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she/her ❥ 32 year old woman who happens to be transgender ❥ lesbian also ❥ i think video games are cool, sometimes
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Final Fantasy VII Rebirth
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
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Metroid Prime Pinball
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Shadow Basketball
Mario Hoops 3-on-3
Mario Hoops 3-on-3

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The fifth best Final Fantasy XIV expansion, a modern Final Fantasy IV: Final Fantasy XVI is a game that I understand why people like it, but I cannot really conceive of how somebody would love this game. And don't let me stop you from loving it if you truly do, there's certainly moments of beauty within FFXVI that feel meant for somebody with much different sensibilities than I, it just remains a pretty thoroughly underwhelming affair to me personally -- both in what the game promises and in what it fails to deliver.

Mechanically adequate, systemically superfluous, and structurally mundane, but where Final Fantasy XVI really fucks up is with its thoughtlessly derivative narrative and dull characters. The way CBU3 have plucked concepts, backstories, and characterizations from popular shows like Game of Thrones isn't necessarily the worst thing they could do on the face of it, it's just how little those aspects end up mattering outside of being familiar tropes that the player can quickly identify. The same could be said for the game's attempt at a more serious tone with a focus on geopolitical affairs. The game starts off with two sequences that are almost identical to ASOIAF/GoT's Winterfell introduction, which is then followed by a Red Wedding-esque event to make sure you understand how fucked up this world really is. Except, that's kinda where everything stops being like that, they copied GRRM's homework, now it's time to be Final Fantasy!

Which like, if they wanted to copy Game of Thrones, you'd think they'd be a little more confident about it. Like, the way Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy VI cop shit from Star Wars (and I guess a bit of Dune and LotR) feels like expert craftsmanship in comparison, because they also fairly accurately replicate the tone of space operas (just, you know, in the form of pseudo-sci-fi medieval fantasy). They sort of try to keep up with the underlying geopolitics aspect throughout the game, but it mostly falls apart by the end and Valisthea never really ends up feeling like a real place to me. So post-GoT-esque intro, the first third of the game's tone plays out like a more linear, bootleg Witcher 3, in a kind of unflattering way.

The remaining two-thirds of the game do feel pretty distinctly Final Fantasy (with a pretty weak undercurrent of half-baked Matsuno-isms) with structure identical to a Final Fantasy XIV expansion. The latter aspect was comforting at first since I kinda enjoy the simplicity of a fresh FF14 expansion, but it's easily the worst part about the moment-to-moment experience of Final Fantasy XVI, making the game much more prolonged -- and much of it being coated with the tasteless grey sludge of live service content creation habits -- than it really needed to be during its most important narrative escalations. The former aspect is what keeps the experience feeling adequate, but it really just doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from most of the series in terms of character dynamics, overarching themes, and fantasy elements. Really feel like most people who aren't allergic to turn-based combat are better off playing Final Fantasy IX or VI for most of the stuff XVI is trying to pull off. There's even this point where the characters decide to embark on this Final Fantasy V/Final Fantasy VII-esque quest to save the environment, and that also just kind of goes nowhere as the game buckles under concept bloat and is wordlessly replaced with a different thing later on.

The funniest part is the last third of the game is so clearly bogged down in its own bullshit that they had to add this NPC that feels like she was ripped out of Dragon Age Inquisition or something to explain the plot to the player because there isn't actually enough deliverable gameplay moments or constructive skits to bookend all the threads the game has set up by this point. I guess it's more disappointing than funny in the end, there were moments in FFXVI that made me wanna feel that it's all somehow worth it, but so much of it is just unearned or passively malicious in what it's conveying to the player.

The thing that almost makes the whole experience worth it -- a pretty common opinion -- is def the eikon fights, though I can understand if they're too spread apart and too mechanically fluffy for somebody who wants more substantial action gameplay to sink their teeth into. They're carried by their presentation and spectacle, as the gameplay interaction ends up feeling pretty junk food-y, but fuck they rule. Even the one towards the end that everybody I hates, I love that one too! Though maybe it's because I'm permanently a sucker for CBU3's boss encounter design, even if it's gotten a little stale in Final Fantasy XIV itself lately.

The combat design might be another story unfortunately, like, it's not bad, I actually kind like it because I have the issue with my brain where I enjoy performing class rotations in MMOs, but slapping that kinda shit onto DMC5-lite was not the move I think. There's just not enough going on here to be having a cooldown-based system integrated with kinda barebones action gameplay, and I don't think the individual eikon abilities themselves are interesting or cohesive enough to make up for the lack of both strategy and truly engaging action. Glad to see the stagger system here, but I kind of almost would've preferred if CBU3 had copied even more from the FF13/FF7R dev team's combat ideas.

The game is clearly designed around the fact that you can only play as Clive, and it only adds to that dynamism that's sorely lacking from most of the characters; if you're not going to show me enough of who these characters are in the cutscenes themselves, you could at least communicate it through gameplay, like other games in the series do. Clive's solipsistic streak feels pretty fucking forced compared to protags like Zidane or Cloud, Clive is just way too fucking reasonable of a dude most of the time I don't really buy it! And that's fine, I like having nice protagonists sometimes, but they spend the entire game trying to convince he's this brooding lone wolf! It doesn't help that in the game's pursuit of copying and pasting elements from other FFs, it also steals their mistakes: like Clive's main motivating factor being resolved like 5 hours into the game just like Cecil in FF4 and forgetting to make any of the women actually characters, also like Final Fantasy IV.

Like, I wanna say on average Jill is better written than FF4 Rosa, but at least you get to play as Rosa! Sure, both Jill and Rosa are treated as fragile baby birds who are forced to stay at home while the men go fight, but at least Rosa gets to defy that notion when it counts. It's just kinda pathetic what's happened here, like, CBU3 doesn't have an amazing track record with women characters, but at least they do get to do things and have individual motivations for participating in the story in Final Fantasy XIV. Even compared to the FF14 expansion that preceded the start of FF16's development, Heavensward, it feels notably regressive.

It'd be bad enough if it stopped there, but the two other women in the main cast are probably treated even worse. The first one's whole characterization is how she manipulates men with sex to gain power, with the writers using threat of SA as a motivating factor for her transformation into an eikon. Actually fucking vile! They even just straight up copy a panel from Berserk! And the other one's main character trait is she's an evil mom (basically just Cersei Lannister without any of the actual interesting parts). There's one secondary woman character towards the back half of the narrative who's probs the only woman with a personality, which is a shame! Jill especially had a lot of potential as at least Clive's best friend and confidant, and it's just wasted on a character who sits there and placidly stares while bloodlessly agreeing with everything Clive says and does. They can't even make her interesting as an extension of Clive, let alone as a person with actual interiority.

I don't really hate Final Fantasy XVI as much as this review would make you believe: I love adventures and I love action RPGs, and it does a pretty decent job of both. It's "comfy", but it could've been so much more with the kind of talent that Square and CBU3 have on hand, but consistently have failed to utilize to their fullest, outside of maybe Shadowbringers. Like the soundtrack is the best microcosm of all of this; Soken has an insane pedigree, and while his work here is mostly high quality, it feels like his strengths are being misutilized to adhere to a specific vision that maybe should've gotten a few more complete redraftings. Final Fantasy XVI half-heartedly commits to aesthetic ideals and tropes that were already outdated years before it released, in a way that feels almost Final Fantasy, but is ultimately never really elevated into its own cohesive identity.

Anyways, play Asura's Wrath instead. It's got the same misogyny per capita, but it's basically like if you cut out all the rest of the bad parts of Final Fantasy XVI and then also made it way cooler at the same time. 'Star Wars x Fist of the North Star x Buddhism and Hinduism' clears 'Spark Notes of A Song of Ice and Fire books 1 thru 3 x Buzzfeed Article History of Final Fantasy Series' any day.

Kinda way too disillusioned by the superfluous pageantry of P-Studio's Persona titles to keep up with this and it's making me hate playing video games, so shelving this and P3P for my own sanity. Maybe I'll get around to it in a few months once I'm in the mood to push through a fluffy monster RPG with concerning portrayals of women again. Which like, even though I say that, Persona 3 feels a lot better in that department than P4 or P5, especially from what I've also been playing of Persona 3 Portable, where Yukari in particular almost feels like a real teenage girl with actual interiority! Really wanted to see more of Mitsuru, she seems pretty cool. Same with the autistic trans-coded robot girl and the dog, those guys are like 50% of the reason I wanted to play this game.

Tartarus was also way fucking cooler than I expected! Well, not in Reload, but in Portable it was pretty comfy and had enough going on with its moment to moment gameplay to make me not fall asleep. Though early on your power scales up way faster than the difficulty of the floors themselves do, and the bosses felt more like brute forcing them instead of instigating a strategy. Reload feels like it makes that whole dealie even worse, like you get all the fun midgame toys from Persona 5 like right away, and I feel like it just trivializes the whole thing (I am not playing on hard mode ever again though, it literally just makes the game twice as long, made the mistake once in Persona 5)! They also had an opportunity to give Tartarus sections more of their own mechanical identity to mix it up from the more pure dungeon crawling of the original, and at least what I've played it just feels worse somehow, even more lifeless and toothless. Maybe I'll change my mind once I get to the later portions, but I was not very impressed.

I don't wanna carry on with the negatives too much, there's clearly a lot to love here, and I'm sure this will end up being a lot of people's go-to way to experience P3, but man, Reload is so much. Seriously considering just playing FES first instead next time, and then working my way up through each iteration, because even as somebody who has only had minimal contact with the original Persona 3, something really feels off about this game. I don't trust it. Maybe I'm just annoying and old though.

Anyways, Persona 6 should be about a 40 year old lesbian detective and her talking tanuki tulpa that nobody else can see who says kinda borderline problematic shit. Also probably put a different kind of music in these games next time; maybe it's just the remixes that were giving me a migraine though.

wherever tifa lockhart and vincent valentine go, i'll be there

shitty in a very distinctly cool way. makes me miss when i'd walk into the arcade of a movie theater or w/e in the late 90s/early 00s and chuck a few of my parents' quarters away on something barely playable that looked rad as hell to my idiot child brain. i love how easy it is to cheese the AI with spamming specific attacks, the whole experience is just a flailing mess and it rules. makes me wanna boot up power stone or something, it's been like two decades since i've even thought about games like this, but i know my life is only enhanced by their existence

tifa's design here makes her look like an action figure for pervert otakus, but w/e i like spamming triangle and juggling the bad guy when they're close and spamming tifa hadouken when they're far away and winning. girls are so cool. i like the powers dog that has a red XIII alt and the animorph girl and the guy who shoots rockets out his leg. don't like the old guy with the annoying stick or the yoyo cop tho. i'll play the minigames and quest mode someday maybe, idk just something about blasting through an arcade mode that appeals more to me in these types of games

adding this to my "games that would fucking rule at slumber parties even though i'm turning 32 in a week and all the friends i could have slumber parties with are productive adults who live halfway across the country from me and also i have crippling student debt" list! shirtless sephiroth tho