Review by Yami_no_Geimu

"Well I appreciate Square's effort, but..."

The problem with the way most people review this game is that their expectations have been a little too high from the get-go. This is a Final Fantasy game after all, the first major Final Fantasy in 4 years since the "controversial" Final Fantasy XII. So their assessments of this game are somewhat biased one way or another. I'm going to pretend as if it were just another Demon's Souls or End of Eternity - some random JRPG that few people know about until it's actually released. That way no one who reads this can just pass it off as me being bitter that it's not like previous FF games.

A Role Playing Game
What do I look for in every RPG? Well mainly role-playing. It's is a Role Playing Game after all. If I'm not mistaken, role-playing is when you are given roles in a story and you make the decisions regarding those roles. The problem with Final Fantasy XIII is that you don't really get to decide anything. Now if I revert to comparing this to other Final Fantasy games again, I could say that most of them had this same "linearity" as well. However, they also had a great many things to make up for it, something this game is strangely lacking. But I digress. Well on it's own I guess the only role-playing element in this game is the Paradigm/Optima system. Now I was given the impression by players of the Japanese version that this game would be quite challenging. Maybe they changed that in the English version, as they tend to to. I don't know. But it really isn't. You basically fight, gain CP, fight some more, heal, repeat, until the next cut-scene. It's nothing complex at all. Compared to other current JRPG systems like Star Ocean's for example, it's actually quite sub-par. And Star Ocean's system is nothing special or new.

The System
I'm not even gonna bother with the summons. I would have to dedicate a whole page to just how I feel about them... Lets just say... I had no desire to use them.

The Growth System, this Crystarium System, is very uninspired. It's quite similar to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid System except much worse. Well I shouldn't say that. I did say I wouldn't compare this to other FFs. Well they give you a path to follow for each character. And there is really no customization, something inherent in most RPG growth systems. You basically have a set path of stats to unlock, and once you reach the temporary end, you can't move or grind any further along path until the next Chapter boss. If you are wondering how strong you need to be for the next boss, don't worry. In essence they hold your hand and tell you by setting this limit, with no alternatives or deviations. Speaking of hand holding, there is quite a bit of it in this game. There is literally a save point every ten feet. And the irony is you don't even need it. If you die, you re-spawn right in front of the monster that just killed you. And they have this ranking system that serves absolutely no purpose, other than to mock you with 0 stars if you didn't fight well to their standards. It's still a mystery to me why they even put it in the game at all. I basically feel like this is what's happening: Follow the path, fight, get ranked for no reason, follow the path, fight, get ranked... Rather than them holding my hand guiding me along their path, I really feel like a dog being led on a leash being ranked on how well I jump through their boring hoops, you know almost like that Superman 64 game. They basically designed it with this in mind: "This is how much you have to fight. This is the only way. This is the path we have chosen for you. It is your destiny. You can't do anything else. Why, you ask? Well because it would get in the way of our storytelling, and we can't have that now can we?"

The Story
Well I guess it's cool that they wanted to tell a great story. But couldn't they have at least uh... you know... actually told a great story? It was filled with so much... nonsense... and unnecessary melodrama. The only character in the game that actually made any sense was Sazh. And apparently this guy was supposed to be the "comic relief." The irony... Lightning is supposed to be the cool fearless commando lady. But sometimes she just comes off as a stiff little... with some sand in her nether region. She has some "heartwarming" moments, I suppose, but I really don't understand what people see in her, other than the design of her body. She's really not that interesting. Hope is a whiny little... ugh... I'm not even gonna waste time on him. Now Snow and Vanille really take the cake as some of the most irritating characters in JRPG history. Snow is your typical Japanese shounen wannabe hero. "I will protect everyone." "Everyone's depending on me." "I will save blah blah ugggghhhh just... just no . As for Vanille, I feel like the only reason they put her in the game was to act as fan service. And as a male fan, I don't even feel serviced. I just feel... annoyed. I'm annoyed by her voice. I'm annoyed by the way she runs. I'm annoyed by her clothes. I'm annoyed by the way she shakes her booty while fighting. I'm annoyed by her silly weapon. I'm especially annoyed by her ridiculous summon. I'm. Annoyed. By. Every. Aspect. Of. Her. Being. So in the end it just feels like the only reason they put her in the game was to annoy me. So yeah I got her out of my party ASAP. I don't care how high her magic is. Sazh will serve her purpose just fine. So by the endgame I'm down to just Lightning, Sazh, and Fang as the only people I'm willing to have in my party.

But the thing is, these people aren't even as important as one of the things that makes a story a great story: a memorable villain. You can have a story with the crappiest most 2-dimensional protagonists, yet still have a villain who manages to make everything interesting before finally being defeated. Now I understand they were trying to be a little ambitious and were apparently going for something a little more... abstract... as a primary antagonist. Uh... maybe they bit off a little more than they could chew. I mean these guys are game developers, not some profound philosophers or novelists. Please, please my Japanese friends, try to master the basics before you attempt anything "deep" like this again. The basics... meaning a villain worthy of my hate. A person who constantly makes me look forward to killing them at the end of the game... Come on guys. This is Storytelling 101. There were times when I didn't even know why I was fighting the things I was fighting.

Now there was one antagonist in the entire game who actually showed some promise. Without revealing spoilers, I'll describe them a bit. This is the kind of person who beats and tortures helpless puppies and baby seals. This is a what you call a villain. I was actually looking forward to fighting this person. This was the one person who could have actually made this entire convoluted mess worthwhile... Well, so much for that.

It came to a point were I really had no motivation to finish the game. With no one really interesting to fight, this train-wreck became so sappy, cheesy, and unbearable I found myself mashing the start button late in the game to quickly avoid those cut-scenes. Story isn't even that important to me because usually there are a lot of other things to interest me in an RPG. This game didn't even have those things. It didn't have the meat that's supposed to make up any RPG. All it has to fall back on is story. I should have given up on the game many times but I didn't. I guess I was hoping maybe the story would get better, or a better antagonist would show up... Well, so much for that.

The Value
They spent so much effort on telling a story. They sacrificed so many other aspects of an RPG for the sake of storytelling, in fact, that it plays more like a movie than a video-game... more CGI than RPG. I spent a good amount of my hard earned money... on a movie - and not even a good one at that. It is extremely rare for me to buy a game when it first comes out. Spending $60 on a game usually feels like madness to me. But this is Final Fantasy. So I did it. Because when I spend that much on a game, I expect to have a game that I can play and over again since there is so much for me to do and things that can be done differently on the next play-through. This is a basic quality most games, not just RPGs are supposed have. I expect to get my money's worth, not an overpriced movie; because once you played this game, you've pretty much seen it all. Final Fantasy XIII has no replay value whatsoever. There is one side quest of "missions" and bit of Chocobo treasure hunting that pretty much amounts to nothing more than meaningless grinding. I was hoping maybe I would get to fight the unbelievably large creature looming in the background of the Gran Pulse as a reward. No, I don't even get to do that. Throughout this entire game, I get to look at a world of beautiful graphics and scenery, but I don't actually get to do anything worthwhile with it. I get to look, but I don't get to touch. I get to have my cake, but I don't actually get to eat it. Where's the fun in that? What a waste.

Conclusion
I really wanted to like this game, but there are just too many grievous issues with it. The graphics and the music are so breathtaking, but they really are quite trivial compared to everything else. They simply aren't enough to make this a good game. It's like a house with a beautiful facade, but with an unacceptably poor foundation, doomed to crumble under any sort of stress. I'm sorry to say I regret my purchase of Final Fantasy XIII, and it's quite a tragedy considering the 4 to 5 long hard years Square put into it.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 03/22/10

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


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