After 30 hours of play I am supposedly hitting the 'good' part of Final Fantasy XIII this week. As usual I'm finding the internet a mixture of lies and deceit when it comes to Square Enix's long running franchise. I've made no secret on Twitter that I'm enjoying the streamlined nature of FFXIII and I constantly find myself wondering what other players want this game to be. Reaching Chapter 11 this week has shown that FFXIII doesn't really do open-world stuff very well - at least not to me! The plains of blahdiggety-blah-blah look impressive (even on the 360) but going back and forth, running errands for long-dead l'Cie strikes me as, er, dull.
Of course, this is where the FF vets will grab their gunblades and tell me that this open-world, non-linear struture is A Good Thing™. I'm not averse to that type of gameplay in the slightest, but having a really good narrow experience for thirty hours and then breaking it open like this feels like bad pacing to me. Beleive it or not, I'm really interested in these characters, the world and the story that's going on around them and would rather push ahead than spend four hours grinding up levels just to access the next chapter.
It strikes me that the developers made a concious effort to make a very different and accessible Final Fantasy and then got cold feet about the whole business and opened it up again. Through the osmosis of the internet I know this is only a passing moment, but it still feels oddly thrown in to appease the kind pf players who would have thrown FFXIII in the bin by now.
Enough of the Final Fantasying. Also this week I've got my hands on... *adopts Japanese shouty voice* SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI STRANGE JOURNEY!! It's a DS game I've been looking forward to for months and one that seems destined to be ignored by most of the UK - mainly because Atlus has no plans to release it here. (Sad face).
After three hours I can confidently say that its a very SMT-like experience with traditional turn-based combat and its demon-adopting/taming/fusing awesomeness. It's way too early to pass judgement but when Jeremy Parish of 1Up infamy calls it the best RPG release in March it gets me all tingly for what's to come.
On the opposite side of the spectrum I've finsihed ploughing through my copy of Rune Factory and a review should be hitting the GamePeople servers very shortly. Those Harvest Moon folks really do make games that are easy to slate from an enthuisiast videogamer standpoint but there's something amazingly additive about sowing crops, catching monsters and wooing Japanese ladies. Soulful? Well that remains to be seen and many of these games rely on the player to use their imagination for the best experience. Something I'm not averse to using every now and then.
On a similar note I've also been doing the same on my iPhone - a device I actively refuse to play games on normally - and raking hours into the free-to-play We Rule. Expect a post about that very soon also.
What I won't be writing about any time soon is Yakuza 3 which is sitting forlornly on my shelf why I try and get through Final Fantasy before the end of the month. That and Heavy Rain (the game that seems to have 'Soulful Gamer Will Cry!' written all over it) are just going to have to wait until I get Lightning and her crew to their finale.