Review by Priss Asagiri
"Dare I Buy the Next Final Fantasy?"
Final Fantasy is one of the franchises that defines RPGs. Originally picking up steam during the SNES era and exploding on the PS1 with three of the most awesome games of all time, Final Fantasy has always been known for deep stories and fun gameplay, as well as astounding music. Many fans debate what Final Fantasy game is the best; let it be known that this will not be one up for discussion.
STORY: The story starts off in a very cool way, dropping you into the shoes of Lightning, a female (ex)soldier who is out to save her sister, on a speeding train and getting to see her in an impressive action scene. You are introduced to Sahz, the second black protagonist and a mature man who's realistic outlook about events is refreshing, right from the get-go. Does this seem at all similar to FF7's opening here? Moving on. After the awesome opening, things just get clouded and strange; all sorts of terms are thrown around which seems the only point to which is to make the world seem as if it is alive. Shortly after getting used to Lightning and Sahz, you will switch to the shoes of Snow Villiers, a dynamic hero-type of character who is actually likable at first, and eventually to Hope Estheim, who's issues start off as compelling but get absurdly drawn-out very quickly, and Vanille, who never has anything useful to say, despite talking almost constantly. Fang is introduced later in the game, she is a no-nonsense tough fighter who is easily the second best character, right next to Sahz. These characters are eventually brought together by "the Purge", where by all "l'Cie" are sent to "Pulse"...remember how I mentioned that there are random terms that are thrown around just because? This review introduces the concepts just as suddenly and non-detail oriented as the game does.
As fate would have it, each character is turned into l'Cie, puppets of higher-beings called "fal'Cie". Every l'Cie is given a Focus; a goal he or she must accomplish before they turn into "Cie'th", a zombie-like monster. Cie'th are an interesting and moving plot device; each of them was once a human who tried their hardest but eventually lost everything. The issue with Cie'th is that they are used so scarcely that you quickly forget about them until late in the game, where they serve as mission boards.
Each of the main characters are drawn to each other by chance, and decide to try to complete their focuses together. The game then turns into a wanna-be Final Fantasy 6, in which every character is the 'main' character. The result is that almost every character looses personality and the characters who have dynamics with each other hardly have interaction. The problem that this game has and that Final Fantasy 6 didn't is that just about every character in 6 was interesting. Now, lets explore things a bit more. Each character has an Eidolon, a summon, which comes out during moments of extreme emotion; except not during boss fights, or when you need it most; they come out during interactions with party members after which you need to fight them. They are not explained at all, what so ever. And party members hardly utter a word about them after the fights. Did that happen during the story? Or was that for the sake of gameplay? I have no idea.
By the end of the story, things feel dragged out to hell and back, and the characters have become so bland that you question why you spent 40+ hours on things.
SOUND: Each character is voice acted wonderfully, and brings a fair amount of personality and believability into the mix. The music, however, is a total wreck. It takes from things without any shame what so ever, having songs that sound almost straight out of games like .hack//GU and even Sonic '06. The music at most times never fits the situations and the rest of the time is so horrible that you will try to pretend it isn't there.
GAMEPLAY: Hoo-boy, here we go. As if the story wasn't bad enough, here comes the gameplay! Let's start this off by saying that I am a huge fan of RPGs, Final Fantasy in particular. The very first thing that is stupid about the gameplay is that as soon as the disc boots up, there is a prompt to "press any button to continue"; that's before the opening, before anything. Why does this need to happen? I haven't a clue. Now, let's talk about battles; but before that, jobs. Each character has a selection of jobs, such as "Commando", the all-physical attackers, "Medic", who heal party members, and "Ravager", who deal magical damage. The problem with this is that each job has no ability to multi-task, meaning that a medic will never be able to help the party with support magic other than healing, and Commandos will never have the ability to preform even one elemental magic attack.
This is the start of the "faux difficulty" that Final Fantasy 13 forces upon you. Each fight must be very deliberate, or you will hardly scratch the enemies' health. In addition to that, you will never be able to upgrade your characters beyond what the current story allows. In chapter 12, you are allowed into a free-roaming area for the first time and allowed to do missions or just grind. The problem with this is that my 100,000 points I saved up are totally useless because I'm not far enough in the story to get any stronger. It's like saying "Hey, I know you just put a few hours into grinding, but too bad! Now you have to suffer when you could be well stronger than we allow!". If that wasn't bad enough, the game forces you into 2 party members rather than 3 for a majority of the game, and until very late in the game you don't even get to select who is in your party. Two more things! The game tricks you into thinking it will play like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7, in which you can move around as your character in-battle as well as the monsters having the ability to move around. Not in this game; only the monsters move. There is also an "auto-battle" feature, in which the AI controls your two (and most of the time ONE)other partners. The problem with this is that higher jobs will have too many skills for the AI to work with, leading them to do a number of stupid choices in battle, which will lead to you getting killed. It also allows the AI to select the commands for the player's character rather than selecting them him or herself.
Let's recap; you must be extremely deliberate with your jobs in battle, you can not be any stronger than the game wants you to be at that point in time no matter how much work you do, the monsters can hurt you an unfair amount almost all the time half way into the game, you can not dodge attacks even if you see them coming due to the inability to move at all, AND the AI will sometimes choose the wrong actions in battle which will lead to you dieing; which could be fixed by actually letting you control your partners.
GRAPHICS: The graphics of this game are amazing, and with out a doubt the high point of the game. I have no issues with the graphics, neither will you. I promise.
LAST WORD: Final Fantasy XIII is an absolute wreck of a game, who's problems in terms of gameplay absolutely destroy any fun you will have playing through the story to a unfitting, terrible soundtrack.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 04/06/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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