Final Thoughts on Final Fantasy XIII

Over the span of thirteen chapters, it took me about 58 hours to finish Final Fantasy XIII. And like I’ve said before in previous blogs and my review, it never fails to disappoint (on a large scale.) The many familiar conventions that were removed were definitely a shock to me for a while – It was difficult to not hear the tried-and true victory fanfare after a hard-fought battle, or see the whole gauntlet of the popular summon monsters to name a few; It’s still an excellent RPG, whether you get it on Xbox 360 or PS3. Personally I think Square Enix made a good move making this available to both camps in this console war, because when it comes down to it, the experience is largely the same, despite slight differences in textures.

Very light game play spoilers alert-

So what’s next for the renegade l’Cie? Well, after beating the final boss, the last level of the Crystarium is opened up for you, bringing a buffet of exponential stat upgrades. For example, most of Sazh’s HP upgrades before the last expansion gradually increase by about +100-150 HP per node, while the upgrades in his uppermost primary roles sport increases of +400. The massive boosts are welcomed, as the more difficult marks of Final Fantasy XIII’s 64 monster hunts make it nearly impossible without them. In addition to bulking up on steroi—I mean stat upgrades, there’s also the task of massing up enough gil to upgrade your weapons. Getting money is the essence of grinding, as a LOT of money is required to fully max out weapons for at least three members of the team.

After clearing the story, I feel comfortable saying that the cast of Final Fantasy XIII will keep you entertained from beginning to the end. This was the first group of heroes where I felt comfortable and confident with using everyone – I didn’t choose someone for my battle team only on the grounds that they were “cooler” than someone else, nor was anyone out of place or just along for the ride. Thankfully, there isn’t an oddball like Umaro, Cait Sith, or Quina from FF VI, VII, and IX respectably. The positive dynamic between everyone shined through any shortfall in the narrative, but I can’t say the same about any side characters though. NPC’s or even some villains were only as important as the scenes they were in. Beyond that, the spotlight was always on the l’Cie, and everything else is just accessory to the plot.

My main gripe about this game is how Sidequests were handled. There’s honestly only one; the hunts I mentioned earlier. Once you get to Chapter 11, the game adequately introduces them and you’ll finally get that feeling of being able to “do whatever you want” as many reviewers and previews have noted. However, this freedom only goes so far – Not too many of these hunts can be completed without putting down some hard hours grinding for stat upgrades in the Crystarium. Fully maximizing your characters isn’t possible until the main story is done, and even that will hold players interest only for so long. Final Fantasy XII accomplished its Mark side quests better in my opinion, because the availability of hunts broadened alongside the storyline’s progression. In other words, after emerging from a lengthy passage of the story, you could take a break and do a couple hunt missions. More difficult ones will be opened up according to how diligent you’ve been keeping up with previous hunts and how far you are in the game. With Final Fantasy XIII, you have a taste of the easier quests, and a large difficulty curve sets in, where monsters are just so over your capability there’s no way you can punch above your weight.

Despite the overhauls to the battle system, I enjoyed it. Because a lot of time is spent in battle, some become easier as you get strong. Thankfully, Auto battle comes to the rescue! For those who don’t like letting the game do the work, you can handpick your commands as well, and this doesn’t slow down the pace of combat, if you’re fast enough to think on your feet. Either way, having the option to let the AI handle things is a very welcome alternative. Paradigms were a bold experiment, and they were pulled off effortlessly. Once you’re knee deep in the game and can understand the mechanics of the battle system, you’ll be a little tactical mastermind, tossing out different paradigms to make the best out of each situation.

I can see myself putting in another 15-30 hours accomplishing all of the activities I outlined here. Or, at least getting done what I think can be done in a reasonable amount of time. Besides, I’m sure that I’ll pick up this game in a couple of years and play it all over again. Final Fantasy is a series that I’ll always love, and still, no matter what has been changed, removed or revamped, the experience has never let me down.

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