Review by GooberSD

"Although It Is Far From Being the Best Game in the Series, Final Fantasy XIII is an Instant Classic."

It has been almost five years since Square first unveiled Final Fantasy XIII to the world in 2005. After countless delays, and an intense advertising campaign, Final Fantasy XIII is finally here for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360... but mostly for the Playstation 3.

The world has been waiting for the game like little children waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Now that it has finally been released, people can't help but wonder, "Is the game any good?" You can't blame them for wondering this; since many found XII to be a disappointment. (I did not.)

The truth about Final Fantasy XIII is that it is fantastic. Directed by Motomu Toriyama, the director of Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XIII offers a unique take on the Final Fantasy series that is both good and bad.

STORY

I will avoid speaking about the game's story for obvious reasons. But I will say that the story to Final Fantasy XIII is just as epic and original as the other games, for the most part.

The story is split into thirteen different chapters, each being a different length and each telling different stories. The game's prologue is rather lengthy. It wasn't until Chapter Five or Six that the story finally started to move in a direction. This was a bit of a bother to me, since that was about twelve hours into the game. This might not be a problem for some, but for me, the pacing was slow.

If you've played any Final Fantasy before you'll notice how powerful the narratives are. Final Fantasy XIII is no exception. The game plays out almost like a movie with several cinematic cut-scenes that easily break the ten and some times fifteen minute mark. The game is by far the most cinematic Final Fantasy to date, and that's not a bad thing.

Half of the story of Final Fantasy XIII is told through cut-scenes, and the other half is told through your datalog. Your datalog is an in-game encyclopedia that offers a large variety of information that tells you plenty of back-story and details that you otherwise wouldn't find out about.

The story to Final Fantasy XIII is much shorter than the previous games. Players will be able to complete the full game in less than forty hours. The excellence story and characters make up for the length though.

The protagonist Lightning is the first true strong female protagonist that the entire series has ever seen. Lightning is easy to relate too, and has layers of her personality that make her a complicated character. Even though she starts out as a dull character that seems like another Cloud, in the end, she turns out to be a wonderful character.

Other stock characters such as Snow and Hope offer plenty of character of development. The game has characters that everyone should be able to relate too. Which is a first for the series. The game takes its time in explaining the past and traits to each character that makes them into who they are; and each character has plenty of secrets to tell. In short, Final Fantasy XIII has a wonderful story full of rich characters and a deep plot. The game also gives off a strong and very obvious message on prejudice.

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay to Final Fantasy XIII is the traditional ATB-turn-based gameplay that the series is famous for. However, it has many twists that make it very different than the other games. Final Fantasy XIII is EXTREMELY fast-paced. It is hard to get used to at first.

The game brings back the classic use of Jobs into the series, but there are only seven classes in this game. The game requires you to constantly switch into battle to stay alive. You will constantly be switching from healer to fighter to spell-caster, leaving you constantly on the edge of your seat.

Final Fantasy XIII deploys more strategy into the gameplay than any other game the series has seen. Several battles feel like a trial and error scenario. You have to keep fighting the same battles until you find the proper strategy that will get you through the fights. In other words, you will die a lot in Final Fantasy XIII. Every time you get a Game Over, the game gives you a retry option, which will let you try a battle again. You will be seeing this Game Over screen quite often since the enemies in the game go from walks in the park to virtual death matches.

Battles can also range from being less than thirty seconds to over ten minutes long. These ten minute long battles usually aren't very hard, but feel like a waste of time since you receive barely any experience. Usually it's best to avoid these battles if you can. Otherwise you're going to get frustrated by the length of the battles since there is no way to run away from the battles.

The game limits your leveling up until the ending of the game, which means the game is pretty much hard all the way through. In this Final Fantasy you level up through a grid called "Crystogensis." The system is kind of like the License Board meets the Sphere Grid. It's very simple to use, but frustrating since you unlock the grids as the story goes through. This prevents players from "over-maxing" their characters. I don't know why they did this, but the game actually prevents you from over leveling your characters.

As you play throughout the game you control different parties, and the story develops depending on who's in your party. However, you cannot choose you put into your party until the end of the game. The game doesn't give you really any flexibility until the end of the game.

You're always on a set course. You'll always be going from point "A" to point "B", which usually results in a cut-scene. You don't have the option to wander around, and you won't be venturing through any towns or visit any shops. All of your shopping will be done at save points. You can also upgrade your characters at save points.

As the story unfolds you unlock more and more freedom in the battle system. Each character earns their own Eidolon to summon, and there are plenty of weapons and accessories that you can personally customize.

Even though you don't have a lot of freedom, the gameplay is made up through the re-amped turn-based battle system. The fast pace battle system is a lot of fun to play in, although the difficulty and battle lengths can be frustrating.

MUSIC

The music to the Final Fantasy series contains the best music, topping any other game series. Most of this is due to the composer Nobuo Uematsu. However, Final Fantasy XIII has a new composer, and takes several turns in the music that I find very disrupting.

Final Fantasy XIII does not contain the songs, "Prelude of the Crystal," "The Final Fantasy Theme," or "The Victory Fanfare." These songs that have been in EVERY Final Fantasy game are completely absent from the game. Square says that they want to modernize the series as their excuse, but the game feels incomplete without these essential songs that we fans have grown to love.

The American soundtrack has also been severely cut down. The Japanese soundtrack has well over a 120 songs, but the American version barely has 80. Square cut down the American version for the Xbox 360 and to westernize the series. Since many of the songs in the Japanese version contain Japanese lyrics, Square either filtered these songs or completely cut them out of the American release. Several songs were also cut out of the Playstation 3 version because of the Xbox 360.

The music that IS featured in the game is nothing too special. In my opinion, its the worst that the series has seen. The music goes from being classically instrumental to a strange experimental techno-type of music. The game still contains the Chocobo theme, but the lyrics have been changed into English.

In short, the music is nothing special. Which is a pity for the Final Fantasy series. Let's hope the music to Final Fantasy XIV is better.

PRODUCTION/DESIGN

Final Fantasy XIII is a game that contains an engrossing story, fantastic graphics and gameplay. Final Fantasy XIII is the best Japanese RPG to be released since Final Fantasy XII. The game is just as detailed as every other game in the series, and in terms of graphics, it sets new standards. The high definition graphics are groundbreaking and the game literally looks like a movie.

Since this is a Final Fantasy game, everything is top-notch. There are almost load times, and the game runs perfectly, without a installation. The game also takes up only 500 kb.

The voice acting and dialogue is surprisingly good. With the exception of the character Vanille, the voice acting is near flawless. However, I cannot stand Vanille. She may have one of the most annoying voices in history. Even though she gets better throughout the course of the game, she is still terrible and makes more noises than a tiger on crack.

The programmers took the liberty to go back and dub the characters so that when they speak, the movement of their mouths actually matches the words coming out of their mouths.

The game is surprisingly dramatic. The game does a very good job at not being a mellow-drama, and instead it feels like a drama. The music in the cut-scenes is moving, but several songs in the American release have been replaced with a single song of a woman singing. This song plays throughout most cut-scenes since the original songs in the game have been taken out.

CONCLUSION

In the end, Final Fantasy XIII is not the best game in the series. However, it is an instant classic. I think it will be remembered by fans around the world. The game offers a unique perspective on the series that the other games haven't shown. The game at first feels like a strange experiment since it is so different. But as you progress through the game, the "experiment" begins to feel like an old series that we all love.

Whether you like it or not is completely up to you, I love the game. I have a few complaints but those aren't enough to stop me from saying that this game is fantastic.

I think that Final Fantasy XIII is highly under credited by critics. With a game like Final Fantasy, it's better to listen to the fans; and this fan is telling you that if you have a PS3, then buy Final Fantasy XIII.

Total Score: (Not on Average)

STORY 10/10

GAMEPLAY 9.6/10

MUSIC 7/10

PRODUCTION/ DESIGN 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 9.7/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/15/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)


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