Review by Tep52b

"The good, the bad, the ugly, and the first 25 hours of this "game.""

First of all, this review will be split into two sections, because Final Fantasy XIII has two distinct sections--the first 25 hours of the game, and the endgame, which consists of everything from chapter 11 onward. All things considered, this game's two sections average out to a nice, playable 7/10. Let's begin.

SECTION 1: The first 25 hours of the game, a.k.a. CRAP

Story: 8/10
The story in FF13 is pretty good. It is well-written, although the presentation (mostly with the playable character Snow) is a little awkward at times. It deals with Pulse, an earthlike planet, and its moon-city-thing (never really figured it out) cocoon, where all the cool people live. There are a lot of weird words thrown around like fal'Cie, l'Cie, and Cie'th. Fal'Cie are mechanized beings with godlike powers (some are in cahoots with the Sanctum, Cocoon's government, while some are from Pulse) who sometimes brand humans and basically force them to perform a certain task, called a focus. Those branded humans are granted magical powers and are referred to as l'Cie. There are two types of fal'Cie, and so there are also two types of l'Cie. Sanctum l'Cie are branded by sanctum fal'Cie, and their focus usually deals with promoting the Sanctum. Pulse l'Cie are feared and hated by the citizens of Cocoon, as they think everyone is out to get 'em. Paranoid. Anyway, after many confusing terms, the characters will eventually begin to develop. Kind of. Half of the characters are interesting and likeable, while the other half WILL annoy and frustrate you. Lightning, Sazh (the token black guy), and Fang are the only reasonable people in this game. Lightning is a soldier, and more or less the leader of the group. Fang is a woman from Pulse who is in league with Vanille (the annoying little girl). Sazh has a Chocobo living in his afro. 'Nuff said. Now, the other three characters... wow. Snow is a walking cliche. "I'm a hero! I'll protect you all! I can do this! Wooo!" Hope is a pathetic loser who does nothing more than whine and mope around because he has family issues. Vanille... dear God. This hyper-sexualized 14 year old girl runs around with a squeaky random australian accent making sexual noises every other attack and never lets anything get her down. Annoying, too happy, not needed. She's also the weakest character. These 6 main characters are brought together in the early chapters of the game with a common focus, and must ultimately choose between saving Cocoon and saving themselves... which is the main point of the game. Onward.

Gameplay: 2/10
For the first 25 hours or so, your characters are SEVERELY LIMITED IN THEIR CAPABILITIES. Not only does the game essentially put a level cap on your characters until you win certain fights or witness certain events, the character progression is EXTREMELY slow for this period in the game. By the 11th chapter, your characters will seem like trash compared to what they can be two chapters later. And then, to top it all off, after you complete the game, your characters unlock easily three times as much power as they had before! Why!? All this leveling up is done through the "crystarium," which is a fancy name for "FFX sphere grid rip off." It is essentially the sphere grid with 1 major difference: it is a straight line. Always. Each character has potentially 6 jobs, and each job has its own crystarium line, 3 of which you do not unlock until waaaaay late in the game. The jobs are commando (melee damage), ravager (magic/melee, drives up chain gauge... will get to this later), Medic (healer), Synergist (buffer), Saboteur (debuffer), and Sentinel (tank). You fight fights, earn CP (Crystarium points), and spend them like sphere levels in FFX. Except it's in a straight line. AAAHHH!!! There is NEVER any variation! Ever!! On top of that, each character's 3 side jobs (the ones you unlock late in the game) require a RIDICULOUS amount of CP to purchase nodes(up to 120,000... twice the amount of any node on one of their main job tracks), making the "max all characters" achievement/trophy an incredibly tedious task. On to the battle system. For the first 25 hours of the game, it BLOWS. You will be limited to only 2 characters, not of your choosing, in one party for a good portion of this time. This severely limits your capabilities. Battle is done through different sets of "paradigms," or job sets. Before battle, you can select up to 6 different paradigms for your 3 (or 2) characters, in which you assign each one a job. For example, the "Relentless Assault" paradigm consists of one commando and two ravagers. In this paradigm, the two ravagers will attack a common target to drive up its "chain gauge" while the commando attacks for high melee damage. When an enemy's chain gauge reaches a breaking point (different for each enemy), it will become "staggered" and susceptible to loads more damage for a period of time. This means you basically beat the living crap out of an enemy until it flashes, and then kill it some more. Not complicated. Sometimes you may need to heal, and so you would switch to a paradigm with a Medic in it. This also means that you have to switch your ENTIRE TEAM'S JOBS just to heal. It is considerably annoying when you have only 2 people for most of the first half of this game, as they usually don't do enough damage to drive up the chain gauges, and on top of that, you have to stop killing things to heal. Ugh. There is also some weird weapon/accessory leveling system that is fairly useless until the endgame, so I won't talk about it. At all. Basically, you use loot from battles (most of which you can purchase in shops, too) and "upgrade" your weapons, giving them exp. When they reach a certain level, they can be transformed with a "transformational catalyst," sold in the shops, and then upgraded further. Same for accessories. Oh, I almost forgot. Eidolons... a.k.a. summons. They are mostly broken. Stupid. Don't need them. Your leader (and ONLY the leader) can summon an eidolon for 3 tech points (which are gradually restored by killing things). The eidolon replaces your two party members (why...?) and begins to poke things with a stick. When your eidolon is almost dead, it turns into a vehicle of some sort. It then destroys things. ??????? It's weird and stupid and will most likely NOT win you a fight if things seem dire. Onward.

Soundtrack: 9/10
It's not Nobuo, but it's much better than 12 was. The music actually captures the mood of the areas you are in and provides perfect background... ambience. The battle themes... exceptional. It's like you're actually playing a Final Fantasy game!

Lasting Appeal: 1/10
The only reason to play this game a second time is for ONE achievement... treasure hunter. You must, during the course of the game, acquire one of EVERY item. You don't have to have them all at one time, but only need to have held it once. This is a problem, because there are MISSABLE ITEMS. Onward.

TOTAL for first 25 hours: 4/10

SECTION 2: The endgame (a.k.a. Wow this game is actually really fun!)
After a trudging dungeon crawl through the interactive movie that is the first 25 hours of FF13... you can FINALLY have some fun, especially after the game is complete. Now you can FINALLY start doing side missions, which are nothing more than hunts from FF12, but nonetheless fun and rewarding, riding chocobos(!!!), upgrading weapons for realz, leveling your characters, actually using the battle system to its potential... etc.

Story: 10/10
Now, as the game reaches its climax, it begins to all fall into place. The story is drawing to a close, and the heroes are getting closer to their goal. I place a LOT of weight in FF games of the final boss fight and the main villain. The villain in 13 is pretty damn evil. At risk of spoiling something, that's all I'll about him... her... it... they...? Whatever. The final boss fight is epic. The song that plays during the fight (Born Anew) is, while not quite at the level of One Winged Angel (come on, you know it was epic), amazing. The final hours of the game are filled with VERY challenging enemies and bosses, AMAZING cutscenes and environments, and a final boss that will be remembered. Hope is still the worst FF character ever, though.

Gameplay: 9/10
Now you can FINALLY start upgrading weapons the way they were meant to be upgrading, leveling your characters to the extreme (especially AFTER the final fight...), and RIDING CHOCOBOS! They chocobos are pretty nifty. They have dredlocks now and find money for you. This is where the game becomes legitimately fun. There are loads of tough fights to fight, marks to hunt, levels to level, items to get. Personally, I quit playing this game before this point came around and I did NOT want to finish it. It was horrible. However, after about a year, I came back to it and trudged through to the end, and lo and behold, to my amazement, mine eyes did behold a very fun game. Unfortunately after 25 hours of crap. The only downside to this endgame is that your characters will become insanely powerful very quickly. Even after an hour of powerleveling on a certain enemy near the final stages of the game, the final boss becomes relatively easy. Oh well.

Soundtrack: 10/10
This gets 10/10 simply because *gasp* THE FINAL BOSS IS REPEATABLE!! And his/her/its/their music is incredible.

Lasting Appeal: 9/10
There is potential to spend over 200 hours on the endgame alone. Once you complete the main storyline, the final stage of the crystarium is unlocked, allowing your characters to level to their full potential. The game, once complete, upon loading your game clear file, will place you before the final boss so that you have an opportunity to go out and get rich and powerful and come back and beat the game over and over and over. It honestly is very fun.

TOTAL for endgame: 9/10
The end of the game and onward pretty damn fun. Yes.

Would be higher if the first 2/3 of the story wasn't a completely broken pile of dung. Amen.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/28/11

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

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