rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
I played my sixth 30-minute session of Final Fantasy XV last night, and it did not go well. I'm having a lot of trouble with this game, which I'm afraid is indicative of my failure to adapt to modern gaming. The biggest problem I'm having is that the map works in a way that is not intuitive for me, and the text and maps in the official strategy guide are not in the least bit useful in helping me navigate. I'm getting lost a lot, especially when the game decides it's going to be night and I can't see anything.

FFXV is an action RPG, and combat moves extremely quickly. With four people and swarms of enemies, even the first several battles are chaotic, and the fact that the player needs to control the camera as well as Noct does not help. The entire screen is filled with rapidly shifting information, none of which I know how to process. Although you can pause the game, there's no way to slow down the battles, and they are brutal. In other words, the player is expected to start the game at a fairly high point on the learning curve.

(By the way, if your response to my admission of difficulty is "I'm not having trouble" or "my friends aren't having trouble" or "the Let's Play Youtuber I watch isn't having trouble," check yourself.)

After every battle, the game grades you on your performance. I wish you could turn this feature off, because it makes me feel awful about myself. Even worse, every time you rest for the night (which you need to do in order to tally your experience points and gain levels), the game grades you on how well your exploration went that day. Because I want to explore the map and am constantly getting lost, this makes me feel awful as well.

You suck, FFXV keeps telling me. You're barely passing. You're bad at playing this game. You're bad at games. What are you even doing.

A lot of the work I do in real life is invisible, and I don't typically get a lot of feedback, positive or otherwise. I also don't get much feedback from my creative work in fandom, which (as much as I would love to say that "I create for myself!") is also tough to handle. One of the reasons I play games is because I need to feel like I'm capable of accomplishing something. Even if it's just gaining a level or being told that I found 100% of a dungeon's treasure, I like to feel that I'm making progress.

The constant stream of negative feedback in FFXV is so hurtful and alienating, and I don't know why it has to be this way. I play Final Fantasy games to experience interesting stories and explore beautiful worlds while falling in love with quirky characters as I gradually customize their growth. If I wanted to play a hyperdrive murder simulator, I would choose another game. There are a lot of them out there!

Because FFXV is so stressful, I wind down from play sessions by playing other games, mainly Pokémon Sun and Link's Awakening. Go at your own pace. Take your time, both games say to me. You're doing great! It's not that the games aren't challenging, but rather that they're broad enough to accommodate diverse playstyles.

I'd like to advocate for "slow gaming," which I see as a more individualized and sustainable type of gaming. I'm going to need to think about what this means before I write more about it, but basically, I want to say that the style of gaming represented by FFXV should not be understood as normal or standard or something that anyone can enjoy.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
Kingsglaive begins with an extended exposition dump in much the same way as Final Fantasy XII. As far as I can tell, the gist of the story is that there's an empire engaging in imperialist expansion. The empire uses mechanical soldiers, wild monsters, and (absolutely terrifying) summon beasts called "daemons" to attack the smaller kingdoms it wants to colonize. In order to prevent the city-state of Insomnia from being destroyed by the empire, its king erects a magical barrier around the city walls. Although the king manages to save everyone inside the city, all of the outlying territories are blasted to scorched earth. Insomnia is not completely closed, however, and it has taken in a number of refugees, some of whom have enlisted in the military. An elite task force of immigrant soldiers has been granted a share of the king's magic, becoming collectively known as the "Kingsglaive."

More than a decade later, the unending war and the maintenance of the magical barrier have taken their toll on the king, so he enters into negotiations with the empire. According to the provisions of the treaty he and the emperor will sign, the empire will stop attacking Insomnia if its crown prince, Noctis, will marry the former princess of an imperial holding, Lunafreya. The emperor is already quite old, however, and what he really wants is not the gradual takeover this marriage would ensure, but rather immediate access to the magical crystal that powers the city and serves as the source of the king's magic. About halfway through the movie, the emperor betrays the king, and Insomnia falls.

This is the point at which Final Fantasy XV is supposed to begin, I think – Lunafreya is on the run, and Noctis is trying to catch up with her. It's important that they find each other because, unbeknownst to the empire, Lunafreya has escaped Insomnia with the king's special magical ring, which allows its bearer to access the power of the crystal and communicate with Insomnia's guardian spirits.

As for the actual members of the Kingsglaive who help Lunafreya escape, it's not a spoiler to say that, as with any franchise spin-off, they're not going to appear in the main story, so they need to be dealt with in some way. It's also not a spoiler to say that Sean Bean is the English-language voice actor for the king, and we all know what that means. Thankfully, everyone still manages to get in some good moments...

...except for the one female member of the Kingsglaive, who is "dealt with" in the first third of the movie. This character is a combination of Rosa from FFIV and Lulu from FFX, and she's awesome, and I love her, and she deserves much better. One might argue that the female soldier needs to be taken offstage in order to make room for Lunafreya, but I call bullshit. I mean, heaven forbid there are two female characters onscreen at the same time, right?

After the credits roll, there is a short scene in which Noctis and his three brobodyguards drive around in a fancy car while joking around with each other. This felt weird to me. I just watched an entire city get destroyed and a bunch of people suffer and die, and now I'm supposed to be happy? This is also reminiscent of the opening of FFXII in its complete shift in tone from "serious people doing serious things" to "cute kids doing cute things," and if I'm being honest it doesn't make me feel kindly disposed toward Noctis.
rynling: (Celes Chere)
I planned to write more about Kinsglaive yesterday, but I ended up writing more than a thousand words of Wind Waker fic instead. I keep thinking I'll leave Zelda fandom, but then it's like NOPE I still have more things to say. I'm going to quit soon, though... maybe. Anyway.

If nothing else, Kingsglaive is gorgeous. I watched the Blu-ray via my PS4 on the huge HD television I bought specifically to accommodate the PS4 graphics,* and it was like looking into a window of someone's house, if their house was a magnificent city filled with attractive people.

Unfortunately, the named characters are so meticulously detailed and so beautifully animated that the off-model characters really stand out. Because the cast of the film isn't that large, this means you have a handful of characters who look and move like human beings walking around in a herd of digital constructs that radiate circa-2005 Resident Evil 4 uncanniness.

I actually (really) enjoyed the 2001 movie The Spirits Within, where everything was on the same narrow rocky ledge in the uncanny valley. I also enjoyed the visuals of Advent Children, in which the character animations were uniformly unnatural and deliberately gamelike. In Kingsglaive, the disconnect between "strikingly lifelike" and "totally an in-game render" continuously caught my attention, however, especially when it came to Lunafreya. You can tell that animated budgets were limited in several of her action scenes, and it's also weird that her face is perfectly flawless when you can see every pore and blackhead and bead of sweat and ingrown hair on every one of the main male characters.

Basically I'm still butthurt over the female lead, who should be the main character, being treated poorly on both a diegetic and a metadiegetic level.

I'm also so used to seeing CG explosions that I wasn't too terribly impressed by the choreography of the action sequences. I'm given to understand that Kinsglaive has been in production since 2013, and the recent conversations that we've been having in the United States about depictions of destruction in superhero movies seem to have gone over the producers' heads.

But writing about explosions makes me tired, so more on that tomorrow I guess.



* Huge HD tvs are unbelievably cheap these days. I mean, they're scary cheap. They're cheap enough to give me serious anxieties about global capitalism. Where are the materials coming from? Who is manufacturing the parts? Who is assembling the devices? Are there literal braindead human-shaped meat puppets involved? I try not to think about it too much.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
I am feeling super attention deficit this morning, so I'm going to have to make multiple posts about Kingsglaive over the course of the day. To be honest, I also felt super attention deficit with Kingsglaive itself, which I had to watch over multiple evenings this past week. The fault lies primarily with me and not the movie, which is not a shining triumph of cinema but thankfully not as bad as I thought it would be. Still, it has issues.

The plot is compli... you know what, I'll write about the plot later.

I tried to watch Kingsglaive in Japanese, but the lip syncing was terrible. Even though the director and staff are Japanese, the voice actors, motion capture actors, and 3D models are all American and European, so after about half an hour I gave up on the Japanese track and switched to English. This was the right choice.

Aaron Paul (playing the hero, or "Disposable Soldier Bishie") does a fantastic job with the material, as does Sean Bean (who plays the old king, or "Now I Have Daddy Issues"). The real standout is Lena Headey, who voices Lunafreya, the kidnapped princess who is being set up as the love interest of Noctis. Headey's acting is sensitive and emotionally resonant...

...which is uncanny, because the animated character has very little affect. I think this is supposed to have something to do with the fact that she's been a prisoner for all of her adult life, but Lunafreya's lack of facial expression is taken to a ridiculous extreme. To give an example, she is a passenger during two dangerous car chases, and throughout both she literally never breaks a sweat or gets a hair out of place. In one scene the car she's riding in has flipped and is skidding precariously along the roof of a building as it bursts into flames, but her face is completely blank and peaceful, like she's drinking tea and watching the sun rise. I'm no expert on human psychology, but it stands to reason that even the most perfect of princesses would express anxiety in this situation – or pain, given the crazy angle her neck bends when her head hits the roof of the car.

I think my problem with Lunafreya is that I watched her way more closely than I was supposed to. I wanted the story to be about her, but Kingsglaive wanted me to pay attention to the male characters instead. My own tendency to identify with female characters aside, Headey's performance really is excellent, and she stole every scene she was in. I would settle down into a mindset of "maybe this movie is going to be good after all," but then the focus would jerk back to the dudes and their explosions, and I would get up and go do something else.

Speaking of getting up and doing something else, more on this later.

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