Review by Galactus21

"Started off strong..."

The legendary Final Fantasy series has always had a few things going for it. Strong game play, coupled with fantastic storytelling, Final Fantasy games always had plenty of things to love about it. Final Fantasy 13, while maintaining things you'd love about the series, has certain facets that have changed…and at times not for the better. With that said however, Final Fantasy 13 is still a strong showing…it just leaves a bit to be desired for.

When it comes to the flow of the game and its quality from start to finish, I am in disagreement with many of the critics. According to many critics, Final Fantasy 13 starts off slow and doesn't pick up till 20-25 hours in. I on the other hand enjoyed the first 30 or so hours immensely. The storytelling felt strong. I could feel the characters struggle as they became I'cie. I could sense the struggle within to do what's right or to fulfill their focus. I could tell team members going through their struggles and coming together. In the later part of the game, I didn't sense any of this. The story began to go under and go under quick it did. Things started to become convoluted and didn't make sense.

The first piece that I find critical in rpgs (especial Japanese style rpgs) is its story and character interaction. A player will spend the next 50 or so hours playing as these characters, so if you don't enjoy the back story and character themselves, I believe the game becomes less enjoyable quickly. FF13 starts off with a bang when it comes to the story, then begins to tail off.

By focusing on several members of the overall team at any given point, the player will be able to witness strong connections develop between those team members. The game also does a fine job at introducing the game's storyline through beautiful cut scenes and logs. Although to be fair, there are parts of the story that were confusing to me had there not been any logs. Some may consider this detrimental, but I enjoyed the extra fluff to clarify things.

During the middle part to the end of the game (Chapters 10-13) is where the game's story starts falling apart. While the first half does a great job introducing the back story and characters, the second half doesn't provide the same character development through conflict resolution or team building like the first half. In addition, the game introduces points in the plot that confuses one and makes one wonder why this is happening.

Despite the downhill in storytelling, the game's solid battle system makes the game fun to play from start to finish. Final Fantasy 13 introduces the paradigm system. In this system, you set each character for a specific role. For example, a commando is someone who leads the charge and attacks. A medic is your primary healer and does not attack. The player will have the ability to predefine each person's role. This will allow you to set up your team in a manner that would suit your needs at a specific time. For example, I would set up 2 medics for situations where I am taking a lot of damage or set up a team with a commando and 2 ravagers to try to inflict as much damage as possible. During the game, I can shift between these paradigms on the fly. This allowed me to emphasize on the particular strategy I wanted.

While for the most part the battle system is a pleasure to play, there are instances where it gets a little frustrating. The player will only be able to control one character at a time (the party leader). This prevents you from having control on who to heal or who to buff up. While for the most part this doesn't detract from the game, the inability to control other characters takes away control of what you want to happen at times. Additionally, I felt that there are certain paradigm combos that were dominant in terms of usage. Outside of special cases, I rarely went outside of a few different shifts.

Final Fantasy 13's leveling up system is done through the Crystarium. You can gain points through slaying enemies and use it to gain health points, magic, or learn new abilities. From my experience, each character usually has 3 major roles that they are good at (with one that they excel in, e.g. Snow at being a Sentinel). After slaying enemies, you use the earned CP points to move along the Crystarium, which has different areas allowing you to level up something (e.g. health, magic, etc.). Another way is earning items that allow you to upgrade your weapons and accessories, so it increases your strength for example.

Despite critics complaining about the game's linearity in the first half of the game, I didn't quite mind it as much. In fact, I felt it was when the game started opening up for more exploration was when the game's story started falling apart. The boss fights for the most part were very good. I thoroughly enjoyed most of them. For the most part however, the boss fights weren't too difficult. This sort of relegated purchasing items as useless for me. I rarely ever used a Phoenix Down or a Health Potion. Setting up the paradigms evenly usually took care of this. Consequently, I felt keeping my items were moot and pointless.

The graphics for the most part were absolutely beautiful. There were plenty of beautiful cut scenes to break up the action. Despite some of the story line components being confusing, the overall cinematic presented in this game were bar none some of the best I've seen. To top it off, the voice acting was superb. Almost every character of importance had a convincing tone of voice that suited the situation. The music on the other hand had some parts that weren't quite as good. There were areas in the game where the soundtrack was amazing, while others were not as much.

Final Fantasy 13 lasted roughly 60 or so hours, and for the most part provided plenty of fun. Compared to previous Final Fantasy games, this one falls a bit short of expectations. Did I enjoy Final Fantasy 13? Without a doubt I did. Unfortunately, when comparing to its predecessors, FF13 simply falls short. That is the fate of FF13. It'll always be compared with its legendary counterparts. As a standalone, FF13 is highly enjoyable, but it'll always be compared to other Final Fantasy games. In that manner, FF13 does not match the epic adventure provided by previous Final Fantasy games.

In summary, Final Fantasy 13 has a fresh and solid combat system that makes things fun throughout the game, but the storyline falters towards the later half of the game. Because rpgs are such long games, I find that strong storylines are usually what keeps me sucked into the game's fictitious world. In the case of Final Fantasy 13, that simply did not hold true. It was still fun to play, but I didn't have that urge to run home after school or work to play like previous Final Fantasy games. Despite that however, Final Fantasy 13 is still a good rpg that rpg fans will enjoy. I definitely recommend playing this game at least once.

Gameplay - 7.5/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Value - 7/10
Overall - 7.5/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/23/10, Updated 12/05/16

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

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