a macro level, switching paradigms and using items and other abilities when needed. Most Final Fantasy games are pretty much on rails as far as the main narrative goes. Level caps will very much be a preference thing, I loved them. I want to be challenged, and this battle system did best when it was difficult. I can see why you don't like the game, but some of your complaints have easy in-game remedies.

I always thought I loved RPG's mostly for the stories. RPG's by their nature tend to have a better narrative than most other genres. 13 had such a good story to me, that because it's gameplay was bad enough to make me feel like the game was overall bad I realized how much value I place on combat over narrative. I loved FF 12. It had a terrible story imo, but the gambit system was so fun, the side quests so exciting and rewarding that even though the story was pretty weak I'm praying for a HD announcement...and I don't even believe in jeebus. I guess all I'm saying is Final Fantasy XIII was so bad it made me realize how shallow I was.


Wheels' Comment

Final Fantasy XII had the potential to be a brilliant narrative, but given the obvious drama of the director quitting and such we can only assume it got messed up during all that. The fact that the gameplay turned out well is really a credit to the development team,  and Kawazu stepping in as the new director to finish up development certainly didn't hurt. To your overall point, I think a game like Final Fantasy XIII that cuts out so much of that fat is destined to be a love it or hate it affair. If the gameplay doesn't grab you, it will be hard for anything to save the experience because it makes up so much of the product. There aren't a lot in the way of optional story conversations or extra world locations to explore to provide some sort of alternative. Does that mean a game should never be designed like this? I don't think so. Not that Final Fantasy XIII is without flaws of course. It has many.

I will put this out there:

If you think Final Fantasy XIII is bad, I have a list of bad games you should play that will make you realize otherwise.

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Wheels' Comment

Minish Cap is a fine game, and another addition to the quality line of portable Zelda games. You had it in a top five list though! Mind you I don't think it's bad in the slightest. Just not quite as good as some of the many other Zelda games that could have made the list. I don't know, I felt like the game was a bit lean on dungeons, and some of the puzzles and quests in-between the dungeons could be a bit lacking. Maybe I just need to give it a replay to refresh my memories? Perhaps I'm wrong.

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See you next week!

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