Final Fantasy XIII
Is the latest installment of the Final Fantasy franchise worth the cover price?
Posted 3 years ago By - Joe Law
At long last, the next chapter in the Final Fantasy saga has arrived to mixed reviews from both press and fans. The franchise has finally entered the high definition era with Final Fantasy XIII, the first of the series released for the current-gen platforms. With the jump to HD, has SquareENIX taken the opportunity to change what was becoming a stagnant franchise in order to accommodate new players? Or is this just the same old Final Fantasy game with a coat of new paint? We’re about to find out...
In FFXIII, you play as a rag-tag group of characters, only two of which knew each other previously. They all find themselves fighting a massive surge of people from the utopia known as Eden. It’s thought that they’ve been tainted by an "evil" fal’Cie known as the Pulse fal’Cie, a type of living god in the form of a massive floating shrine-like structure. When they join the fight, your team become Pulse l’Cie, soldiers who’re given a "focus" (or goal) by the fal’Cie. With the threat of being turned into a monstrous, mindless Cie’th (a kind of zombie-like creature) the heroes must embark on a journey to complete their focus.
There was one big controversial gameplay change between FFXII to FFXIII, the switch from an open world to a more linear style of progression. Frankly, as a longtime player of the Final Fantasy series, I found the change to be a breath of fresh air. It allows you to focus more on the story and less on the grind, getting rid of the need for a lot of distracting side-quests in the process. And that linearity stays constant, that is, right up until the later parts of the game where, for some reason, it transforms back into an open world grind in order to beat the final boss.
The last disc is where the fun began to be slowly sucked out of the experience, which is a shame as the first two discs had me hook, line, and sinker. It just saddens me that they made that adjustment at the end, instead of doing something a bit more practical, such as toning the last boss down so you wouldn’t need to Crystarium grind.
Ah yes, Crystarium. That’s Final Fantasy XIII’s alternative to the standard leveling system. With each victory in battle, all of your characters gain Crystarium Points which they can spend on a large three-dimensional Grid. Think of it as something similar to the progression path system used in Final Fantasy X. Yes, you heard me right. All of your characters gain points regardless if they’re in your Battle Party or not, even if they’re off somewhere else altogether. This adds yet more ease of play to the game.
This brings us to the Paradigm system. One you get far enough, each character has three different combat styles to choose between, and those are broken down into either Commando, Ravager, Medic, Synergist, Saboteur, or Sentinel. A Paradigm is a combat organization that dictates which roles each of your current party members will fill. You can have several Paradigms created to swap on-the-fly during a battle. Not having your Paradigms properly filled out or not having an appropriate Paradigm for a particular fight can really screw you over occasionally, if not just extend the length of the fight. Paradigms add a level of challenge to the game, separating it from a sea of JRPGs that seem to blur together in feel.
While Paradigms are definitely cool, the combat system is also a lot more frantic and fast-paced than what a lot of RPG fans are typically used to. All battles take place in real time and, though you can pick each attack manually, because of how fast the fights are taking place, you may not find that a feasible option. It’s easier to spam the Auto-Attack/Cure/Defend/etc. button instead. Its hard to say if the games’ speed is a good or a bad thing though, as, while it helps keep the pace up, it doesn’t really leave room for any form of finesse.
Besides the latter parts of the final disc falling back to the open world style, i have only one other major complaint with the game: the game’s difficulty curve.
While most battles feel like a steady and predictable escalation in difficulty, there is the odd battle or boss encounter that will demand a lot of forethought and planning, requiring either a strategy guide or the more tried and true method of die and retry.
Graphics & Sound
Whereas a lot of multi-platform games in the last few years have had a better looking 360 version, FFXIII is the first noteworthy game where the PS3 version actually looks better. That’s not to say that the 360 version doesn’t look good, as its still one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful games on the console to date. But, the PS3 version appears to really harness the power of its hardware to animate individual strands of hair and accommodate deeper textures. With that said, if you own a high definition television, this game will astound you, regardless of which platform you play on. SquareENIX has spared no expense with their first HD title in the series, making Final Fantasy XIII the best looking title on the 360 to date.
Both the voice overs and the music are also stellar. Unlike most Japanese games, where voice actors are dubbed over mouth movements that are actually speaking Japanese words, Final Fantasy XIII is the first game I know where all of the characters mouth movements are matched to their English voice acting counterparts. This allowed the VAs to focus more on evoking believable emotion which, if you ask me, they nailed on the head throughout the entire game.
The soundtrack itself isn’t your typical video game score. There’s a good chunk of songs in the game that have vocals, which is something you begin to notice about halfway through your journey. While the it is worthy of awards in its own right, I do have one minor complaint: Where’s the familiar Final Fantasy victory music we all know and love? It seems to be strangely absent from the game, replaced by something else entirely. It’s not an absolute failing, just something I thought made it feel less Final Fantasy-ish for me.
This is a hard call. The core story is well worth the price of admission. I mean, it’s over forty hours long. When you compare that to today’s games, most of which average about eight to ten hours in length, it really doesn’t need a lot of replayability to make it a good deal for your money. Unless you plan on playing the game for several days straight, this is definitely not you’re going to be able to rent and beat in a single week.
If you’ve always been hesitant or have disliked JRPGs in the past, this is a good jumping point for the genre. It sheds a lot of the dead weight associated with JRPGs in an attempt to allow any fan of great video game stories to experience Final Fantasy. The changes made to the series in this instalment are for the better and I hope more improvements are on the way in the next console iteration of the franchise. While the game has its quirks, the amazing story, unparalleled visuals, and much-needed gameplay changes outweigh these irritants. If you love JRPGs, Final Fantasy XIII is a must have, and even if you don’t, it’s still worth checking out as it’s one of the best RPGs to come out of Japan in a very long time.
+ Best visuals out there today, period.
+ Paradigms add a level of strategy.
+ Characters are likable.
+ Incredible story grips you from the first time you play.
- MMO-style grinding late in the game kills the experience.
1 week ago :: Injustice: Gods Among Us
1 week ago :: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
2 weeks ago :: BioShock Infinite
4 weeks ago :: Gears of War Judgment
1 month ago :: (Kinect) The Hip Hop Dance Experience
1 month ago :: Tomb Raider
1 month ago :: Crysis 3
2 months ago :: DmC Devil May Cry
2 months ago :: (XBLA) Serious Sam Double D XXL
Download us here!
Game Junkies podcast and audio interviews
Release Date : 2010/03/09
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Square Enix
Developer : Square Enix
Category : Role Playing Game
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10