Review by crowley625
"Final Fantasy gets 3 more F's: Falls Flat on Face"
First off, I am a long time fan of role playing games, and have played a wide variety and enjoyed most of them, but I really felt let down by this installment of Final Fantasy.
where to start... Maybe with the high point:
Very well done FMVs and cut-scenes that actually do a good job of creating believable emotions on characters faces, only real complaint to be had with character models is in the mouth and lip animations, everything else is stunning. The environments, what little you get to see, are well rendered and layered, but then again, you can only see most of it from a distance. What passes for a large explorable world is ok, but not that much nicer looking than, say, the environments in Tales of Vesperia or even Rogue Galaxy.
That 2 is only there because of the voice acting of some of the characters (notably Sazh), otherwise it would be a 0. Most of the musical themes just do not fit the game, and at points the closest comparison that can be found is elevator music. I'm sorry, but when you eventually get out of the straight and narrow gameplay and get into a large open area, you would think the music would be something a little more grand than something comparable the "The Girl From Ipanema". Paired with the song from Ms. Lewis, and this is a big stinker of a game audibly.
I really came into this game expecting a great story, but all I got was a lot of disjointed emotional confusion coming from most of the characters. Nearly all the characters are irrationally dysfunctional and dare I say it: EMO. Hope especially, his story arc is irrational and poorly written as well as horribly resolved. The one character that actually had a chance at a strong poignant story (Sazh) is ruined in part by him being the typical black man as comic relief and partly by the horrible writing. Then again, there are stereo-types aplenty to go around for the characters, and the worse ones at that for an RPG. Vanille is the typical naive-to-a-fault goody goody jail-bait cutie; Lightning is the ice-cold-dominatrix-with-a-heart-of-gold hottie; Snow is the typical large muscle-bound white guy who is sure everything he does is for the good of others; Fang is the typical do-whatever-it-takes mercenary who later has a change of heart; and Sazh was the one hope for a good fleshed out character, but they took a page from the movie industry and turned the black man into the comic relief and thereby invalidated his whole story arc, which is sad because his was the most believable, as he was just someone who got caught up in it all, but instead of finishing his story arc they crap all over it and leave out some important things (sorry, don't want to spoil it too much).
As for the overall story, it makes about the same sense as the characters and their emotion-swings. I never cease to be amazed by fantasy games that try so hard to bring modern technology into the mix. Nearly everything mystic in this game looks like it came out of Michael Bay's Transformers. Honestly, if there is all this technology lying around and personal gravity mods and Transformers for boss enemies, why are we forced to run around on foot and unable to cross 3 foot gaps in a path while being able to jump 15 foot gaps in others and fight battles with, of all things: fists, swords, sticks, and a boomerang? Two people use guns, and only one of those decently. For a series with "FANTASY" in the title, they really have gotten away from the fantasy realm and everything is overly technology-based except when it comes to how your characters kill things. Seriously, why can't my characters grow a brain and steal something a little more high-tech to fight with, like a laser or mini-nuke?
Pair all of the above with some very wooden and unbelievable enemies with little or no backstory, and this is just another generic hero-with-issues story. Here's a little hint for next time: Give some more time to the bad guys, let us actually find out why we need to hate them, or maybe make us sympathize with them so that fighting them and beating them means something. Don't just throw a guy out there that we need to beat because he is in the way and someone told him to get in your way.
I'm not against trying something new, but I really hope this is the last time this particular system is ever used, anywhere. There is no leveling up of characters other than adding a few skills and boosts to the only 3 stats in the whole game: attack, magic, and hit points. That's right, no defense stats of any kind, just more hit points for the enemy to have to take down. I actually like the mildly deeper FF games where you have a full range of stats to deal with and try and balance out. But, on to the battle system itself:
First, the good. You can see all enemies on the map, so you have a chance to try and run around and avoid the battles. Since you'll easily gain more CP than is needed to beat the storyline of the game, you can actually avoid nearly every optional battle in chapters 12 and 13 and still beat the final boss easily. Also, hit points reset after each battle, which makes it a little easier to just play and not worry about healing, but also takes a big bite out of difficulty. That's it, that's the good.
Now, for the Bad. Paradigms are interesting at first, but boring and tedious afterward, since 90% of enemies can be beaten with 3, maybe for 4 paradigms needed, ever. They are COM/RAV/RAV, MED/?/MED, RAV/RAV/RAV, and COM/COM/COM. These refer to the various job roles that your characters can use, with each character being able to master 3 through most of the game, with each learning one special ability in one of those job classes that other cannot. The problem is, this also means characters are extremely limited while in their paradigm role in a battle. A synergist who casts buffs has to switch roles in order to heal a character. A ravager, who is your offensive magic dealer, cannot cast any magic that debuffs your enemies, and a Sentinel, who is basically a wall for your other two people, cannot do anything other than block or retaliate to an attack. So, to really do a variety of actions with any one character, you have to constantly switch roles within battle, but if you do that, you extend the battle time, leave yourself open for a handful of seconds to attacks and enemy actions, and have to switch back if you want to do something else afterward.
Pair this with the fact that you can only ever control one person in a battle, and cannot switch between characters, only roles, during a battle, you really are limited and have to rely on the system to do what you want it to do, which has a tendency to not happen when you need it.
The crystarium, or what passes as a level-up interface, is overly basic and really leaves little or no decision making to be done. As long as you have the points, you can learn everything, there really should have been some sort of if-then and this-or-that points in each class. Maybe where you could have a synergist learn either really strong buff spells (maybe a spell that casts all buffs at once and the like) or go down a different path and be able to use some healing magic while in the synergist role, but lose out on the stronger synergist spells. Something, anything, would have been better and more involved than the way it is currently.
Lastly, items and upgrading. This was horribly executed when compared to other FF games, or other JRPGs in general. There are literally hundreds of items to be used for upgrades, but other than name and who drops the items, there is really no difference between 90% of them, they just seem like needless filler to make the game look more expansive than it really is. All organic items give an experience bonus, but little experience. All non-organic components give more experience, but after their use, they lower the multiplier. All components can be used to upgrade all weapons and accessories. That's right, you read that correctly. And because of that, most of the components are redundant and unnecessary. Same can be said for most of the accessories. Even upgraded and maxed out, their benefits are still mostly based on random chance.
Honestly, I think this game was an RPG-lite. Battles are simpler, including boss battles (honestly just have to press the A button occasionally and you WIN!). Decision making is non-existent, and most of the levels seem like filler for in-between the cut scenes. Somehow you are always going exactly where you need to end up, despite being in this supposedly huge game environment, and you almost never make a wrong turn that isn't actually a right turn. Pair that with horrible music and so-so battles and exploration, and this is likely the most forgettable fantasy I have ever come across.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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