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APFFRT 4 Round 1: (4) Final Fantasy VIII vs. (29) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

APFFRT 4 Round 1: (4) Final Fantasy VIII vs. (29) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – August 7, 2013 12:56 PM (edited 8/7/13 8:56 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
I have no recollection of buying the collector's edition of Oblivion, but there it is. I totally would have bought the collector's edition of FF8, had it existed - this is the game that convinced me to buy a PS1. (Well, that and WWF Attitude, but that's better left unsaid.) I did have the shiny collector's edition guide, although I believe that eventually passed on to Cuzzdog. Anyway, I've played Oblivion for an hour or so before and really didn't like it, so its randomly low seed is pretty fitting. FF8's intro is pretty sweet, but it's also mostly cinematics, so there is a chance of an upset here. (Spoiler alert: it's pretty low.)

Game 1: Visuals
The opening sequence of Oblivion is a visual masterpiece - one of the prettiest landscapes I've seen in a game, combined with some really nice architecture. After about 45 seconds of that, it is limited to dark, dank catacombs and vaguely shitty character models. I've heard that the moment when you finally emerge from the catacombs and see the world is amazing, but I wouldn't know, because I didn't get that far. What I did see was fine for generic fantasy, when it wasn't just darkness, but nothing aside from that opening shot really stands out.

When it comes to animations and visual techniques, FF8 was way ahead of its time. Garden feels populated by real people in a way no previous game I can remember did. Little touches in combat, such as actual death animations for monsters or the fact that a character would start their action as another character finished it, also add greatly to FF8's overall look. This is a game they put a ton of effort into - unfortunately, it's still a PS1 game, and that means it looks like crap these days. Even the cutscenes are way behind the times in terms of detail.

I think FF8 put more effort into its visuals than Oblivion, in terms of going over and above the call of duty. Its style appeals to me more than Oblivion's in almost every way. But it's a PS1 game, and it really just looks downright terrible. I mean, on some screens Squall is a blob about 10 pixels high as he runs off in the distance. Oblivion's combat animations aren't as ahead of their time, but they are just as nice-looking, and the graphics actually look good. That's kind of key here.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion leads 1-0

Game 2: Audio
I don't actually recall if the catacombs have background music, but the intro music was fantastic, and the voice acting is quite good as well. It is distracting having Patrick Steward voicing a character that doesn't look anything like him (i.e., one that has hair), but he does a good job delivering some pretty dense fantasy dialogue. None of the sound effects especially stood out, though.

FF8 also has a great intro song, complete with requisite Latin chanting. The rest of its music is kind of lame early on, though. Garden's theme may fit the fact that it's a school, but it doesn't exact fill me with fighting spirit or anything. The sound effects are doing their damnedest - there are even audible footsteps - but they're kind of grating. For instance, Shiva's summon animation is very cool in concept, but actively hurts my ears. Don't be like that, FF8!

Both games start off with one cool track, then kind of settle for generic sounds. The difference is that Oblivion has Patrick Stewart. And that's a prett big difference. Hmm, I may have been wrong about this upset thing.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion leads 2-0

Game 3: Combat
I am apparently pretty bad at Oblivion combat. For the first few minutes, I thought I was playing some kind of perverse fantasy version of Doom 3 - I could see with a torch, or fight things with a knife, but not at the same time. Eventually I accidentally unequipped my shield, revealing that I could use the torch in my off-hand and actually see what I was fighting. This was nice, but also took away the whole blocking mechanism that seemed pretty interesting. At one point the game told me to use a bow; that was extremely silly in the dark. I feel like I was doing something wrong. There were a few points where I had to use spells to fight, but mostly I just spammed attack. After all, I couldn't see anything half the time.

Combat in FF8, especially early on, is basically the same as it ever was. The new wrinkle is the Draw command, which isn't really a positive. All it really does is make combat take longer. The feel of combat is pretty nice, though. The animations were a huge step up from FF7 and remain interesting to this day. You have a lot of options, even if GF iis just blatantly the best one. Combat has some questionable mechanics, such as the mostly irrelevant way a GF's HP overwrites your own while being summoned. You can also get screwed if you don't have the right junctions - Bombs in the very first dungeon take quite a while to kill if you don't use a GF or have lots of Blizzards ready.

I like FF8's combat because it's fairly strategic, especially in the long term. Its main problem is that it's really easy to abuse (by overdrawing and using lots of GFs), but if you don't do that it's a lot of fun. Oblivion's combat is no doubt just as strategic and perhaps more so, but what it has not been so far is fun - at all. I can't help but feel this game is being decided entirely by the fact that I only have experience with one of the two games, but there's only so far I can go with these comparisons. Fun > not fun is enough for me.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion leads 2-1

Game 4: Advancement
Oblivion has a system of advancing whatever skills you use, and the frequent skillups really sell it. I love these systems in theory, even though in practice most of them are kind of broken. I don't know if any of the increases made any difference, since I couldn't really tell what was going on in combat, but I'm going to call the intuitive advancement and constant feedback a pretty nice system so far.

FF8 has all kinds of advancement, and a large chunk of the intro is dedicated to tutorials explaining it all. We've got junction abilities, spell junctions, and AP for starters. GF advancement is the most basic, and getting to pick abilities to focus on is always fun - though I do wish they'd show prerequisites for later abilities. Junctions are also fun in the long run, but early on you don't have a ton of spells stocked so their effect is rather minimal. The effect on your use of Draw tends to be more significant than the actual combat advantage. Abilities are interesting because you're given four very basic abilities and you can only pick three of them. This might fit better under the "Combat" category, actually, since almost every GF has the same basic abilities.

Both of these games have nice advancement systems that come into play immediately. Both give a lot of feedback, but don't appear to have much impact in the first half-hour. Both are best with planning and are almost completely under your control. I really only see two differences: in FF8, you want to advance based purely on numbers, while in Oblivion you want to advance based on how you want to play your character; and in FF8 you can abuse the advancement system by wasting a ton of time. Although I am all about the numbers, objectively, I think Oblivion has the edge here.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion leads 3-1

Game 5: Characters
Aside from his guards, the only real character to speak of in Oblivion is the Emperor, who was pretty cool if only because he was voiced by Patrick Stewart. He seems way too cool with being about to die, and doesn't look nearly 87 (though that may be for plot reasons), but he's not terrible. His dialogue reeks of "convenient fantasy plot exposition," but that's only because that's almost certainly exactly what it is.

I used to really dislike Squall, but he has grown on me over the years. He's a bit gruff early on, but not too bad. Quistis feels like one of the more human characters Square had made to this point during the intro sequence, although oddly she kind of loses that as the game goes on. Selphie also makes a cameo appearance here, and Seifer is of course present for the intro. (Technically, so are Rinoa and Edea, but that part of the intro is more of a "omg look at how sweet our CGI is!" sizzle real than actual game content.)

Both games have a pretty severe lack of characters - in both cases you basically have one tiny group, and that's it. FF8 does have more peripheral characters, and lots of background students that make the world feel alive, but Oblivion's characters actually interact with you, which makes you feel alive. Even the generic guards have as much personality as anyone but Squall or Quistis at this point. I think it comes down to the fact that FF8's characters are mostly introducing mechanics, while Oblivion's are introducing plot. The latter is a wee bit more interesting.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion wins 4-1

Conclusion
So... yeah, so much for there being a small chance of an upset. Maybe I should start revising those intro paragraphs after the fact if they turn out to be ridiculous. Oblivion could end up going far in this bracket if those damn catacombs ever end. Unfortunately for FF8, most of its best intro stuff would have been in the next half-hour, with the assault on Dollet. I'm beginning to think the later FF's are going to be really screwed by this format after all.

Next Game: (3) Final Fantasy XII vs. (30) Knights of the Old Republic

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
For what it's worth, I generally find combat to be the least enjoyable part of Morrowind and Skyrim. I haven't played Oblivion, but presumably I would feel the same, since it doesn't seem like they've changed that system much. It just has a frustrating lack of control over your actions and what they're targeting.

For that matter, Oblivion's skill system is already a lot better than Morrowind's . . . Morrowind made it frustratingly difficult to level because you only leveled based off of your major and minor skills, and needed to level some combination of . . . 5 or 7 of those? (of which there were 10) to get an actual level. You couldn't just level one skill 10 times, the way you can in Skyrim, which made the initial parts of the game very difficult.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
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Cuzzdog (3:57 PM): No. Dowd. Shhhhhh...
Cuzzdog (3:57 PM): Matt just won. It's all over.
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
Also, FWIW, I think it's legitimate to judge the graphics on things other than pure quality, since you're judging games made at vastly different times and on vastly different systems. Things like creativity, scope, etc.


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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
________________________________________
Cuzzdog (3:57 PM): No. Dowd. Shhhhhh...
Cuzzdog (3:57 PM): Matt just won. It's all over.
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
Oh I do judge graphics on more than just quality. I think the majority of "Visuals" winners have been older games to this point, in fact. The problem is PS1 games look abominably bad on an HDTV. It's just not fun to look at them.

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Oh man. I'm really torn by this one. On the one hand, I love it when a new game wins these brackets because it gives me hope they'll be a new game for everyone to talk about. On the other hand, there goes 50% of the Gun Sword (the finest weapon known to mankind) representation in this tournament.

Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
I can see how it would be difficult to appreciate the creativity and scope of the graphics when all you see is blur Smile I played FF8 on the PC, so I don't know how bad they were on the PS1. Of course the trade off to that was the lag was so bad, the game would come to a grinding halt whenever I tried to do a limit break. That was especially bad since the were interactive limit breaks in FF8. Squall's limit break was practically useless as I could never time the hits in the sweet spot.

Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
On an SDTV, the graphics actually aren't that bad. I mean, you're still a blob of like two dozen pixels in the distance sometimes, but the blur effect of SD hides a lot of the rough edges and sloppy textures. Basically, the conversion chart for SD to HD graphics by generations goes as follows:

NES Era: No real change. The pixels were always gigantic and visible
SNES Era: Significant downgrade in HD. Many games relied on color blending, and having sharper pixels makes this look like a mess
PS1 Era: 3D games have the SNES effect, only tons worse. 2D games like SotN are basically the same as SNES games. Detailed textures in 3D are particularly terrible.
PS2 Era: High-poly games look basically fine. Games with detailed textures look pretty bad (compare FFX and FFXII)

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
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