Danny Stueber, Staff Writer
(both games were announced a decade ago yet released within a month of each other)
Game development normally takes anywhere from 2-5 years and the quality can differ. A game made over a two-year cycle can be just as good and fun as one with that of a longer cycle but then you get the few games that end up in what is known as “development hell”. This is when a game takes much longer than normal to be made and this can result from changing companies or hardware, not being happy with a product, changing times, or a variety of other reasons.
The most famous example is for the game Duke Nukem Forever, a first-person shooter announced in April of 1997 that did not release until June of 2011. You would think this 14-year production cycle would lead to an amazing product but it was quite the opposite with dated graphics, awful presentation, out of touch references, and an overall sexist tone towards women that might have flown fine in the 90s but not in our current society.
All of this is a way of me leading up to two games that released in November of 2016 that each had around a 10-year life cycle yet the stars aligned to have them come out almost on top of each other. Are either of them a car wreck like Duke Nukem? No, but they do have their problems.
The Last Guardian (2007-2016)
First announced in February of 2007, the Last Guardian was to be the next game from Team Ico, the studio behind two of gaming’s most cherished classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It was not heard from again until 2009 where a trailer was finally shown. After that, silence until the summer of 2015 where a new trailer was shown and confirmed its release in 2016. Then in November the game was finally released for PlayStation 4 after being initially announced for the PlayStation 3.
If you ask me, the game was just ok. It was not like the previous 2 games, which were considered masterpieces in the gaming industry. You play as a boy who wakes up in a cave with a giant creature that resembles a bird mixed with a cat and a dog. At first he is hesitant to interact with the creature and same goes for the creature, but over the course of the game they realize they must help each other to escape where they are trapped and that’s it, that is the entire plot.
Now, I will not spoil the ending but I will say the strongest part of this game is its story telling. I was invested the whole way through and by the end I had a tear or two well up. You start to care for the creature, named Trico, and as he bonds with the boy you see how they go from nervous strangers to best friends.
The game is narrated with a made-up language so you do not hear much at times other than ambient noises and the boy communicating with Trico through sounds. It worked very well along with the great orchestrated soundtrack.
This is where the praise ends. The rest of the game is full of problems. On a technical level, it does not run well on PS4. Yes, it looks beautiful, but if there are ever any big action scenes occurring or even just a lot of grass or trees on screen, the game slows down to where it looks choppy.
I thought my console had crashed more than once. Whatever happened to make this game need almost 10 years of development and to jump to a new console must have also affected their compression abilities because it’s just rough.
Another problem is the controls feel like they are 10 years old, like back when they made the PlayStation 2 games. The boy controls like he’s running on butter and you never feel comfortable moving him or any objects around. This results in frustrating moments of trying to climb or throw something and you end up killing yourself instead.
The last glaring problem is with Trico himself. The studio is on record as stating they wanted to design him as if he was a real animal and they nail that completely. They nail it so well in fact, that it detracts from the fun that should be in a video game.
You will command him to do something and instead he will just stare, scratch his ear, walk around a bit, and then do what you asked him. Its cool how realistic he seems, but in a video game you don’t want to stand around waiting 30-40 seconds for every action to take place. Sometimes he wouldn’t even do the correct thing, which lead me to yelling at my television for maybe the first time in years at a game.
The best/worst part is by the end; Trico is doing everything in a snap and with no hesitation. This is good because from a story stand-point, it shows that him and the boy have completely bonded but from a gameplay stand-point, it frustrates you to see how much better the rest of the game could have been with him like that in the first place.
In all, The Last Guardian had a troubled cycle and for many years’ people assumed it had been cancelled. It finally released however but unlike its previous games, this one was mixed among players. Personally, I loved the story and world of the game but the game aspect was dreadful. I am not mad at all for playing it and I would even suggest it to someone else as long as they knew what they were getting into but at only 10-12 hours and it being such a burden to play, I do not see myself picking it up ever again.
Final Fantasy XV (2006-2016)
Announced in May of 2006, Final Fantasy XV was not even FFXV to begin with. It was first announced as Final Fantasy Versus 13, a game in the universe of their previous game series Final Fantasy XIII.
The FFXIII franchise had three games in it and each was loved less and less by fans to the point of the company, Square Enix, decided to separate Versus 13 from the series and make it its own game which would later be called Final Fantasy XV (the fourteenth game was an online MMO released years prior).After 10 years, a name change, a massive overhaul to the entire story and game itself and a console generation, FFXV launched at the very end of November 2016 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The Final Fantasy franchise stretches back all the way to 1987 and is considered one of the crown jewels of the gaming world. Of course, not all games in the franchise are good or loved (like FF13 being panned by nearly everyone) but a few really stick out to many such as Final Fantasy 6,7,9,10,12, and 14.
After spending nearly 70 hours with Final Fantasy XV and doing literally everything possible in it, I can say it deserves to be up there with the greats even with its faults. You play as Noctis, a young prince who is being sent to marry Luna, a princess from a waring nation in the hopes of finally bringing peace to the world.
Along the way your friends Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis help you battle and survive until you can reach her, become king, and help unite their kingdoms. The premise is simple, yet it has been done before but it does enough to keep you interested. Some things happen and plans change and before you know it you are fighting to save the world from being covered in darkness forever where only demons will survive.
I was invested in the story because I liked the characters but not because of the story telling. It is told very poorly with plot holes and questions everywhere to the point of being confused every second. An example is a scene of Luna giving an inspirational speech of how she will love Noctis and he in turn cries from the “emotional moment” but at this point in the story we had not even been given a reason to believe they were in love and they had never even spoke face to face..
We are told they have been friends since childhood and they send letters to each other but never are shown a reason to believe they actually love each other so the emotions they want you to feel are not genuine. It is just a mess of a narrative and if the characters and futuristic fantasy setting (a land where magic and monsters are real but we have cars and modern technology of today) were not so amazing I would have hated it. The reason for this though is they wanted you to see the story from multiple outlets
What I mean by that is there is a FFXV movie that explains the war and what’s happening behind the scenes, a short anime on YouTube to show us more about the characters that the game itself lacks in telling us, and mobile experiences to bring it on home in what must be the most spread out story I have ever seen in a game.
If I had not watched the movie I would have been lost during some major plot points and had no clue who some characters are. It’s to the point where the company said they will be adding more to the story in the future,to address plot holes and confusing character development. This is all to say that when you beat the game and feel confused that it’s ok.
Story aside, the gameplay fares much better. FF games are always changing up the combat style but is mostly known for turn based combat. Noctis can blink around the battle field and fight with his friends against foes ranging from your common fantasy creatures all the way to monsters literally made of mountains so big that they can’t fit on your tv screen. It was one of the best feeling games I played last year and it never got boring or dull to fight anything.
Exploring and doing side quests were another small downer though. The world is beautiful but the main way of travel is to sit in a car with your buddies and drive only on designated roads to your locations. Until you unlock fast travel for areas, you literally must sit in the car sometimes up to 10 minutes just to get to your destination with nothing but a radio playing.
Side quests will also be time consuming because once you get a mission and complete it you must then travel back to where you received the mission to turn it in and be rewarded instead of being able to be rewarded right then and there like some current games.Some of game designs like this show how the game started ages ago. The game is bustling with content though, so if you can look past those minor gripes you will have a game that will last you well over 100 hours if you want.
The story is good even though it is told poorly, the combat is fluid and fun even if the camera sometimes fights you, the world is beautiful even if there is not much going on in it at times, and the game is overflowing in content even if it can get monotonous and a hassle at times.
Add all that up with fun collectables, great characters, and a fantastic musical score and you get a game that has many amazing things going for it even if each thing has something wrong as well. I highly suggest this game if you enjoy open worlds, memorable characters, fun fast gameplay, and want true value for your money. It might have taken 10 years for Final Fantasy XV to come out but unlike some other games that get stuck in Development Hell, this one truly was worth the wait.
Edited by: Brea Childs