Review by SnowballsOnFire

"An overly simplistic, stale RPG experience for the FPS crowd."

Introduction- Final Fantasy has been around for a while, but Square Enix has been struggling with the series for a long time. The 3 games of the psx golden age (Final Fantasy 7,8 and 9) received massive praise as some of the best in the series. The games leading up to the 13th installment however, have all received notable disapproval from fans of the psx classics. That said, Final Fantasy 13 (FF13) had to wow audiences, it was the game that desperately needed to regain the attention of the fans of the older games in the series. Sadly however, the game falls short of this goal. and its only noteworthy feature is its laundry list of shortcomings.

Gameplay- The gameplay of Final Fantasy 13 is unique, in that at times it can feel exhilarating, winning a battle will feel like a total accomplishment, and the experience rewards will seem oh so sweet. Other times however, the battles feel pointlessly lengthy and incredibly frustrating. Final Fantasy 13 immediately shoots itself in the leg when it decides to chuck the concept of `va-ri-e-ty` out the window. What the game mainly consists of is you, the player, running through a narrow corridor no more than 2 meters wide with no branching paths, plowing through hordes and legions of ultra generic cyber soldiers to reach a cutscene, after which you will progress to the second floor, which in most cases is practically a carbon copy of the alleyway you just moseyed your way through.

The lack of enemy types is truly disheartening, every now and then you will encounter enemies such as cyper panthers and ridiculously underpowered cube monsters, but 90% of the battles will consist of fighting either

foot soldiers with guns
foot soldiers with rocket launchers
foot soldiers with healing powers
foot soldiers with jetpacks

The bottom line is, every fight feels eerily similar to the previous. Not only are the enemies similar by appearance, their tactics and rewards barely differ at all. It eventually gets to the point where you will be trying to slip past enemies unnoticed just to take a breather from the constant grinding, the sighs of frustration you will encounter when entering a room filled with 50 enemy monsters will remind you that the core gameplay feels much less like a video game of any kind, and much more like a chore. The saddest part is that by skipping the incredibly easy and lengthy fights in between levels, you are making the challenging boos fights nearly an impossiblity. Occasionally you will encounter a fun boss, one that puts up a challenge, takes some effort and tactics to beat, however you will also occasionally encounter bosses that are not only challenging but cheap. Real cheap. We´re talking one shot killing you at max health cheap, the cheapest of cheap.

After establishing just how boring the combat is, you´ve nothing left to experience with Final Fantasy 13 and the reason for that is quite simple. Previous Final Fantasy game were renowned for giving you some freedom. Yes, the games have always been linear, but in the classics, if you wanted to fly around the world map, you could. If you wanted to go to the towns to play cards, you could, if you wanted to go monster and eidolon hunting on different islands, you could. In Final Fantasy 13 you cannot, because there is no freedom. How should I put this so that the most dim-witted individuals could understand what I mean.

No world map
No towns
No exploration
No mini-games
No side-quests

Nothing. This is by no means an exaggeration of any kind. The game will automatically send you from zone to zone to battle monsters with the only break from the combat being the occasional cutscenes which you´ll be delighted to learn are filled with cheesy dialogue, constant repetition of the same ideals and sub-par voice acting. The end result is something that feels much less like an rpg and much more like the worst hack n slash game you ever played. Speaking of rpgs, it seems Square Enix sort of forgot to add any real rpg elements to Final Fantasy 13.

Character skills are learned through basically a line, one skill unlocking after the next with no real choice. Though Weapons are upgradable, but with an experience based system as opposed to an item based system. The game is stripped down, bare-bones if you will, it is quite possibly the most simplistic and broken down, easy to digest RPG ever created, in that you will only spend just under 10 minutes developing your characters, all the time you spend elsewhere will be spent on fighting.

Story- The story is one of the game´s strong suits. It manages to keep you just hooked enough to the characters to be interested in their backgrounds, and to learn about their reasons for fighting. Narrated through a series of flashbacks and dialogue between one another, the story progresses in a way that´s easy to understand and easy to not have to force yourself to like. It´s just a shame that the story progresses so slowly, with half the cutscenes you encounter including absolutely no advancement in the plot whatsoever. There´s also a short novel´s worth of database entries for you to read should you be interested in the backstory of the towns, playable characters and NPCs, obviously, these develop as you advance through the game, so you can refer back to them at any time if you should feel a little lost, a neat feature with alot of attention to detail.

Sound- Sigh, must we have this conversation? If there is one thing FInal Fantasy games have always been renowned for its the soundtracks and unfortunately enough this is another department in which FF13 fails to deliver. Taste in music is quite possibly the most subjective thing known to man, one man´s trash is another´s treasure as they say. That said, the music in FF13 is dissapointing to say the least. The boss theme in particular being a massive let down, as it is so uneventful and stale, half the time you´ll wonder if the track is even playing anymore. The regular encounter battle theme is bearable, unfortunately, the developers decided to use this same track in so many cutscenes and areas, that 3 hours into the game it will already be that annoying tune that keeps playing in the back of your head, trust me when I say it gets old, real fast.

The quality of the mix is very good, as opposed to the synthesizer tracks from the psx titles, these songs are fully orchestrated and sound rather overwhelming at times, which begs the question, why wont you let me hear the songs? The background music is unbelievably quiet when compared to the sound effects of sword slashes and magic whistles, and there is no setting in the options to increase the volume of the music. This is another huge downfall in gameplay, as the music will remain mostly unheard while swooshing and exploding sounds conquer your stereo system. Its terrible to listen to. Regardless of how stale the music sounds compared to previous installments in the series, it would be much better if the songs were more audible, they´re definitely more intriguing than the sound effects.

Graphics- The graphical shortcomings of FF13 are non-existent. In a word, the game is beautiful. Character models and environments look gorgeous, with huge attention to detail. It is easily one of the best looking games out for the xbox 360 and ps3 consoles. Bloom effects are well done, lighting and reflections are also astounding. The word Beauty takes a whole new meaning when viewing the pre-rendered cutscenes, as if the in-game engine didn´t provide players with enough eye candy, the cutscenes are borderline film CG quality. If you were to nitpick, you could point out that the animation on hair is a little shaky, but its nothing that detracts from the overall experience of the visuals. The one major complaint worth raising is the amount of damage indicators popping up on screen while you play, at times you´ll witness a wall of numbers literally take over your television screen.

Replayability- A playthrough of the game should average around 40 hours. Once its all said and done there really isn´t any reason to go back, as stated before, there are no hidden items to go collect, no regions to go and explore, no treasures worth caring about missing, just the same old alleyway gameplay.

Conclusion- My thoughts should be rather clear by now. What Final Fantasy 13 is, is a game catered to the fans of simplistic, mindless games. It is a game made for the first person shooter crowd, because currently that´s where the money is in the gaming industry. Final Fantasy 13 is much less a game than it is a mere business tactic. Its a way for Square Enix to make some sweet green, nothing more. To put it simply, there is nothing in Final Fantasy 13 that you have not seen or experienced before in a game, and most likely the previous experience was far more fun than Final Fantasy 13 will ever be. Your money will be better spend on a more in-depth RPG, if you can even call FF13 one.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 03/15/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (EU, 03/09/10)

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