$26.99 - $81.18
2 Stores162 Reviews
Pros: Stunning presentation / cutscenes, Detailed graphics, Immersive voice acting, Improved battle system, High replayability.
Cons: Linear plot for majority of game, not so memorable music.
An enormous, mechanical scorpion crashes onto the landing bridge you are on. You have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Would you stand to make a seemingly futile stand against the monstrosity in front of you?
If you were Lightning, you would.
In fact, you’d defeat the monstrosity with ease and coolly sheath your glowing sword at the end of the battle as if nothing had happened – just you, standing high above the rest of the world, amidst smoking debris and shooting stars.
In Final Fantasy XIII, you are Lightning (as well as a multitude of other characters). You will engage monsters in battle after battle without hesitance. Are you ready?
I have been a long-time Final Fantasy fan. Ever since the good old days of Cloud and Sephiroth, Final Fantasy has been immensely satisfying in both storyline and battle system. With improvements in technology, graphics have gotten better and better with every game. Final Fantasy XIII delivers on story and gameplay, adding another impressive title to its massive franchise.
Released on March 9, 2010 in North America, Europe, and Australia, Final Fantasy XIII is available on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Square Enix developed and published Final Fantasy XIII and released in Japan in December of last year, a full quarter before the other regions.
Final Fantasy XIII marks the first title to be released by Square Enix in the latest Fabula Nova Crystallis collection of Final Fantasy games. Veterans of the Final Fantasy series should be familiar with this collection concept, which was also used in the past – Compilation of Final Fantasy VII (Final Fantasy VII, Advent Children, Before Crisis) and the Ivalice Alliance (Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Tactics: The War of the Lions, Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift). Fabula Nova Crystallis is Latin for “The New Tale of the Crystal” and will be a collection of titles loosely based around the crystal theme and with the plot and gameplay dealing directly with two worlds.
All the content is the same for both versions, but be aware that the Xbox 360 version has a lower native resolution (576p) than the PlayStation 3 version (720p) – though both can be upscaled to 1080p, which means there isn’t a huge difference. However, the PlayStation 3 version comes in one Blu-Ray Disc compared to the 3 DVD’s that the Xbox 360 packs. In terms of convenience, the PlayStation 3 definitely wins. I decided to purchase and review the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XIII because I wanted to be very helpful and report on just how different a lower native resolution could be (actually, I didn’t realize there was such a difference until after I bought it in a hurry to try out on my newly-fixed Xbox 360).
Don’t be like me. Buy the PlayStation 3 version if you have a PlayStation 3. If not, the Xbox 360 is fantastic just the same.
Storyline - 9.5/10
Final Fantasy XIII presents an intricately thought-out setting and plot for the entire storyline. There are no leaps in logic. Everything makes sense and feels real. It is so mesmerizing that I wanted, more than once, to be able to read the entire story just to find out. The storyline is so interesting that it drives the entire gameplay experience. For a full week and a half, Final Fantasy XIII was the only game in my Xbox 360 console.
The entire story unfolds through a series of cutscenes that are just drop-dead gorgeous. They were vibrant and engaging and really drew me into the story. Lightning, the female protagonist, is reminiscent of Cloud from the past thought she is a bit more sentimental. Final Fantasy veterans will certainly see the resemblances.
Set in a world called Pulse, Final Fantasy XIII’s story revolves around the fal’Cie, beings with godlike power created by a supernatural being known as the Maker. The fal’Cie are guardians of crystals and have the ability to summon an Eidolon, a monster that fights beside them. Furthermore, the fal’Cie brand people, effectively labeling them as the l’Cie. The l’Cie have a cursed existence, doomed to carrying out the will of the Focus, a goal the fal’Cie want to them to accomplish within a certain period of time. If unfulfilled, the l’Cie are morphed into monsters called the Cie’th. If fulfilled, they become crystals for all eternity.
There are two factions of fal’Cie – those of Pulse and Cocoon.
High above the rest of Pulse floats the city of Cocoon, constructed by a group of fal’Cie over 1,300 years ago. However, conflict soon surfaced between the fal’Cie of Pulse and the fal’Cie of Cocoon. The resulting War of Transgressions was a victory for the people of Cocoon. Consequentially, Cocoon’s citizens have looked down upon (quite literally) the people of Pulse. In fact, anyone in contact with Pulse is subjected to exile by the Sanctum, Cocoon’s theocratic government.
PSICOM is the military branch of the Sanctum. NORA, led by Snow Villiers, is a group that is opposed to the purging of Cocoon citizens by the government. As NORA advances, Lightning is also fighting against PSICOM to find her sister Anima, who was turned into an l’Cie. Along with the help of Sazh Katzroy (former airship pilot), and two exiles, you must stop renegade fal’Cie Orphan from summoning the Eidolon Ragnarok and destroying the world.
Gameplay - 9.0/10
At its core, Final Fantasy XIII is a single player role-playing game (RPG). With that said, Final Fantasy XIII does resemble a multiplayer game in that players have the ability to control multiple characters. It bears no resemblance to the online multiplayer (MMORPG) that is slated for Final Fantasy XIV.
While the presentation of the story is elegant, the actual gameplay suffers a little bit from linearity. It may have been done purposely by Square Enix to draw new players in as the side quests and mini-games that are symbolic of Final Fantasy have been done away with. Final Fantasy was not very hard for me and noticeably easier than previous titles in the franchise. Perhaps, it was because I have seen and used the Active Time Battle (ATB) system before, but the extra emphasis that the game puts on the main quests really focused my attention to one objective at a time.
There was certainly much less multitasking to do in the earlier chapters, which offer players few chances to deviate from the main path. The plot development is linear until Chapter 11, where multiple side quests can be done. However, this change does not come without a price. There is a noticeable difficulty spike. Monsters are much tougher and take longer to kill. Not to mention the requirement of forcing the monsters into the “Stagger” stance to even touch them – a skill that new players will have difficulty grasping since the first ten chapters of thirteen do not offer any practice room. Monsters will go into a “Stagger” stance, marked distinctly by an orange glow, when a chain combo has been executed for a certain amount of time.
As mentioned before, the ATB system is back. This return is a relief. Veterans will be happy to see its return and new players will certainly benefit from the ATB system’s multitasking capabilities, especially later on in the game. Multiple commands may be entered for each of the characters, allowing for chain combinations and bonus points (I’ll discuss how these are good in a moment). The stacking of commands is essential to clearing the later bosses.
If you’ve played Final Fantasy XII, you’ll notice that the ATB system in XIII has been improved. Instead of using MP, each command burns “cost points.” For me at least, this conversion has made it easier to calculate a specific strategy in terms of knowing exactly how many commands can be entered per turn. And since magic can’t be used outside of battle now, your entire party’s HP bars will be completely restored after every battle so you don’t have to worry about saving up heals.
The actual transition into the battles is seamless. There is a camera angle change and voila! Battle menus appear and you’re fit for battle. This flawless, smooth transition helped me stay immersed in the story and play more – there was less waiting time!
The “Roles” that are available are Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Synergist, Saboteur, and Medic. Each Role plays an essential part on the team depending on the battle. Commandos are masters of physical damage, Ravagers are the elementalists, Synergists buff, and Medics heal.
Each character on your team may take on one Role at a time. What does this mean? It means everyone can be any role, depending on your own preferences.
Final Fantasy XIII also has the Paradigm feature, which is a team of three Roles. Players may only store six Paradigm combinations, but are free to switch between Paradigms in battle. This feature is known as the Paradigm Shift. It’s very handy when the going gets rough and you realize you need a Medic to heal or a Commando for some extra damage.
Instead of leveling through experience, the Crystarium system is in place. Crystogen Points (CP) are gained after every battle starting from the mid-game. Players cannot access their CP to learn abilities and increase attributes in order to limit their strength in the early game. In my experience, this system works well. It took my mind off of numbers and stats in the beginning of the game, allowing me to fully enjoy the experience, but still gave me the power to customize my characters. It’s helpful to decide on Roles and set them early on because you can invest more CP into one Role path if you decide early on. Even though Paradigms exist, I see the Paradigm Shift as an emergency tool.
Finally, the feature of summoning Eidolons needs to be mentioned. Every character may only summon one unique Eidolon. The new “Gestalt Mode” transforms Eidolons into mounts in battle. Some of these transformed states are extremely slick – the one that comes to mind immediately is a mechanical robot with mounted machine gun turrets.
Some of the most fun I had with this game was exploring each character’s capabilities and functionalities.
Be bold. Be brave. Explore the unknown.
Replay Value - 9.5/10
I ran through the entire game in 65 hours, taking some time near the end to explore some side quests. Those of you who are new to the Final Fantasy world may take a little bit longer, depending on how you approach the game in the beginning. If you put in the effort, you will survive the difficulty spike near the end-game.
Player performance is evaluated after each timed battle. Higher scores increase the amount of loot you get from monsters, but also increase your CP, allowing you to have stronger characters faster.
I found this rating system to be extremely motivational in terms of forcing me to come up with effective strategies to take down monsters. It is never enough to just sit back and watch the action. If you are lazy and do this, you will not progress very much at all.
Final Fantasy XIII is not your typical hack-and-slash RPG.
Graphics - 8.5/10
I thought the visuals on the Xbox 360 were stunning until I saw the same game on the PlayStation 3. If you plan on getting the Xbox 360 version, do yourself a favor and don’t ever go near someone with Final Fantasy XIII on a PlayStation 3.
Ignorance is bliss.
The graphics are truly detailed. The artwork and effects are hands-down the top of the class. The character models are detailed, their facial expressions realistic. The environment texture is also immersive. If you aren’t playing this on an HDTV, you’re missing out.
There are some stutters during gameplay and the cutscenes. However, the overall graphical touch more than makes up for these little booboos in development.
Sound - 8.0/10
If you’ve played Final Fantasy games in the past, you’ve heard and remember great music. If you’ve never played a Final Fantasy game in the past, you’ve also heard and remember great music. Good music defines Final Fantasy. Sadly, Final Fantasy XIII falls a bit short on the delivery of memorable music.
Composer Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy X co-composer) scored Final Fantasy XIII. The songs are a tad bit too melodramatic, the battle themes not entirely convincing and motivational. It seems that the music of Final Fantasy XIII reflects Lightning’s extra emotional dimensions compared to that of Cloud from the past.
On the other hand, all the voice actors did a splendid job pulling off their lines. Nobody sounds forced or fake – everyone is who they are meant to portray. If you hate someone’s voice in this game, it might be because they are doing such a splendid job that what you actually dislike is their character’s personality.
The entire game is controlled through the gamepad. The controls were intuitive and took less than ten minutes to pick up. Unlike other games, the combos don’t require intense memorization of key combos. Instead, the burden of memorizing combos falls in the gameplay category. Use the ATB system and Paradigm decks to your advantage.
Final Fantasy XIII is a solid addition to the long-running franchise. With its own set of improvements, the occasional lagging is almost insignificant. If you can though, be sure to pick up this latest title on the PlayStation 3, which offers a richer experience.
Overall Rating: 8.9/10