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Final Fantasy XIII: The Review

April 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Final Fantasy XIII - Lighting and Logo

I’m a huge fan of the entire Final Fantasy series. I’ve played almost every one since the first (I know, not ubber fan) and I’ve been mesmerized each and every time. My fiance refers to the release of a new Final Fantasy as “The Vanishing” since I disappear and only occasionally pop my head out and say hello.

Oerba Yun Fang - Final Fantasy XIII Party Memeber

Nothing says lets take on an army like blue silk and a sports bra

I’m going to try to sum this up without giving away any spoilers so wish me luck:

Final Fantasy XIII takes place in a world governed by a militaristic force that is ruled by a magical being/force called a fal’Cie. The game begins as people are being “exiled” on board a train. Suddenly all hell brakes lose and some chick with sword/gun starts picking a fight with a group of soldiers. Behind her is a man with a bird in his hair.

This is how we begin Final Fantasy XIII. From here out there is never any down time. The entire game is a fast paced adventure through a foreign world where innocent people get branded by a magical being (the fal’Cie) and have to complete a specific goal (or Focus). If they don’t succeed then they turn into a monster, if they do they are granted eternal life. Pretty easy decision, gimme the eternal life.

Our party is one such group of people, for whatever reasons brought them together on a journey to meet the Pulse fal’Cie what binds them together is their common Focus.

While they attempt to complete their Focus they are constantly sought after by the Sanctum military PSICOM. Wherever they run to they are pursued by an army until they decide they just have to bring the army down.

Final Fantasy XIII: Graphics

Graphically Final Fantasy XIII is no slouch. It is outstanding beautiful to the point that my non-gamer fiance even stopped and exclaimed amazement at what was before her eyes. From the minute the game starts up you are left to look upon the most visually stunning Final Fantasy to date.

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Final Fantasy XIII: Gameplay

Many people have a problem with the lack of towns in Final Fantasy XIII but, honestly, they simply wouldn’t fit. You are a fugitive attempting to stay ahead of an entire army. Either that or you’re running through a base/airship/military campaign attempting to accomplish…something. Quite frankly I wouldn’t have the time to stop and chit chat with the townsfolk and sip sweet tea if I were in this position. Who am I kidding. I always have time to sip sweet tea. To that end there really are few townspeople to interact with thanks to the military occupation. The lack of mulling around in towns helps to create the sense of urgency that Final Fantasy XIII is all about.

The lack of MP is a delight for me since it now means I will actually take the time to use and develop my magic. I mean really, I don’t use points when I have to heat up soup, or cool off my coffee. I don’t use points for any action I’ve learned. Never have I ever had to drink something in order to have enough juice to open a can of beans. For that reason I shouldn’t have to make sure I have enough MP to make lightning appear out of nowhere.

That being said pausing after each battle really detracts from this goal. The battle summary (while entertaining and useful) continually causes an otherwise hurried event to be stopped and mulled over.

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Final Fantasy XIII: Controls

The controls are exactly what you have come to expect from Final Fantasy. They don’t throw anything new at you here. You have your attack, your technical abilities, and your items. Nothing new. What they do give you that makes it exceptional is the Paradigm system. Being able to set and combine Final Fantasy party members’ roles until you find that perfect unstoppable match is fantastic. That, coupled with the fact that you can swap Paradigms on a whim to fit your need whenever you need to make battles a fast and exciting display of reflex and quick thinking.

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Final Fantasy XIII: Story

Eh, what can I say. It’s a Final Fantasy. It’s not the best I’ve seen, but it’s a damn site better than other’s I’ve played. To be honest, I really don’t give a rats ass about Hope and find myself wishing from time to time that Lightning would have left his ass when she had the chance. He’s really the only one though. Every other character has something interesting to say or contribute.

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Final Fantasy XIII: Overall Score

I just can’t bring myself to give it a perfect score. It’s missing that certain….something that compels me to declare “Best Final Fantasy EVER

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Don’t like this review? Feel free to voice your opinions below.

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Video Games and Relationships: Heavy Rain, Bad Company 2, Demon’s Souls

February 23, 2010 1 comment

As I was doing some work around the house this morning my thoughts invariably went to the world of video games (as they usually do).  I began to anxiously anticipate the arrival of Heavy Rain, the release of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and ultimately rested on the fact that I will spend most of my gaming time today working at Demon’s Souls since the aforementioned games have yet to be part of my collection.

As I thought about all three games I began to think where they fit within the scheme that is my life. Some have choices that have no clear right or wrong answer and some don’t really require much in the way of decision making beyond the question “Do I use the door or make a hole in the wall?”. Some require careful thought and understanding and some require you to run in guns blazing leaving a lifeless wake behind you everywhere you go.  As I thought about each of these I was struck with various aspects of my life that fit within these very same descriptions.

Demon’s Souls and Team Sports

Back in college I played Rugby. I had the luxury of seeing it from two distinct viewpoints in my time there. When I started we had no coach and little understanding of tactics. We just ran fast, hit hard, kept getting up, and had fun after the game. We didn’t win many games but we sure won the socials. Eventually we grew to dislike our losing record and asked an old alumni of ours to help us out and be our coach. BTW: That really was my coach.

He taught us the nuances of the game, the skills, the tactics. He taught us how to read a pitch, a team, and the weather. The man taught us how to appreciate the game on a whole new level. It was the first time a coach had really taught me to understand a game on every possible level and what we were doing. Last time I checked Black Rose was undefeated in their last regular season and lost in the finals.

Demon's Souls for PS3When I first purchased Demon’s Souls I had no cable and no internet. I picked it up as I was moving into a new house (literally on the way). I had read all the hype and thought “Okay, it’s brutal, you die a lot, but how bad could it be?” Bad. Very. Very. Bad. It was like a baby taking it’s first steps:

  1. Walk a few feet.
  2. Fall.
  3. Okay bad guy there. Remember that.
  4. Walk a few feet.
  5. Kill bad guy.
  6. Walk a few more feet.
  7. Fall.
  8. Okay bad guy there. Remember that.
  9. Repeat process.
  10. Weapon breaks.
  11. Fall.
  12. Wtf…now what?

Then the cable company came by and gave me my wonderful internet and a whole new video gaming experience opened up to me. This game took me through the same journey as with Rugby. I started blind, running fast and hitting hard. When I logged in I read messages, watched other players failures, watched other player’s successes. I learned how to play the game. It was learning to understand the game that helped me to be better at it.

Demon’s Souls is not a Devil May Cry style video game where you run in, clear a room, be stylish, pose, and move on. You have to be calculating, understanding, and take your time. You need to plan, you need to see your next steps, think about your next action. Learn what the level is doing, where the bumps are, and exploit them. Learning how to play the game and learning how to play the game properly make all difference in the world.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Friendships

To be honest I am probably not the person you want in your squad, on your team, or in the same map as you. I am not the tactical player (which is why Demon’s Souls took so much getting used to). I am the guy who grabs the vehicle that makes the biggest boom and lays waste to a city. I am, for lack of a better word, out-of-control.

Kool Aid Man through wallThis is relatively indicative of my close friendships. Take last weekend. I walked into a friends house and put a hammer into his wall. We were removing the wall so it was acceptable. We then proceeded to do our best “Kool-Aid Man” impressions for the next twenty minutes before realizing that we were covered in drywall and that probably wasn’t the best thing for us.

A member of my wedding party used to take great pleasure in the fact that he owned a cattle prod and enjoyed using it on all of us. He took aim at me point blank with a potato cannon filled with wet paper towels. He put a live blue crab on me while I slept in my bed one morning.

Other friends and I would take turns punching one another in a game that was lovingly referred to as “the punching game” (creative I know). We had to institute a rule in our college house that banned fireworks from being used inside. This included using them outside and “accidentally” having them explode inside.

Walking into the house was an exercise in reaction time and potential property damage thanks to the “Sack Game.” We would hide in the hopes that we could give someone a surprise tackle.

We turned the inside of our house into a.) slip n’ slide b.) bocce ball court c.) paint ball range d.) 18 hole pitch and putt golf course including the “up the stairs bank off the window and roll down the hallway hole 13”. We didn’t get our security deposit back. In fact we owed more money.

Bad Company takes me back into my college mentality of “hell with it, go through the wall.” I’m not a sniper. I like to use explosive devices and lots of them. I lob grenades. I unload clip after clip after clip to kill one guy when it would be easier to stop and aim. Thats how I game. It may not be the best way, smartest way, most normal way, but it’s entirely a reflection of my closest friendships and how we interact with one another.

Heavy Rain and Romance

In every romantic relationship there are questions and problems that come up that have no clear and defined answer. In every romantic relationship there are moments that are as fuzzy as a kiwi and uncertain and unstable as Gary Busey. Often times there is no right answer and if there is you don’t know what it was until a long while later.

Heavy Rain for PS3 has tough decisions

Is there really a correct decision here?

Heavy Rain for the PS3 seems to have a lot of these moments. Moments where the right answer isn’t clear and if it ever becomes clear it will be so long after the fact that you won’t be able to do anything about it.

It’s not a game full of action, excitement, and stabbing. It’s just a game full of life, enjoyment, subtlety, finesse and a little bit of boobage.

It’s this aspect of of Heavy Rain that makes it most like a romantic relationship. It’s not going to be for everyone just like every relationship is not for everyone. It’s not a run and gun style video game. It’s going to make you react fast and deal with the consequences. Some gamers are going to love it, some are going to find it to be just okay, and others are going to hate it. Personally I can not wait for this game to get here. I’ve played the demo many times over and each time it makes me want the full release more and more.

Show us what you got: Video Game Pick Up Lines

February 20, 2010 1 comment
Ohgren attempting a pick up line

Oghren is my hero.

Every now and then you come across a nice pick up line in a video game. While most are trite and contrived, every now and then you find a real gem.  Take for instance my man Oghren. When he meets up with his special lady friend he gracefully uses the line “Are you a baker? ‘Cause you got a sodding nice set of buns.”  Doesn’t quite have a sense of eloquence about it, however it gets the job done. It conveys the appropriate message, it adds a bit of humor, and it’s even rather complimentary once you get past the totally uncouth manner in which it was stated.

Oghren really has a way with words. That lil’ “sword polisher” really can make me laugh.

Other times you find a great one liner. Something you read and have to think about later and wonder if you really did in fact see that.

Well, now it’s your turn to show us what you got. Share with us your favorite in game one liners and pick up lines. Either fire an e-mail off to PolishTheConsole@GMail.com, hit us up on twitter @ConsolePolisher or just use the comment section below.

Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening: No Romance, No Tenting?

February 18, 2010 9 comments

Well WTF BioWare? Listen, I totally share Kat’s sentiment towards you guys, but I also share the sentiment that I love perving out. on Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening’s website they have a rather handy FAQ:

1.7 – If I had a romance in Origins, does it carry over into Awakening?

Romances do not carry forward in Awakening, because you are away from your previous life fighting a new threat.

Now this is to be expected unless you wind up marrying and taking over the crown in the end. For male protagonists you’re primary romantic interest (Morrigan) is off with your child in the woods and there is no guarantee that Leliana will be with you at the moment.  Even if she is there is go guarantee your love interest will fit in, have the right skills, or be needed in the new campaign. But then I read further:

1.8 – Who can I romance in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening?

There are no romances options available in Awakening. The story is focused more on the mission at hand and the new threat to Ferelden.

eric cartman - i do what i want

"I DO WHAT I WANT!"

Come on now. You mean to tell me my character isn’t going to go looking for strange when off in a new land? You apparently don’t know my character very well. Let me clue you in. She’s an angry bitter whore of a city elf who does what she wants. Sure the primary male main character I have is a fine upstanding fella, but the girl? She’s gonna find a way to tent. Mark my words.

What the FAQ does say that really makes me excited is that:

1.9 – Which Dragon Age: Origins NPC will be returning?

Besides Oghren who plays a large role in Awakening, there are cameos and returning characters…

For me, Oghren was phenomenal comedic fodder. We had some wonderful analogies and misunderstood references. I laughed for hours when I heard Ohgren use the term “Pike Twirler”. I actually looked at my fiance and asked if she wanted to “grease up the ol’ bronto”. She said no. I think it worried her a little.
(thanks to reddit for catching the above typo. you’re always there for me.)

When asked her opinion Kat (who may be BioWare’s biggest fan…she may even be stalking them) responded with:

Learning the fact that you can’t romance in DA:O-A…almost makes me feel like…eff that. Totally takes the wind out of the sails.

While we are still going to purchase and play the crap out of it because…well…that’s what we do, we will still feel like something is missing. Like the game is slightly incomplete. While it’s entirely possible that we wont even notice the lack of tenting I am still going to miss it.

To check out the FAQ you can find it on the Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening website.

Virtual Reality Video Games: Holy Sh*t I Can Smell the Dwarf

February 18, 2010 1 comment
Virtual Reality Video Games

"Turn your head and cough." Doctor Mario just isn't the same as it used to be.

While Kat was writing the post Virtual Reality Video Games: Population Control we got to talking, and as of right now I have some serious unanswered questions about VR and gaming. Lets just start out with the most open question:

“How immersive will VR be?”

If Dragon Age: Origins was virtual realty would that mean that video game developers would actually have had to create…well…Alistair penis? Video Game design and development meetings certainly would take a whole different turn wouldn’t they? “What should Leliana’s nipple to boob ratio be?”

“We need to pick a design for Morrigan’s hair.”
“We did that last Thursday.”
“No her other hair.”

For the sake of realism all the motion capture work would have to take it to the next step. Can’t you just picture it now: Man covered in full body motion capture suit. Little white ball on the tip ‘o the tallywhacker. Would the actors dispute the size of their motion capture?

Would someone actually have to decide what Leliana’s crotch smells like? I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume they aren’t going to decide cinnamon and Day Lilies.  Who has to determine that? Nerds everywhere (myself included) would LOVE to be a video game tester, but not if video games go virtual.

“Oh man, someone needs to crank down the funk on body odor for Niko. He’s going to make people vomit.”

Would this make in game showering mandatory for in game interactions? For every smell level you increase your charisma drops one. That would be an absolute pain in the ass. Imagine Fable III taking the touch mechanic one step farther into the smell mechanic. If you come home smelling like the town whore your wife bitch slaps you with a wooden spoon.

“Why do I smell stale beer and canned fart?”
“That’s just Oghren.”

Would you be allowed to turn smells off? That might be nice. I really don’t want to know what a sloth demon smells like. Desire demon maybe. Sloth demon no.

Would playing a simple game like Mario be huge stress release? You’re running around, punching bricks, jumping angrily on things. I bet getting shot out of a cannon is a rush. I wonder where the raccoon tail attaches to my body. Also I wonder how I wag it to fly. Do I have to actually EAT the mushrooms to grow bigger? I don’t like mushrooms, can we change it to gummy bears? Can I just touch the mushroom?

For Kat, VR means population control and getting to “experience” Alistair. For me, it means I have to smell the dwarf.

Video Game Social Interaction: Games need a “Jiggle Button”

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Certain video games do a marvelous job of reflecting reality when dealing with people’s reactions and affects in social interactions. In some video games your outward appearance affects how people react to your presence. Take Fable: the bigger bastard you are, the more your characters appearance will reflect you blackened soul, while inversely the kinder and more upstanding you were, the more handsome and welcomed you were thought of by the people.

In some video games your actions determine how others react to you. I could hardly go anywhere in Cyrodiil without people yelling about the “Hero of Kvatch” or how I was the new “Arena Champion”. This is in fact progressing into a more realistic scenario in coming games like Fable III. Recently Joystiq touched on Fable III’s “touch mechanic” by stating in their article X10: Fable 3 impressions (spoiler: we’re not pissed off):

“The second demonstration of the touch mechanic. The character walked up to a beggar and took him by the hand. The beggar, thinking he was being taken home for dinner, began to exclaim his gratitude. Only the demonstrator was going to be naughty — he led the beggar to a workhouse, where he intended to sell him. As they got closer to the factory, the beggar become more and more afraid, eventually pulling against the character’s arm in an attempt to escape. It was pretty horrifying.”

This touch mechanic represents a more in depth and user oriented experience in video games. Soon characters like Link will not longer be able to wander into people’s homes and raid their chests for money without feeling the repercussions cascade through the people in a ripple effect of justice. Pushing tombstones aside and taking the entombed treasure will brand you a depraved grave robber. Hoisting chickens above your head and jumping from high places in order to gently glide down to earth will label you as a ne’er-do-well who frequently engages in unusual forms of animal abuse. Come to think of it….what the hell is up with the Zelda games and their morals? (I’m not complaining, I’m just confused by it.)

The one aspect video games lack is a distinct…feminine touch. It’s no big secret that women have a strange powerVideo Game Boobs: DOAover men. That power is typically located around the same area on all of them. To get any guy to succumb to their wile requires little (if any) effort. I have always been somewhat let down that when selecting a female character that my interactions with my male NPCs didn’t go more smoothly than when I selected a male character. Boobs are pretty much the greatest weapon a woman has when asking for information/favors/help/anything at all.

Video games have never really taken this into account. With one little button a female character should be able to easily get what they want. I refer of course to the “Jiggle Button”. It would be the ultimate game changer. NPC won’t give up the key to the locked door in the back of the room? [Jiggle Button] PRESTO! Security Guard won’t divulge information as to the objective’s whereabouts? [Jiggle Button] “Pleeeaaaaassseeee?” SUCCESS!! Can’t win the fight against the horde of male enemies? [Jiggle Button] for distraction and VIOLA!!

The downside is eventually video games run the risk of deteriorating into:

Personally, I’m a pretty big fan of the last guy in a robe with a bottle of wine. Nice!

Scandal, Sensuality, and “Polishing the Console”

People have always had a bit of a perv side to them; it’s undeniable. It’s strange that a medium as wide spread and penetrating as Video Games is just starting to accept it as part of the medium’s growth and evolution.  Something intended to be an escape for the users and give them a glimpse in time of another life still fears to boldly tread in the sultry, sweaty, and purely delightful aspect of life that is a basic motivator for most.

Can you honestly sit there and say that in Final Fantasy VIII when a couple of high school kids wind up alone in a space ship with no light but the twinkling of the stars before them they didn’t even consider anything naughty? I would have…in a heart beat. Without question. Heck I’m thinking of it now.

But what of the games that do? What of the games that understand that people change their clothes and in doing so they tend to be somewhat nude? What of the games that understand that people do in fact bathe and shower? Most normal people do not wear any form of clothing when they do. I don’t mean games like Custer’s Revenge which seem to be the only basis for the game itself. I mean games like Dragon Age: Origins that allows players to engage in an adult relationship; Assassins Creed II, God of War (albeit a little campy to make it a mini game), and the upcoming PS3 game Heavy Rain.

Games that showcase something fun to snicker at, something almost laughable at times, and games that do not shy away from the sexual side need to be celebrated as a natural progression of evolution and not vilified as morally reprehensible.

…After all without sex there is no life.

I’ve always found it backwards that as a country, America embraces violence more than it accepts sexuality.  Have you noticed how a game like Manhunt, which is disturbingly violent in that you can rip out someone’s spine or bludgeon them to death with a hammer, gets less heat than a game with a sex scene like Mass Effect?  Mass Effect’s scene – which is optional, I might also point out – is about the culmination of a relationship between two characters over time.  It isn’t the object of the entire game, while killing in Manhunt, is the object.  Games with a ‘Sexual Content’ rating, or ‘Suggestive Content’, get blasted more frequently than games with ‘Blood and Gore’  or ‘Realistic Violence’ ratings.

What’s up with that?

The point of this blog is to applaud the games that embrace sexual content.  Let’s face it – we’re all pervs at heart.  And we giggle madly when a pervy reference pops up in a game.

So let’s make love, not war.  And we’ll be sure to post pictures of our in-game encounters.

– Wadoobie & Kat