Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Character Designs

So I have learned that I should never post my plans for anything. BAD IDEA. None of them came to fruition. But oh well. Anyways, I promised you guys my opinion on Final Fantasy XIII-2. Interestingly enough, the game hasn't come out yet and already they've registered the domain Final Fantasy XIII-3, so take that as you will. Also, they've relinquished the copyright to Harsesis-XIII, so anyone who wanted that game, sorry. Coupled with XIII-2 at the start of next year, there's Type-0 coming out soon after that, and Versus-XIII sometime after that. All of these games are a part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy compilation (note that they removed the XIII from that, so expect a name change for Versus-XIII on the horizon).

Unlike with the last game post, I'm going to assume you can look up information on this game, for the sake of brevity. In this one, I'm only gonna talk about character designs, and I'll save plot-stuff for the next post. 

Above is Noel Kreiss, a hunter from the far future, where he is the only human left alive. Apparently Lightning recruits him to try and change the future, gives him Mog, and makes him go find her sister. Design-wise, Noel is what Fang was originally meant to be, back before the designers changed her gender. When I first saw Noel, my thought was, "Wait, Link is gonna help Serah? WTF?" Seriously, the guy is very clearly based on recent designs for our favorite green-clad hero, just in blue to avoid copyright issues, and with a BFS in his off-hand (since this IS Final Fantasy, after all). Overall, I like his design, especially his head and left arm. The shoes, shoulders, and BFS have me lost though. Also, I'm rather fond of his voice. Jason Marsden, famous to me as Haku from Spirited Away and Rosh Penin from Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, does an excellent job with his lines, especially when cussing out Snow(!). Next to Noel is the above-mentioned Mog, who transforms into a bowblade, allows access to the Historia Crux, and can be thrown at treasure chests (which seems like catharsis more than anything else). AND IT IS ADORABLE. Seriously, seriously adorable. Although I think it screaming "KUPO!" every two seconds is gonna get old.

Now for the returning characters, I'm gonna compare them to their old designs, for the sake of continuity. Old designs are on the left, new designs on the right. First up, Serah Farron, the main playable returning character. As expected, she's just trying to get her sis to come back, but apparently also has prophetic visions and is more important than anyone else realized. This costume really isn't an improvement over the old one. She looked like a stripper in the first one, and now she looks like a futuristic stripper. Seriously, that outfit looks horrible for combat. And the color scheme, ugh. Also I never liked her voice. You know what? Enough about Serah, I don't like her anyways.

Lightning's redesign comes from the fact that she is now the guardian of Etro in the invisible world of Valhalla. She leads the Eidolons in battle against all transgressors, mainly Caius and his corrupted Eidolons. So now we have Valhalla, Odin, and Sleipnir associated with Lightning. This can only mean one thing: she's a Valkyrie now. And boy does her redesign show it. From the no-nonsense (well, at least for a Square Enix title) military uniform to a full suit of armor with a wing-skirt on one hip. Wow. I mean, she could honestly kill people just by elbowing them (and she probably does). She also now has Ullr's Shield, which, given her combat style from the previous game, will actually improve her fighting abilities. (She would always block with her bare left arm.) Her gunblade also gets a totally awesome redesign, with a broadsword blade, bayonet, and arm guard thrown in, and it's still capable of firing rapidly like her old Blazefire Saber. The only thing I don't like about her redesign is the gap between the armor on her waist and the armor on her thighs (which is actually similar to my complaint about the old uniform; seriously, who wears a miniskirt in the military? FMA fans, don't answer that) which seems to be both unnecessary exposure and a possible source of chafing. Ow. I'm hyper-excited that Lightning is the narrator of this game, because I think Ali Hillis is the best voice actor of the bunch.

Snow, who has decided that, instead of marrying the love of his life, he should go try and find Lightning, has been rebranded as a l'Cie, and probably hasn't showered in over a year. As a result, his redesign is a fun combination of more emo clothing and more fantastically messy hair. Clearly, you should not run your hand through your bangs when it's filled with grease and dirt, lest you turn out looking like this. He looses his scarf (which made no sense in the first place), dyes his coat black and tears up the edges a bit more (but it's clearly the same coat, so bets on what the dye is? Monster blood? Tar?), loses his zipper shirt, and dyes his undershirt red (WITH BLOOD! I wish). Otherwise, he looks exactly the same. Apparently he undergoes a profound personality change. I hope so, cos I was one of the millions who cheered any time Light punched him in the last game. On the other hand, while everything that comes out of Snow's mouth is profoundly stupid, I do like his voice actor, Troy Baker. He really does have the perfect voice for the part.

Finally, my favorite redesign of the returning cast. Hope, thanks to time travel, is seen as a 24 year old in-game, in the year 10 AF. All grown up, running a government science agency known as the Academy, and trying to use the Historia Crux to bring back Light, Fang, Vanille, and his mom (AWWWWWWW), Hope still carries his boomerang, but only for sentimental purposes, as he doesn't fight anymore. From the cute-but-annoying 14 year old, he has become one handsome adult. Admittedly, I have no idea why he has so many damn buckles, but I've always liked that style, so I'm rather pleased. I also really like his boots, and if you look, he's still wearing that orange bandana he covered his l'Cie brand with. The guy does not want to forget his past. His color scheme is a bit, well, violent, but it's PSICOM's fault, not his, so oh well. I love his hair, and his grown-up face. Seriously, I never thought Hope could be this awesome looking! His voice actor has appropriately lowered Hope's voice, and with the more adult writing, Hope sounds so much better than in the first game. It's also obvious that the effect Lightning had on him hasn't worn off, which is nice to see.

No word on Sazh, Dajh, Fang, or Vanille, but their voice actors have all been confirmed as returning. Three other new characters who don't have official renders yet are joining the fray: Caius, Lightning's eternal rival; Paddra Nsu Yeul, the seeress who wrote the 4th and 9th Analects found on Gran Pulse; and Alyssa Zaidelle, Hope's subordinate at the Academy.

Caius is purple-themed, as suggested by the logo of the game. He opposes Lightning, is immortal, and he kills anyone who disrupts the flow of time. He also seems to have an issue with Etro, meaning he may be connected to Pulse, Lindzei, and Buniberzei, and he has control over Chaos. He rides Chaos Bahamut into battle, and has purple hair, purple eyes, a purple headband, a purple scarf, a purple Super-BFS (with an eyeball on it, that reminds of a mix of Soul Edge and Soul Eater), purple armor (with gauntlets that scream of Ed's automail transmutations), purple Chaos energy, and lots of beads/feathers everywhere. The dude loves him some purple. He's based off of Kain Highwind and Yoshitaka Amano's design for Leon of FFII. He's also voiced by Kain Highwind's VA.

Yeul looks like a rejected design for Vanille. She even has the same bear skirt. Like all things associated with Caius, she also has plenty of purple, mainly on her skirt. She is also veiled most of the time, and is a seeress, who informs Serah of her new prophetic abilities. She's from the far past of Pulse, and dies from overuse of the Historia Crux. Honestly, she's really creepy, both in looks and voice.

Alyssa, Hope's subordinate, wears a female version of his uniform, by which I mean short puffy sleeves and short-shorts in place of a reasonable jacket and pants. She sounds kind of similar to Serah, but she doesn't have much dialogue so far. She's the same age as Hope, and has a more mature version of Vanille's personality. I don't like her design, it's even louder than Hope's and even weirder than Serah's. Though I do approve of the gloves and reasonable hair style.

That's it for characters. Next post, we'll look at the plot.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Theories about Skyward Sword

So a couple of awesome games are coming out soon that I'm quite excited for: Final Fantasy XIII-2 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Since Skyward Sword is coming out first, I'll expound on it first.

First off, there's a ton of stuff I'm excited about. One of my favorite things about this new game is the art style. It is absolutely beautiful, with its rich colors and its soft, almost surreal feel. It does a great job of combining the realism of Twilight Princess with the light, happy atmosphere of Wind Waker.

Take this screen cap for example. If you look carefully, you'll notice a very interesting feature. Link and the Deku Babas in the foreground are crisp, clean, and bright, while the trees, mushrooms, and sun rays in the background are softer, faded, and very indefinite. This is meant to give off the vibe of an impressionist painting, and in my opinion, increases that connection to nature and makes the game seem more alive.

As far as combining Twilight Princess and Wind Waker goes, the two separate maps, Hyrule and Skyloft, reflect the respective games. Hyrule is laid out the way you expect it to be from games like TP and Ocarina of Time. But Skyloft reflects the flooded Hyrule of WW, only in the sky. But before we all get worried about more lengthy travel sequences, the developers have listened to our cries and thrown us a bone: Link's bird is way faster the the King of Red Lions. So searching for treasure on the sky islands will be fun rather than tedious. And to get between the worlds, Link skydives with a parachute that we have to control. So going back and forth is as fast as terminal velocity (since there's magical wind tunnels that throw Link up above the clouds where his bird can catch him). The maps for dungeons return, but without their faithful companion, the compass. Link's "dowsing" ability replaces that, by firing beams of light in the direction of treasure, keys, and apparently Zelda. There's also a third (!) secret world called the Silent Realm where Link learns how to be a hero by running around grabbing tears (Twilight Princess) and dodging Guardians (Phantom Hourglass) who can knock him unconscious. He gets to this "alternate world" by stabbing his sword into the ground, leaving him weaponless on the other side (which was what that stupid teaser poster was referencing the whole time).

Finally, I am super excited about the item upgrade system. A staple of all RPGs, the item upgrade has been creeping into action and adventure games at a slow rate. With this move, it seems that the Zelda crew is beckoning us to immerse ourselves more than ever into this game. Monsters drop the items used for the upgrades, and it looks like each item in Link's inventory has multiple iterations based on how you choose to upgrade it. This also opens the possibility for treasures giving exclusive upgrades, and may be a plot point, which leads to my theories from the game.

Clearly, this game's "fairy", Fi, is the Master Sword personified. She apparently lives inside the Skyward Sword, and makes beeping noises at Link when she wants to tell him something. (I don't know which is worse, beeping or "HEY! LISTEN!") I have a feeling that the upgrade system was put into place to make the upgrade from the Skyward Sword to the Master Sword make sense. This will definitely involve Fi deciding to meld with the Skyward Sword, and probably the new dowsing ability ("Dowsing" loosely translating to FIRING LASER BEAMS MADE OF CONCENTRATED SUNLIGHT! Talk about solar power.)

Secondly, while the fire temple's boss has been confirmed to be a walking rock (not like a Goron, though), the fire temple's doors have a lovely picture of an Asian dragon on them. This gives me (and a few other Zelda fans around the net) the hope that Volvagia will be in this game, and we'll get to see the Hero of the Gorons who beats her up with the Megaton Hammer.

I have to wonder what the explanation for Link's tunic will be this time. In most of the games that follow Ocarina, they explain it as dressing like (or wearing the exact same clothing of) the Hero of Time, who only dressed like that because he was initially a member of the Kokiri. As Skyward Sword predates Ocarina, perhaps this first Link is the inspiration for the Kokiri's pattern of clothing. Also, maybe OoT's Link's parents named him after this first hero, and the Hero of Time accidentally lived up to (and beyond) that name.

Finally, it seems that this may be the first game in which Link and Zelda hook up. In this game, she's not a princess, which definitely means they're retconning the "Every Zelda named after this Zelda" from the original game. But she's said to be a "a 'precious oracle' and a 'female servant of the Goddess'", which Link had no clue about, and Link only gets embroiled in the whole mess because she gets stolen by a tornado. As this picture shows, they are very good friends in Skyloft, so my theory is that by the end of the game, it gets better than that. This also means that the kingdom of Hyrule is going to get its origin story (about damn time, too), and we'll find out how Zelda becomes such a legend (you see what I did there? Okay, shut up, I know lame puns aren't that funny.).

For a great summary of what else is to come in Skyward Sword, head over to GoNintendo's summary of the recent Game Informer exclusive. The game itself comes out on November 20th for $50, but pay $20 more on the preorder and you'll score an exclusive Golden Wiimote with the Hylian Crest emblazoned on the speaker, along with a CD filled with orchestral versions of classic Zelda tunes from the 25th anniversary concert series. I haven't decided which route I'm going, mainly because the preorder ships directly to my house rather than the store, and I really want to walk into the store on the 20th dressed as Link to purchase the game.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's do this!

Having finally started college, I think it's time to get blogging. I may not have anything of interest to say, but I'll say it anyways. Generally, I'm just going to discuss my interests: science fiction and its derivatives.

More later.