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APFFRT 4 Round 1: (3) Final Fantasy XII vs. (30) Knights of the Old Republic

APFFRT 4 Round 1: (3) Final Fantasy XII vs. (30) Knights of the Old Republic – August 12, 2013 1:01 PM (edited 8/12/13 9:01 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
APFFRT 4 Round 1: (3) Final Fantasy XII vs. (30) Knights of the Old Republic

My ability to predict how interesting the first 30 minutes of games I've played before has proven itself lacking, but I suspect FFXII is in for a rough time here. I certainly don't remember it being a game that starts quickly, although there is at least a prologue sequence. As for KOTOR, who knows? I am not a huge Star Wars fan, but I am a huge BioWare fan, and this is supposed to be a fantastic game. Well let's find out (if the first half hour is)!

Game 1: Visuals
KOTOR looks like a bad Xbox 360 game, which considering it's actually an Xbox game, is pretty impressive. I have no idea how much the emulation improved it, and I'm not interested in that - what I do know is that the graphics are sharp but have a fairly low polygon count and simple textures. It's weird, I don't remember playing anything quite like it - it's like a high-res PS1 game or something. In a reversal of Final Fantasy's MO, the cutscenes look way worse than the game - lower resolution and choppy to boot. The game graphics aren't bad, they're just exceedingly plain. I will give them this: they certainly do a good job of evoking the Star Wars style.

FF12 looks fabulous in SD, but HD doesn't do it any favors. The cutscenes are still great, but the game itself can be a bit rough around the edges. Certain faces - particularly Vaan's - also bother me. However, the game still looks beautiful in general. The world is lively and detailed, there is a lot going on, and it all looks great. Oddly enough, the style is reminiscent of Star Wars of all things, albeit with a strong fantasy spin.

KOTOR's graphics are crisp, but I certainly wouldn't describe them as "beautiful." Even discounting cutscenes (which took up perhaps half the time allotted in FF12), FF12 is just a much prettier game in almost every way. Despite being more pixellated, it even feels less old.
Final Fantasy XII leads 1-0

Game 2: Audio
There were some audio glitches in KOTOR, no doubt due to the emulation, but for the most part the audio is just what I'd expect: Star Wars music and Star Wars sound effects. I'm not a huge fan of the latter, but it would hardly be fitting to have anything else. There is a ton of voice acting, all of it passable to good. This is a game that overlaps the "other characters give tutorials" era and the "everything is voice acted" era, which leads to the always awkward in-character voiced tutorial section. That is a bit grating, but overall the audio is like the video - good, Star Wars-y, but otherwise pretty generic.

FFII has my favorite voice acting in the series, and by a wide margin - and plenty of it is on display here. We particularly get a lot of Basch, who I love. The details are great: even before I knew what was really going on, I noticed that Basch's accent had changed when he is found over the king's dead body in the intro. That's no accident. The overall sound design is great, too - armored characters clank around, monsters have appropriate sounds, and so on. All it's really missing is a memorable audio track.

This one is no contest, unless perhaps you are a huge Star Wars junkie. Sure, that lightsaber sound is pretty sweet, but blasters are just annoying. The John Williams score is good, but not good enough to beat out Basch, Marquis Ondore, and all of the others that make the intro to FF12 so audibly rich.
Final Fantasy XII leads 2-0

Game 3: Combat
I was kind of surprised that the most D&D-ish game I can remember playing turned out to be a Star Wars game. I certainly wasn't expecting normal metal swords to come into play, although it makes sense from a game design standpoint (that is, assuming I can get my hands on a lightsaber at some point). Combat works well enough, though I do wonder if I was incurring any penalties (range, cover, etc.) that it didn't mention. It's also very jarring that moving cancels your current action. These days, most video game combat is about lots of movement, and this felt extremely static as a result. The UI is very nice, but as a level 3 D&D character (and a soldier to boot), my options were pretty limited.

FF12's intro is big on story, and light on combat. Most of it is really basic stuff, and you never actually have to do anything but attack. There is a boss fight, but you have companions around who will heal you and basically win the fight for you if you slack off. There isn't a real battle to speak of in the first half-hour. Not only that, but the stupid camera controls, which are inverted horizontally, make combat a chore until you get used to them. The lack of a gambit system is also a bit annoying when things are this simple.

KOTOR's combat isn't the best I've ever seen, but it's quite good. FF12's isn't, at least not during the first few sequences. That makes KOTOR the clear winner here.
Final Fantasy XII leads 2-1

Game 4: Advancement
I did my first level manually, and was kind of intimidated by the feat list. Nothing really jumped out at me, so I took Weapon Focus. Still, you can't argue with that level of customization. The second time I leveled, I noticed the auto-level button, and figured the game would have a better idea than I did. In the end, though, this is 3rd ed D&D, which is a fantastic leveling and customization system. If I had remembered that before starting, I may have played a different class. (After my Fallout experience, soldier seemed safest.) My 3rd ed nostalgia is on par with my Final Fantasy nostalgia, so I was pretty happy with this system.

I did actually unlock FF12's License Board, albeit well past time (due to a dearth of save points in Rabanastre). It's kind of a double-edged sword as advancement goes: on the one hand, it's cool and thematic that you need a license to use various items and spells. On the other hand, you also have to buy them, which means actually advancing takes double effort. To top things off, the best part of the board to spend points on ,is basically locked away at the start of the game, since the Gambit system hasn't been enabled yet.

The License Board isn't one of my favorite systems even when it's fully engaged, and here it's basically just a novelty. The only license that does anything (and it's not much) is unlocked as part of a tutorial. KOTOR's 3rd ed system blows this away, even if it is perhaps a bit overwhelming. I can probably come up with some criticisms of it, but it's clearly the superior system.
Series tied 2-2

Game 5: Characters
Aside from my generic white male soldier, I met two other characters in KOTOR: both generic white male soldiers. Their voices and tones are even kind of similarly uninteresting. Carth (or whatever his name is) was about to get kind of interesting until the game was like "he's done talking, maybe he'll continue if you level up more!" Really, game? Regardless, the only interesting-sounding characters have been off screen, and I'm already sick of random Republic soldiers.

FF12 is probably the only game in the series where two party members have died during the introduction. And neither had even joined the party yet! All joking aside, all of the characters here turn out to be great, because FF12 is a fantastically-written game. But judging solely by this half-hour... they're all still great! Sure, we see little of Ashe, but her husband Lord Rasler seems pretty cool for the few minutes he remains alive, and Basch is one of my favorite characters ever, for reasons that are on full display here. Hell, even Reks isn't bad - better than Vaan, perhaps. Vaan's smarmy attitude kind of bothers me, but Penelo and Migelo (...I never noticed those rhyme) are both pretty good. Also I want to give a shoutout to Random Imperial Soldier With a Low-Class English Accent. I mean, you gotta have that, right?

What FF12 lacks in combat early on, it makes up for in character development. There is a ton going on here, all kinds of plot and world-building happening, and I totally love it.
Final Fantasy XII leads 3-2

Game 6: World
This being Star Wars, I'm a bit biased here - I've never been a fan of the ____ Planet way Star Wars does things. It also seems weird that, aside from people randomly using swords, things aren't much different from the movies that take place 4,000 years later. Also, the planet I landed on is one big city, a la Coruscant, and it makes even less sense than Coruscant since it's not the center of anything. I mean, where do they get food? On top of that, the only thing I know about the world so far is that they have a DEMON PLAGUE that only affects people in the undercity. It's like Midgar, but planet-wide and even more depressing. That's not a good thing.

Ivalice is, as a general concept, perhaps my favorite world in video games, and definitely my favorite in RPGs (sorry, Britannia!). The intro to FF12 is probably the most concentrated blast you ever get of Ivalice: we learn about the two warring empires, the city-states between them, the religion, the anachronistic technology, and who knows what else. They even name-drop Nabudis, although I can hardly give the game credit for that in this competition. I'm guessing it doesn't need it.

FF12's world is as rich as its characters. Even just the bustling city of Rabanastre is probably enough to beat out one city planet in KOTOR. Hell, FF12 may even have more races on display (and at least some of them are new [if you don't count FFTA!]). I do criticize FF12 for having an almost entirely-human party, but so far KOTOR is the same, so there you go.
Final Fantasy XII wins 4-2

KOTOR certainly seems like a fine game, but it was up against one of my favorites. Hell, it was arguably out Star Wars-ed by FF12. (Though admittedly FF12's visuals are more reminiscent of Episodes I-III, and KOTOR feels more like the original from what I've seen.) I do worry that FF12 may have blown its load too early, though - I don't remember anything interesting happening in the next 30 minutes. I guess we'll see what happens.

Next Game: (14) Final Fantasy Mystic Quest vs. (19) Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

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