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January 01, 2002

The Honeymoon Is Over: Final Fantasy X

As of last night I've logged on the order of nine hours (game clock, I'm sure it's been even more in the 'real world') playing FFX. My initial impressions have held pretty true. The game is about 80% 'movie' fragments, and 20% interaction, usually in battles against various minor and boss monsters, though also in dialog with minor characters.

Most recently they introduced a minigame, Blitzball, which as expected, I sucked at. If winning a Blitzball game is not pivotal to the plot, I'll be okay, but if the authors insist on my succeeding at the arcade stuff, then the game will eventually languish on the shelf without my finishing it. This is a very real possibility, as the link above claims: "Blitzball is not a 'mini-game' by any accounts since it plays a major role in the story."

The holidays are almost over, so soon my progress will slow to a crawl. Even with the holidays, I spend less time playing the game than I actually want to. Two nights ago I started playing at 9pm, with the intention of playing an hour or two then going to bed, and ended up playing til 1am! Yesterday evening, New Year's Eve, I went down at 8:30pm and played til 11:30pm, with Kelly contributing. That sort of schedule won't wash when I have to get up for work in the morning. And even weekends generally don't tolerate that sort of schedule, since I have a family life which makes it's own demands.

Between playing this game and the Oracle of Ages game on my GBA handheld, I've had enough time to truly assess where I am in the game-playing menagerie. I'm a casual player, and will probably remain so for the next decade. There are basically four reasons for this:

Skill

As I've mentioned before, I suck at games requiring speed and dexterity. This is partly why I favor the RPG games. A lot of interesting things can happen before I end up encountering something that requires dexterity and I get whacked. I was going to title this section Age, but I'm sure there are guys my age who can still hold their own against a mean platform game.

Life

Chunks of time where I can disappear for hours at a time are rare. After a full day's work, there's parenting, and interacting with Jean. I enjoy this enough that I don't resent not having time to play games. And it's not as if external demands are all that keep me away from the PS2. I also dedicate some of my precious time to strength training to keep my back from collapsing entirely. And after a full day of demanding cogitation, I sometimes only want to flop down for an hour before bed and vegetate before the tv or with a book. So holidays are the biggest time for attacking those games.

Interference

I got the Gameboy Advance so I'd have a handheld that I could carry around with me, to Kelly's swim class, and other places where I'm basically just sitting around waiting for the next activity. Unfortunately, now that I've got Oracle of Ages, Kelly won't let me play it. She spent several hours playing with it after I started it. Now she's doing something else, but the moment I turn it on, she'll be there, murmuring "let me, let me."

The same thing has been happening with Final Fantasy X. She has been coming down while I play and asking for the controller. Last night, she inserted herself into the gameplay and kept the game moving forward while I went upstairs to use the restroom and get a glass of water. The main problem here is that she doesn't want to take time to explore, finding potions and whatnot. She wants to charge down the path, and every time we run into a monster, she throws the controller at me and hunkers down under her blanket. That happened may fifteen times last night, with my players getting progressively weaker, until they all got KO'ed, and I saw the 'Game Over' sign for the first time. Fortunately, I have been saving at every opportunity, so I have a number of choices for restarting without running everything from the beginning. But it is clear that while Kelly is in the house, I'm not master of my own destiny.

Style

This is the final problem here. My interest is mostly in RPGs (role-playing games), preferably with rich storylines. I'm not nearly as interested in arcade-style action as I used to be, though I still enjoy dipping my toes into the pool now and then. But when playing an RPG, I want story first, mini-games and thud-and-blunder dead last. But even the RPGs nowadays are targetted at a different demographic than mine. Gotta satisfy that twitchy-finger crowd. As a result, I can't get the perfect game.

If I wanted to spend a couple of thousand dollars on a Wintel box with a powerful graphics card and lots of memory just to play games, I could get a few good matches, such as Black and White (which I just found out is coming out on the Macintosh! One Problem Solved!) and The Lost, that seem to be closer to my preferences. But I'm not playing games nearly often enough to justify constant investment in hardware. Maybe an Xbox? Not now, that's for sure. Maybe when Kelly hits her teens and wants nothing to do with me .

Posted by dpwakefield at January 1, 2002 01:38 PM