Review by Demigod_Tyek
While doing some things differently than it's many predecessors, it's still an amazing game that fans will love to play
The Final Fantasy series is probably what started a lot of us on RPG's. With lovable characters (most anyways), complex battle systems, and epic storylines, the Final Fantasy series is one of the greatest franchises ever created. And for good reason. Let's face it, Square Enix is amazing. And now, they've delivered to us the 13th installment of the main Final Fantasy series.
But, surprisingly, Final Fantasy XIII abandons a lot of the aspects that made the series so popular. While this may bother some people, I can assure you that it is just as amazing as all of the others; it just simply went down the road less traveled is all...
In Final Fantasy XIII, you control six characters that are on their own personal quests (although they all have the same goal). While the game clearly distinguishes Lightning as the main character, you will control the other characters just as much at different points throughout the game. Through this, you will progress the story (which is in chapters), and learn more of the six characters through flashbacks when certain events take place. Don't like the sound of the multi-story approach? Don't worry... it is well structured and very enjoyable.
The world of Final Fantasy XIII is split into two sections; Cocoon (a huge, sky world where the humans live), and the vicious and monster-infested Pulse (the actual world itself). The game is rather linear, with hardly no side quests or exploring to do other than along the provided path itself. But do not let that scare you... the several hours I've played so far have been very fun and exciting.
The voice acting is tremendous. Definantly one of the greatest casts I've seen in a game in a long time. The music is not by Nobuo Uematsu, who did a majority of the Final Fantasy games, but instead Masashi Hamauzu, who did the music for Final Fantasy X. That being said, it is great to listen to and every piece works well with it's scene.
Now for the battle system, which will probably make or break this game for the majority of it's players. I thought it delivered quite well though. What started out as a simple button-mashing contest, eventually turned into one of the most challenging battle systems I've ever encountered in a game. Like all the other Final Fantasy titles, the Active Time Bar (ATB) is back, but the deliverance is very different. While your character stands idle, the ATB will gradually fill up, and you are given a list of commands. Every action you select from the command list takes up a certain amount of the ATB, and when it finally fills up completely, your character fulfills those actions you selected. The strategy is to use the commands that will fit the ATB but also do the most damage. And of course the strategy changes for every different type of enemy you face. Fortunately, there is also a "Auto Battle" command you can select, which will select the abilities for you to use automatically (depending on the battle situation, enemy, or area). Against most random encounters, you will use this mainly, only selecting commands manually for the tough boss fights.
While you only control one character at a time, the other two party members act on their own and are very smart. They do what they think is needed for the battle (most of the time attacking, but also occasionally healing the leader if you get low on HP, etc). You can switch up what you want each character to worry about in the battles (attacking, healing, magic, etc), which will hopefully keep the battles nice and fresh. That being said, if it important to know that if your character, the leader, falls, it's GAME OVER! Yes, even if the two AI characters are alive, you will see this dreaded scene if the leader falls. So always make sure you keep your leader with a nice amount of HP, and take no chances.
Each battle is rated. Each battle grades you on how fast you complete the battle, and how effectively you killed the enemies. This rating determines your loot, along with (later in the game), your technical points (TC), which is what determines if you can summon, etc...
Once you get used to all the stuff for the battle system, you will understand why this game is fun to play. It is also constantly satisfying, as you can build up your character however you like through the game's Crystarium (very similar to Final Fantasy X's sphere grid, but NOT AS COMPLICATED). For those who never played Final Fantasy X, pretty much you put points into a certain area or ability you want to become stronger. This being said, there are no experience points or leveling in this game!
As great as this game may sound so far, it isn't without fair warning that this game is VERY linear. For 3/4 of the game, you are mainly confined to walking straight walkways through the various environments to the next destination. Occasionally you'll run into some kind of treasure but that's about it. While the linearity might welcome the people not used to RPG's, it may disappoint a lot of the veterans. Personally, it didn't bother me at all, because I would always be excited to see what happens next and enjoy the battles along the way.
Towards the end of the game (the last few chapters), the game opens up tremendously (finally), letting players explore large environments and taking part is side quests, which are mainly to slay some kind of monster. One of the things that really ticked me off (although it isn't that big of a deal and doesn't ruin any part of the game) is the fact that there are NO mini games of any kind whatsoever. Yep. None. Period.
Just please don't let these problems discourage you from playing this great game. The story and battle system alone are worth a playthrough, and the graphics are by far some of the greatest I've ever seen in a video game.
If you own both a PS3 and an Xbox360, I'd recommend the PS3 version. The version for the Xbox360 is with lower resolution and is spread over three discs, compared to the PS3's one bluray.
CONCEPT: Square Enix's latest induction into the main Final Fantasy series
GRAPHICS: Beautiful. Everything looks so real. Definantly some of the best I've seen in any game.
SOUND: While not Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu does just as good of a job on the score. Each piece is great to listen to, and fits into the events nicely
PLAYABILITY: Everything is easy to understand. The battles are fun and addicting.
ENTERTAINMENT: It's a Final Fantasy game. The story is amazing, and the characters add their own comic relief from time to time. While there is no New Game + (bummer), I'm sure fans will give this more than one playthrough at some point in time
LAST REMARK: Final Fantasy XIII is a great RPG that delivers fast-paced, sophisticated battles, an intriguing and interesting story, a likeable cast of characters, and some of the best visuals I've seen in a game. Hardcore Final Fantasy fans might find disappointment at some points throughout the game, but none of it will ruin the overall experience.
- Jared Langston (Demigod Tyek)
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Final Fantasy XIII (US, 03/09/10)
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