Review by Antz_Moores
"It has a few problems, but is still pretty good overall."
With a game as highly anticipated as Final Fantasy XIII, one would hope it would have an epic, sweeping tale, filled with likable, memorable characters. Unfortunately that isn't really the case with Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning, the protagonist, is mostly tolerable, except for a few instances where she acts rather coldly to everyone around her. Fortunately a little ways into the game she stops that and starts being an overall likable character. Sazh and Fang also manage to maintain a certain amount of likability throughout. But the same can't be said for the remaining party members; Hope, Snow, and Vanille.
Hope starts out as an annoying character, incessantly whining about how Snow is responsible for his mother's death pretty much as soon as he's introduced. It gets really aggravating listening to him recite the same, I hate Snow so much, line over and over again. Luckily enough, about ten hours into game Hope becomes a completely irrelevant character and you barely have to hear from him again, so that's great. Snow tends to be annoying because almost every other line he spouts is about him being a hero or how he's going to protect everyone. It gets old fast, and he doesn't really have any redeemably qualities, unless really high HP counts anyway. Whether or not you find Vanille annoying is pretty much a matter of taste. I personally find perky teen girls really annoying, and Vanille is this sort of character for a large part of the game, so really you may not find her as annoying as I did.
The plot isn't really all that great either. It's fairly standard, save the world, stuff that you get in almost every Final Fantasy. My main criticism of the plot lies in the ending, which I don't want to spoil so I won't go into specifics. The ending is pretty terrible to be blunt about it. It makes no real sense, and there are so many instances of deus ex machina that the entire story just completely falls apart. Not to mention that the entire final part of the story makes no sense at all. The group is completely aware of what their Focus is, and what will happen if they complete it. Despite this they still decide to go destroy a certain enemy, which would complete their focus, and they had absolutely no plan whatsoever to deal with what would happen afterward. It makes no sense and the entire time you'll be wondering, Hey, aren't we doing the exact thing we're trying to prevent?
One area where the game manages to shine is the battle system. Characters fill several different roles for things such as attacking, healing, defending, or buffing. You control one character, and using the Paradigm Shift, you're able to shift to whichever other combinations of roles you have set. It's fast paced, fun, and the Paradigm Shift aspect adds a lot of strategy to it, and as far as Final Fantasy battle systems go I'd say it's probably one of my favourites. Some will likely be bothered by the fact that you can only control one character, and I'm personally annoyed that the death of that one character means game over, especially with the presence of instant death spells in the game. But those are minor issues, and the Paradigm Shift mechanic allows you some manner of control over your teammates, so they aren't acting entirely independently.
One major flaw against the game is the linearity of it. For at least the first twenty hours you'll essentially be running in a straight line and fighting whatever enemies you encounter along the way. It gets really tedious, and by about fifteen hours I was almost completely burnt out and could barely be bothered to continue playing. Eventually though you do get a chance to roam around a wide open area as much as you want, and the game finally offers something along the lines of a side quest in the various monster hunting missions you can do. If you can manage to get through the largely linear first half of the game there's several hours' worth of exploring you can do later on.
Visually, the game is amazing. Not that that's really a surprise coming from Square Enix at this point. The 360 version, which is the one I played, does suffer from some poorer quality video during some scenes. It's really noticeable at times, and if that sort of thing really bothers you you're better off getting it for the PS3. The game's soundtrack is pretty good overall, though I only really found the battle theme to be particularly memorable. It's by far one of the best battle themes in the series, and as a result the ridiculously long fights you'll sometimes find yourself in will at least give you something decent to listen to.
Even though the plot and most of the characters are pretty lacklustre, it's still a decent game overall. If you've stuck with Final Fantasy this long there's nothing much in this one that will push you away from the game. The excellent battle system makes up for most of the weak points, and I'd recommend the game to anyone who likes JRPGs.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/23/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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