Review by Steve_JF
"An absolute revolutionary masterpiece! One that I hope future RPG's follow."
I won't lie, I was quite sceptical in how Final Fantasy XII would turn out. Though I am a big Final Fantasy fan and have played most of the games in the FF franchise, I am one that believes that Square Enix games have lately been decaying in quality. Kingdom Hearts 2, Final Fantasy XII, and FFXI are my main examples of SE losing that flare, that edge, that X-factor that was so powerful and present in earlier Final Fantasy and Squaresoft /Enix published games.
However, FFXIII has broken this 'poisoned-chalice' trend and turned the tide with its brave and bold new changes that offer something completely different from all RPG's you've played before. Its fast and furious, it involves mid-battle tactics to swift the fight in your favour, it has characters that you can more closely relate to than thousands of RPG protagonists in the past, and it offers something refreshing- finally an oasis to appear in the dull desert of RPG's in the past few years. Here comes the review. I will keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, so do not worry that I may ruin your experience.
Remember that copy of Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, IX or X that you were so fond of, and simply could not put down for love nor money? This for me was exactly like when I first discovered Final Fantasy VIII. That game I had been waiting for to draw me in and amaze. The game-play is brilliant.
The battle system is lightning-fast, (pun intended) and at first you may have trouble keeping up with the flow of fighting. You have an ATB bar which controls when you can fight or make actions, like many other Final Fantasies, but in this one, much chaos and damage numbers will come and go in a blink of an eye. Once you get the hang of battle, the speed will keep you psyched up and battles energetic and fun. You only control one character, but you have up to two other Ai's who work with you closely, but alter character tactics and commands with a system which lets you switch jobs mid-battle You cannot get through the game simply sticking to button-mashing the 'A' button with one class- you HAVE to change jobs if you intend on getting anywhere. This game is very challenging, and will always keep you on your feet with enemies that can beat you as easily as you can thwart them.
There's also summons in this adventure that aid in battle and prove very useful (though not overpowered), weapon upgrades, a levelling up system similar to the sphere grid of FFX for different jobs. Moreover, characters stats are kept simple and minimal without degrading the complexity of battle. Furthermore, when you get that dreaded Game-over' screen, you get to restart from the battle you just lost rather than load from your last save point. This is a brilliant tweak for the better.
FFXIII has its drawbacks though- its early game is a little weak and very linear, and constant save points may tire you too.
The Story is superb, well-driven and often unpredictable with several inter-twining segments- just what you want in an RPG. Each of your protagonists have plenty of depth, very likable and maybe influential. Characters conflict with each other as well as outside enemies, making the plot revolving round a simple divide between good and evil, with more depending on perspective.The plot can get confusing though as characters refer to terms as if the player knows exactly what they're talking about, which I myself didn't. However Square Enix remedy this by encouraging you to read the games Datalog' to keep well-informed as well as provide greater scope on characters, enemies, places, political parties etc.
I cannot grade it less. Both in-game and during cut-scenes, everything about the game looks fantastic. It is by far the best-looking game I have played yet, with characters looking intricately detailed and crazily flamboyant. Monsters look incredible and colourful, landscapes are flawless with details from shadows to sun-light completely nailed to perfection. I have nothing at all to complain here. Look on the Square Enix website and see for yourself!
Overall FFXIII has great voice-acting, impeccable sounds, and a soundtrack that nearly contends with that of FFVIII and FFX. Most music and sound is catchy and pleasing to the ears, but some of its music is mediocre and grating. The battle music is great never tires though. Especially the Boss music, which really gets you pumped up. It rocks.
The golden game I've been waiting for and worth the wait. Some will hate it for its sheer amount of controversy and change from previous FF's in the franchise, but I couldn't be happier with this game. My advice- Give it a chance early on, take a risk and buy it- it's very unlikely a rent will give you enough to play with. Now, back to playing FFXIII!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/15/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (EU, 03/09/10)
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