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Gears of War 3 Arrives

The third and final chapter in Epic's Xbox 360-exclusive Gears trilogy is in stores now.

Today's the day you've been waiting for, meaning the 'you' that wants to discover how it all winds up for grumpy ol' Marcus Fenix and his posse. Gears of War 3 launched last night at midnight, for anyone fannish enough to stand in line in the wee hours. The critical consensus is something like "It blinded me with awesome!"--the whole package, that is, emphasis on the refined multiplayer stuff.

Caveat: There's talk about the campaign stuff being a step back (or just one step too many) after the last two games, so if you've ever mistaken this young-male-angled third-person tactical shooting gallery for a sophisticated, life-changing experience, you may be even less excited by the third's wrap-up (or, according to some, lack thereof).

For more on the latter, see here, wherein one of our few not compromised by editorial and audience pressures says what I suspect a few giving this one their publication's highest marks were on some level thinking, but too timid to articulate.

Speaking of problem narratives mixed with inventive gameplay, let's talk about Final Fantasy XIII-2, which now has a U.S. release date. Make that January 31, 2012, roughly a month after the roleplaying game's Japan debut.

For all the controversy surrounding Final Fantasy XIII when it launched, Square Enix points out that the game's shipped 6.2 million units worldwide since its Japanese launch in late 2009. That's a bunch more than Final Fantasy XII managed, surprise, and on par with Final Fantasy X. So I'm not really sure where the story comes from that the game "didn't sell as well" as prior games in the series. Another media invention stemming from assumptions based on the game's critical reception? Looks like it.

Sidebar: I love the Final Fantasy games as games, admire their wildly inventive designs, and enjoy the heck out of the goofy twist-a-minute plots, but I've never really been a fan of the sentimental, over-the-top writing--and the past decade, acting--itself. And those who know me know that, for better or worse, I'm a stick in the mud about that stuff. You can't switch from Steinbeck or McCarthy over to Daisuke Watanabe and Motomu Toriyama (FFXIII's writers) and go "Oh it's okay, it's just a game." That's not how it works. Just because it's a game doesn't mean it's okay to let yourself go all Bulwer-Lytton (or worse, Stephanie Meyer).

Take the official "Final Fantasy XIII-2 Prologue," for instance, another reason I more or less have to hold my nose while playing the heck out of this stuff.

She defied her destiny. She set out to vanquish the false gods enslaving mankind.

After the war, the world was no longer the same. Humans reigned victorious and their gods were no more. Their utopia fell from the sky and became one with Pulse, the underworld crawling with beasts and fiends. It marked the beginning of a new era.

However, she was nowhere to be seen. Everyone believed she was gone--with the exception of one, her sister, Serah.

Three years later--

A meteorite disrupts the serenity of a peaceful village. Time is distorted; bloodthirsty monsters are released within the confines of the secluded town.

Amidst the chaos, Serah is saved by a stranger who goes by the name of Noel. A hunter from the future, he bears an important message.

"She is waiting for you," he says. "Come with me if you want to see her again."

She is Lightning--protector of the goddess who rules the realm of death and chaos, the one-and-only sister of Serah.

"I need to see her. I need to see my sister."

Her heart brimming with hope, a determined Serah sets off on an adventure to reunite with her sister, her family, her world.

I rest my case.

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