Review by horror_spooky
"I need a hero"
My review for Final Fantasy XII sparked outrage amongst Final Fantasy fanboys, and I received a ridiculous amount of death threats and people telling me I was completely stupid for not being able to enjoy the game. I still stand by opinion that Final Fantasy XII just wasn't a fun game. It was more than bad. That being said, I was a bit skeptical coming into Final Fantasy XIII since the last FF game I enjoyed was X, but XIII did surprise me. It's not mind-blowing, and it's not on the level of past games in the series, but it's not terrible either, and that's a step in the right direction.
Final Fantasy XIII's main problem is that it takes too long to introduce gameplay mechanics. You will go hours upon hours before you will get into the groove of things, and that's really irritating. You'll think you have it all figured out and then the game will throw a brand new gameplay mechanic in your face and expect you to incorporate it into your strategy. I think this was a way to try to keep the game fresh, but what it succeeds in doing is becoming annoying. It prevents the game from pulling you in and keeping you enthralled like the series has done before, and while it's not a deal breaker, there's no denying that the overall quality of the title suffers significantly from this flaw.
The battle system has been hugely improved over the previous game though, but it's still not perfect by any means. Final Fantasy XIII blends the turn-based systems of the older games with the more MMORPG-like style of Final Fantasy XII, and it does it relatively successfully. You can see the enemies on the field and you can approach them different ways to trigger battles. You then choose your commands just like the older games, but you are unable to control the other characters in your party. Instead you basically assign their personality and they make their own decisions based on this. I felt that this hurt the battle system a little bit, but it's still not nearly as horrible as XII's was.
Just like pretty much any RPG, Final Fantasy XIII has a leveling system. It uses a leveling system sort of similar to the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X, and I loved the sphere grid. Leveling up everyone your party is entertaining, though their weapons level up in a weak way. You basically trade in useless items to upgrade your weapons, and they eventually evolve into new weapons. However, you will often find stronger weapons in chests or whatever anyway, so it just kind of makes the whole process a tad frustrating, especially if you dump a whole bunch of items in one weapon and then get screwed when that character is out of the party for whatever reason down the road.
Also, that's a bad habit Final Fantasy XIII gets into. For the early portions of the game, which span hours upon hours upon hours mind you, you are often split up from the other members of your party. This leaves no room for creativity on the battlefield. You'll basically be stuck repeating the same strategy over and over, and if you are pitted with a combination of your party members that simply don't blend well in fights, you are more or less screwed. You'll still win the battles, don't get me wrong, but it will make the fights last a ridiculously long time, and it will become very repetitive, trust me.
The game utilizes a checkpoint system to curve frustrations and there are segments that are much more action than they are RPG. I'm sure fans of the series and newcomers will enjoy this change of pace throughout the game as it certainly helps to keep things interesting, but these flashes of originality are few and far between, and they lose a bit of their luster as a result.
Where Final Fantasy XIII truly excels, just like most other games in the series, is its storyline. Lightning is an awesome character, Snow is an awesome character, and even Sazh, a dude that walks around with a Chocobo in his afro, is pretty likeable. Hope and the little girl whose name escapes me will make you want to punch holes in the wall, though, but it's practically a hallmark of the franchise to have irritating characters. The plot is a bit complicated and it's hard to get too much into it without ruining anything and I don't want to ruin the game for you. However, I can say that the game, while the plot is full of surprises and awesome moments, does tend to stray into the corny side of things a bit too much and some of the plot elements feel like they were ripped directly from Digimon. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes a while for the story to kick in and really suck you into the game and make it so you don't feel like you're playing the video game version of a Saturday morning cartoon.
And of course, it wouldn't be Final Fantasy if it wasn't gorgeous. This game is hands-down one of the prettiest video games ever made. The cut-scenes are fantastically done and just what you'd expect from Square Enix at this point, and the in-game graphics are beautiful as well. The character detail is astounding, and the environments are breath-taking, if not a bit constricting. There is no lag or no slowdown throughout the entire adventure, and the framerate runs as smooth as butter. The text is a little small in the menus, but the rest of the game is fantastic, and without a doubt one of the prettiest games you'll find on the Xbox 360, and this generation of consoles in general.
Voice acting is phenomenal despite the dialogue being questionable sometimes. The background music is beautiful, and actually, all the music and sound effects in the game are orgasmic to the ears. There is quite literally nothing wrong with this game when it comes to the audio quality. It's unbelievably impressive, and will probably win a few awards down the line.
Final Fantasy XIII can last about sixty hours normally, but there is still a lot of stuff to do past that. There are side-quests and secrets sprinkled throughout the game plus there are achievements, but I don't think you'll really feel like pushing through this epic adventure more than once. Unlike past Final Fantasy games, XIII just is too big for its own good, and the experience is almost daunting. The early parts of the game are way too linear to even enjoy that much the first time through, and repeated playthroughs will only worsen this. Still, 60 hours is quite the bang for your buck considering most games nowadays are lucky if they reach the five hour mark.
Final Fantasy XIII does not revolutionize the industry. It won't continue to dazzle players years after its release like Final Fantasy VII, and it won't be considered a classic. While it is a step up from the train wreck that was Final Fantasy XII, the series seems to have lost a lot of the magic that made the first ten main installments so fantastic in presentation and entertainment value. The gameplay definitely needs to be taken a look at, as that is the most important part of any video game. The graphics, the storyline, and the audio quality are all fantastic though, it's just a shame that Final Fantasy XIII failed to live up to the hype.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/12/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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