Christmas came with a bang this year, and if any of you have read my Confessions of an Excited Gamer, you may recognize the titles of a couple games I got to play:
Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian.
I just sat staring at the game covers for a while before I could even bring myself to pop them into the console. Illnesses and obligations have kept me from completing either one so far, but I've played more than enough to gather a few first impressions...
Final Fantasy XVI've tried to steer clear of the spoilers online as long as possible, but I'd gathered enough hearsay to know lots of people praised the game for its characters and complained about its confusing story and poorer pacing during the latter portion of the campaign. I haven't gotten far enough to comment on the story or pacing, but I can say that the very beginning of the game hooks you in with its well-written, entertaining characters--and it hasn't let go after my first five hours of wandering around its gorgeous landscapes.
These characters feel real. They feel meaningful. And they feel like they're buddies who would give you the shirt off their backs--not because you're a prince, but because you're their friend.
The side characters make it just as fun to run off on hunting sidequests and random fights as it is to watch the main story's drama unfold--and this coming from me, the gamer who plays for the stories, not the gameplay.
I'm not saying this game is perfect. There are elements of the story I have yet to see that still have me a little worried. The combat was tricky for me to get at first, and it throws a lot at you at once. But my biggest fear was that this game wouldn't live up to its ten-year-long hype.
In some ways, it's clear this is not the same game that was teased back in 2006, but it has maintained a lot more of its 2006 elements than I expected--a lot of the really good elements. In addition, right from the start this game proves it was a labor of love. Frankly, I'll wait another ten years for a game this hand-crafted good.
The Last GuardianThis is yet another Team ICO game. If you loved ICO and/or Shadow of the Colossus (like I did), you will love this one too. The Last Guardian feels like a crossbreed between its predecessors: you and your companion must maneuver through wreckage shrouded in mist and mystery.
Oh, and your companion is a giant beast with mystical powers. No big.
This is not a puzzle GAME. It's a story-driven puzzle EXPERIENCE. I feel like I'm actually there, running with this monster-pet-partner-friend at my heels. It's true that he won't always do exactly what I want, but far more often he's steered me in the right direction without outright telling me where to go. That's an invaluable asset to the puzzle-solving and to the immersion. Trico, your companion critter, feels like an actual animal rather than an AI.
Again, no, I won't say this is a flawless game; but the depth and magic of the experience are many and the frustrations are very, very few.
Interested in more juicy details of my gaming experiences? Tune in the next two Fridays for an in-depth review of both these games.