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.