Ten Ways Final Fantasy XIII Could Have Been the Best Final Fantasy Ever: Disc 2
With great trepidation, I must admit, I loved Final Fantasy XIII Disc 2 (Chapter 5-9). It made me feel like I was playing one of the classic FF's, and I'm not just talking about the gameplay either. I was actually interested in the stories, the characters, and even the world. This is part 2 of my retrospective of FFXIII. The first one described 10 ways the first disc could have elevated it to the best Final Fantasy ever (check it out here). I'm following the same course for Disc 2.
********Warning, there are spoilers!!!********
1. Introduce the Primarch Earlier and Make Nabaat More Meaningful
I was confused by who the villain was in Final Fantasy XIII during the first eight chapters. It's common course for there to be a general evil (say as in FFIV where the king is making unreasonable demands) followed by a specific antagonist who gets introduced later in the game (Golbez in FFIV). However, we only find out about the Primarch at the end of Disc 2 in FFXIII, which means 66% of the game is theoretically done. The Primarch is a chilling villain, wonderfully acted, a calculating menace that appears transcendent. However, until his introduction, we only know there's an evil "Sanctum", who comprise the government in charge. They order PSICOM to track down the six heroes. Yaag Rosch was probably the least threatening villain I've ever come across in the FF series. He shows up in Palumpolum (Chapter 7), barks orders, fails, then gets shot by his own men. I actually thought he died at first and found myself incredulous that you never fight off against him. His boss, Jihl Nabaat, is more competent. Unfortunately, right when she starts playing a role as an interesting villainess, she is murdered, not by the heroes, but by the Primarch. While that establishes how cold-blooded the Primarch is, I didn't understand why he couldn't send her (and the whole bridge staff) out of the room, depriving gamers of someone they actually disliked (especially for her cruel treatment of Sazh and Vanille). A good story lives and dies by a great enemy. The Primarch makes an interesting appearance in FFXIII, but imagine if the FF heroes fought off against Nabaat and were defeated two or three times. Players will respect her powers while begrudgingly thinking, I'm going to get her back later. Suddenly, she is murdered by the Primarch. This would not only shock the audience, but also illustrate how powerful the Primarch is. I did think his revelation of the Focus revolving around Ragnarok and Orphan was fascinating, and I can't wait to find out more about what he meant in the next part of the journey. In the meantime, the Primarch should look to getting soldiers with better aim. There were scenes where the fleet literally fired thousands of laser beams at the FF crew and every single one of the shots missed!
2. Change Hope's Name
I'm finally starting to understand the story. The six main protagonists have a Focus as l'Cie which the Primarch reveals. While I thought their character interactions could have been better developed in Disc 1, I thought they finally started to have meaningful relationships in Disc 2. First off, I really liked the character Fang, cavalier, bold, and witty, a sharp contrast to Lightning. I also thought Snow's rescue cutscene in Palumpolum was one of the best scenes I've seen in a Final Fantasy, or any game for that matter. You can tell Snow isn't the brightest guy in the world, but he has a heart of gold. The way they resolved Hope's rage and desire for vengeance was nuanced enough where I believed it. Especially cool was the way Snow carried an injured Hope while he hurt himself. As for Vanille and Sazh, the more I found out about their past, the more I actually found their chemistry likable. There was still the sexual tension, but it was much more subdued as we focused on Sazh's relationship with his son and Vanille's guilt at being the catalyst for their woes. My only request is a symbolic one. They should have changed Hope's name to be a little less obvious. Every time they referenced him as being a symbol of hope, I couldn't help but sigh. I got the message. Everything is hopeless, but they need to maintain their "hope". The voice-acting was top-notch, and if there had been a lot more subtlety rather than obvious messages as epitomized by Hope's name, it would have elevated the interactions all the more. I know the developers wanted to make sure we got the message, but no need to hammer their "hopes" in with lines like Lightning saying to Hope: "I can't give you Hope".
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He has been working in film and games for over a decade. On his off time, he likes to travel the world. His short story collection, Watering Heaven, was just published by Signal 8 Press.
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