Final Fantasy XIII

As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of the Final Fantasy series. A very successful series of epic RPG games/franchise by the Japanese company Square Enix.

I have played just about all installments from FF7 (1997) to, as of today, FF13, except for the MMORPG ones (11 and 14?), which I have absolutely no interest in. It feels like they are just milking the cow, so to speak, with the MMO versions. They have nothing to do with the new genre that previous FF games have established.

If you have never tried Final Fantasy before, I strongly recommend it. Start with FF7. You will be amazed :D. 8 is pretty good too, so is 10.

Each Final Fantasy game is set in an unique alternative universe with very cool fantasy elements, heroic stories, and lot’s of magic. The stories are generally unrelated, with unique characters, and each universe is unique, with it’s own rules, though there are some recurring motifs, and some elements that appear in all games (magic, summons, higher being, Chocobo! etc).

I just finished Final Fantasy XIII today on my PS3, and I have to say, I LOVE it :D. It has my approval. At 6 months start to finish, it’s got to be the longest game I’ve ever played. My game time was about 59 hours according to the in-game timer.

The game is full of cines. Absolutely stunning cines. The effects, animations, and rendering also push the bar for modern games. The models and textures are so detailed that they look better than anything in the real world. The technical elements are flawless.

On the more traditional elements – Final Fantasy stories have traditionally been tragic with dark and weighty backgrounds. This game is no exception. But that’s what’s so special about Final Fantasy. A dark background highlights all flashes of “goodness” in the game – any act of kindness, any show of appreciation. Lot’s of dilemmas. And way too many mind-blowing twists. It’s all too delicious.

Another major theme in the game is strong females, both mentally¬† and physically, which I thought was really cool. If you haven’t noticed already, most games today portray females as brainless whiny pets that only exist for developers to answer the question “why are there no females in the game?”. And then some games tried to change that by making some strong and tough females at the beginning… that eventually broke down or otherwise submit to their male counterparts. I do realize the game industry is 99% male (don’t ask how I know…), but really??

Character development is very good for all players. They are well thought out, and have quite a bit of depth. I don’t like all characters equally. In particular, I hate Lightning and really liked Fang, but that all make the game more interesting. If they make all characters likable for all people, they might as well just have 1 character, and a few copies to help out in battles. The game won’t feel believable.

The new battle system is pretty exciting. Instead of trying to control 3 characters at once in real time as in previous installments, the player only gets to control 1 dude (or, actually, dudette most of the time) directly, and others by general instructions (heal, buff, attack, etc). I think it makes battles less chaotic, but does take out some control.

The leveling system and item system are also quite a bit simpler. Non of that draw magic/junction thing of FF8 (it was the part I hated the most). The game is presented more like a movie than a world you can interact with.

I think I leveled a little too much. The final boss was a pushover. That happened with Sephiroth, too…

Looking forward to FFXIII-2! (hopefully it’s not as bad as FFX-2)

First flight!

I have always wanted to fly. And today, I did, at Boundary Bay Airport.

IMG_20110420_135103

(No, that’s not the plane I flew. It’s just a random cool plane I saw. Diamond DA20 I believe. All carbon fibre!)

It was a fam (familiarization/introductory) flight with the Pacific Flying Club. Basically, for $60, an instructor will take you up into the air in a Cessna 152, and tell you what to do all the time, but let you fly for most of the flight. Endless fun!

First there’s a half an hour briefing, going through checklists, and some introduction to the instruments. Then we taxi-ed to the runway (which was a lot harder than I imagined, since it’s controlled by feet, as the yoke only controls ailerons, which don’t do much on the ground), waited for ATC clearance (I didn’t understand ONE WORD they said on the radio =D – “we can take off now”/”how’d you know?”/”they just said on radio”/”really?”, I only heard a lot of call signs), and we took off! He applied throttle, I pulled the plane up.

We followed Boundary Bay Airport take-off procedures, climbed to 1800′, turned around, and headed for Surrey. The view is awesome from up there! I really wish I wasn’t totally overwhelmed and forgot to take any pictures. He showed me a few cool things – we did a few steep (60 degrees) turns, and a stall (plane loses lift at low speed and high angle of attack), and gave me control and told me to do whatever. I played with it a bit, did some steep turns myself, and tried to follow a highway. I was surprised I can actually control the plane reasonable well once it’s in the air. At first it felt a little weird, because I’m not used to planes tilting 60 degrees (747s don’t usually do that), but I got used to that pretty fast.

And before I knew it, we had already gone to Surrey, White Rock, and back at the Boundary Bay Airport landing with flaps down! I “drove” the plane back to the parking lot, and the instructor parked it. According to him, that’s the hardest part of flying, just like parallel parking in driving.

The airspace is very busy. People were talking on radio non-stop. I identified at least 4 voices (a female pilot with Indian accent, an old male pilot, and one chopper pilot), and started understanding some transmissions towards the end. I can imagine it will be very difficult if I had to fly the plane while monitoring the radio to make sure the ATC is not talking to me, though. That will probably be the hardest part of flying for me, at least in the beginning.

Overall, it was just pure fun. You should give it a try, too! It’s $60, no prior experience necessary, and no obligations.

I’m not sure if I will pursue the license, yet. It’s quite a bit of money and a lot of commitment (about 55 hours flying, and 45 hours ground school). Need to think about it some more. The flight did push me towards doing it.