Review by Xyphas
As a Final Fantasy it fails, but as an RPG it excels
Its tough to gauge my enjoyment for Final Fantasy 13. Its a brilliant game nonetheless, but I felt at times betrayed as a fan of the series. SE latest ditches a lot of the series traditions, which does innovate the genre as usual, but it will leave some ardent fans dissatisfied
Story- The story doesn't have a lead character, instead its driven by the characters who all get equal spotlight. The game doesn't have a clear longtime goal like a lot of jrpgs, the plot s driven by The characters, their goals and mindsets. Unfortunately these mindsets are horribly artificial. The characters never felt real me, at times I swear the characters were bi polar, in a matter of minutes one particular character changes from violent to peaceful. The explaination this was pathetic and made me not like the character at all. For a plot that focuses so much on these revelations your party reveals every cutscene or so, you would at least think they were more compelling, as they are disturbingly simplistic. Its an entertaining story nonetheless, but I felt as though it was incomplete, a lot of the interesting tid bits about the games world are in the datalogs but never shown in the story. This is the first final fantasy that I didn't really feel a part of the universe while playing and that being a very important element in any RPG makes this all the more aggravating. This is really the team that brought us Final Fantasy X?
Gameplay- Final Fantasy games usually have pretty simplistic battle systems that are mainly based on the individual commands you give to teammates. Surprisingly this is the greatest accomplishment of the game. Combat is fast, fluid and fun. You only can control one character at a time, which is weird you cannot switch during battle. Another artificial handicap the game gives you is if he character you are controlling dies, its an instant game over. By rest assured their are a lot of ways to make it through battles without dieing, and these are the main driving force of the system-paradigms. Paradigms shifts change the roles (ala jobs) of you entire party. Since you cannot assign commands individually, u will be switching paradigms often. For example one paradigm is called relentless assault, this is composed of a two ravagers and a commando, or other words a warrior and two mages. While you are fighting and you get hit by a powerful attack you can switch to a different paradigm like diversity which has a medic, and still keeps the ravager and the commando, so u can heal while still staying on the offensive. It builds complexity as the game progresses, its as strategic as it is fun. Its also challenging, in yet another artificial handicap, the game constantly level caps you. So until chapter 11, you can never really grind. You upgrade your characters through the crystalarium, which is essentially the sphere grid mixed with the job system of FF V. Each role has its own sphere grid, a path of nodes that are individually unlocked by cp you get from winning battles. While many may argue its not very much customization , you determine what upgrades you want first, so to a degree customization isn't all linear. You will only notice the cap unless you try to grind. It opens up in chapter 11, you get access to every role of every character, this is also the chapter you may need to grind in order to progress. For the most part though combats pretty balanced. You also upgrade weapons, very similar to final fantasy 8, you will be upgrading the same weapon till I reaches its tier 3 weapon, each tier has its own level which u feed the weapon experience to increase. Each character has several families of weapons, so the possibilities of 8 different ultimate weapons is very addicting. The only thing missing from the gameplay is variety. The games very linear, while most in the series are linear as well, they used clever camera angles and visual tricks that gave an illusion that it wasn't linear. This illusion is gone in FF 13. In fact most levels are like straight tubes. This would be much of a problem if the game broke up the constant action. Puzzles,minigames, and town exploration are classic examples of techniques used to break up gameplay elements in jrpgs, techniques that are noticeably absent from FF 13.
Sound- The new guys has some decent tracks, but they aren't as memorable as previous entries in the series. In fact I found myself replaying those tunes via custom soundtracks, made the game more enjoyable hearing more familiar tunes and melodies. The music never matches the current situation, its either too epic or too Moody, it decent but fails when in comparison to it predecessors. Voice acting on the other hand is so good it covers up the games awful writing at times.
Graphics- The best looking jrpg ever, complete with the best CG cutscenes around and a lot of them.
Verdict- Final Fantasy 13 isn't for everyone, for a game that's supposed to real in a new audience, the games hypocritical as its steep difficulty makes It so that only hardcore players will actually complete it. If you are new to the series its hard for me to recommend starting here. While its dissatisfying narrative is shocking, its gameplay aspects pick up the slack, making this the best jrpg this Gen so far. This is still final fantasy, but don't expect the best in The series
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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