Final Fantasy XIII
Published and Developed by Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 3; Xbox 360
Final Fantasy XIII is the latest in the storied Final Fantasy series of Japanese Role-Playing Games. If you’re a gamer, or know someone who is a gamer, chances are you’ve heard of Final Fantasy. I played this latest installment on the PlayStation 3. Does this game live up to the epic pedigree?
GRAPHICS: Starting with the seventh game, the Final Fantasy series has been all about flashy visuals. Sometimes I wonder if Square Enix places a higher standard on graphics nowadays than anything else. Needless to say, Final Fantasy XIII looks beautiful. That is, once you get beyond the claustrophobic corridors. Other than the lush, open areas later in the game, there isn’t a whole lot to see. You walk around in various metal environments, which look nice in their own right, but aren’t spectacular. The areas covered in crystal, however, look great. And once you get into the more natural environments, the beauty of the game starts to shine.
Enough about the environment. The characters look good, as is typical in Square Enix games. There are some pre-rendered cinemas, and while you can generally tell when they start, the in-game models are almost as good. Maybe when Final Fantasy XV comes along, Square Enix can finally retire the pre-rendered cinema. Though I don’t see that happening, honestly.
The user interface is decent. It does its job and doesn’t get in the way much. The battle effects are nice, but you might not notice them a lot. Finally, at several points in the game I found myself utterly clueless as to what was happening in a cut-scene. The camera shakes wildly all over the place, they cut between angles frequently, and I often have no idea what I’m seeing. More often than not I had to consult the Datalog to know exactly what I just witnessed.
Pretty environments, nice characters, but far too much shaky cam in the cut-scenes. 8/10
SOUND: It’s pretty good for a Final Fantasy game. But where the hell is my victory fanfare? The one I’ve heard since the series began? Instead I get this super lame jingle to let me know I won. What the fuck? Now I haven’t played Final Fantasy XII, so I don’t know if that’s the game that murdered the victory fanfare, but that’s just pathetic. That was one of the staples of the Final Fantasy series. Hearing that fanfare brings back fond memories of the series. Replacing it after such a long time is just ridiculous.
The voice acting is good, I guess. The sound effects are good. Pretty much everything else is okay. I just didn’t pay much attention to the quality of everything else because I was too busy raging over the victory fanfare.
They replaced the victory fanfare! 0/10 (yes I can be petty)
STORY: The quality of the stories in Final Fantasy, especially since number seven, is debatable. The story in FFXIII is decent, but it seems all too familiar. It doesn’t help that the story doesn’t pick up until at least ten to twenty hours in. The absolute worst part of the story is the Datalog. To fully understand what the hell is happening, you need to reference the Datalog every time something is added, simply because it will tell you things that the game doesn’t show you in a cut scene. It comes off as a crutch Square Enix uses far too often. You’ll see a cut-scene where the characters interact, and then the Datalog will give you insight on their personal motivations and what they thought about during the scene. Things that you either have to pay close attention to know or that are simply not alluded to at all.
Another annoying part about the story, which is another crutch Square Enix used, was the scene where the party members act all emo and angsty, then one of them gives a pep talk about hope (the concept, not the character) and how everything will be just fine. They repeat this scene ad nauseam. I think every character had their time to give the pep talk, but Hope (the character) gave the pep talk the most. It got really bad when every few cut-scenes featured this speech, and I just wanted the twats to shut up.
An all too familiar plot that takes a long time to get good, and the annoying twats that tell it. 6/10
GAMEPLAY: While the story can take ten to twenty hours to finally start making some sense, the tutorial takes almost as long. I know many games introduce mechanics later on in games and then offer tutorials on how to use it. But Final Fantasy XIII continuously introduces new mechanics every hour or two for the first fifteen hours. And then suddenly the tutorials stop, and that’s when things start getting good. I can understand not wanting to bog down the player with a ton of different gameplay facets, but maybe you shouldn’t have so many to start with.
Eidolons, this game’s version of Summons, are pretty much useless. Unless you’re about to die and don’t have any medics, which is virtually impossible. MP is non-existent, and all actions (magic, attack, etc.) take up portions of your Active Time Battle gauge. This means magic is free. So if you have two medics in your party, you can heal your group almost instantly and with no penalty. But only once you gain access to the Paradigm system. Before then, you’re stuck with Potions. And I need to mention that Potions, the only healing item that I ever saw in the game, become virtually useless about five hours in or whenever the Paradigm system kicks in. Sure, Potions heal everyone at once, but they heal such a tiny amount that it’s not really worth it once your HP goes above 600.
Another useless feature introduced late in the game is the ability to train any party member in any Crystarium role. This sounds great, but in practice it isn’t worth it. You’re much better off using your Crystarium Points to keep building your existing roles than trying to teach new ones. The roles that a character don’t start off with have a bare minimum amount of abilities (a fraction of what a native user gets) and cost extreme amounts of CP.
Overly complicated mechanics, some of which are useless, and a tutorial that never ends. 7/10
OVERALL: Flashy graphics, an okay soundtrack, a been-there-done-that story, and uselessly complex gameplay make for a decent Final Fantasy but far from great. 7/10