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APFFRT 4 Round 1: (7) Final Fantasy Tactics vs. (26) Kingdom Hearts

APFFRT 4 Round 1: (7) Final Fantasy Tactics vs. (26) Kingdom Hearts – August 16, 2013 1:20 PM (edited 8/16/13 9:20 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
When I put out the call for games to fill out this bracket, knowing the format but not having told anyone else, I kind of dreaded Kingdom Hearts getting picked. It's a game I've played before, which completely lost me during the intro. My hopes are not high - but then, I'm 0/2 when I assume that means an easy loss. Well, here it is, going against FF Tactics - not a game that is really known for its rocking intro either. (Incidentally, this reminds me that I probably should have put Vagrant Story in this bracket. Also, Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. But then Avernum wouldn't have made the cut, and I liked that, so... yeah.)

Game 1: Visuals
Kingdom Hearts has an appropriately cartoony visual style that holds up pretty well despite being on an older system. For the most part I like it, although I can't say I'm a fan of giant shoes. The character design in general seems kind of questionable. Donald and Goofy are established and fine (although Minnie's enormous head looks crazy in 3D), but the other characters are a bit weird. This is particularly true of the randomly selected, randomly de-aged, randomly re-accented FF characters. I can kind of get Tidus and Wakka, given when the game came out, but Selphie? wtf? Anyway, I'm getting on a tangent here. It's a pretty game. I do feel like there is way too much blackness, but I get the feeling that's thematic.

FFT probably has the best graphics of the PS1 FF games, at least by 2013 standards, because they're mostly sprite-based. The amount of character detail is pretty impressive. Backgrounds, on the other hand, are 3D and a bit of a mess. More pertinently, especially in the first fight of chapter 1, some of the battlefields are way overdesigned. Yes, it's cool that I'm fighting in a town with houses and such, but it's not cool that I have to rotate the map three times to see anything.

FFT's sprites still look nice, but KH's cartoony style looks better. It's not exactly in my wheelhouse as far as the design goes, but really, neither is tactics. One is too colorful and happy, the other is too dreary and depressing. Given the choice, I'll take the one that's prettier. Does that make me shallow?
Kingdom Hearts leads 1-0

Game 2: Audio
KH opens with a pop song I actually recognize, and I'm not sure whether to hold that against it. The voice acting for Sora, Riku, and the Disney characters is all good to excellent, as is the OMINOUS VOICE OF DARKNESS or whatever. On the other hand, I kind of hate Kairi and the FF characters' voice acting. It's not enough to stop Donald Duck from being awesome, though.

Some of FFT's opening tracks are quite good. As in most Tactics games, the music tends to be more atmospheric than melodic, and that's certainly true once the battles start. However, I do need to complain about the sound effects. There is one in particular that gets used a lot, seen here first as Delita is dragging the princess off, which bothers me for reasons I just can't explain. Maybe it's because it doesn't sound like anything other than a generic sound effect meant to sound like something we don't know what it sounds like?

FFT has better music, but KH has voice acting and much better sound effects. There is no clear winner here. Do I go with FFT because some of KH's voice acting isn't great, while all of FFT's music is at least mediocre? Do I go with KH because its sounds fit the game much better than FFT's do? I'm leaning KH here, if only because a lot of FFT's sound effects for dying, leveling, etc. are exactly the sort of thing that bothered me about Avernum. They're not as egregious, but really I just don't mind because I'm used to them. So KH it is!
Kingdom Hearts leads 2-0

Game 3: Combat
I am somewhat down with KH's combat system. It's not very complicated at this point, and I find myself jumping and missing during combos for no apparent reason, but the lock-on system is solid. I had serious problems fighting a huge black boss on a black background, but again, thematic. It is a pain getting over the fact that the right stick not only doesn't control the camera, but it controls something else (your action selection), but I've gotten over worse. The main flaw here is that 100% of the combat I've been a part of has been tutorial combat. I want to see some actual gameplay, guys!

FFT's combat system is solid, but it's certainly slow. Not only that, the AI can be really obnoxious. For instance, the opening battle ended up going super long because an enemy chemist was in a corner, flanked by the bodies of his allies, and Gafgarion and Agrias kind of couldn't be bothered to go finish him off. Sure, any number of classes can do that later, but that's kind of the problem: for my first real fight, all I had were squires and chemists. The potential is there, but this fight isn't really fun. It's also laid out to be a pain - not only is the terrain good at hiding enemies, but two approach from the flank and you really only have room to defend with one person. If the enemy chemist hadn't exposed himself so early, I might have had serious problems winning the fight.

On the other hand, the fact that I can write a paragraph complaining about the specifics of a fight in FFT is probably a point in its favor. At least for me. KH combat isn't particularly interesting either at this point, and at least FFT's is engaging and strategic. I do wish they had realized that starting the party with two jobs was a bad idea, though.
Kingdom Hearts leads 2-1

Game 4: Advancement
I honestly don't even know how the concept of advancement applies to KH. Are there levels? Well I seem to remember getting exp, so I guess so. And certainly I went from a badass cartoon sword to like, a stick, so there are various weapons to get. Beyond that, I really just don't know.

I actually didn't even look at the leveling screen in FFT, since I usually do that before a fight and you can't before the two fights I did. However, the experience system is great - you get experience and job points for doing practically anything, and not just at the end of combat. That is a double-edged sword, giving you incentive to take wasteful actions just to gain exp, but it does at least tend to work. One wonders if the game might have worked a bit better without two exp systems, but switching jobs would make that tricky at best.

If KH had an advancement system to speak of, I might worry about not having gone into the party screen in FFT, but as it is, FFT is pretty clearly the winner in this category. That's to be expected, though; it is a tactical RPG.
Series tied 2-2

Game 5: Characters
Sora seems OK, which surprised me since he annoyed me so much in the past. Riku looks like a punk, but actually seems like a wholly OK guy. Almost everything about Kairi annoys me. Also is it just me, or does it seem like there's more sexual tension between Sora and Riku than Sora and Kairi? I get kind of a weird vibe from those two. The FF characters appear to be throwaways, but I did enjoy wizard Donald Duck and knight Goofy for the two minutes they were on screen.

In a flashback, we see that Ramza really was a spoiled rich brat, but in the present it seems he's gotten over that. And in the flashback in the flashback, we also see that Ramza might have a confidence issue (and that he has the worst-named half brothers ever). It's not a bad amount of character development for three scenes. Meanwhile, Delita goes rich kid hanger-on to kidnapping princesses to (apparently) being a big hero. It's interesting to think about how the flashback will lead to the intro sequence. (Unless, of course, you've actually played chapter 2 and realize it's all a big bait-and-switch. But that's outside the scope of this match.) It's also fun to see Agrias and Gafgarion bicker, but they're basically blank slates at this point.

The problem with FFT's characters early on is that almost everything you know about them is by implication. They haven't really done much to this point, so what you know about them really falls under "storyline" rather than characters. Meanwhile, KH has a number of annoying characters and motivations I don't quite buy, but at least I have a good idea who these people are and how they relate to one another. (Well, except the FF characters.) That's better than a dash of implied character development.
Kingdom Hearts leads 3-2

Game 6: World
I really have no idea what's going on in KH's world. A bunch of kids and kid-ified FF characters inexplicably live on an island, which they appear to believe is the entire world, but they think there might be other worlds. And there are, apparently, not that I've been to any of them yet. Meanwhile, Mickey Mouse lives in a castle that defies reason and which the worst tyrant in history would be embarrassed by. I mean, seriously, Mickey? Also there is an ominous voice talking about darkness. Which seems portentious.

As with a lot of the Ivalice games, FFT starts off with a bit of a history lesson. The plot conceit is one of my favorites of all time: many (hundreds?) of years after a famous war, documents sealed by the church finally come to light and tell a very different story than official doctrine. Technically, the entire game is a flashback (making the sequence where Ramza's father passes away the rarely-seen flashback-within-a-flashback-within-a-flashback). What we know is that there was recently a 50 years war, and now the kingdom is split, with two candidates for the throne. Religion seems to be particularly important here, and there are tons of mercenaries and rebels as a result of the previous war. The only thing that's a bit unclear is exactly who you are sided with, and whether that changed between the intro and the flashback.

I'm a sucker for these intrigue plots, and I hate having no fucking idea what's going on, so it's pretty clear that FFT wins this round.
Series tied 3-3

Game 7: Storyline
Shit, I have no idea what the plot of KH is at this point. I gather that Mickey disappeared, although he appears to have left a note so I don't know why Donald is having a shit fit. (Oh wait... he's Donald Duck, that's kind of his whole thing, isn't it?) Meanwhile, on Random Island, Kairi apparently appeared out of nowhere with no knowledge of her past, and apparently a while ago based on Sora's flashbacks, and now Riku is building a raft looking for other worlds. None of which seems to make any more sense in context than it does in this paragraph. I am mostly confused, but I almost sort of care, a little. I guess.

Truth be told, I have no idea what FFT's storyline is to this point, either. In chronological order, we know that Ramza and Delita start off as cadets in a military academy, and take on some thieves in the town they're training in. Some time later, Ramza has joined a mercenary group (probably the same one he was a cadet for), considers himself "just a knight," and has been hired to defend a princess. She is taken by Delita, who Ramza is surprised is even alive, for unknown reasons - though he appears to be working for the other side. And that tells us, what, exactly?

I feel like if I were playing the PSP version of Tactics, where the translation is a lot more clear, FFT would win this category easily. However, I'm not, and that might not be true anyway - FFT is big on world-building, but the story is an extremely slow burn. You're basically just Some Guys doing Some Stuff until the end of chapter 1 (and the resumption of the original chronology), and this first half an hour falls well within that period. KH, on the other hand, is definitely building towards something, though I don't know what. I mean, I've heard about the game - I'm pretty sure the connected worlds are Disney-themed and the darkness is some world-consuming enemy, and Mickey has either gone off to fight it or been captured by it - but I don't know that. On the other other hand, KH does not feature the line "Tough... blame yourselves or God." But I think, despite that mastery of the English language, I have to give in to peer pressure admit that, at this point, KH has the more interesting story.
Kingdom Hearts wins 4-3

Conclusion
FFT is really not well-suited for this competition, but neither is KH. In some ways it's for the best that KH won, because it's probably about to get interesting, and FFT is not. The next half hour is just the introduction of Argus, the world's biggest upper class jackass (and possibly the reason Delita ends up becoming super evil SPOILERS!). The next half hour of KH is uncharted territory for me.

Next Game: (10) Final Fantasy X-2 vs. (23) Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Re: APFFRT 4 Round 1: (7) Final Fantasy Tactics vs. (26) Kingdom Hearts – August 16, 2013 1:29 PM (edited 8/16/13 9:29 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
I usually don't cheat on these. but I had to scroll down to the bottom right away to see if our friendship could continue. Now that I know it's safe for the time being, I can go back and actually read what you thought Smile

Re: APFFRT 4 Round 1: (7) Final Fantasy Tactics vs. (26) Kingdom Hearts – August 16, 2013 2:13 PM (edited 8/16/13 10:13 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Ok, I just finished reading this. I am SUPER AWESOME EXCITED for your next half hour of game play. It sounds like you're just about to get off the first island and open up the rest of the game (including spells, a party, and a leveling system). Hooray!

And, if it makes you feel better, you'll never see those crazy versions of Titus, Waka, and Selphie again. I really don't know what was up with that Smile You will however meet much cooler, more important FF characters soon that are true to their original games.

Re: APFFRT 4 Round 1: (7) Final Fantasy Tactics vs. (26) Kingdom Hearts – August 16, 2013 2:28 PM (edited 8/16/13 10:28 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
I hope you're not trying to convince me Cloud and Sephiroth are "cooler" than.... well, anyone really.

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Re: APFFRT 4 Round 1: (7) Final Fantasy Tactics vs. (26) Kingdom Hearts – August 16, 2013 2:39 PM (edited 8/16/13 10:39 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
You might see Cloud when KH goes all the way in the tournament, but not in the next round. And you won't see Sephiroth till you're ready to tackle the uber boss around level 90 or so (you can beat the game around level 45ish).

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