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I'm trying to find my Focus.
I'm supposed to be giving my PlayStation Portable its last rites. That was going swimmingly until Saturday afternoon: I'd just finished Resistance: Retribution – which didn't get half as much praise as it should have, just quietly – and just started playing Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy. That was when my quasi-religious gaming experience went to shit.
Don't get me wrong: the game plays just fine and the new cast members are all good fits. Probably a little bit too similar to its predecessor, and still brimming with the same sappy, nonsensical drivel that had me itching to skip just about every cutscene; but still, the game features beautiful, fluid visuals and the same brand of dramatic, gravity-defying violence that made the last part of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (almost) bearable.
It was just seeing Lightning again. She was a strong protagonist, with a manner unbecoming of your typical Final Fantasy female (read: not solely candy for the male gaze, coherent, and not gasping in every second line of dialogue). She was one of the few reasons I persisted with Final Fantasy XIII for as long as one with a developing allergy to JRPGs could. Ultimately, an extended vacation with Light's polar opposite, Vanille proved to be too much for me to continue. Her insufferably high voice and insipid scripting was not a good match for the mindless grinding of the early chapters.
But seeing her again, dear readers, it was enough to send me back into that middling narrative. It was time for a change of pace: from the hectic, somewhat-shallow battles of Dissidia to the complex, arguably turn-based affair that is Final Fantasy XIII.
It was hard: picking up from where I'd left off – almost two years ago – reacquainting myself with a new battle system and terminology-heavy lore. Forty minutes of play in, and I still hadn't progressed past the chapter where I'd first hit the wall. Regardless of what weather effect I had in play, I was always presented with a battle that would take at least ten minutes to get through. I know you can opt out of some of these encounters, but I'm always suspicious that if I were to end the grind that I'd be fodder for future foes.
I'm glad I made the effort. Even if the script reads like a self-indulgent teen fantasy, the battle system is deep without feeling convoluted. Plus it's just plain amazing to behold; I mean this game is freaking beautiful. Even after a few years, some of the sequences are breathtaking even when compared to more recent releases.
I might even finish it. For the first time in what seems like years, I'm happy to play something that's not quite new. Let's forget about the fact that there's been no major releases in January, shall we?
Note: For those in the know, did you like my elaborate Final Fantasy XIII pun?