Editorial: Speechifying

This is a Chocobo and he has nothing to do with this post.
This is a Chocobo.

This week’s rant editorial stems from my recent playthrough of Final Fantasy XIII. With all the hype leading up to XIII-2’s release, I thought it was high time I dusted off the case that had been sitting on my shelf for a year and give the game a fighting chance. My struggles were long, hard-fought, and like all good novels ended in tragedy.

Overall, I found that I enjoyed the game. The graphics were pleasing enough. The character models were well-designed and in true JRPG fashion (the requisite number of scantily-clad females danced across my screen). The battle system was innovative but not so complicated that I needed a manual longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace to guide me on my journey. The leveling system was typical of recent Final Fantasy games and had a knack for blending job systems with grids. In short, Final Fantasy XIII began with all the bombastic flash of the other games in the series: it laid out the stepping stones for epic plotlines and legendary world building. Then, the characters opened their mouths, and everything went to hell. Thea vs. Final Fantasy XIII began.

Did I fight? I certainly did, only to be turned away with a shake of my head by what I have aptly dubbed speechifying. Cutscenes were looked upon with the same unfettered dread as a visit to the dentist. I went in determined to bear the mild unpleasant only to leave promising myself I would never return. Final Fantasy XIII told its story with all the subtlety of a train barreling through a library. I watched characters dance about my screen engaging in monologues fit only for a high school level English course—that is, I was subjected to lengthy speeches about morality, about duty, about whatever the fuck was going on in the story. I could not help but remember the words of so many college professors, words that to this day are still ingrained in my mind: show me. I wanted to be shown a story, to be lead down the pathways of the world, of the characters, through interactions, environment, and characters responding to challenges.

Readers, I ask when was the last time you faced your latest problem with a speech? Just this morning I was faced with a monster pile of paperwork to be processed on my desk. What did I do? I made dramatic gestures at my co-workers and schooled them in the many ways in which I was going to face this latest life-challenge with my elevated morals and heroic sense of duty. My words were like doves set free into the skies to carry my message across the land. The paperwork, of course, never was finished because I was too busy serenading my co-workers with my speeches. (Actually, what really happened is I sat down at my desk and worked for eight hours, which is what I expected FFXII to do for me.)

I am positive that this game will be worth finishing someday, but for now I have had enough speeches to last me at least another few weeks.


  1. Yup. The story was basically the weakest part of this game for me as well. I can take some linearity, but I had little motivation throughout the game. I’m surprised I finished it, actually. Testament to the battle system, I suppose. I think the worst thing that happened to 13 was that it came after 12. (even though I don’t think TOO many people liked 12)

  2. @Mel – I adore 12. It ranks high on my list of favourites.

    It wasn’t the story that bothered me so much as – as Thea hilarious details – the writing. Just godawful.

  3. My problem with 12 was that I didn’t like the Hunts, so I was always broke. Also, I’ve written x86 16-bit assembly code and couldn’t get Gambits to work worth a piss. Plus they dealt those things out at such a snail’s pace and made you buy them everywhere. It did probably have the best story though in the series. The problem was that Ivalice was freaking huge so by the time you got to the place they told you to go you had no idea why you went there. That Sun Cryst tower thing was also a crazy long dungeon like I’ve only other seen in SMT: Nocturne’s Labyrinth of Amala.

  4. I’ve already taken for granted once voice acting and animated cutscenes came into games that I wasn’t going to like them, for much similar reasons as you mentioned. I have also just started XIII and am only a couple hours into it, yet there’s plenty that I like despite the Hollywood movie approach to some of it (bullet-time, hamfisted hero speech, etc. are very lame).

    That’s a hard thing to get over, but it’s only the worst thing about the game. The rest is good; or at least, I like it. Since XII was mentioned, I’ll say this: I don’t like it (referring to the cutscene exposition, mostly). The dialogue there is less offensive, but also blander.

    Since I’ve only just started XIII, I don’t want to make assumptions about “what it is.” Maybe it just reminds me of the beginning to VII alot. Something about it is pushing me past disliking subpar dialogue and into feeling like I’m finally playing a very good Final Fantasy game again.

  5. I equate FFXIII to a sugar cookie. Alright at the first bite but then as you go on it is just bland and mushy.

  6. XIII’s cutscenes are easily the worst part of the game. They are absolutely poisonous. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large they were awful.

    The first time I played through the game, I hated it. I hated the game. I hated everything about it.

    The second and third time I played through the game, I was able to skip every cutscene without fear, because I knew their contents. The result: I loved the game and had a wonderful time.

    I think that says just about everything there is for me to say.

  7. FFXIII is an amazing game…if one simply plays the game and completely ignores the trainwreck storyline.

  8. So you know what they do with that GREAT story?! Make another one! What did they do with 12? Meh, some cheap-o handheld effort most people have to be reminded of.

  9. Final Fantasy XIII is a DVD with a really shitty movie and incredible special features.

  10. It really is difficult to fathom just how SE managed to get XIII’s story so wrong. I mean, Lusipurr and myself have discussed this, the overall story structure wasn’t bad, but the planning of events and writing of dialogue was so abysmal that it just ruins everything!

  11. It feels counterintuitive to say this, but don’t let bad storytelling ruin a great game.

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