Review by twwoodard
"Ugh... Now I remember why I stopped playing FF"
It's a bad sign when the greatest delight you experience while playing a video game is figuring out how to skip past the cutscenes. That was exactly the experience I had playing FF XIII for the first time. I got about two hours into it and decided I wasn't interested in seeing anymore. A game has to be really, really dull and boring for me to turn it off and take it back to the store after such a short time, and I probably hung in there longer than I would have with another game because it was Final Fantasy and I kept hoping it would eventually reach out grab me like older, classic FF games used to. Alas, it was not to be so. FF XII was a barely tolerable but passing effort, but now with FF XIII Square Enix has officially lost the magic, I suspect probably for good.
The game looks beautiful, almost without a doubt the most singularly gorgeous piece of eye candy that ever bore the name of Final Fantasy. It stands as a living monument to the notion that spectacular graphics cannot redeem a terrible game that is no fun to play. Game developers should take note.
The music does exactly the opposite, taking what once was great about FF and turning it into something utterly mundane and forgettable.
The characters are as robotic and wooden as any that have ever graced a J-RPG, and the dialogue is abysmal even by Japanese standards. Do all Japanese people think that girls are only cute when they talk and act like six year olds with pigtails? I doubt it, but I'm starting to wonder.
The story of a young man trying to rescue his beloved from the mind-altering clutches of a tyrannical government could have yielded much fruit in the hands of a proper writer. In the hands of these guys, however, it was about as compelling as anything on CNBC. My suggestion to all future J-RPG developers is to either: 1) get somebody from Studio Ghibli to do your writing and character development for you, or 2) get somebody from the U.S. to do your writing and character development for you. You don't know what you're doing.
The game mechanics are atrocious and exemplify everything that has become stale about the entire genre of J-RPGs. I'm fine with the notion of only having control over one character in combat, as long as I actually have control. Basically, combat entails watching your time gauge fill up then choosing to either attack or use some secondary skill. Then you sit back and wait for your time gauge to fill up again. It's a gimmick designed to cover up the fact that these guys have run out of ideas for how to make combat interesting and fun. They ran out of ideas at least three FF games ago. Now, presumably you get more attacks and more special skills later in the game, but as I mentioned above the first two hours were such a turn off, and I feel so little loyalty to the franchise after their last few installments, that I wasn't willing to stick around that long.
I actually held out for almost two years before buying and trying FF XIII. I bought it used at Gamestop for less than 20 bucks. Fortunately for me, I'm still within the 7 day grace period for used games so I can get my money back. There's no way I will ever allow FF XIII-2 to touch my Xbox, and I think my love affair with FF from days gone by is officially over now.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 02/13/12
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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