Monday, March 15, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII - The War (on Terror) Within

I've been playing Final Fantasy XIII the past few days. It's a truly great game. With all the news of major changes to the Final Fantasy formula, it sounded as if it might be an experiment gone wrong. Focusing primarily on story and fighting mechanics - it sounded like a lot was being left out. But I'm finding it incredibly engaging and fun - with characters instantly relatable to. The fighting in the game, as well, is so different I wasn't sure wether it would be as fun. They might make most of the action automatic - but that in no way takes away from the frenetic pace and engaging tactical decisions. I'm not that far into the game yet, but it already has my thumbs up.

What I noticed, though, is something I wasn't expecting in the plot of Final Fantasy XIII - politics. Political over-tones are not something new, to storytelling in general and FF games in particular; Final Fantasy XII had a very "nuclear" style weapon able to level entire cities, also showing the long lasting ramifications of those weapon's use.

It's not that big an over-tone, but I think the Iraq War was definitely in the back of someone's mind when this story was written out. The Iraq War was already about 4 or 5 years into it when FF13 was shown at E3, so the beginning of the war, the War on Terror, must have been fresh in creator's minds.

Am I only seeing things that aren't there? Am I leaping to conclusions. It's definitely not a story I'd point to and say it was political in nature, but there are a few broad strokes in the story (so far, at least) that reminded me of the War on Terror. The l'Cie, for example, are like terrorists. It's pointed out many times that the people of Cocoon are afraid of l'Cie, instantly labeled as enemies of Cocoon. Sort of like sleeper agents - the l'Cie can be anyone you know. Heavy handed government tactics are also employed to wipe out l'Cie, even at the cost of "Purging" an entire town at the mere suggestion that some of them could have been made into l'Cie.

The battle between the technologically superior Cocoon, versus the more natural Pulse could be seen as America and the Middle East, with Pulse being the Middle East, as that's where it's feared the l'Cie come from and are loyal to.

What really brought it home for me, though, was the mention of the Sanctum's leader Galenth Dysley, who Sazh refeers to as the Murderer in Chief - a name Bush was certainly labeled during his presidency.

There are also scenes where TV News is shown, broadcasting the always heroic efforts of the Sanctum, with patently biased reporting.

When invading the Sanctum's main flag ship, there is an odd colored-themed emergency system. Code Purple, Code White - making a little fun of the Terror-Level Color system we employ.

These are, though, very broad brush strokes - and may not have even been intended by the writers. But it's still interesting to see how this very commercial video game product could also has a small bit of political commentary. Final Fantasy XIII was delayed a lot, and I have to now wonder what kind of reception it might have had if it had released sooner, before Bush was out of office. Would it have been pointed out and smeared on Fox News, similar to what happened to Mass Effect? As it stands, even supporters of the war have soured on the entire affair (I supported the action at the time - and feel terribly let down and mislead by our leaders.) So I think now it's not even an issue.

Am I reading too much into it? Either way - it's a small element, very broad brush strokes.


  1. I think Final Fantasy is a type of game in which you pretty much have to have invested yourself in the earlier incarnations in order to understand WHAT the HECK is going on -- or SUPPOSED to be going on -- in the current games. I've tried and tried to sit down and play a Final Fantasy game. Yes, the games are very pretty, and very intricate -- almost TOO intricate, to the point of having backgroudns that are far, far more complicated than they need to be. I just can't get into them. Who are these people, what are they doing, and why should I care? The makers of the games never try to explain anything for newbies. It's very annoying.

    It's just like the argument used by comic book newbies that try to pick up a modern super-hero title: There's nothing to explain who the characters are and what the heck they're doing -- or why anyone should care. As a result, potential new audiences get frustrated and walk away.

  2. In Response to Sea-of-Green: None of these characters have ever been in any previous games. Brand new. They are showing their story out of order, but that's a narrative decision (one I'm enjoying quite a bit). But maybe the formula just doesn't mesh for you. You don't have to be forced to like it ^_^

  3. Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. If you are right, however, that would explain why I dislike the main characters so much and can't fathom their motivations.

    It really bothers me how they slaughter hundreds of guardian corps members rather than flee. It bothers me how they don't care how their presence in cities means those cities will be purged. Most of all, it bothers me how they automatically justify murdering the beings who free of charge (!) have created paradise for tens of millions of people. It just made my head spin.

    Of course, the game throws in a stupid plot twist at the end making all the fal'Cie EVIL and justifying the terrorism, but that just reeks of cheese and clichés.

    But yeah.. If it is a war on terror thing, then it is definitely siding with the terrorists. And that proves that Japan was probably nuked a few times too many, or a few times too few. :-P

  4. The game is incredible. Final Fantasy franchise's developers made this game absolute sensational.