Backlogging It! Review: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)

Backlogging It Review - Final Fantasy XIII

A ragtag group trying to save the world? Ya don’t say! Here’s the review for Final Fantasy XIII!

I remember years before Final Fantasy XIII was released. Everybody was excited to see what Square Enix had up their sleeves for the series’ first entry into the next generation. Fans of the series were eager to hear more about the game, which was a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Then came the screenshots, and the videos, and other news blips. And the delays. Oh, the delays. Then, one E3, Square Enix announced that Final Fantasy XIII was almost ready to go on PlayStation 3… and on Xbox 360. Talk about your megaton announcements.

Anyhoo, the game eventually came out, and… dang, it really divided fans. Some absolutely loved it, some hated it with a passion. And I… well, read the review to find out!

Final Fantasy XIII - Cover NAFinal Fantasy XIII

Genre: RPG
Developer/ Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 3 Also on: Xbox 360
Original Release Date: March 9, 2010
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Reason for Rating: Mild Language; Suggestive Themes; Violence

 

 

The sheltered world of Cocoon floats above the wild lands of Gran Pulse. The two worlds have been at odds for centuries; with powerful beings known as fal’Cie calling the shots. The fal’Cie from Pulse tried to destroy Cocoon a long time ago, but failed, and that war is just another bedtime story told to kids to keep them awake at night.

Fast forward to present day, and the citizens of Cocoon are livin’ it up… until a dormant Pulse fal’Cie is discovered near the resort town of Bodhum. Now, fearing that the people in Bodhum are tainted and under Pulse fal’Cie influence, the Sanctum government issues orders sentencing everyone in town — citizen and tourist alike — to be banished to Gran Pulse. Enter our heroine, Lightning, who’s on a mission to save her younger sister, taken hostage by the fal’Cie. And, of course, this grows and becomes an adventure to save the world (as these things tend to do).

The Presentation Is… Ah, Hell, It’s Square!

For many years, Square Enix has done a top-notch job in the visual department. Cities are bustling with life, with so many bright lights going off, it feels like every place you visit is like Las Vegas. Jungles are lush and full of weird creatures. It’s essentially what I’ve come to expect from a Final Fantasy game.

Tracks vary from upbeat music you could skip down the street to, to more calm and serene for those more peaceful settings, to epic orchestral pieces complete with choir for those most epic of boss battles. I quite enjoyed the ones with vocals; find myself humming those without even a second thought.

Changing Of The Guard

Perhaps the best thing about FF XIII is the game mechanics. You don’t gain levels in the traditional way; character development is dependant on the Paradigm system, Final Fantasy XIII‘s Job System. After battle, you’ll earn some Crystogen Points (CP), and these points can be used purchase new abilities for a certain job or stat boosts for that character. You can distribute the CP for each character in whatever way you see fit.

Final Fantasy XIII - Crystarium Level Up

Spend your hard-earned CP to learn new tricks that’ll turn you into a more efficient fighter.

Something else that’s cool is that your characters won’t be regulated to just one job in battle. You can save up to six different Paradigm setups for your party, and you can switch between them anytime in battle by pressing L1 to access the Paradigm Shift menu. This is helpful if your party was all attackers and you find yourself in need of a healer to patch you up and a paladin to draw enemy attack.

Let’s talk more about battle. Despite being able to see enemies on screen, you still get phased into a battle scene where you’ll have to input commands. What makes it different from previous entries is that you can enter up to five different attack commands at once from the list of job abilities. Also (much like Final Fantasy XII) you only control the party leader; the AI controls your mates, and it does a pretty good job at determining what attacks are needed based on the situation.

Besides issuing commands, you can also do special Techniques, such as using Libra to get enemy info, Quake, or (later on) Eidolon. Each of these Techniques will deplete the Party’s Technical Points bar, which replenishes a bit after battle.

Final Fantasy XIII - Shiva Fight

Before you can use Eidolons, you must fight them in a battle to the death. They will only yield to you under certain conditions, which you must figure out as you fight ’em.

This whole battle system is probably my second favourite in the series (top honours still belong to Final Fantasy XII). It has a faster feel to it then the previous Turn-based Final Fantasy games, and being able to change Paradigms on the fly in battle adds a level of strategy, and careful planning considering you have to prepare your decks ahead of time.

[Ninja Edit]

Shows ya how long ago I played this game, ’cause I COMPLETELY forgot about this one very important point that was brought up by VSOG buddy Rob over on the VSOG Facebook page. And the more I remember, the more the frustration builds.

You have control of the leader of the party, and you must make sure you take very good care of them. If your leader loses all their Hit Points, it’s Game Over. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the party is in perfect shape; if the head gets chopped off, you’re done.

That will lead to much, MUCH frustration… and it’s also a strange decision. I suppose it was meant an additional challenge (makes you extremely aware of what’s going on in battle), but it’ll drive people crazy.

[End Edit]

So, Why Did People Hate On This Game?

A lot of people were not pleased with what Square Enix chose to do as far as storytelling is concerned:

The format of the game is as follows:

  • Run down linear path, fight some dudes. Run down linear path. Cut scene.
  • Run down linear path, fight some dudes. Cut scene. Run down linear path. Cut scene.
  • Run down linear path, fight some dudes. Run down linear path. Cut scene. Boss fight may be here

Wash, rinse, and repeat.

In other words: the pacing stinks the big one.

I might be showing my age, but I seem to recall a time when cut scenes in the middle of dungeons were used sparingly, and if they were there, it’s usually because they were super-duper important and that you NEEDED to pay attention. While that is the case for some of the cut scenes you’ll see in Final Fantasy XIII, a lot of them feel like they were thrown in for the sake of throwing them in; as if a section can’t be complete without a cut scene. All this extra exposition weighs down the flow of the game, and it gets frustrating after a while to have the action stop because we have to sit and listen to Hope whine about something.

Oh, the characters. They all fall under the typical stereotype: the tough-as-nail soldier, the cheerful girl with a high-pitch voice, the momma’s boy, the fatherly type with the awesome afro… you know, the usual suspects.

Then comes what is dubbed, “The Good Part”. All this corridor running does take a bit of a reprieve and you’re given a huge, lovely area to run around and explore at your leisure, but it takes a while to get there. Some say it’s 20 hours in; I reached it around the 40 hour mark after lots of grinding. Regardless, why must we wait so long before we can get to roam around some? I suppose one could make the argument that it was the same with previous instalments: exploring to your heart’s content was quite limited until you got access to the airship; you were restricted to the area that you were in. But in those cases, you usually had a large area to explore, towns you could walk around in freely, folks you can talk to. In FF XIII, you just run straight through, not really stopping to chat with folks (they just start yappin’ as soon as you’re within range), and it’s still forever in a tunnel.

Final Fantasy XIII - Gran Pulse Running

Running around Gran Pulse is truly a breath of fresh air.

That said, I think the plot and settings themselves aren’t bad. The world of Cocoon and Gran Pulse, as well as the history, is quite fascinating. The Datalog in the Menu Screen has a lot of text about the major characters, important locations, and a lot of other information that will help you better understand what’s being referenced in dialogues. However, it’s still easy to get lost with everything that goes on, and there were things that happened which were never explained or wasn’t made clear as to why they happened.

Getting Turned Into l’Cie Again… Why?

There’s actually a couple of things you can do after you complete the game the first time around (aside from earning Trophies, of course). After finishing the game, you’ll gain access to more abilities for your jobs, so for those who like to get 100%, that will keep you busy. Also, there are the optional Missions that open up late in the game, though it’s totally possible to do all 64 of them before you finish the game the first time around.

Got Some Kinks, But It’s Still Okay

There are a lot of things that Final Fantasy XIII did well, and some things it didn’t quite pan out. While I don’t agree with the whole corridor-running feel the first half of the game forces you to go through, and the pace with which the story was told, I can’t deny that the plot, the battle system, and the Paradigm System are quite enjoyable. Are those enjoyable bits enough to attract people to the game? Not always, so it’s hard for me to give this a slam-dunk, 100% recommend. Rent it (or borrow from a friend) to see if this is for you.

Final Score:

7.5/10 – This game has lots of potential. Not a bad experience at all

Pretty Cocoon
+ Pristine presentation
+ Paradigm System is one of the best job systems ever
+ The story and history of the world is rather interesting

Those Damn fal’Cie
Too many cut scenes interrupt play
Not a lot of freedom of exploration until very late in the game
Getting a Game Over because the leader goes down does stink

Get Final Fantasy XIII from Amazon.com, from Amazon.ca, or Play-Asia today!