Review by ivahT
Get over the town thing, this game won't disappoint.
You've no doubt heard a certain fact about this game that begs to crush the soul of the RPG fan: this game has no towns. Well, you'll get over it. The game rocks, and the story is such that you'll only very mildly want for a town by the end of this awesome adventure. As you've no doubt also heard, the game is pretty linear until near the end, when it fans out and allows for the exploration and challenge that Final Fantasy fans demand. Again, this really isn't a problem. You get a lot of great storytelling for a long time, some minor exploration and treasure-hunting, then when it finally opens up to the great stuff, you feel like you've earned it.
Those (truly) minor things aside, Final Fantasy 13 delivers. The characters are solid, deep, and you'll hate and love them all throughout their journey. The storytelling is my favorite of the series so far. This isn't to say that it's my favorite story--don't misinterpret me--but the actual process of delivering the story has set a new standard as far as I'm concerned. The use of a Datalog, which lets you research terms from the story on your own time, lets the story flow without the characters explaining crap that all the other characters should understand anyway, like what a "l'Cie" is. The log is also a great way to take a break from the endless onslaught of combat that you'll face the entire game.
The graphics are impeccable, the music fits the mood, and the controls feel great, especially in combat where had better be quick with the menus and decisions. You find items, weapons, accessories, components (to upgrade the weapons and accessories), and new shops (which are accessed from save points, the closest thing you'll get to a real "town") in the various treasure chests scattered throughout the world and will occasionally have to solve a mild puzzle or fight a challenging enemy to reap the reward.
The last thing I'll cover is the combat, which is fluid and sometimes frustrating until you get to the end of the game and have the full array of customization available to you. The various characters are only good at a couple special roles for the majority of the game, and you can only use specific guys until near the end, which leads to some aggravating encounters with enemies where you can't just do what needs to be done. Also, you only have control over the party leader. You can change the "role" of the entire party to suit the purpose, but you cannot in any other way control the other characters. Fortunately they always exploit the enemies' weaknesses, but they generally suck at healing and buffing. You can't even turn on/off their spells. The various arrangements of roles, called "paradigms" are critical to succeeding at the game's more difficult encounters and this composes the bulk of the game's strategy.
Well that's the game in a nutshell. It's a welcome addition to the series, and lives up to the franchise's standard of quality. One town would have been nice, but I got over it and you will too.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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