Tuesday, 9 March 2010

FFXIII Collector's Edition and First Impressions

The long awaited Final Fantasy XIII for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 is out today in Europe, America and Australia. My collector's edition for the 360 arrived this morning and it is full of goodies! Here are some quick pictures I took of the collection, please excuse the bedsheets as the background and the mobile phone quality!

Along with the game, you receive a hardback art book of various character renders and screenshots ("The World of Final Fantasy XIII"), a ten song soundtrack including the fantastic battle theme "Blinded by Light" and notes on each song by the composer Masashi Hamauzu, three double-sided art prints of the party members and their Eidolons, and two stickers of the l'Cie mark. Overall it's a great buy and well worth the cash. The 360 and PS3 versions are virtually the same, but go for the PS3 if you have the funds as the visuals are noticeably different.

First Impressions
Having not played very far yet, I can't give too much information, but here are my first impressions of the game minus the spoilers!

First of all, this game plays like a dream, no matter what console you bought it for. Moving through locations is seamless and the addition of 'auto-jumping' through the scenery makes it very interactive too. Treasure chests have been replaced with Treasure Spheres and Save Points (which double as your shops now) are in plentiful supply so you won't have to replay great chunks of the game over again.

Healing between battles is gone now as your party are automatically regenerated after every battle, a nice feature but very different. You'll also notice there is no way of upgrading/leveling your characters in the beginning, but hold on for an hour or so as this changes later.

This time round your party members are left to their own devices to explore the terrain, and you don't have to worry about them keeping up with you as they appear with you when you enter a battle. You can also hear your characters talking among themselves at certain story points, which is also interesting to spot. You can read this dialogue too if you switch subtitles on.

Battle System
In FFXIII the battle system has been revamped almost beyond recognition. But don't worry, it retains a nice mixture of old turn-based RPG elements but with more action based visuals like in Kingdom Hearts and much, much faster gameplay.

At first, it's all so new and different you might find yourself feeling a little confused by the fast-paced action, but it quickly becomes such an immersive experience you'll feel like you've been playing it for years.

Instead of playing as all of your party members, you play as a single 'lead' character (think of Kingdom Hearts here) and your party support you as AI. You can control what role they take in battle by assigning them on the menu and customising a selection of different roles for your characters to switch between by using 'Paradigm Shift' during battle later in the game.

You select a string of attacks and commands to fill your 'ATB' gauge as a 'stack' of commands and pick a target to attack. Your character then inflicts all of these commands on the enemy in one smooth flow of combos. They then return to a neutral position and you can choose new commands while your ATB gauge refills. It's an extremely quick system for which you'll be thankful that you only have to play as one character!

Another nice touch is that Potions now effect all of your party instead of just one. But if you're lead character dies, then it's Game Over. If another member dies though, then they can easily be revived with a Phoenix Down.

A great leveling system is implemented a bit later in the game that allows you to earn points in battle and spend them on new upgrades. This is set up a bit like the Sphere Grid in FFX, which was a very enjoyable system and it's fantastic to see a similar one make a return. Each character has their own 'grid' and a separate grid for each available role. I'm looking forward to seeing this system develop!

Being a Final Fantasy game, they are usually all about story. And thus far, Final Fantasy XIII does not disappoint. The introduction of the game itself is quite vast in scale and full of action. There is still plenty to be fleshed out, but the game's set up promises to be a full on epic with well-developed characters, we hope!

The graphics go without saying, even from early screenshots this game was stunning and to play it for yourself is breath taking. The details in hair and clothes are amazing and the scenery and cut scenes are gorgeous. It really has to be seen first-hand!

The main in-game menu of this game is really beautiful. When you select a character to view their status etc, a short FMV quality clip plays of them as the background image before fading to black and white so you can see the text more clearly. It's a lovely addition that leaves me switching through the characters all the time just to see it!

Sound and Voice Overs
If you've seen any trailers for this game, you'll probably already know something of the music. My favourite track is already the glorious battle theme with the elegant but catchy flutes! Leona Lewis' 'My Hands' has yet to be heard however.

The English voice overs seem to be a very high standard so far. Some are already complaining about Vanille's character being annoying, but her New Zealand accent is quite cute and quirky and does start to grow on you. It depends on personal choice though!

Overall Final Fantasy XIII is shaping up really nicely and I can't wait to play more! I fear for my University projects, I really do! >.<

I hope you FF fans are enjoying this game as much as I am! ^.^

Monday, 8 March 2010


My promotional copy of Final Fantasy XIII has arrived a whole day before official release!!! I am so excited I cannot believe it!!! I am off to play it now, so don't expect to hear from me for a week!!! :D


Loves!!! <3 <3 <3

Monday, 1 March 2010

Weekend Blast

Just got back to Newport this morning from home, was up at 5am to get the train at 6:22, arrived at 9am, caught bus at 9:20 and somehow managed to be the second one in my lecture at 10am! It's been a hectic weekend!

I left last Saturday to surprise my sister as she was coming home from South Africa and boy was she surprised! It was great to catch up and hear all her amazing tales! She's had an amazing time, going on safari, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robin island, visiting schools and even an orphanage! She had a great experience with lots of ups and downs, but overall I think it was good for her. :) Only trouble is, now she wants to go back!

Sadly it was just a flying visit for me at home and it felt like as soon as I had arrived, I was leaving again! So I didn't get to spend as much time with my family as I should have. :(

I'm looking forward to my Easter break so much as animation is becoming a handful! My latest animation is which Danielle is walking Fred the Hippo on a lead was left unfinished last week and I have to finish it tomorrow before I begin the next animation task. It's proving very difficult to churn out the exercises with no breaks, but our tutor insists that this is just like the industry, so we just have to put up with it. :/

I'll get there eventually, but for now, I am feeling emotionally and physically drained!!!

I do have some cool news though, last Wednesday I was contacted by the PR company for Square-Enix about the release of FFXIII and they wanted to publicise the event through my website! They said some lovely things about Final Fantasy World and I was happy to be a part of it! The event is at HMV in London on the 9th March in accordance with the release of Final Fantasy XIII and they even have some of the creators flying over from Japan especially! So it's all really cool!


You can check out all the details on Final Fantasy World if you're interested in going! :)
So that's been great and myself, Alex, Paul, Dale, Zara and Vikki are finalising the contract for renting a house next year which we are all looking forward to as on campus accommodation is getting everyone rather annoyed! Particularly with fire alarms going off at 5:30am! That's the worse one so far--and I had to get up at 7am to catch the train back home and I had a really late night due to parties going on until 3am!
It's been all over the place at the moment, hopefully I can focus on my work this week and spend the weekend relaxing and depleting my stress levels!

I'll be updating soon with more animations... :)
Gemma xxx

Narrative Strategies: Week 4

Last Tuesday with Leonie, we were tasked with finding newspaper images to accompany our folk tales. Unfortunately I had not been able to do my own from the pressures of animating the week before, but I had a newspaper to find images in, which I have been able to do now!

Our lecture was about poetry this time. Leonie asked us what is involved in poetry; such as rhythm and/or rhyme, simile, metaphor and creating descriptive imagery in your words. Some people welcomed this topic while others were unexcited. I like reading and writing lyrics which are poetic in nature, so am looking forward to it myself.

We were introduced to the work of Patrick Caulfield who created flat coloured paintings with thick black outlines around the shapes. He accompanies them with a line from a poem which describes a scene, but the image he creates only shows an aspect of that scene and does not spell in out for you. Here are some examples...

Left: Ah! Storm clouds rushed from the Channel Coasts!
Right: You'll be sick if you spend all your time indoors.

Left: Thus she would come, half-dead to my door.
Right: All these confessions... (my personal favourite)

It's an interesting effect, at first I thought it there were just abstract shapes ("Thus she would come..." was the first that I saw) but then I saw what the pictures represented and I like how they are partnered with poetry that seems nearly irrelevant but actually is connected if you think about it.

We were then told about the story of Gilgamesh (one of the earliest recorded stories) from Mesopotamia in preparation for a Brothers Quay film. I had seen some of their stop motion work before and liked it, but "This Unnameable Little Broom" (1985) was a step too creepy for me. Normally I like dark and creepy things, but this was bizarre blend of disturbing imagery and ideas coupled with strange designs and music. Check it out if you're interested in that kind of thing/stop motion, but it's not for everyone!

We finished with some more talk on poetry forms and great poets before talking about homework for next week. Primarily writing a short and condensed poem of our folk tale in 3-5 lines. I'm feeling quite inspired by a very picturesque train journey this morning, so will be off to do that now! :)