Final Fantasy XIII Review

May 4, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Posted in (All Posts), Reviews, Video Game Reviews | Leave a comment
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I would not argue with anyone who claims that Final Fantasy XIII is and was one of the most anticipated games of all time. I would not say this statement is true necessarily, but it is hard to deny the amount of hype and pressure that Final Fantasy XIII was carrying. The Final Fantasy series IS without a doubt one of the most popular game series, and every single release has certainly caught the eye of the gaming community. While some despise the series for individual reasons, many praise each title for the quality and storytelling that goes into each game.

I also feel it necessary to say that I have struggled with this review for some time now. For a video game that came out nearly a month ago, it still feels like the aftershock of its release is in full force. A conflict has definitely been present in my mind as I go back and forth on the final score. Nonetheless, Final Fantasy XIII is a video game and a virtual experience. With that simple mindset, I feel I can sail off into this review.

For review purposes, I should specify that the version of the game I have been playing through is the Playstation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII. I have not had the chance to see the XBox 360 version in person, but to my knowledge they are virtually the same. The 360 version is divided up into 3 discs while the PS3 version is on 1 Bluray disc. I have heard that the PS3 version has a slightly better image than the 360 version. While I cannot confirm or deny this, it is no secret that a Bluray disc has quite the capacity so that idea does not seem implausible.

Final Fantasy XIII was released in North America on March 9th, 2009. I was not able to pick up my copy until March 14th, but not long after I dove right into the experience. I must admit — I was shocked. I was shocked at just HOW MUCH I was drawn into this setting. Perhaps I had low expectations and was anticipating a Final Fantasy that would go through the motions in terms of story (and in some ways it does), but I was truly impressed.

On a world called Pulse, a floating city known as Coccoon exists. Crystallized God like begins known as the Fal’Cie are believed to be responsible for creating life. The Fal’Cie became divided with some staying behind on Pulse and some being Fal’Cie for Coccoon. Pulse became an unsuitable and dangerous place for mankind to call home, thus Coccoon is the home for humanity.

When a Fal’Cie chooses a human for a task, that person becomes branded and is known as an l’Cie. An l’Cie has a focus which they must fulfill for the Fal’Cie. Failure to do this task would result in the l’Cie becoming monstrous beings. If an l’Cie achieves their focus, they turn to crystal and are granted eternal life — or so the legend goes.

Humanity on Coccoon sees the l’Cie as corrupted and must be purged from existence before they can become these monsters. Anyone who has any contact with something from Pulse is also purged, creating a very uneasy setting for citizens on Coccoon. Resistance groups have risen to fight for the rights of those who have become l’Cie and to prove that l’Cie do not have to become the enemy that many humans have been taught they are.

And so the story of Final Fantasy XIII is told. While it seems overwhelming at first, I found myself quickly understanding the overall plot and pieces fell into place as the characters progressed through the game.

If you’ve played a Final Fantasy (or any JRPG) before, you are familiar with the idea of a cast of diverse characters making up your party. To pinpoint one main character is difficult because you gain individual control of all characters at some point or another. This is also something of a rarity because it honestly feels like every party member plays a crucial role to the story.

Lightning is the female lead in the game, bringing out the somewhat stereotypical loner attitude that protagonists in Final Fantasy games seem to have.

Snow is the male lead in the game and is a strange mixture in the sense that he is very brutal and hands on with opponents, yet he arguably has his emotions on the rise more so than any other character in the game.

Following their lead is –
Sazh
Vanille
Hope
Fang

The battle system is very unique in the sense that you only control your lead character. The other party members act accordingly to whatever Paradigm (Class Type) you have set. If you are a Ravager (Attacker), you can assign your fellow party members to take up the roles of Medics or Synergists. New terms end up simply being masks for familiar class types. Any RPG fan will be able to learn the system in a rather quick amount of time.

What I liked about Final Fantasy XIII –

*The visuals. Final Fantasy XIII is a visual delight that delivers the best looking EVERYTHING. From the character models to the Eidolons (Summons) to the scenery — Final Fantasy XIII is one of the best looking video games to date. I normally can find something visually that irritates me, but Final Fantasy XIII has been flawless with its eye candy.

*The gameplay. While it takes some getting used to, the battle system is designed to let the player take a step back and analyze the field of play with systematic decisions. As your command bar fills, you can pick and choose what attacks you want to do consecutively, or you can interrupt it at any time to do simply attack with what you have filled up thus far. Performing a Paradigm Shift (Class System) on the fly and racking up chain combos can become addictive, to some degree. While it’s not flawless and I certainly have been upset with certain battles, I feel it’s a well put together battle system that fits in with the rest of the gameplay.

*The story. Simply put — it seems complicated, but anyone willing to give it a chance will find it very welcoming and easy to understand. At its core, Final Fantasy XIII is a story about people fighting for what they believe in. While that may seem tried and true, it manages to piece together in a unique way.

*The characters. If there is anything that a Final Fantasy game has taught me, it is simply that there will always be at least one character that is just so out of place. Final Fantasy XIII is absent of this problem. While we have the developments of characters being alone then accepting others and being weak and growing strong, I came to love each character for what they brought to the overall experience.

What I didn’t like about Final Fantasy XIII –

*The game is extremely linear at first. I am not saying this is a horrible thing, but it does drag on for a bit too long before finally branching out and giving the player some choices.

*What promises to be revolutionary and new ends up being all too familiar. While I wasn’t looking forward to a change of pace in the series, I was surprised at how much the gameplay didn’t actually change. The EXP system has been replaced with a Weapon EXP system and stats are manually controlled with the Crystarium system.While the path to gaining new abilities and strengthening your characters may have changed, the end result is the same. It feels like a new path that leads to the same destination. At the same time I have to ask myself what alternative they could have done.

The final verdict —

Final Fantasy XIII was riding a ship that may have led some to believe this is going to be the greatest video game of all time. I would argue this is simply not the case, but it is still every bit deserving of the praise it has received. Criticizing it for something it is not rather than what it is seems like some sort of fallacy.

I gave Final Fantasy XIII the chance to impress me and it did. It is FAR from the potential of what video games can be, but it does not fail in delivering a memorable and fun experience. Giving it a numbered score seems to deteriorate the value of the game. Nonetheless, I give Final Fantasy XIII a 9/10.

I have had (and still am having) a really fun experience with Final Fantasy XIII — plain and simple.

-David

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