Review by RoxasANobody
"Puts the "AWE" in AWESOME"
Final Fantasy XIII is the newest addition to the Final Fantasy series. As always, the fans are given an action-packed story (full of plot twists) and a fun bunch of people that the player would wish to spend time with in real life.
A group of soldiers are patrolling a car - not just any regular car - a passenger car connected to a train. In a previous encounter, seen later in the game, Lightning (the main protagonist) heeds a warning to another protagonist, Sazh, to, "...catch another train...". As the train passes by a security checkpoint, the car is riddled with electricity, and the soldiers are caught in a daze. Lightning throws off her robe and proceeds to destroy all the guards on the train. Shortly after, their train gets shot down by soldiers that go by the name of PSICOM. PSICOM is the equivalent to the military that Liquid Snake had control over in Metal Gear Solid 4. The player will be seeing PSICOM soldiers frequently.
PSICOM soldiers' duties are to destroy anyone who has come in contact with, or has become, a l'Cie. A l'Cie is someone who has been branded by a fal'Cie. These "creatures" have mystical abilities (in other words; magic). The normal people (ones who are not tainted with the mark of a l'Cie) are completely and utterly afraid of the l'Cie. So, this is why it is PSICOM's duty to destroy these people. The player will learn later on that some PSICOM soldiers are against killing the l'Cie and are forced to fight their own men.
Eventually the player meets Snow; a fierce young man whom seems to resume the role of Zell from Final Fantasy VIII. The main party, save one (who the player meets later), meets together in the heart of afal'Cie. They fight their way through the fal'Cie to find Snow's future wife and Lightning's sister - Serah. The characters will learn that even when a l'Cie fulfills their "Focus", they will become a crystal and they will be forced to live as one until they are given a new Focus. The group, which now consists of Lightning, Snow, Hope, Vanille, and Sazh, fight their way to the fal'Cie in hopes of restoring Serah back to her former self.
When the player wins the battle, a short CGI scene will resume. It will show that, even though the player won, the fal'Cie has something up its sleeve. The characters become branded (thus becoming l'Cie) and are given a quick glimpse of their Focus**. This is where the story begins. The characters come together and decide to fight this Focus out until the very end.
** Side-note: A Focus is given to l'Cie. If the l'Cie do not finish their focus in time, they become Cieth. Cieth are destined to keep living until they give up and convert to stone rather than crystal. So, it is imperative that our main characters fulfill their Focus and not become walking monsters.
Paradigms are new to the Final Fantasy system. It takes the "Job" system that previous Final Fantasy games have had and it revamped it perfectly. Until you reach a certain point in the game, characters are only allowed to have three set roles. The roles within the game are Sentinel (defensive-guard), Commando (strength-fighter), Ravager (magic-black mage), Medic (magic-white mage), Saboteur (offensive-debuff), and Synergist (defensive-buff). When the player is not in a battle, they can switch roles within the paradigm system.
If a player wants a team consisting of a Commando, Synergist, and Ravager, they can go to the menu and switch paradigms there. The player can consist of up to six paradigms. The player can switch it whenever they want and the way they are placed is essential for staying alive in this game. While the player is battling they can hit the "L1" button to pull up the menu for paradigms and quickly switch between them there. So, the player is never limited to a team of a Commando, Synergist, and Ravager while in a battle. If they are experiencing trouble, they can use the paradigm switch to change into a Medic, Medic, Sentinel class. The game allows you to pick what you want, which makes it extra flexible for those who wish to try out other classes on other people.
For those players who have played Final Fantasy X, the Crystarium has come to replace it and show off how such a simple mod can be so fun to experiment with and so beneficial to your team. Eventually, the game will give access to the Crystarium. The player must obtain CP (gained from winning battles) to advance on the grid. At the beginning of the game, and for about twenty hours of the game, the player is limited to three set roles per character. However, this does not mean that the player will be hindered at all. The player may still have the choice between upgrading, let's say, a Medic Crystarium rather than a Synergist Crystarium.
However, obtaining a skill on the Medic's Crystarium can not be accessible in battle as a Synergist. The player must maintain the role of a Medic to use spells like Cure. The same goes as if the player was a Synergist, the Synergist can use Protect, Haste, and Shell, but they can not use Cure and Esuna because they are not a Medic in battle. If the player wishes to use Cure, they can use the paradigm shift, as mentioned above, to quickly change and heal the party, and after the party is healed, the player can switch back to their original paradigm or they can switch to a different one.
Skills such as HP, Strength, and Magic are universal. They are not class-associated. If the player upgrades an HP bonus on the Syngergist's Crystarium the bonus will be given to the actual character rather than that specific role they were upgraded in.
Auto-Battle, Abilities, Staggering, and Battle Ratings
Auto-Battle is a great new addition to the Final Fantasy series. Since characters are given three (and up to six) ATB guages, they are also given the option to use Auto-Battle to fill all the gauges with skills that the game thinks that the characters should use. The Auto-Battle features makes battles go by much faster and it makes the game less of a hassle. This is used for on-the-fly moves. So, if the player doesn't have to go to the Abilities menu and pick the same things that the game would pick itself. It is a handy feature, but pros at the game would rather prefer using the Abilities menu.
The Abilities menu allows the player to manually stock up the ATB gauges with what they choose (rather than the Auto-Battle button that allows the player just to have the game pick what to use and then choose the enemy). Abilities specific to a character's role will be placed here. The player can choose anything as well as any combination of anything of that matter. Some abilities take up on ATB gauge, while others can take up to three. Instead of needlessly stacking up the same ATB gauge over and over again, the player can go down to the Abilities tab, hold the right button on the directional pad, and then click "Repeat". The gauge will be filled with the same exact abilities that were picked last time. Thus making the battle much quicker.
Staggering is essentially the new "Critical Hit" system. Instead of having a stat the determines how often you may get a critical hit, Square has implemented a way for the characters to always get a critical hit. Each enemy on the battle field is given a Stagger bar. The bar will slowly fill. Ravagers, for example, can fill up the bar faster than a Commando can. Eventually, after the enemy has received enough damage, they will fall into a Stagger. For some enemies, they will still fight back, but for others their ATB bar will refill slower (and for other enemies they will not attack). Special abilities will be activated for your party when an enemy becomes staggered. However, beware, as if the player does not attack the enemy frequently, the bar will drop, and if it resets to zero, then they will be forced to start all over again.
Battle Ratings is implemented for every battle. The player is given an initiative bonus and numerous other factors that come into play will show up on the "winning screen". The screen will show you a rating of 0 - 5 stars. If the player got five stars, then they did stupendous on the job. If the player received no stars, then they did nothing but finish the battle. The rating system seems useless to some players, but if a player has a higher rating, the chances are that they are going to get better items at the end of the battle.
Splitting Characters Up
Throughout the main portion of the game, the whole party will never be all together. For example, Lightning, Hope, Sazh, and Vanille are forced to go separate ways when they disagree on a subject. Lightning and Hope stick together because they want to fight the fal'Cie and PSICOM, whereas Sazh and Vanille want to run away and avoid all those problems. The players will still be forced into battles with the bare minimum of two characters.
The player may want to use Sazh in their party always, but it isn't an option since it's impossible for Sazh to be in a party with Lightning if he is separated from her. This deviates away from the traditional Final Fantasy sense because once the player finds their main team, they stick with them until the very end. In this game, the player is actually forced to play as each character. This allows the player to see all their weaknesses and all their strengths before picking their own party and their own paradigms and their own roles.
The game definitely differentiates in style from the rest of the games. Some say it's too simple, but what other Final Fantasy game allows for on-the-fly style changes and instantaneous stratgies? This is simply a beautiful system, and since the game shows the player how to apply it step-by-step, there is truly nothing to complain about. In comparison to the other ones, the team now has access to six ATB gauges. The player can either way for all of their gauges to fill or they can hit triangle when they deem necessary and they can attack on the fly.
In terms of the map sizes and player feedback; this is where the game gets most of its' heat. Aside from maybe going to another path for a treasure chest, the game doesn't allow for more area exploration. However, this was the case for Final Fantasy X, one of the best Final Fantasy games to date (regards to the fans who have kept it alive for so long). The player had to follow the steps of Tidus all the way until they got to Zanarkand and found a way to defeat Sin. Then the player was given the option to fly around in the airship. This is the same concept. The player has to spend 20+ hours fighting hordes of enemies and following the storyline until they are landed in Gran Pulse.
If fighting tons of enemies is a problem with the general public, then so be it, but there should be nothing to tarnish the amazing concept of "linearity" in this case. Not all games can be like Grand Theft Auto.
Accessories and weapons can now be upgraded via save point. It will allow the player to use "Spoils" (items won from battles) to upgrade Lightning's sword or Hope's boomerang. The concept is great, since the player is given the option to either bolster one character, thus becoming a tank, while keeping one character at a minimum to restore the tank's health. Not much can be said about the Customization feature, except: AMAZING. It truly allows for a more diverse team and it does give the player some thought on whether they should upgrade the characters equally or one by one.
Items, Gil, Shops, and the Save System
Items do not take up anything within the ATB gauges! They can be used whenever the player may choose. Gil is short in this game, the team gets nothing from winning a battle. They most sell their Spoils to receive yen. They can sell the Spoils at any shop. After certain areas in the game, and certain bosses are defeated, the player is given more shops to access. These shops all have different items. All shops are diverse. The Save point is where all the magic happens. The player may upgrade items from the save point, they may access shops from the save point, and they can even save from the save point! Square has made it so that the Save Point is the player's buddy.
Towns are no longer exclusive in the Final Fantasy universe. The concept of towns in other Final Fantasy games was - Run around, open a treasure chest, run around, open another, run around, talk to a person, run around, find the item shop, etc. The concept of towns in this Final Fantasy game is almost gone. The only town the player visits that seems remotely "homely" is later on in the game. The player is still given a some-what linear path. Towns were not needed if they could be replaced with a simple save point. It cuts down on time and it allows the player to jump right back into the game. Although, if the player is one for nostalgia, they may miss the concept of towns.
In comparison to every game on the market, this game has the best graphics. The graphics are so amazing that the player may want to reach out and try to comfort a character during their moment of indecision. Each aspect is detailed so carefully. Square has even used real-life filming techniques to give the players a movie-feel. When Square gave a close-up of a character, they focused completely on the character and focused the background so that it wasn't as crisp and as clear as the character. There is nothing much to say about the graphics. They are truly amazing.
Voice acting wasn't too much of a deal for this game. Games like Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors need better voice actors. The only character that seems to have fallen short of expectations was the lead - Lightning. It may be because most of her lines were delivered in a cheesy-fashion, but any fan should expect that out of a Final Fantasy game. Overall, voice acting contributed to the passion within the game.
Nobuo Uematsu did not come back to orchestrate the Final Fantasy soundtrack. It was a shocker for, but the new composer did a nice job. The music wasn't memorable. The music that stood out the most was the battle music because most of the time in the game is spent on battles. The soundtrack is really nicely done for a Final Fantasy game. There is no reason to bash his composing, unless someone is comparing him to Uematsu. Then again, it may just be a nostalgic feeling kicking back in for those players.
The game. The graphics. The story. The sound. The emotion. The passion. Everything. It was perfect for this game. This is possible game of the year material.
Do not rent this game. Buy it as soon as possible. You don't have to be a fan of Final Fantasy to enjoy this. If you love fast paced battles, if you love simple strategies, if you love leveling up characters, if you love diversity, then pick up this game as fast as possible. It's simply too amazing to pass by.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/12/10, Updated 07/07/11
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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