Final Fantasy XIII
A prime example of RPG excellence.
Publisher: Square Enix
Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 9, 2010
For years, gamers have dreamed of what Final Fantasy XIII would be like. Until its release, it was a mystery. Gamers all around have grown up knowing that every Final Fantasy title was a sure thing. Each release would symbolize the pinnacle of RPG excellence. Although XIII does away with many familiar conventions the series is known for, what remains proves to be a stellar experience.
Final Fantasy XIII is easily one of the most controversial titles in the series, primarily because of many of the traditions it does away with. There is no world map. The victory fanfare has vanished. Towns are nowhere to be found. There isn’t a strictly defined villain either, as the heroes’ ultimate adversary comes way out of left field. These are the primary downsides of the game, but don’t be frightened by what’s missing!
The story is told through the progression of 13 chapters. There are cut scenes abound, and dungeons are pretty much one way trips from point A to B. Flashbacks help round out the narrative and help explain what’s going on. For those who still can’t make sense of everything – and this can happen if you don’t pay close attention- there is a handy Datalog to explain everything lost in between. Although the story isn’t a fantastically unique yarn, it will definitely grow on you. The cast of characters are very cohesive – everyone has a motive, a distinct personality, and their actions all play together in concert. Since no one competes for the spotlight, the player is given the chance to love and appreciate everyone equally. Unfortunately, this doesn’t leave much room for side characters, or locales. The areas are definitely beautiful, but you’ll often find yourself pushing to the next destination. A lot of the areas are closed off after completing them, so keep your eyes open!
It won’t take five minutes of watching the introductory cinematic to ascertain the fact that Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most visually impressive games that’s currently out. Square Enix has finally begun to truly blur the strictly defined lines of superior Computer Graphic animation and a regular cut scene. From start to finish, the eye candy never ceases to amaze.
Square Enix makes another stride in reworking their trademark Active Time Battle system, and makes fights more kinetic than ever before. The battle system revolves around careful use of Paradigms Shifts, a combination of six strictly defined classes in unison. Actions like attacks, magic and other techniques can be queued up according to how far your ATB fills up, and are unleashed on your foes. With three people on your battle team, it’s often easiest to designate traditional roles like a Medic (Healer), Commando (Attacker) and a Ravager (Magician) to mow down your opponents. You’re responsible for controlling the leader, while you can only dictate the actions of the other two members of your team which is handled by the AI by assigning whichever roles to fit the situation.
Although it is very bare bones at the start of the game, the battle system continues to blossom and build on its complexity as the story moves along. You’ll be gently introduced to different tactics, one of most importance called the Stagger System. Simply put, most enemies have high defense. Every attack your characters make will add to a multiplier for your damage. By increasing this multiplier by a certain amount, you will stagger your opponent, leaving them vulnerable to actually take large amounts of damage. The majority of boss fights require them to be staggered first, before actually delivering substantial damage, so a touch of strategy is involved. Eventually, you’ll be switching between a Paradigm that focuses on filling up the stagger meter, one to heal or debilitate your opponents, and ending with a relentless assault on your foes. Certain Paradigm combinations accomplish different goals more efficiently than others, so a lot of experimentation is available to the player. Each battle can pose a challenge to a player, and those that are having trouble with a tough boss have the option to retry, placing them right before the battle occurs to start fresh.
The main story runs at about 50 to 60 hours. For casual players, the game has ended, but for those itching for more, there’s a ton of monster hunts and more opportunities to grow your characters. The problem with this is that after the story is resolved, any other extra-curricular activity feels more like an afterthought. Getting strong enough to take on enemies that make the final boss pale in comparison is nice, but the side quests could have been weaved into the main quest rather than being shoehorned in after the fact.
Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.