I’ve been derailed variously by Street Fighter IV and other commitments, but have made some progress all the same. The game is sitting better with me now, mostly because it has gotten sort of interesting. At Galbadia Garden we were given our mission: assassinate the Sorceress. Ostensibly this is because she will wrest full power from President Deling and lead the country into ruin. But who knows what the real reason is. It seems that the country of Esthar, traditionally ruled by a sorceress, was a huge pain in the ass for the rest of the world some time ago and had to be beat down in some war. Why exactly is anyone interested in working with them now? Now, Edea (the sorceress) has a nice set of virtual goggles that includes a wig of retractable hair. This is the coolest thing I have seen in the game so far. What could it be for? I could come up with several theories, but I hope it has something to do with either spying on or controlling Laguna in his world or timeline or whatever it may be. It’s starting to look like Laguna’s adventures take place in the past and that he may be someone’s (probably Squall’s) ancestor. It has already turned out that Laguna’s crush, the piano player, is Rinoa’s mother… I think.
The people of Centra sound like this game’s Lunarians/Cetra/Magi. They fit the required Final Fantasy role of people-who-did-something-X-thousand-years-ago, in this case, being the forbearers of some of the planet’s modern inhabitants. The history of the sorceresses suggests that they may be good people corrupted, and that someone we’ve met in Laguna’s timeline actually became Edea.
The battle against Edea at the end of disc one was actually enjoyable. Having to draw and cast her protective magic as a means of survival was finally a good use of the system. Battling the Brothers in the Tomb of the Unknown King also involved a certain amount of satisfying strategy. And this is all well and good, if only the random battles didn’t take so long. FFVII had this right: the random battles should not take more than 30 seconds.
After more Laguna at the start of disc 2, I have to say his dorkiness is growing on me. He’s Final Fantasy’s own Dan, overconfident and hopelessly inept and inappropriate. The other characters like him despite themselves. Back in the present, we escaped from strangely illogical drill-prison and have split our party down the middle, with one group off to stop Galbadian missiles from destroying Trabia Garden and the other heading to Balamb Garden to play cards or something.
After 20+ hours, I still don’t feel like the game has started yet. There is no groove to get into. The game play is plagued by constant interruptions. You’re either sitting around for 30 minutes Drawing, being thrust into Laguna’s mostly unrelated story, or methodically challenging everyone in town to a card game. The random encounter rate in some areas, like the over world, is stupidly high.
Guardian Forces, as it turns out, are just fancy materia. They combine summon, command, and independent materia all into one simple equip. Of course, this removes the flexibility that materia had, which let you equip a bunch of one type if you so chose. But the bigger crime is that, once again, your characters have almost nothing to distinguish themselves other than their single limit break. At certain points, you choose your party members. Why? What does it really matter, other than which dialog trees you’ll see?
I’m fighting to keep FFVIII inside my head despite the line of more interesting thoughts in line outside. The whole point of this exercise was to complete a title that, you know, pretty much everyone should be complete. If I give up at this point, I’ll be reduced to reading the story faq. For shame.