Final Fantasy XIII
Review by icyblue2034
"Final Fantasy XIII: The Movie"
Like many, I've waited years for this game and looked forward to it, hoping for improvement in the series. Sadly, once I finally got my hands on it, the excitement dwindled quickly. Instead, I found myself doing whatever I could to either enhance game play somehow, at which I more or less failed, or just get it over with. The latter being the one I had to go with, and not because I wanted to. Looking at the 4 I've given, I wondered if I was being generous, so I broke the aspects down into 10 point scales of their own to highlight the strengths and MANY weaknesses.
Starting with the characters, there was plenty of potential. None of the characters really stand out as a main "hero", as the Cloud, Squall, or Zidane of this game. Rather, they all seem to shoulder the title in some way. This is illustrated by spending part of the time with the characters separated, jumping back and forth. Two characters get no play time for a while, just shown in movies that make little sense. As the game went on, I started to tire of the characters. In the end, I could care less what happened to them, just as I could care less what happened to their "world". I've heard some say that the lack of a distinct and singular hero makes the world what you care about, but I fail to see that. I just didn't care.
Characters Score: 3/10 (For their wasted potential)
Ah yes, the story. Typically expected to be grand to epic for a Final Fantasy game. Well, not this one. Highly predictable, extremely unremarkable villain, so-called twists were anything but. In plainest terms: unfortunate. I'm not sure what happened at the company that produced previous stories, but we see little of that here. There was potential, so I'm not sure what happened. You actually don't even get the entire story unless you read this extensive datalog, which is known to change for characters as the story progresses: adding, altering, or even removing information. Without the datalog, you likely will feel like you are missing something important. Also of note, you have to collect entries to get the entire deal. Then the ending, lackluster at best, fails to wrap up the loose ends.
Story Score: 1.5/10 (Once again, wasted potential)
The meat of the game, and also where my movie comment comes into play. At the beginning of the game, you are thrust into a situation with no explanation of what is happening save that it is called the "Purge" and these people are supposedly being sent from their world of "Cocoon", a giant shell floating high in the sky, to the lower world known as "Gran Pulse". Oh, and they aren't so kind with explanations as I am. Rather, they throw words at you left and right, tending to leave one dazed and confused by it all. From this point onward you are linear. They drew a dotted line and worried you couldn't follow it so they put walls around it as well. Forget exploration of any true value, it doesn't exist. Even in one of the latest chapters when you get to what appears to be an overworld, you explore precious little of it. Even the exploration has a dotted line. Imagine landing on a planet the size of Earth and only exploring a region perhaps the size of a very small continent, if that. You simply move from point a to point b following the only path you have. Even in one region the current party leader Lightning mentions following some light so as not to get lost. Yet, getting lost is impossible. Here is the start of the movie.
As you wander around, enemies are shown on-screen, leading to most being avoidable.
The battle system is next, and just as disappointing. First off, the battles were made very fast paced. So it was decided you can only control your party leader. That's it. You have ZERO control over the actions of your teammates. At most, you shift to a new battle strategy, known as a "Paradigm". This shift happens in real time and the first of each battle requires an animation, which is very inconvenient. Each character has a role to choose from. These are: Commando (physical, nonelemental attacker), Ravager (elemental mage-style character), Sentinel (defensive, non-attacking character), Synergist (casts positive spells such as protect on party), Saboteur (casts negative spells such as deprotect on enemies), Medic (healer). The catch to all this: They can do absolutely nothing outside their role. These roles are developed in a deceptively large interface called a "Crystarium". Deceptive, because the size would hint at complexity, but it is as linear as the rest. Your only option is what to develop first. Now, each character starts with only three roles, but the others open up to them all later. This, however, is pointless. They aren't worth the points to develop those roles. I went into the final boss with leftover points because I maxed the primary roles and found the others useless. I've seen much agreement that there is one best party, and no other configuration tops it. This shouldn't happen.
Now, during battle you have two input options: Auto (what you will likely use most of the time) and Manual (rarely worth using). When you attack and how much you can do is determined by the ATB gauge. Each character starts with 3 bars, but you can get more later. During battle, especially if you are affected by haste, it can be nearly impossible to input 3 commands unless they are all the same, without losing precious time. Interestingly, the AI is good at determining what you should do by clicking Auto. Basically, the battle system may be complex but you have no time or incentive to find out. Just button mash. The one time I found myself using manual was as a Medic, and I advise EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO PLAYS THIS GAME to have a lead character who can be a medic. For some reason the AI gets easily overwhelmed as a medic, leading to MANY deaths, since any character but your party leader can die. If that person dies, game over. Which is fine and good I suppose, since they seemed to plan for deaths, adding a "Retry" button to put you right before the fight. Some say that makes the game manageable, and I say that is highly problematic. I don't see why a Final Fantasy should have bosses that difficult. I shouldn't need to retry to beat most bosses.
Oh, and there is no defense in this game. All you increase is HP, strength, and magic.
Summons are of course present, and another letdown. There are 6, one for each character. Since you only control your party leader, you will only ever use one in a battle. After defeating them in a battle, you can summon them for 3 TP, of which you only ever have 5. This means that under most circumstances, you won't summon it a second time. When summoned, the "Eidolon" fights alongside the summoner for a short period of time before turning into some sort of vehicle to launch more attacks. Odin, for example, turns into a horse. They are all machines, for some reason never explained.
At the end of battle, you get a results screen. Your rating is based not upon how you handled the battle, but how fast you won. That's it. Don't enjoy the battle, don't attempt strategy (barely any strategy needed anyway), just plow through it as quickly as possible. After each battle, your entire team is healed. This is necessary, due to the raised difficulty of battles and lack of items.
Enjoying the movie so far?
There are no towns, at all. You do visit an amusement park-like area, but you never get to do any mini-games except trying to catch the baby chocobo living in one character's hair. Shops exist in the save points, and only there.
There IS an upgrade system for weapons with a very large amount of items dropped by monsters or found in chests (floating balls...) for use. Feel that bit of excitement? Kind of like a balloon...here comes the popping needle: They do nothing special. They all have one of 2 functions: Increase multiplier, decrease multiplier. That's it. Once again, deceptively large, painfully simple.
Finally, sidequests and mini-games. Only one mini-game I know of, and I actually missed that it was a mini-game. As for sidequests, there is one: Marks. Much like Final Fantasy XIII. You find these "Cie'th Stones" which tell you to hunt something. I believe there are 62 or 63 total. Wait now, don't get excited. There are NOT 62 or 63 unique marks. Some will be fought 3 or 4 times, with the only difference being some other monster added to the mix. Doing these marks will sometimes unlock a teleportation stone or a new area. I'm not sure how many hours this can add, but for me it got boring when marks started repeating.
Oh, and no airship. Some to look at, none to fly.
Would you really keep watching this movie? Bad story, no complexity, and repetitiveness?
Gameplay Score: 1/10 (I feel generous here...)
The strong point. No, not both, only one. Graphics. This MUST be where the years went. The visuals are breathtaking.
That's the good news.
The music, at times, simply seemed to not fit the situation. It just...all in all the music wasn't what I've come to expect from Final Fantasy games.
Graphics/Sound Score: 6.5/10 (Yep, despite non-memorable music, the highest score I'll give)
I can't give a proper play time because on more than one occasion I had to leave it paused for an hour or more to deal with things. Long enough, if you do everything available. Which is surprising, considering the precious little there. It isn't so long as you feel like it is going on forever, but at the same time you may find yourself wishing it were over.
There is no replayability. There is really nothing to do differently.
Play Time/Replayability Score: 5/10 (full play time score points, no replayability score points)
Final Score: 4.25, rounded down to 4
If you are a die-hard Final Fantasy fan as I am, looked for it used or rent it. I regret buying it new. I finished it because, as a die-hard fan I won't let any main-line (VII, VIII, etc) Final Fantasy go unfinished. However, I can't recommend the game to other Final Fantasy fans. It is a Final Fantasy in name only and plays more like a movie than anything else. I have to wonder if they would have preferred making it a movie. There certainly wasn't much player input required, except to move around and button mash.
All in all, a disappointment of grand proportions. Even their strengths are weaknesses here.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 06/28/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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