Review by CloudIzThaBezt
"Not the best, not the worst, but definitely not medicore"
DISCLAIMER: First and foremost I have been a gamer since I was 4. That's right. 4 years old all the way back in 1986. Secondly, I have played every Final Fantasy game (main series) ever put out. Thirdly, the original Final Fantasy on the NES was my first gaming obsession. It was the game that sold me on video games in general and has been the foundation of entertainment in my life for a very long time. I have lived, breathed, and eaten video games my whole life. There have been a number of games I have camped out for midnight releases for and Final Fantasy XIII was one of those games. So here I am a week later writing a review for a game I have just completed. You can take it as you will as it is merely opinion but I feel compelled to write this and see how it goes. This is my first contribution to GameFAQ's but I have been a member of the site in one form or another since 2001. So here goes...
[8/10]GAMEPLAY: The battle system is very fast paced. I mean it. The speed of the battle system will be very apparent right off the bat and while it can seem rather confusing give it a few hours and it will become second nature. One thing I would strongly recommend is you take the time to read the tutorials. It is such a departure from the typical menu based system it makes the old systems seem very boring. When the developers said it would take time to master the system they meant it. It will be confusing but reading the tutorials and paying attention will make the learning curve take alot less time. In my opinion this is the best battle system I have ever seen in the series. It is a radical departure but it still maintains that Final Fantasy feel. You have summons that are still there to save your butt if the battle goes south but in terms of damage they have been scaled down. In past games it has seemed (well, mostly in X) they are more or less a trump card for out of control battles but in XIII while very useful they are alot less reliable in the big picture. Speaking of summons, You now have 2 "phases" when it comes to them. The first phase allows you to battle along side your summon and the second allows you to interact with your summon (in Lightning's case her summon becomes a horse and she mounts it). From there you spend "points" to do single target moves as well as group attacks (that cost more points). They also have a super attack in this form that will consume the remaining points whether its 30 or 3. From there you are taken back to your normal battle screen.
Another thing is you only control one character in battle. The other 2 party members are controlled by a sometimes smart, sometimes terrible AI system. To be perfectly honest some aspects of this are good and others are terribly bad. I sort of use a general strategy where I tend to focus on a specific target and gun them down before taking on another. Well the AI tends to only go after a target that I am not attacking and thus makes this strategy nil. Granted this is only when I have multiple COM's in the group but regardless every damage source is needed when I want to go after a specific target. This is only one example in a whole range of situations where the AI fails to work. Another is the general rule that healing trumps raising a KO'd target. I sometimes use a paradigm that consists of three medics (healers). And in a situation where one of them falls while the others are at half health and taking damage I would rather have the AI raise the guy and I'll handle the healing for those few seconds. Every time though you will have to do the raising and most likely the after healing on the KO'd target. So in conclusion while the gameplay is extremely fast paced and you most likely wont notice these flaws until your well into the game they are still there and are an issue (at least for me). In effect they only add to the already rich challenge and can be worked around with a little extra effort. I'd say the battle system trumps these minor details as a whole and is definitely a step in the right direction. It doesn't make the game feel generic and stays true to other Final Fantasy staples.
[8/10]STORY: Like I said earlier all of this is purely opinion so take this as you will. The story as it is presented in cut scenes can be rather confusing. It only begins to make sense in something called the data log. The data log contains data on anything and everything in the game. All the characters, creature info, chapter content, and even back story on all of them. The problem is all of this is written in text. Some people (myself included) would rather have the story unfold before our eyes than rather sit there and read text every few minutes to get the full story. I see this lack of information as a flaw. Now, if you do go ahead and read on everything in the data log then the story makes alot of sense. It's just if you ignore it, it can be quite confusing. I more or less ignored the data log for the first 9 chapters and thought that the game was moving too fast and was leaving gaps. So in essence to get the most out of it you should read the data log entries. The story is a rather nice one (once again, in my opinion) but I think it really shines brightest when it comes to certain characters. All Final Fantasy games have "filler" characters so to speak and this is no exception. But its a few specific characters that make it great. First of all is Hope. I'm sure alot of people will refer to Hope as the main character as his character has the biggest growth factor. You literally see him go from a scared weak little kid to a full blown hero. And trust me there's ALOT of drama in between. His character has the most depth by a long shot.
Now onto the official main character, Lightning. By the way, her real name isn't Lightning its more her nickname. You do find out what her real name is but I'm not going to spoil it here. The first thing I noticed about her was the Cloud-ness in her. SE has stated that they wanted her to be the female Cloud and they have done a good job in making her into that. She is not a cloud clone in any sense. Some real effort was put into her character to make sure that this is not the case. She tends to have what I like to call Cloud moments (i.e., if Cloud was in this situation then he would definitely do and say the same thing). She does have her own style (and not just because shes female). Even Cloud had characters he was sensitive to (such as Tifa). Lightning has no one shes sensitive to. The closest character to that would be her sister Serah. And even then she tends to argue and go off on her own when they get into arguments (a certain cut scene comes to mind). Lightning clearly has no friends and looks like she never has. And because of this she has a natural hardness to her. Its not to say that she prefers it but rather its not on her list of priorities in life. In actuality the only real person close to her is her sister and she will go to great lengths to keep her around her. I almost feel sad for her as she clearly loves her but is too tough and hardened to say it. The whole donning of the Lightning name took place after her and Serah's parents died when they were young. Ever since then she has tried to reinvent herself and no longer responded to her real name. All in all she can stand on her own as a Final Fantasy heroin the likes of Tidus, Zidane, Cecil, ect.
All of the other characters have a certain amount of depth but there are a few that are flawed (or at the very least annoying). The 2 that come to mind are Snow and Vanille. Snow is complicated. Not his character but rather how exactly he annoys me. He tends to do and say certain things that just don't seem to fit with the subject matter. If this were a movie, his character would be fine but the actor would be terrible. I think that's the best way to put it. He's unexpected for all the wrong reasons. Vanille on the other hand is just flat out annoying. Her voice takes the cake though. Her place in the story is actually rather large and she doesn't have any really bad flaws within it but I think its the whole presentation of it that suffers. At first she seems like a happy go lucky everything is beautiful type of person and she doesn't really shake off the aura as the story progresses and gets deeper and deeper. But think the biggest thing is her voice. It just maintains this comical tone even within serious scenes. Maybe its the voice actor's fault maybe it's the dialog but I just cant take anything she says seriously. She has a few crying-esque parts and instead of letting it all out she tends to whimper like a baby. It may not be an issue at first and you may even like her but after 50+ game hours it tends to get old. The other characters are good in my opinion and have their moments. A special mention goes to Sahz (aka Frocobo LOL). He does a good job at keeping the humor intact and at the same time gets quite serious when he needs to be. I wouldn't quite call him Barret but he does stand on his own.
[10/10]Graphics: I play PC games on a 26" 1920x1080 LCD monitor with 2 4890's in crossfire. And I play console games on a 48" 1080p LCD HDTV (60 Hz). Final Fantasy XIII is by far the best looking game I have ever seen. For a long time Crysis was the most detailed most beautiful game I had ever played. Well that has changed. So much effort and detail was put into the terrain it is absolutely mind blowing. With 4+ years to work on this game they have spent an ungodly amount of time making sure that this game stands out. And boy have they succeeded. I only wish they used the crystal engine to make a VII remake. That would be amazing. If your going to play it on a SDTV (4:3) then your going to suffer majorly. My friend has to play it on one and he says it only plays in letterbox mode and it is very hard to read most of the text. So if you really wanna see what the graphics have to offer then you best go buy a HDTV.
[9/10]SOUND: I gave this a 9/10 for one reason: Vanille voice. I'm sorry but I just cant stand it. Maybe I'm overreacting but I just cant let it go. The soundtrack however is awesome. Finding out that Nobuo Uematsu was going to be absent for this one made me a bit upset and skeptical but all and all I absolutely love the score. Its very diverse in style and even genre but it doesn't take away from the immersion. Everything fits with your surroundings and is highly likable. My personal favorite background music is in the final area.
Like I said its all based on opinion but I think my veteran status within the series has earned me some points. All in all I think its a great game. Very challenging and if you have ever broken something out of frustrations from a game then perhaps you should take a chill pill before you sit down to play it. And remember, for every time you die trying to down a boss it only adds to the sweetness and excitement you feel when finally take him down. Oh, and one more thing: that lazy eye is hot ;D
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/16/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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