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by Ethos

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Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Riddlethos is experiencing issues with uploading and displaying new images, please standby and enjoy the pretty broken jpegs until this is resolved.

Update: The source of the issue has been determined. However, until it is fixed, there will be a hold on further content to ensure the utmost quality.

How’s that for marketing speak?

Further update: All scheduled content (Best Cast Awards, Scatter Storming) has been postponed, not cancelled, don’t fret little critters.

Final Update from Riddles: All better now. Our server provider… switched servers. Bit of confusion there for a while, but as you can see, we fixed things. Ethos is probably mad at me for denying him the pleasure of this update. Hee hee!

Super Final Update from Awesome Ethos. Dibs. No take backs or stealsies: Ha! Anyhoo, I got nothing to say, but who wouldn’t take that message from Riddles as a challenge? Well, I guess I’ll note that Scatter Storming will properly not appear until the weekend as to not clutter all the awards today and Hey! Look! Listen! tomorrow.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Art Direction – Riddles

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

FFVIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy VII

Ahhh, Final Fantasy VII. How I love you.  I might shower more praise on this game than it deserves, but regardless of my fanboyism, I feel perfectly justified in awarding it Best Art Direction.

One word I’d use to describe Final Fantasy VII’s art style is “gritty.” And that’s gritty in a good way. To this day, Midgar remains one of the greatest virtual cities ever created for any videogame, of any genre, of any generation. The city oozes of a beautifully oppressive, industrial atmosphere that simply hasn’t been matched. Lots of games combine magic with technology. Final Fantasy VII wasn’t even the first game to do it, really; but Final Fantasy VII is still the greatest showcase of this particular match-up. Final Fantasy XIII took aim at it, yes; but in the end, it failed to provide the same palpable atmosphere that literally drips from Final Fantasy VII’s environments.

Midgar is certainly the paragon example, but it’s not the lone star. Final Fantasy VII is packed with more memorable locales than any other game in the series. What’s fantastic about it, though, is that they all manage to be incredibly distinct, yet they all feel like a crucial part of the world as a whole. From the aptly-named Kalm, to the delightfully organic Cosmo Canyon, to the eerily gorgeous paths of The Forgotten City, Final Fantasy VII is an atmospheric rollercoaster ride unlike any other.

And let’s give some credit to Nomura’s character designs. Final Fantasy VII was the first game to feature his patented character designs, and in my opinion, it’s still his best work. Maybe it’s just because the characters themselves are so iconic; but then again, without his artistic vision, they probably wouldn’t be.

The game may look like complete shit on a technical level, but the powerful artistic vision behind Final Fantasy VII still manages to cut through the pixels, even to this day. And that, my friends, is an accomplishment.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy XIII

Maybe it’s just because I dig the technology/magic schtick so much. Maybe it’s because I feel like supporting Ethos in his (perfectly justified) decision to give the Art Direction award to XIII. Or, maybe it’s just because Final Fantasy XIII features some of the most inspired art direction of this generation. If any one department wasn’t slacking during XIII’s development, it was the artists. See Ethos’ award post for my thoughts.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy III

I’d almost give this to Final Fantasy X-2, since hardly any of the artwork in that game is original. But then I realized that I literally can’t clearly recall a single town, dungeon, or environment from Final Fantasy III. And that’s probably because the art direction, like everything else about the game, was pretty mundane. Also, I just hate Final Fantasy III.

Hey! Look! Listen!

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

HLLfinal

ETHAN PIPHER IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING, ALWAYS.

Nah, I’m just kidding. That was last week. This week is The Final Fantasy Week, so needless to say, there’s been some back-and-forth debate. Mostly concerning Final Fantasy.

But, we now take a break from that to make time for a regularly-scheduled favorite! I’m  your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and it’s time to look and see what’s going on in our beloved game industry.

This Can’t Be the 3DS… Can It?

My innate skepticism is telling me that there’s no way in hell that Nintendo could produce such a sleek-looking piece of hardware. I frankly don’t think they have it in them.

500x_0023

vertical

On a less vindictive note, turning the screen vertically in order to play original DS games looks really… unwieldy. Maybe it’s not? I wouldn’t know unless I was actually holding the thing. Anyway. Hit up Kotaku for the full batch of screens.

Two More Lead Developers Leave Infinity Ward

According to their respective LinkedIn profiles, Lead Designer Todd Alderman and Lead Software Engineer Francesco Gigliotti have departed Modern Warfare 2 developer, Infinity Ward. Alderman and Gigliotti worked at the company for over eight years. Sources told Kotaku that the duo had resigned, but this is unconfirmed.

Why is this interesting? Because it’s hot on the heels of two other key departures from Infinity Ward: Jason West and Vince Zampella, who were essentially the company’s two main men. As I’ve reported in the past, they were unceremoniously canned, and subsequently filed suit against Activision, claiming that they were fired without proper cause.

The IW/Activision scandal seems to be in a dead heat right now. But I have a feeling that won’t last. Or, rather, I hope it doesn’t. (IGN)

ac2screen2Assassin’s Creed 3 Apparently Set for 2010 Release

Michael Donnell is a 3D animator for Ubisoft. Like practically every other dude in the game industry, he has a LinkedIn profile. On his LinkedIn profile, he lists a few games that he’s worked on, and among these are “New Assassin’s Creed Title,” which he lists as a 2010 release. While this could conceivably be another shitty portable spin-off, I’m guessing it’s the real deal, since Ubisoft has said in the past that Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released sometime during their current fiscal year.

As of right now, his profile no longer says “New Assassin’s Creed Title,” but simply “new title.” But it totally said it before. Check this VG247 story for proof.

On a side note, Donnell also lists the fast-approaching Splinter Cell: Conviction as an Xbox 360 and PS3 release. Could mean nothing. It could also mean… something.

Aaaand that’s that. Short column today. If  you’re wondering where my pick for Best Art Direction is, worry not! It’s coming. It just might be, uh… late. Or something.

Laters!

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Art Direction – Ethos

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

wht_PS3_keyart_22_r04-80.inddEthos’ Pick: Final Fantasy XIII

What the hell, man? Even I’m pissed off that this game has got the first two awards on this list from me. But don’t worry, everybody, if FFXIII gets another nod from me this week it’ll be in the dishonourable mention category.

But if you read my review, this pick shouldn’t really come as a surprise either. The two things I praised the highest were the battle system and the visuals, and the visuals are spectacular for more reasons than just being in HD for the first time. While nothing was done in the gameplay to connect anybody to Cocoon, the world was designed in intricate detail. Architecture and clothing to subtle plant growth, even the tunnel of Cocoon was beautiful to behold. So much so, actually, that it made the game a little worse to think of how incredible the connection to the gorgeous surroundings could have been.

But Cocoon is only the beginning. Pulse is a wild, sprawling paradise with ruins that whisper its history, caverns swarming with wildlife and mystique, and huge fields dominated by truly massive beasts. Speaking of, FFXIII has my favourite enemy design of any Final Fantasy, and that’s saying a lot since both X and XII had great enemy design as well. In fact, all the characters are well designed. The main cast – although idiots that should never open their mouths – are my favourite character designs in the series. Ridiculous, yes, but Cloud’s hair was ridiculous, and so was Zidane’s tail although they at least had good personalities.

Still, the visuals may have made the overall game bittersweet, but judging them purely on their merit, I’d say Final Fantasy XIII has the best art design of the series that I’ve seen, which is quite a feat. Granted, I haven’t beat every game, so I might sing a different tune after finally completing VI, but as it stands, this is an easy choice.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy VII

Again, I almost wanted to say VI here, but I don’t feel educated enough in the game to choose it.

I realized that people might have an incorrect perception of my opinion of FFVII when Riddles was in Toronto and he was surprised I loved the soundtrack so much. Because my love for FFIX is so great, I suppose it overshadows the special place FFVII has in my heart. Anyway, I love the way this game looks. All the PSX Final Fantasies have beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds and I miss the style a lot, to be honest. Final Fantasy VII started it off beautifully with detailed and varied environments that really drew you into the world and made it the beloved classic that it still is.

Dishonourable Mention: Final Fantasy III

There is no real loser here because every Final Fantasy looked great for its time, I just really hate FFIII.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Ethos

Monday, April 5th, 2010

wht_PS3_keyart_22_r04-80.inddEthos’ Pick: Final Fantasy XIII

Hey! Whaddya know? FFXIII cashed in on one of its very rare chances to win one of these awards. It has one other chance, but I’m not crossing my fingers.

I obviously feel differently about FFXIII’s battle system than Riddles, but that’s the joy of this series and these awards. While I agree with scattered complaints about the system – namely that the AI doesn’t always quite do exactly what you want – I still maintain that it’s an incredibly crafted system. It’s the only RPG (not just Final Fantasy) that fully draws me into all facets of its mechanics. While the action is super-flashy and fast-paced, I actually felt like a commander in the battles. Sitting up high and directing the flow of battle. Never before has quick victories or defeats felt so deserved. Excepting some really fucking stupid instant death spells that very few late game enemies have, every twist and turn is directly in my hands. The added pressure of fast completion times force quick strategic thinking and adaptability. In other games, I can just level-grind and plow through anything, but while this is marginally the case in FFXIII, stronger weapons enforce quicker completion times (not scaling enemies, thankfully), and thus a non-stop need to win battles as quickly as possible. And yes, the ranking is that important. TP skills are very useful, and rare loot drops are even more useful, and a high ranking is essential to both.

But even dismissing the satisfying sense of urgency and post-battle rewards, balancing the need to enhance, defend, or heal your party with the need to sabotage, attack, or distract your enemy combined with the vast benefits of raising and maintaining the chain gauge make for a perpetually satisfying user-powered experience. Fighting the same enemies over and over will even help to reveal new strategies for different fights.

Final Fantasy XIII is the best organization of all the skills and strategies of the past Final Fantasy games placed into a single near-flawless battle system. It is the one saving grace of nearly the entire main story portion of the misguided game, and I hope it’s not the only time such a system is implemented.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy X-2

While I agree with pretty much everything Riddles said about Final Fantasy X’s system (though not with his assessment of FFVII, none of the PSX games challenge the top systems at all in my book), the game’s controversial sequel edges it out in this category for me. Much like FFXIII, X-2 is a game with a lot of brilliant ideas surrounded by a “what the fuck?” casing. I suppose this should come as no surprise as my runner up since it’s the closest the ATB system could get to FFXIII’s system. The battle system alone is the biggest reason I’ve played through this ridiculous weirdness of a game almost twice total. Tied with its predecessor.

Dishonourable Mention: Final Fantasy II

I’d like to call out III here just because I hate that game, but it doesn’t have the worst battle system. I actually kinda like Final Fantasy II, and I found its stupid battle system amusing (I didn’t know the talk about it, I figured out how to attack myself on my onesies), but there’s no denying that it IS stupid. It was a kinda cool thought that turned out horribly, horribly stupid. Did I mention it’s stupid? A little dumb too.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Riddles

Monday, April 5th, 2010

FFXIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy XII

I can feel the flames already, but I frankly don’t care. Final Fantasy XII is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and one of the main reasons for that is its battle system.

Final Fantasy XII marked the first time in the series that encounters weren’t random. Enemies are clearly visible on-screen, and engaging in battle doesn’t take you out of exploration mode – it’s all seamless, and all beautiful. People compared it to Final Fantasy XI and other MMO battle systems, which is fairly justified, although it’s hardly “FFXI Offline.” Rather, it’s just a seamless, more streamlined version of the same ATB system we’ve enjoyed for years.

The reason why I love Final Fantasy XII’s battle system so much is because it removes all the clunkiness of a turn-based system, but retains all of the strategy. The Gambit system is still the best example of player-programming ever featured in a game; individual character strategies can be programmed in-depth, to the point where many normal encounters can be overcome by simply sitting back and watching the slaughter. Sound shallow? Well. Hardly more shallow than pressing the X button every couple of seconds, wouldn’t you say? Also, the fact that Gambits can be accessed and modified at any time – even during intense boss battles – makes them that much versatile.

But Final Fantasy XII’s battles also maintained this crucial aspect: the ability to issue commands to any character, at any time. If you don’t like how the tide of the battle is turning, not only can you adjust your gambits – you can step in and issue manual commands. And it’s an immediate override – anything you command takes precedence over gambits.  This is exactly what Final Fantasy XIII failed to implement in its super-streamlined, super-flashy encounters. Final Fantasy XII’s battle system is, and remains, the best of the series.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy X

I’m tempted to give this to Final Fantasy VII, but X barely outdoes it, in my opinion. The new ability to switch characters in and out on the fly, coupled with the heavy focus on specific battle roles resulted in some of the most rewarding, strategy-intensive I’ve ever fought. Without a doubt, the greatest take on the traditional turn-based model.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy XIII

I hate to seemingly strip Final Fantasy XIII of the one honor it has, but unfortunately, I only do what I must. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is extremely well-designed, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s very good at what it sets out to be, and it’s certainly not an entirely mindless affair. But despite that, it’s undeniably more shallow than its predecessors. The Paradigm system is cool, yes, but it’s just a very simplified version of Gambits. The inability to issue manual commands is sorely missed. Oh, and the fact that you can’t control who’s in your party for the first 30 hours or so doesn’t help its cause. Is it mindless? No. But it is very watered down.

hay I heard u lyk final fantasy

Monday, April 5th, 2010
sephiroth

Another one that didn't quite make it in the banner.

Ba-hahahahaha. Oh Ethos, you reacted just as I hoped you would.

It’s funny, though, I almost included that exact Zidane image as part of the banner. And then I didn’t, because it didn’t look right. I thought about throwing another FFIX character in there, but then I realized it would be more hilarious not to.

Anyway, welcome to The Final Fantasy Week! Like Ethos said, this week is about taking a step back, forgiving Final Fantasy XIII for all of its many transgressions, and reminiscing over one of the most beloved videogame series of all time.

And, what better way to do that than to have yet another Award Week! Starting today, Ethos and I will be giving away awards to specific Final Fantasy games for what they do best. Flamebait should be abundant, and, in fact, expected. When you disagree with us, be sure to let us have it. We enjoy the pain.

The awards will be rolled out, one day at a time, as follows:

MONDAY – Best Battle System

TUESDAY – Best Art Direction

WEDNESDAY – Best Cast

THURSDAY – Best Music

FRIDAY – Best Storyline

SATURDAY – Best Game

So, place your bets and GET EXCITED. Look for our Best Battle System awards in a matter of hours.

Welcome to The Final Fantasy Week

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Ahhh, that's better

Ahhh, that's better

Why the crap didn’t Riddles include a FF9 character in the banner? I can only imagine “spite”.

Anyhoo, welcome back to reality! I hope you all had as much fun as Riddles and I did during the madness of last week, but it’s also a relief to return to the regular proceedings of Riddlethos. We decided to kick things back to (our brand of) normality with a celebration of our beloved Final Fantasy franchise.

Especially considering the disappointment that FFXIII was to a lot of us, Riddles and I thought it would be a good idea to remember the good times with a series of awards given throughout the week ending with our pics for favourite Final Fantasy game (spoilers, I’m going to choose IX). And that’s also it, because Riddles and I feel so strongly and so differently about so many of the games, and it’s a oft debated series in general, we’re going to give an award from each of us in every category. There’ll be more to agree and disagree with that way. Also, for clarification’s sake, we’ll only be tackling the numbered entries in the series, but we are choosing to include X-2.

Anyway, I’ve got one fuck of a busy week ahead of me, so the unemployed Riddles is taking more of a hand in the organization and schedule, so I’ll let him preview the awards for you later today. All I know is that we’re starting things off with Best Battle System today. See you around!