Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most highly anticipated titles of 2010, fans have expected a lot and hoped it would revolutionize the series in a new direction. Now that the game is finally out in North America and Europe, it seems some fans aren’t pleased at all with the end result. Since Final Fantasy XIII is the first title to be appear on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, one thing we can expect is the super crisp graphics but what about gameplay?
Now that I’ve spent more than fifty hours on Final Fantasy XIII, it’s time for me to pass my verdict. Did I like it? I must say that I am pleased and disappointed at the same time. Without further ado, let’s take a look on the HOTs and the NOTs of the game:
Stellar Graphics and Presentation
One thing that I can be proud to say about Final Fantasy XIII is how crisp and detailed the graphics are. The pre-rendered cutscenes are mind-blowing. When it comes to the animations and execution of action, they are very smooth and it’s very identical to the in-game scenes. If I were to compare the game’s graphics to the games that are currently out right now, Final Fantasy XIII is in the top three. Not only the graphics are nice, it also has a fantastic voice overs and perfect lip syncing.
From the many RPGs that I’ve played since voice overs were introduced, most of them had bad voice acting and lip syncing. Star Ocean: the Last Hope is one of those RPGs that has the potential of being good overall but was ruined due to the poor lip syncing. The biggest factor in capturing the audience’s emotions and attention are the way the voice actors portray their role. Combining a good cast of voice actors and a very good lip syncing, the result would be Final Fantasy XIII. Trust me, you will be able to feel the character’s emotion and you will guaranteed be attached to the characters in the game. Square-Enix did work a few extra months to especially sync the animation with the English voice overs and it shows.
The Final Fantasy series has been lauded for its great story-telling and Final Fantasy XIII is among them. The story starts very slow and you will see the story picking up after spending around ten hours or so. Most of the time, you will be controlling each of the characters in the game and learn more about their past and once you’re near the end of the game, you will be able to connect them with each other.
Final Fantasy XIII takes place in the world of Cocoon, a utopia in the sky where everyone is living in peace and harmony. They were blessed and protected by the fal’Cie, the one they consider as god, but that changed when the fal’Cie from the lower-world of Pulse awoken and causes havoc. The fal’Cie begin to curse humans and turned them into l’Cie, which are magic wielding servants. Each of the l’Cie has a Focus to fulfill or face a tragedy that can be considered worst than death. With the characters of Final Fantasy XIII turned into l’Cie, how are they going to fulfill their focus when none of them knows what it is? With the l’Cie being considered as “fugitives” and “dangerous” in Cocoon how will the heroes of the game going to survive this tragedy? Will they defy their focus and fight against the fal’Cie? This is the tale that you will be uncovering so prepare for one emotional joy ride with Final Fantasy XIII.
New Battle System
Another great addition to Final Fantasy XIII is the new battle system called, Paradigm. At first it will be confusing as it takes a while to get used to. It is indeed a nice change since I am disappointed with the battle system of Final Fantasy XIII. Any of the characters in the game while on battle can switch from one role to the other instantly. Each of them can equip up to three roles and they all vary from being a magic wielding Ravager or be the healing Medic. Planning out what roles to give to your characters before a boss battle is highly recommended. There are times in battle that you would need to buff everyone up with the Synergiest role and change to a Saboteur role to debilitate the enemy. Honestly, the Paradigm Shift may seems too confusing at first but once you get used to it, you will learn to love it. Also later on in the game each of the characters can assume more than three roles from a total of six. Although it will take a lot of level-grinding to achieve this so its best you stick with the character’s default three roles during your first playthrough.
Besides great voice acting, another great way to captivate the gaming audience and harness their emotions is a top-notch soundtrack. One of the songs in Final Fantasy XIII was sung by Leona Lewis and it’s a really heart-warming experience when you listen to it. When emotion strikes in the game, you’re almost guaranteed to feel a connection. Although the main battle theme is somewhat repetitive (as always), the overall soundtrack is excellent and truly adds to the experience as a whole.
We’ve seen how sexy Shiva is and how fierce Odin can be in past Final Fantasy games. Now that we’re in the era of technologies and machine, expect the Eidolons or summons in Final Fantasy XIII to adapt it. The Eidolons in this game remind me of Transformers as the Eidolons resemble machines. As the sexy Shiva can turn into a motorcycle with Snow having to sit on her ****. It sure looks wierd but in a unique and good way. A less provocative Eidolon change is Sazh’s which turns into a hot-rod!
Making a pact to the Eidolons in Final Fantasy XIII isn’t as easy as you’re used to. Fighting them mindlessly won’t persuade them to join you but instead, you have to do a certain combination of attacks. Filling up their “Gestalt” meter is the only way to have them make a pact with you but you’re time to convince them to join you will be limited as they will cast a Doom spell on you! A hint for beginners is to turn all roles into ravager that way you can build up a faster chain of attacks and therefore fill up the Gestalt meter even faster.
PS3 Version is Superior
If you have both an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, I highly suggest to pick the game up for the PlayStation 3. Aside from having three-disc on the Xbox 360, you will also get a compressed version of the cutscenes. The resolution on the Xbox 360 version are very much so degraded while the PS3 version is a true 1080p. You really can only tell the difference when you have a big TV. Having said that, both in-game graphics for both consoles look similar, albeit the PS3 version is a little more detailed and less faded in places.
What really kills Final Fantasy XIII is the linearity. For the first twenty-five to thirty hours into the game, you will spend your time going through one place to another in one straight path. There is no option to get sidetracked and this can really get boring. The scope of the game is very huge but with its linear path that you have to take, you will be disappointed and wishing you can go the other way around to really explore the place. Just follow this routine; walk, cutscene, boss, next chapter.
Final Fantasy XIII is divided into thirteen chapters and the so-called open-world won’t be available until you’re on Chapter 11. Once you reach Chapter 11, that is the time you can roam around the area and do sidequests. If you are falling in love with the Paradigm battle system, you will be glad to know that sidequests in Final Fantasy are all about battling enemies from one place to another. No, you won’t get the similar sidequest that we are used to in past Final Fantasy games; that is hunting for legendary weapons , obtaining the secret Eidolons or summons, or just do a simple escort mission.
Another disappointing omission is the ability to go into towns and talk to every single one of the people. It’s understandable considering that Lighting and the rest of the characters are “fugitives” but that shouldn’t be an excuse why Square-Enix removed from the game completely. At least you can shop from the town rather than from the save point. Basically, Final Fantasy XIII will somehow feel like a dungeon crawler since you will spend most of your time fighting and watching lengthy cut scenes; no experience in exploring whatsoever!
There are a few town like areas in the game although they like the interaction and exploration of your usual RPG town. Places like the Bodham City Beachside and the city of Nautilus are just a few of the places with actual people roaming around and they are nicely animated, yet lack any life and vibrancy.
Final Fantasy XIII is rather the easiest in the series compared to the others. Since you will be grinding most of the time in the game, you will find killing the enemies a lot easier and find yourself strong. For the most part in the game, I bet you will just keep selecting the Auto-Battle.
In all, you could say this is the most accessible Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy veterans might dislike the linear nature of the game but newbies to the franchise and casual gamers may like the easier gameplay. There’s no tedious puzzles to solve and your health is regenerated after each battle fought. Not only this, but your magic is infinite and all your supplies and items are all nicely bought from savepoints.
Final Fantasy XIII is one of the weaker additions to the Final Fantasy series. It’s obvious that Square-Enix cared for graphics more than the gameplay, and the extremely linear path will surely disappoint longtime fans. The picture can only be so pretty before you start needing more, and FFXIII falls short. Diehard fans will still purchase the game, and unfortunately, might not be as pleased as they had hoped. Final Fantasy XIII is far from a bad game but it’s hard to accept that the most anticipated RPG of the year turned out to be this underwhelming.
[Editor’s Note: Final Fantasy XIII was reviewed on a PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher]Final Fantasy XIII Review,