Why I Hate... Final Fantasy

Role-playing gahhhhhhhh.

Hate is a powerful word. How often does it really apply? I'm not a fan of novelty crisp flavours or the Black-Eyed Peas, but do I truly hate them? Probably not.

However, it's the only word which comes close to describing how I feel when about certain things. To name three: Katie Waissel, designer baby clothes and Final Fantasy.

Few gaming series have as rabid a fanbase as FF. Since it first appeared on the NES all those years ago, it's attracted an obsessive following. Many of its fans are the kind of people who will proudly dress up like their favourite characters and brandish giant replica swords fashioned out of polystyrene.

I'm the ideal candidate for dedication to the cult of these Japanese snorefests. A significant proportion of my formative years was spent hunkered down with like-minded outcasts, rolling 20-sided dice as I lost myself in the worlds of Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons.

While the cool kids were out playing footie and smoking tabs I was plundering dungeons as a Night Elf, hunting for loot and trying to work out how my level 20 paladin was going to escape hordes of Orcs. I'd happily engage in passionate arguments about how much fire damage a magical amulet could inflict.

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Man or woman? You decide.

But Final Fantasy failed to appeal even then. I wasn't excited by the prospect of being able to act out a digitally realised version of my banal existence. I saw games as a form of escapism. I wanted to shoot an endless procession of faceless henchmen, not discover an all-new arena for social exclusion and turn-based combat.

Then there's the issue of whether you can even get past the first hour of gameplay without giving up. Never has there been a more inaccessible franchise than Final Fantasy.

The other day I was talking to a friend about how unimpressed I was with Final Fantasy XIII. Tough it out, he told me, the game gets great after 20 hours or so.

20 hours? In 20 hours I could learn basic Swahili. Why should I spend almost an entire day and night sitting through linear storylines, repetitive battles and cut-scenes I don't really understand, just to get to the good bits?

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Turn-based combat - every bit as dull as it sounds.

Why are those battles turn-based, anyway? Don't know about you, but if confronted by a dark wizard Hell-bent on world domination, or a cybernetically-enhanced beastie shooting laser beams from every orifice, I doubt I'd sit there politely contemplating my next move while they pummel away at me. I'd windmill in with my keys between my fingers at the earliest possible opportunity. I can live without turn-based conflict, thank you very much. And that endless list of items, weapons and potions. I could also happily skip repetitive mini-games such as the odious Blitzball. The reason I like to explore fantasy worlds of action and adventure is not so I can replicate the experience of sucking at sports I don't understand.

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