For some reason, this turned into The Year I Rediscovered Turn-Based RPGs. South Park, the FFX/X-2 remaster, Child of Light, and me revisiting this. And my original assessment the day I got it stood up to the 60 hours: This is my Final Fantasy XII, and there is nothing anyone can say to me to convince me otherwise.
Sure, FFXII was at least trying new things to see what stuck, but what stuck with me was not a god damn thing. It's an attempt to bring the real-time elements that were getting popular around that time to a series that doesn't really support them. Lost Odyssey is far more basic in that regard: It's turn-based, the only big innovation being the Rings system for learning skills, which is easy, intuitive, but nothing fancy.
None of which matters unless the story's worth devoting the time to, and Lost Odyssey proves just how helpless the last few Final Fantasies are without Sakaguchi behind the scenes and Nobuo Uematsu providing the musical backdrop, But those folks are at the front lines here, and the result is great.
I mentioned in that big ass post about where Final Fantasy lost me that modern Final Fantasy characters were just a series of traits slapped together, and trying that little experiment here was a fool's errand. Kaim, Seth (who, against the likely truth, I'm still gonna chalk up as one of the few, rare, and wonderfully written black characters in gaming, let alone JRPGs), Jansen all start as typical hero/rogue/comedy relief tropes, and evolve into so much more before the first disc is even out. Then the supporting cast shows up and there's a vast range of personalities (and terrible costume design, but, that's par for the course). They make heroic decisions, they make bad decisions, they have tragedy, they have perfect amounts of levity, they forgive, but don't forget. And maybe even more unique, except for Cooke and Mack, who are just two kids who miss their dead mom, they're all ADULTS, not just angsty Japanese teenagers in disguise. They have actual arcs, leaning towards catharsis, which is not something JRPGs seem terribly interested in anymore, for the sake of the larger, depressing stories, or if they do, it's not much better than your average show on the CW (read: most things made by Atlus). Most importantly, Kaim's arc is bolstered by the Thousand Years of Dreams stories, and it's kind of a damn shame these are all text, and not actual playable sequences/cutscenes: These are some of the strongest stories I've seen told in a video game, more than one of which are just DEVASTATING tearjerkers. My only real complaint is that Gongora is kind of a wet fart of a villain in the end. His dudebro haircut/facial hair doesn't help. But for a guy who's 1000 years old, taking over the world just seems petty, especially considering everything Kaim, Seth, Sarah, and Ming have learned in the same span. Either way, this was 60 hours well-spent in the company of folks who deserved their happy ending.
I remember when this hit, and all anyone could muster up for it was that it was too short, and it was pretty much only there to keep the PS3 homefires burning for when God of War III happened.
Well, the first part's right. It's maybe 5-6 hours, and that's kind of ass. But it's only ass because those 5-6 hours are so good.
What's weird to me is that I remember everyone waiting for God of War III in relation to this, despite the fact that it's probably one of the prettiest games on the system, even now, Andy Serkis and WETA Digital are all over this game like a rash, which should've gotten way more attention from film folks, and him and Rhianna Pratchett managed to write one of the best female-centric video games of the last gen. But then, for some reason, Ninja Theory never gets enough love from gamers, and I have no idea why. Yes, this is me giving the evil eye to everybody who didn't support that amazing Devil May Cry reboot.
Either way, the story's good enough, with Pratchett's tendency for occasionally being too on the nose not killing what's essentially a pretty simple rescue story. The twist of Nariko's weapon leading her on an eventual death march is well-played for effect, and good on them for not pussying out on the endgame for it. Serkis brings some serious chops in directing the mocap, and I don't know whether Flying Fox was Serkis' idea or Pratchett's but that's seriously one of the most fucked up, creepy villains ever to grace a game. And the combat isn't perfect--the QTEs are really, really easy to screw up, and shielded enemies are a bitch to break--but it's deeper than expected. This definitely needed more attention than it got. It also reminds me that we're coming on 10 years without a Jade Empire sequel, and that shit is unacceptable.
As gameplay, the switching back and forth to use missiles and explore around is clunky and flow-breaking, and does nothing but remind me how much better the Prime games are, but the 2D gameplay is different, and a nice twist on the formula. It's the kind of thing that could be tweaked, and work like gangbusters in later games, but oh my stars and garters do I not want another one of these.
Call me paranoid, but I get the vibe Nintendo don't really like Metroid or Samus very much. Why else would Metroid be the only one of their major franchises that didn't get a big sloppy PR kiss on its 25th birthday, like Mario, Zelda, and Kirby did? Why else would we get a redesign where Samus is given rocket-propelling high heels to wear during her next foray into the Smash Bros. tournament? Why else would we get shit like Other M, where a series that has long kept Samus silent, but stoic, strong, quick on the trigger, and well-suited to the bounty hunter life reduces her down to a little girl who can't make a single bold decision, or even use any of her weapons without her daddy figure's permission? Why else are we supposed to believe that the Samus Aran we played as in Super Metroid, who opened fire and flew off in chase to primordial Zebes the second Ridley tried to fly off with the last Metroid, would nearly piss her pants scared of seeing Ridley brought back to life a year or so later?
The feeling I get is that Nintendo knows Metroid is popular outside of Japan, but doesn't really understand why. Her femininity is only made a thing after the game is over, where you're cheesily rewarded with a little more of Samus outside her suit. But, whatever, it's a series tradition, fine. But it's the only area Nintendo seems to be able to latch onto in terms of how to keep her in gamer consciousness, which just comes down to one more sign of how behind that company is with, well, everything. And the whole rocket heels thing in Smash Bros. shows that's not really changing anytime soon.