Review by dggame01
"Final Fantasy does Heavy Rain"
First, let me say I've played and enjoyed most of the FF series in one format or another and am not just beating on this release for no reason. Second, let me explain the tagline.
Heavy Rain is essentially an interactive movie that occasionally requires some buttons to be pressed by the player to make decisions and continue the well crafted, in depth story. The player's decisions decide how the movie plays and ends. About 10 people will probably buy it as people who aren't interested in a story alone will find it boring.
Final Fantasy 13 is essentially an interactive movie that occasionally needs the player to push UP on a joystick until another movie or a fight occurs. If you're in a fight, you are then required to press A until it's over. You can try and push other buttons and select commands yourself, but 9 times out of 10 pressing A auto-picks the most effective ones anyway so it makes your decisions fairly redundant. Occasionally you push L1. Once you've A'd your way through a fight, you press UP again until another fight or movie. Despite it having essentially the same gameplay to Heavy Rain, about 6 billion people will buy it and swear to its awesomeness.
So on to the review :
Graphics : 10/10. It's Square. It's mostly just a movie. I'm sure it cost a few million to make. Would you expect anything less
? I'm on the Xbox 360 and I'm blown away, so I cannot even imagine what the PS3 version is like. Although I would say that Square could really do with some new artists. The enemy models are starting to really look like Version 2.3 of models from previous games.
Sound : 9/10 Amazing except for the standard porno noises that all the Japanese RPG characters seem to make. In particular, Vanille and Hope seem to spend most of the dialogue grunting, huffing, sighing or squeaking. On the flip side, Sazh was a huge pleasant surprise. For once, a game features a black character that isn't built like a truck, covered in tats, and spends the entire game going Daaaammnnnn Hear Comes The Cole Train to whoop yo ass or similar.
Story : 7/10. No spoilers here. The story was typical Final Fantasy with multiple characters given emotional full story arcs. Given the lack of actual game, it's no surprise that this had to be strong to keep people playing. This gets an extra point for actually explaining all the made up Sci-Fi/Fantasy terms and names, unlike FF12 which seemed in every way a deliberate attempt to make people buy the Cheat Book to find out what the hell was going on. A word of warning though : DON'T READ THE DATABASE that updates as the story progresses. Seemingly in an overeager attempt to make up for FF12's lack of anything, the database usually reveals plot points and twists before the game actually gets to them. Just have a bit of patience and go with the main story as it will explain everything in time.
Gameplay 1/10. As above, there really is no gameplay. In "exploration" mode, you push UP to travel along what is essentially amazing looking corridor after beautifully rendered corridor. Occasionally there will be a bit to the side where you can guarantee an item orb will be hovering, but once actioned you carry on pushing UP. There are no character levels and only 3 stats to worry about. Character progression is by spending points on a Crystal grid. However, again this just involves pushing A until you reach a new crystal and get a stat up or new ability. Just like the main game, occasionally there is a branch to get 1 or 2 other crystals if you so desire, and then you carry on pushing A back on the main path. During a fight, you only control the main character. The fights never get more complex then pressing A until you're low health, then pressing L1 to change to Healer "Paradigm" (i.e. Job sets) then back again. These Paradigms are the only way to influence what your other party members do. Medics heal, Ravagers use Attack magic etc. You set these during the exploration mode, but cannot amend them during a battle, so you're stuck with whatever you set up. There is no MP so you just keep casting whatever spell or using whichever physical attack is most effecting until it's over. Then you press A on your crystal grid to power up, then press UP again on the exploration screen until something else happens. Now, a lot of reviews have gone on about how complex the fighting can end up, changing the job sets and being able to chain your main player actions, but given that by RPG standards your choices are incredibly restrictive, and you really don't have to anyway as the game does it for you, why would you ? Isn't that making a game harder just to give it the challenge it should have already had? This is one of the most ridiculously basic games I've played since the days of the Commodore 64. FF10 got panned for being too linear, but at least there were towns to explore, side quests to partake in, and you could dictate your characters progression on the Sphere Grid to give them some sort of personal touch. FF13 just puts you in a child stroller and pushes you along.
Summary : If this was anything except a Final Fantasy game, it would have been universally panned for the complete lack of interaction or thought required from the player. Yes, the story is very strong, and if all you want is an interactive story then you're in right place. If this came out on DVD without the game bits in between, I'd pay $20 for the DVD. Yes, there is a bit of strategy you can inject in the fights if you wish and they do get a BIT more involving later on. However, given the absolutely huge amount of top quality games available these days, why would you settle for something this mundane. Hats off to Square for trying something different, but I think I'd rather spend my $100 on something that was actually fun.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 03/15/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (AU, 03/09/10)
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