$26.99 - $81.18
2 Stores162 Reviews
Pros: Battle system
Cons: Stupid story, bad characters, weapons, linear, too easy, unfocused
Final Fantasy used to be Squaresoft's (now called Square-Enix after a merger) best title--ever since the early days where they started the franchise on the original Nintendo, broke massive ways in the third installment on SNES, and completely revolutionized how gamers look at the role-playing video game genre with Sony Playstation's Final Fantasy VII. It's been years since I've played an FF title because I broke my PS2 years ago and never got to play the critically acclaimed FFXII and had no interest in any of the MMORPG games in the series (online stuff).
Needless to say I was as happy as a kitten in a catnip patch when it was announced that the latest game in Square-Enix's series would be coming to the Xbox 360 as one, I was going through a drought of game playing and desperate needed to use my Xbox, and two, I needed an RPG to appease my geeky tendencies. However, when this was released in early 2010 I heard nothing but bad things--including from one of my good friends who bought it opening day (at midnight), played it all night, and was grossly appalled by it. This Summer I finally got around to buying it and playing it and while the mass audience dug it, but was let down...I was utterly disappointed by what it offered. Now, freshly five minutes after completing the game in 68 hours and 44 minutes--I'm here to put in my long-irrelevant two cents about a video game that failed on every level to please this long time Final Fantasy fan.
The story is complete crap. The franchise has prided itself on some of the most amazing story lines in the history of the medium and I would argue that the seventh installment is one of the best stories I've ever experienced whether it be movies or books included. XIII lacks in all of the necessities needed for a good story. You're in control of three characters in your party at a time amidst a six-person character-driven story that is about some political bull crap going down that these mercenaries need to stop. There's high emotions as one, Snow, is desperately seeking his fiancé while Lightning is a soldier (who's Snow's fiancé's sister) trying to stop the ruining of Cocoon (the world the character inhabit). There's a war between the top side of the planet and the bottom side with propaganda all around that your party tries to break and hopefully bring peace to the land.
Ultimately, the story was so forgettable, unengaging, and just plain bad that I found myself bored out of my mind and only looking forward to going into battle. This is a crying shame in a series that used to hold its story at the forefront. This felt like an afterthought and really made trudging through the game difficult as I could care less about what was going on. What made matters worse is that I guarantee that you won't find anything good in any of the characters that are in your party. Not only are their character designs shockingly bad in a fan-art, super-lame sort of way (with Snow taking the cake with the douchiest look), but I felt indifferent to them all. I didn't grow to like them, the back stories were all laughable and clichéd, and nothing fit very well.
This is an RPG game, which means battles and leveling up your characters and magic and blah blah blah. Here's what you need to know about the battle system: It's one of the only features about Final Fantasy XIII that I actually dug, but I say that rather loosely. It was one of the only things that actually kept me playing since I found it to be quite fun. The bad news is that it isn't fun or cool for at least the first five to six hours of game play. What's unforgiveable on the part of the game designers was that out of the three-disc Xbox360 game experience, the game only started to pick up once you popped in the second disc. The whole first part of the game is spent with you holding the hands of the developers as you test out the water to make sure that the battle system is alright--and even then: the second disc is also showing you how to do things. I felt completely restrained for at least the first half of playing the game and I literally kept asking myself when the hell it was going to get better.
It does get better, though. The battle system of XIII is extraordinarily similar to the one implemented in Final Fantasy X with their Sphere Grid system. After every battle you get into (right off the bat: there aren't random battles, but onscreen enemies you can choose to engage in fights with) you are given a score and a certain amount of these Crystal Points that go towards your Crystarium, which is basically your Sphere Grid for each character where you can use these points on a linear grid pattern to gain new skills or techniques, hit points (your character's health), or magic power. What's really cool about this system is that you can literally spend these points any time you want to. In other RPGs you have to save points and then after a long and tedious time you are able to gain a level, but this system makes leveling up much more fun and fast (in my opinion). However, it also adds to the easiness factor the game has.
If one character in your three-character party during battle dies they still get the points. If your other characters on standby aren't being used they still get the same amount of points. Thus, you can focus on just three characters and level up all six. This made the game remarkably easier as you are able to level them up in certain jobs like the Saboteur (this title makes the character able to debuff your enemies aka give them poison or other status ailments), Commando, Ravager (magic caster basically), Sentinel (defensive posturing), and Medic (white magic). These jobs can be put into these templates called Paradigms that you use during battle. You can only be assigned one job per character per paradigm, but you're able to have a multitude of paradigms so you can start out the character on offensive in the beginning of the battle, but switch to healer later or so on and so forth. I wasn't too hot about this Paradigm system, but it's very simple once you get the hang of it and it makes a lot of sense. Not the most original, but...
This game's also very easy to pick up in the sense that the battle system is very user friendly and it will please the most hardcore of RPG fans as well as entice new ones to the formula. The battles are all extremely fast and kinetic as there's a lot of onscreen action with your three characters and sometimes a crap ton of enemies on screen you need to defeat. You have an ATB gauge, which is essential to the turn-based RPG formula, and it's a tried and true concept that works really well here as to be expected. What's crazy is that there's an auto-battle function, which completely disengages you even further from the game as I could literally check my emails and push a button to battle for me. I used this auto-battle function almost the entire game except when it came to specific strategies. Getting back to the easiness factor, you don't have to worry about getting low on health because if you get defeated you don't go back to the save point--you can retry the battle from another vantage point so you can either avoid the battle or develop a new strategy. I thought that was super easy as was the fact that you get fully healed at the end of each fight. C'mon, now.
Another huge crime on account of XIII is that the entire game is remarkably linear meaning that you will literally follow a path throughout the entire game. Near the end you are given some freedom, but that freedom is so stupid--a large chunk of mini-quests know as "Cie'th Stones" where you travel the countryside and defeat certain enemies. Not only were some of these optional quests harder than any other part of the game, they were ridiculously boring. I lost interest after completing 30 out of the fifty missions. Either way, this adds more to the restraint. There's no exploring and while there are floating chests with treasure they aren't well hidden at all and there's no puzzles to be found within the game to ramp up the difficulty.
Aside from the game not being challenging on that front, save points are EVERYWHERE within the course of the game. I felt the need to play the game anytime I wanted to and not be afraid of getting interrupted because I was always so close to a saving points. You know what I loved about other FF games? Travelling to towns and visiting the shops. Guess what? Gone. In this game the save point in your one-stop shop where you can buy all of your weapons, armor, and other items without any town-visiting. What a disappointment.
Speaking of disappointment if you're a weapon head look elsewhere for a cool system--you won't get anything special in XIII. You have the choice of updating weapons with various components you find all throughout your travels, but this system is so flawed and unpredictable that I found myself frustrated the entire way through--barely using the system except to throw heaps of expensive components into one to upgrade the magic or strength levels. There was no thought put into this system and it really dragged down the game play for me in a big respect.
Graphics have always been one of the coolest things about these games as Square-Enix has set benchmarks with each new game they put out...and this one is no different. The graphics are certainly gorgeous to look at--crisp visuals and stellar cinematic cut scenes that break up some of the lamer aspects of the story. However, the entire look of this world is so lifeless and uncreative. The graphics are great, right? But the actual design is terrible. We've already talked about how bad the characters look, but even the bosses and monsters are idiotic looking and amalgams of other FF creatures without any thought to them.
There's not a lot of variety in enemies you encounter and the environments are most bland and unmemorable. You can't even interact with anything. There's a point near the end of the game where you can examine things and read a little something about what you're examining...but it comes from nowhere and is completely meaningless. I was torn because as good as they looked--especially in these super fast battles where no slowdown is found and everything is so eye-popping--most everything is forgettable and unoriginal.
Okay, let's go through this again: The battle system took some getting used to and more often than not I was really confused for the first two hours and completely bored. Once you get past this 5-hour hump, the game starts to get better and the battle system becomes much friendlier as you know how it works. The graphics are very pretty with a slick frame rate, but have too many similar environments with a real linear design without any exploring or puzzles to solve. The story is so off kilter, dumb, and just plain boring where I only played the game to battle instead of become engrossed in the story and the music was mediocre without any themes that truly caught my ears.
Oh yeah, that's right: the music isn't much to write home about--it's pretty with some nice sections, but a majority of the game (including the horrendous voice acting by all of the principle characters) was nothing monumental or stimulating. If you want to play political RPGs in the series covering similar territory you should really check out the original Playstation three: VII, VIII, and IX--they did it best with some of the best storytelling in the medium.
XIII just tried to be too smart when it was just plain hopeless with a story that lacked and any kind of genuine sentiment. As far as Japanese RPGs are concerned, Lost Odyssey (produced by rival Mistwalker Studios) is the far better game and STILL the best traditional RPG on the Xbox360 and the whole time I was playing this I kept thinking to myself, "Man...I wish I was replaying Lost Odyssey right now..."
Despite how good the battle system is, it's not enough to make it wonderfully playable. I'll most likely put this on the shelf and never touch it again. It doesn't offer any replay value and it will only serve its purpose of completion. It's like when you eat a terrible sandwich--it tastes bad, but at least it got rid of your hunger. It's certainly not the worst RPG ever made and it may appeal to a more novice RPG fan who didn't grow up with the better renditions of the formula...but my disappointment is not getting the best of me--the game just fails on many fronts and doesn't impress. Sorry.
© Jason Haskins, 2010
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy Chronicles
Other Xbox 360 RPGs