Review by Artreyis
"How are you rating this game above a 3? Did you actually PLAY it?!"
The biggest joy of my video gaming life is probably the final fantasy series. I played it in the very beginning with Final Fantasy 1 for the NES. In fact, I still have the cartridge set securely on the bookshelf I use to display my rather impressive video game collection. It's a piece I'm proud to own.
Unfortunately, my bookshelf is also tainted by the copy of Final Fantasy XIII I pre-ordered months before its release here in USA. As I stated above, I'm a fan of the series. Even though I couldn't get into FFX-2, or FFXII, I figured, "Hey, what the hell, it's Final Fantasy." I went to the local gamestop at Midnight to pick it up, but didn't actually play it when I got home since I had to work the next morning. I spent all day at work unable to write much code due to my anticipation of playing Final Fantasy 13. Finally I would hear more captivating Nobuo Uematsu music, and I would get swept up into a beautiful plot based in a world to which Squeenix has graciously given me a window through which to view it, and the means with which to control it...
... Or so I'd hoped, until I actually put the disc in my PS3 and tried playing it.
Apparently I didn't get the memo about Nobuo Uematsu no longer composing the music for my favorite RPG series. As the comic artist behind VGCats has stated, who needs One Winged Angel when you have bland cookie-cutter audio we've heard in EVERY OTHER RPG? No offense to the new guy they have composing the music, but he's just not Nobuo Uematsu. It's sad that I'll never again hear creative usage of a digital cello as in Gau's theme from Final Fantasy 6, or hear the GORGEOUS and HEARTFELT music he was known for like the song playing on the Djose Highway in Final Fantasy X, or that gloriously triumphant after-battle fanfare that final fantasy was known for... I realize that perhaps Uematsu got tired of doing it, but this is the point where the Squeenix CEO can personally grovel his way to Nobuo Uematsu's front door, offer to pay him whatever he wants, and offer him a few "favors" if you catch my drift -- whatever it takes to get his masterpieces back in the series. Because Nobuo's music is what made this series so amazing.
Instead, the music that will assault your ears is hardly memorable. As someone who would transcribe the songs from these games by ear to the piano or the violin or the cello after only hearing them one or two times, I confess that I can only really recall one or two measures of Final Fantasy 13's battle theme, which is just sad. My talent hasn't diminished, as my Cello teacher is continuously amazed at how I can memorize just about any song she plays and play it back to her, it's just that this music lacks any sort of emotion or feeling. It's bland, and soulless, and not in the least bit inspiring. As such, I rate the music a 1 out of 10. It doesn't make my ears bleed, but you'll never hear me humming it because I just can't remember it.
I admit that at first I was entranced by the concept of Paradigms. Actually, let's just discard that ugly word and replace it with a phrase you're more familiar with: "Job System." The fast paced nature of the game appealed to me, and I liked how a well timed job switch could make or break a boss battle. I have to admit that the fight against Odin (I think it was Odin?) was fun, because I had to die a few times before I got it right. That's about it, though. I can't even remember what the thing looked like. The actual "random" (haha) encounters were more of a nuisance than they were entertaining.
There are plenty of other reviews explaining how the battle system works, so I'll spare you of those details. However, it generally takes far too long to enter the commands yourself, leaving you stuck with the auto-battle feature which basically plays the game for you. That was one of my biggest gripes about FFXII -- you could program the game to play itself. At least in FFXII you HAD to cleverly arrange gambits in ways that made the game play itself. In FF 13 you don't even have the option. The game just DOES. There is no player control, because the game controls itself better than you ever could. Apparently in their made rush to release a game that blew your freaking head off with extremely amazing graphics, they forgot about the fact that people actually want to PLAY the game.
Maybe their target audience was primarily the botters in MMOs who actually sit there at their computer and watch their bot perform. Considering 99% of botters don't actually write code, it definitely explains the shift from FF 12 to FF 13, where the prior required clever setup and usage, and the latter only requires you to enter the battle and push "x". I wonder if FF 15 will remove the need to -- you know -- maneuver the character to the next battle?
This is the category that saves the game from having a rating of 1. The game is visually stunning and beautiful. There are, however, some scenes that really just have too much information in them. For example, the intro train scene where you're running along those pathways way up in the air. There's just too much going on in the background and sometimes it's difficult to focus. Some parts of it almost made me dizzy -- and not in the good way. Other than that, the game's animation is VERY smooth, and very crisp, and definitely beautiful. I'll give it that much. FFX and FFX-2 and FFXII had nice graphics. Hell, even FF8 and 9 had gorgeous cut-scenes. Aside from FFVII (which was otherwise a wonderful game), Squeenix has never been hurting in the graphics department, so going on about the visual appeal of the game is a bit redundant I think. ;P
Honestly, I'm not sure what exactly they were going for. I know they had to have the token, stereotypical black guy in the game (nevermind the fact that the VAST majority of the game's population otherwise isn't black, which I found odd -- I expected more of a 50/50 thing?). Frankly I didn't find him that funny, even though he was apparently supposed to be the comedic relief. I think they could've done better with the character and made the game more interesting, but their attempt was a bit too inside-the-box to really amount to much.
Also, the overly optimistic teen-age girl in the game will annoy the hell out of you. I can't count the number of times I wanted to strangle her before I stopped playing this game for the sake of my poor room-mates that were having to listen to it without the "pleasure" of holding the controller and pressing the "x" button like me.
Lightning could've been an interesting character, but she was too busy trying to be a bad-ass rather than being realistic and sensible. Part of the thing that made this game so hard to follow is just that -- the characters' personalities were far too unrealistic, and I just couldn't relate to any of them. At least in FF8 I could relate to Squall wanting to shut out the rest of the world for fear of enduring the loss of someone precious to him again, and in FF9 I could relate to Zidane's utter disregard for authority in favor of chasing after his own dreams and goals, and in FFX I could relate to Tidus who -- in spite of his obvious ignorance of how the world of Spira functioned -- just wanted to keep his friends happy and had an overwhelming desire to do the right thing even if everyone else disagreed with him. Lightning offered no such relatable material in her personality. Instead, it was just "Oh, yeah, I'd like to avenge my sister being turned into a crystal statue. I otherwise have no personal interests, goals, or dreams and am really comparable to a human-sized cardboard cut-out. Flat, but pretty."
One of the biggest reasons I rate this story so lowly is due to its lack of explanation. Yeah, yeah, there's the datalog, but since WHEN has Squeenix EVER required us to stop playing the game to understand what the heck is going on? In FF6, the workings of the world were a black box and were slowly revealed to the otherwise ignorant main characters as the world -- as a whole -- caught on to Espers and how they worked. In FF7, Cloud seemed to know what the hell was going on for the most part, but he divulged the details to his party (and the player) as they were necessary for the tasks at hand. Eventually even he became lost, and the party was responsible for figuring it out and then helping him. In FFX, Tidus awoke in the ocean after nearly drowning -- having come from another world -- and the party was constantly having to fill him in on what was going on and what certain things meant based on the context of Spira, which he slowly had to catch onto, and like the previous examples the player was informed along the way.
FF 13 offers you no such information. You're expected to understand all of these made-up words right off the bat, and you have to research after the context is long since gone to figure out what they were talking about. I've always hated stories like that, where the world is DRASTICALLY different from ours and there's no explanation or common ground upon which to understand the world the story is placed in at the time that you need to understand it to know what's going on. It's clumsy, it's amateur, and it's freakin' annoying.
LIST OF THINGS FF FANS WANTED: 0/10
-- An explorable world map.
Honestly, squeenix, at what point in your experience with the player base did you decide that removing the explorable world map was the best way to go? WE LIKE TO EXPLORE. The LAST thing we want is to walk down a long, long hallway with no doors twists or turns and no options but to move forward or stop playing. I promise you, a lot of people will take the latter option.
-- Nobuo Uematsu's amazing music.
To the Squeenix CEO -- whatever it takes to get him back, do it. He made these games what they were, and the series will die without him. If he wants an office with a view, you give it to him. If he wants his pay doubled, you offer to triple it. If he wants a free espresso delivered to him by you, personally, every morning including week-ends, then you better not spill a single damn drop of it.
-- Relatable characters
It would be nice to have SOMETHING that allows the player to be immersed in the world you've created for us, Squeenix. Having characters one can relate to (or even care about) is definitely a huge plus. I know people who've THROWN their controllers across the room out of pure rage when Sephiroth killed Aeris in FF7, screaming "I @*&#ING HATE SEPHIROTH!" as the controllers left their hands.
-- Challenge / Replayability / Options / Choices
Mashing X isn't strategy. Even the Job Switching feature gets flat-out boring after a while. When you removed all of the options for players to explore when playing the game, you removed any semblence of challenge and any chance of enjoying a replay. At least the Chrono Trigger "series" has a New Game + method that lets you STOMP through the game the next time, and explore alternate endings. Heck, even FF1 -- the first in the series -- as a million different challenges you can embark upon, such as playing the game through with a party of all white mages.
-- Full Refund
I tried to take this game back to gamestop, only to find that five other people beat me to the punch. This was only a week after release, and there were already FIVE PRE-PLAYED COPIES on the shelves of that gamestop alone. That's gotta say something. I had the option of trading in the game for like $15 (I payed $60 something). Nice scam, that.
Final score: 3/10
All of these people rating it 7/10, 8/10 and other absurd scores are buffoons who're entertained solely by the pretty flashing lights, because that's all this game offers in terms of quality. Just once, I would love to enjoy a Final Fantasy game offering today's graphics and the game play / music of a decade ago. I really don't think that's too much to ask for.
This reviewer will not be pre-ordering FF 15 when it is inevitably released. Instead, I'll wait and read the reviews of the people who aren't as wise as I am, and count the number of copies that're returned in the first week. To those of you considering buying / renting / borrowing this game, I would instead urge you to to also purchase a bottle of vodka. You'll need it to drown out all of the "bad" from this terrible "role playing game" (haha).
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 11/04/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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