I’ve written before that I was a huge fan of Final Fantasy X, which was my first contact with the series. It’s still my favorite, and I can’t help but view the other iterations of the game through my warped FFX lens.
In FFX, the game introduced us to the main character, and then used that character to introduce the world of Spira. It made us care about Tidus and his plight, and then used Tidus as the “man from Mars”. Throughout the game, other characters would teach him about this new world he’d been pulled into. By the end of the game most players would be able to tell you what all the major races and subcultures were, what those people looked like, where they lived, and even a bit about their culture. This is a lot to learn, but we absorb it because it’s all part of the main character’s journey. Each bit of information is built on something we learned previously.
But FFXII does this all backwards, and from a storytelling perspective the thing is a mess. The overlong opening cutscenes try to pour all of the details of the world into the viewer at an overwhelming pace. Then the cutscenes stop and we get a text and voiceover history lesson about the world, with an occasional peek at the map. Then more cutscenes. Then more history and geography lessons. Throughout this process, I was wondering how much of this stuff I needed to know and why I should care. It wasn’t until about the half-hour mark that I even met the main character.
I’m at the ten hour mark and I’m not really invested in any of the main characters. It’s hard to care about them because I don’t know anything about them. They have costumes and accents and attitudes, but they don’t seem to have any real lives going on. When I met Balthir and Fran, we were thrown together by circumstances. Fine, but then the story never gave us a reason to remain together. We just start working together because hey, we’re the main characters and that’s what we’re supposed to do.
To be fair, I am still playing, so the game hasn’t alienated me too much. It’s just that this game could have been so much more if they’d taken that first half hour of info and revealed via conversations spread out over a few hours of gameplay. They storytelling here is cheap and beneath the Final Fantasy name.
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