Review by HolyDragon2808
"A Very Good Installment to the Final Fantasy Series, But This Game Isn't For Everyone"
I've seen a lot of complaints for this game but to summarize them: "This game is too linear, there are no towns, limited exploration" etc. Basically, it's not like the older FF games so it's bad. I beg to differ.
Amazing. Anyone with eyes can see that a lot of time was taken in this game from the people to the trees to the cities. Everything comes to life and is very believable. While I have never been one to think that graphics make a game (and I still don't), awesome graphics can enhance a gaming experience and it definitely shows in this game. No disappointments here.
Okay, I admit, this story does start out as "What is going on around here?!". They do kind of just throw you into the action without much explanation and it is REALLY slow at starting off. However, things do become more interesting and clear within the first few chapters if you stick with it. While overall, the story isn't just "OMG it's the most awesome thing ever!!!!", it is very believable as all of the characters drive the plot and not just one or two. Each character has their own set of problems and drama to deal with and each of them contribute to the plot and anyone can relate to and/or sympathize their personal dilemmas and struggles. This game isn't focusing on all-powerful characters with insane like abilities (not that I'm saying that all the other FF games do that, they don't), but it's focusing on the characters as human beings and how despair, sadness, and anger can cripple and corrupt a person and how hard it can be to keep hope alive when you have no control over your life. So to conclude this part, the story is very beautiful and believable enough on its own, but the strong cast of characters and their inner and outer struggles is what really make the story worth experiencing.
Gameplay/battle system 8/10
Okay, this is where the "it's too linear" thing comes into play. The game play is pretty much a hit or miss with people. IF you like a lot of exploration, freedom, side quests, and mini games, then the game play will seriously annoy you to no end. Because of plot reasons and the story driven nature of this game, there's a very limited supply of all of those things. But for me (and folks like me) the story got interesting/engaging enough for the limited exploration /freedom thing to not matter much if at all. It does become ridiculously obvious why the characters can't revisit old places once they leave, but I do agree with some people that adding a few side quests and mini games along the way of the story wouldn't have killed this game (at the very least they could have put some mini games in the City of Nautilus) and probably would've broken up some of the monotony that a lot of folks experienced. Granted as I said, it didn't bother me much if at all, but this could be a problem for a lot of people who favor the older FF style. It really depends on the person when you get down to it.
As for the battle system, it has a few things that need to be modified and/or refined, but overall, it's very fast-paced and very enjoyable after the first few hours. The battle system/game play feels like a hybrid of an action FPS and an RPG. If you've played FFX, FFX-2, and FFXII, just picture elements from those three games combined into one and you've basically got the battle system of FFXIII. The Crystarium is very similar to the Sphere Grid in FFX, the Paradigm shifts are very similar to the dressphere changes in FFX-2, and the Real-Time like FFXII thing is pretty apparent in this game.The fact that this game basically "holds your hand" regarding the system may annoy some of the FF veterans. This is mostly apparent in the first few hours of the game with all of the tutorials. But once you get into the game and the system opens up more and more, it becomes very enjoyable and interesting. The only major downside to this battle system that may annoy some people is that it isn't very customizable. In most FF games, you can customize your characters with various abilities with each play through. Not the case in this game. Each character does have their own one exclusive skill that only they can learn, but for the most part the battle system offers very limited if any customization .
Another thing people love to complain about is the "Auto-Battle" function in the game. In battle, if you have your default command set to "Auto-Battle", then when you press Auto-Battle, the game automatically picks abilities for your leader to use instead of you having to scroll through the menu looking for them. Obviously, this is pretty helpful in certain roles like Commando (honestly, do you wanna key in the "Attack" command multiple times if you don't have to?), but in roles like Ravenger or Medic, Auto-Battle can be a bit of a nuisance because it doesn't always pick the best options. However, this would actually be a REAL issue if you couldn't turn the Auto-Battle function off or choose not to use it. But you can. So if you find yourself not caring for Auto-Battle, you can turn it off or choose not to use it.
Another thing that people usually don't like is that you only have control over one character. The AI controls the other two characters in your party during battle. This I agree with. Sometimes, the AI don't always pick the best options either, and it would've been nice if you had control over everyone instead of just the leader to better manage the flow of the battles on your end. But for the most part, the AI usually did a good job and battles were manageable enough.
One other super annoyance about the battle system is that if the leader dies (the one person you as the player control) in battle, then you get a game over. This was just ridiculous. It isn't that big of a deal for a while, but when you start battling enemies that like to spam instant death moves like certain battles towards the end of the game (and tend to hit the main character A LOT) then it just becomes an unnecessary annoyance because it raises the obvious question "If they're are three people in your party, then why can't the other two party heal the leader?" This was one of the only few major gripes I had about the battle system, not so much because of difficulty, but rather because it made NO sense to me. It isn't even great strategy. It's just the enemy being cheap.
I found the music to be very enjoyable overall. Yes, some of the track do get repetitive (particularly when the dungeon is long and the track has lyrics), but the music does a very good job of capturing the emotions of the characters and setting the mood for particular scenes for the most part. The only mild tiff I have with the soundtrack is the absence of the victory fanfare after the battles. The battles feel a bit weird without hearing that fanfare when you win a battle in a FF game because it's always been there. While that difference is definitely noticeable (especially for FF veterans who love the fanfare), there are still a lot of memorable tracks on this game and just because Nobuo Uematsu didn't compose the FFXIII music doesn't mean it's bad.
Yes, I admit when I found out that the legendary Uematsu wasn't doing the soundtrack I was skeptical just like any FF fan, but Masashi Hamauzu (one of the three composers for the FFX soundtrack) did an excellent job on the soundtrack overall. There wasn't a single track on the album (I own it) that I just flat out hated. Now playing the game itself, as I said a lot of them get a bit repetitive when you're forced to listen to them OVER AND OVER again (particularly "Will To Fight" and "The Sunleth Waterscape") . But listening to the tracks on their own they're actually pretty enjoyable for the most part. True, I'm sure Uematsu could've done just as well if not better, but I do think that Hamauzu deserves much more credit than he gets for the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack because his talent really shows in a lot of the pieces.
Replay value /conclusion
Can't really rate this because it depends on you as a gamer and what you're looking for in a game. If you enjoyed the story and the characters as much as I did, then obviously the replay value is there. However, if you favor the classic old time stuff more, then the lack of exploration and "freedom" and the limited customization of the battle system may annoy you too much to replay this game if you play it at all. Me? I don't have a favorite type when it comes to the FF games. I love the older styles and the newer styles of the FF series equally so it worked out well for me. I personally put story above everything in an RPG so the fact that in this game I didn't have to run around trying to figure out where to go to advance to the next plot point was a bonus. And I usually don't care about side quests unless they relate to the story in some way.
But that doesn't mean it will be like that for everyone. If you think it's a sin to alter the FF series beyond the older/classic styles, then this game probably isn't for you. However, if you're open to change and want to see something totally different from the FF norm, then this game will definitely be up your alley. The main thing is being open to change which seems to be the biggest problem for a lot of folks as this game does deviate from a lot of things that veteran FF fans are used to. Either way, a review can't play the game and analyze your feelings. You have to try it out and see for yourself. To sum it up, Final Fantasy XIII is a good installment to the Final Fantasy series and deserving of its name, but not for everyone.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/24/11, Updated 05/31/11
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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