Review by Masterprestor

"Final Fantasy XIII"

It has been nearly four years since Square unveiled their latest monolithic project, Final Fantasy XIII, to the public at the 2006 E3 convention, and now that its here, its clear to say that this is not the Fantasy we remember from our past. This is a Final Fantasy for next-generation gamers and fans that are ready to see the series make a tremendous leap too a game that far exceeds its predecessors. Unlike past adventures Final Fantasy XIII takes a step back from your classic RPG's and literally cuts the bulk of the basic RPG experience away from it. Open ended exploration is now considered slow and stagnant by Square's standards and has been replaced with linear travel from highly rich and detailed setting corridor full of baddies to the next. You assume the role of Lightning a tough and hardened soldier of Cocoon and this is her quest and a Final Fantasy for a new age.

Final Fantasy XIII's linear approach too story progression and game play can be slightly bothering to the fans of old. The fat of the RPG experience has been cut out, leaving a game that is straight forward, direct and ready to deliver the goods. No longer do you have too trek entirely our of your way back to the nearest town, searching frantically for the right vendor who sells hi-potions, phoenix downs, holy waters or whatever you need. Ever get lost looking for Cornhollio? Did navigating the giant world of Gaia in Final Fantasy IX get irritating? Couldn't find the ruins where the “Guardian Force” The Brothers lived? Well have no fear casual RPG gamer, Final Fantasy XIII's game play and story progression is as clear and dry cut as knowing straight from the start that Hope is going to be a whiny nuisance. Progression of the story is as simple as traveling in one direction, defeating enough “thrash” enemies until encountering a cut-scene or an enraged boss ready to put the smack down on you and your party.

This little detail in itself might be enough to deter most fans away from Square's latest in the series. However, the two most important attributes of any RPG game worth its salt remain. Thats right folks the story is solid as ever and you'll feel right at home with the games main characters: the sheepish caster, the hardened warriors, the self-proclaimed (but good hearted) hero, the whimsical priest and of course the funny man. Yes! The gang you've grown to know and love is all there! Secondly, whats a RPG without a good battle system? Its slow and painfully dull since nearly 60% of your time spent in any RPG game is grinding enemies so you can beat that boss thats been whooping your ass for the 4th time in a row. Take a deep breath….. Ok, you can relax now. Final Fantasy XIII's battle system is probably going to be the most fun you've had knocking around flan since your first time in the series. Unfortunately for the first few hours of game play combat appears to be dubbed down. There is also a new ‘auto' feature that selects your attacks and abilities. Keep in mind the auto feature is entirely optional and should only be used by those new to the series to help get a grasp on the battle system. A word of caution to players who choose to use auto attack religiously, be prepared to take your training wheels off around 15+ hours into the game, at this point in the game it becomes a critical necessity to think outside of the box and auto attack just is not going to cut it. There are many enemies tromping around Cocoon and Gran pulse that need to be tackled with care and finesse. Simply smacking around your opponent with strong attacks wont do, your going to have to strategize, use a few saboteur debuff's too weaken his defenses, setting him up for the kill or imbue your characters with a synergist' touch giving them buffs such as haste or protection. Hell you can even imbue your teammates or yourself, with elemental base attacks according to your opponent's weakness. The strategic stress combat builds on the player is an adrenaline fueled joy ride of ass-kicking. Its not going to be rocket science to realize that the battle system of Final Fantasy XIII is going to be the solid foundation of its success.

Lastly, you cant have a solid RPG without character progression. Character progression comes in two fold: weapon customization and the crystarium. Weapon customization is simple enough and is completed by successfully combining the raw materials you'll receive from your defeated foes and various treasure chests scattered throughout the game, to your desired weapon of choice. Each weapon can achieve the ultimate form, it's strength, magic power and other abilities varies depending on the weapon you've chose to synthesize to the highest level. It's a simple system with high rewards for those with the patience to gather the materials needed. The crystarium roughly resembles Final Fantasy X's sphere grid, slight with some major differences. Unlike the sphere grid the crystarium follows a set path, spiraling upwards through abilities, strength, health and magic bonus by attuning a set number of points that are awarded after combat to the desired node. There are six different roles to level in the crystarium, with each character in the beginning of the game having access to 3 of 6 unique roles. Choose wisely which role you will have your characters focus, cause you will have too strategically utilize your team's individual roles in a set of groupings called paradigms, which can be selected prior to battle and during. Try new paradigms often to optimize your strategy for any foe.

Final Fantasy XIII is a wonderfully polished and refined, fresh new take on the series. With a catchy and memorable music score, light hearted characters and a rich story line with compelling game play, this will easily become a fantasy to remember. Square has paved the way for a new genre of epic RPG's.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/17/10

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

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