Review by JCtheArchangel
"A shining example of how to push a systems limits and neglect old-school charm... and fun..."
I always figured I'd be in my fifties before I started saying "Back in the good ol' days", but here I am, reminiscing about the days of Final Fantasy 5-8, Breath of Fire 3, Fallout 1 and 2, Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, and several other great examples of what can be done when graphics aren't the top priority of the designer. It's funny that the greatest RPG's I've ever played (In my opinion of course, feel free to disagree, that's what taste is all about after all) were so incredibly limited due to the constraints of their systems, those being of course, Playstation 1 and before, and the Desktop computer systems from over a decade ago. Believe it or not, while I was playing FF13 I had to take a break here and there so I could go play Starcraft on my laptop, just because I couldn't remember the story. A brand new game of epic scale sitting in my playstation 3, but I'd rather play an RTS from 1998! But enough of my complaining, let's figure out why I say such things about a series I've been otherwise loyal to (though 12 had to be one of the worst games I've ever played).
Graphics: Yup, they're great, 10 out of 10, no question there. This game sports the best graphics on an RPG yet. The only graphics I've seen better have been Dragon Age: Origins on my friend's super computer. If you're looking for big shiny oohs and aahs, this one has it. Enough sparkly explosions to give you epilepsy. Enjoy.
Sound: Mmmm, 6/10. Really the sound itself is great, effects wise, but the music in the game is completely unremarkable. In your old school RPG's like FF7 I remember the victory tune at the end of every battle like it was yesterday, little things like that really stuck out. At the beginning of FF7 Advent Children they played a familiar tune that gave me chills, it was amazing how original and catchy it all was. There's nothing memorable about the music in this game EXCEPT for the song played at the very end of the song which you can tell the producers took great pride in, and rightfully so! It's a nice song! But I wouldn't pay 60 bucks for it, pick up the song on ITunes or something and call it a day. Also on a minor note the voice acting of Vanille and Fang is pretty annoying, fake Australian accents, could've been worse I suppose.
Battle System: 5/10. I like the concept behind the Paradigm system a lot, it's definitely original. Each of your characters is capable of standing in a "role", one of six roles. You have the high damage commandos, magic wielding, chain building ravagers, tanking sentinels, Enemy debuffing Sabetuers, Party Buffing Synergists, and lastly the healing medics. So if I'm walking into a battle with a ton of little high damage buggers I can switch to a commando, sentinel, synergist to get the ball rolling. The commando will do some area of effect attacks to weaken them, the sentinel will draw their attention and mitigate their damage output, and the synergist will start buffing the party with higher damage output and lower damage received as well as doing whatever buffs are needed to continue giving you the edge over the enemy. Then once you get to a point where you're comfortable you can press L1 to pick another "Paradigm", or setup in which the character that was a commando a moment ago can now be a ravager, the sentinel will be a commando, and the synergist will be a ravager as well, so now you have a buffed up party with all offensive rolls and can proceed to mop the floor with the weakened enemies. Most boss battles will require you to switch paradigms many times per fight, shifting rolls back and forth and the situation demands it. GREAT concept, and I have to give Square props for it, whoever invented the idea should get a promotion, well done. The PROBLEM is, most characters have three of the six roles, and they aren't worth garbage at the other three. So in selecting your team you have to ensure that all six roles are usable, as each role becomes nearly essential in one battle or another. Reading the forums I see that most players arrived at the same outcome I did, the best team for me was Lightning, Fang and Hope. I WANTED to use the other characters, but it wasn't really feasible. That team is simply the best. Now I figured if I could train Vanille up as a synergist I'd be able to swap her in. Unfortunately after looking at her skill tree (called Crysthanimum or something weird like that, very similar to FF10's sphere grid but waaaay less customizable. You can buff a character's HP, Strength or Magic... that's it... and characters can't learn all the skills, only a select few are available to each character) I realized Vanille is a garbage synergist, and is completely unable to ever be a good one! They make it wicked expensive to have a character go up a crystal tree that isn't one of their original trees, and only provide them with access to about half the skills that the characters who specialize in that role get. It's a bit hard to explain beyond that, but it was a major drawback to me that there was so little customization available in this game. The characters are what they are, you have pretty much no control over how they turn out unless you're willing to beat the game, grind for days and days and days, and then and only then will they be SOMEWHAT useful in a role outside their original three. Good job Square... You may as well have made a movie, this didn't feel like a game.
Mini-Games: 1/10- There aren't any. "But the chocobos and monster hunting missions!" Garbage.
Replay value: 1/10- There isn't any! It's not an RPG really, there's no role playing. You don't make any decisions, and the game is completely linear. COMPLETELY linear. Just about the only thing that changes between the games is which characters you want to use in the second half of the game, and really there aren't that many combinations of characters that still have access to all 6 roles, so you're very much stuck with one of maybe 2 or 3 options of a team... oh yipee...
Story: 2/10- Right away in this game they start throwing around terms, "L'Cie, Fal'Cie, Orphan, Cacoon, Gran Pulse, Ce'ith etc". The problem is very little of it makes much sense, and once you figure out what it all means, it's just not very interesting. Maybe I'm just a simpleton, but even after finishing the game I still feel like they were just blowing smoke up my... well anyways, there's not a lot of charm to this game, there are absolutely NO towns. Liked the Gold Saucer in FF7? Me too, forget about it though, there aren't any good places to go chill and play some mini games or anything like that, just a few places you can go grind if you want to.
Side Quests: 3/10- Again, there really aren't any. You can talk to these "Ci'ith stones" to take on a "mission", which is just to go run for 10-15 minutes to find one somewhat challenging monster and kill it for a reward. Truth be told I played the game all the way through and never found the "chocobo" game that I've heard mentioned on the boards. I just don't care though! Sorry if it's not a top knotch review as I haven't explored every nook and crannie of the game, but I don't want to throw that disc in my PS3 ever again!
Characters: 5/10- Okay, so I kind of dug the lesbian vibe between Fang and Vanille, Lightning was kind of a cold "Femme Cloud" type character and it worked out okay, and Snow, for all that annoying "Hero" talk he does is kind of a cool upbeat character, really though my favorite character was Sazh, the guy with a baby chocobo in his afro and a couple of handguns. I think he was sort of meant as comic relief originally, but then the developers realized they weren't funny. While I can vaguely remember laughing a couple of times, it was never a "rofl" laugh or anything, just chuckles here and there. There was just nothing memorable or unique enough about any of the characters or their interactions to really make me want to play through it again.
Overall: 4/10. I gave this game a 4 because that's really what it is. Outside of graphics and the Paradigm system I'd call this game a flop. Some of the most important factors in an "RPG" (at least in my opinion) are customization, secrets and sidequests, story, character internal and external story conflicts, and replayability. This game just doesn't have any of them. At this point Square needs to just start making movies and letting fans write the stories, because as a game it fails miserably. Sure is pretty though!
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 03/19/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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