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Final Fantasy XIII Review
publisher: Square Enix
developer: Square Enix
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 09, 10 (released)
|» All About Final Fantasy XIII on ActionTrip|
The Final Fantasy series has been around for a long, long time - well, since 1987, when the very first FF game appeared on the NES. In all that time, the game had a staggering amount of sequels, add-ons and spin-offs, probably more than any other game license out there. The popularity of the franchise is still great. Given the series' good reputation, expectations were definitely high when Square Enix announced they'd bring Final Fantasy XIII to consoles. The announcement was made 4 years ago and the game eventually made it to both PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms.
If you'll bear with me for a minute or two, I'll try and explain the story to you, because you certainly won't learn much about it from playing the game. At least not during the first two or three hours of playing (or at all, actually). Final Fantasy XIII is set in a world called the Pulse. At the center of the story are the fal'Cie, powerful mechanical entities created by 'the Maker.' Each one of these fal'Cie contain crystals within them. Anybody who gets marked by the fal'Cie becomes a l'Cie and immediately receives a Focus. The Focus represents a goal for the individual set by the fal'Cie. This goal needs to be completed within a time limit or a certain amount of time. If the goal is not achieved in time, the individual turns into a monster - Cie'th. The goal is not clear and people have to discover it for themselves. Completing the Focus isn't exactly a one-way ticket to paradise either. The prize for accomplishing it is getting transformed into a crystal, permanently. That is why the whole process is regarded as a curse.
I shall proceed to tickle you with my staff. Tickle, tickle...
Shame, I can't keep these cute little buggers as pets.
Hope you're with me so far... Don't worry, it gets even more bizarre and confusing later on. Final Fantasy XIII puts you in control of six unique characters, all of which have specific abilities to deal with enemies. Their combat techniques vary from ranged, melee to magic and such. Lightning, the heroine of our story, takes center stage and will be part of an extremely capable group of individuals who find themselves going from one danger to another.
To anyone who doesn't know the Final Fantasy series by heart, the story will appear anything but comprehensible. It's hard to make out what the hell is going on amidst all the colorful action, wacky characters you know precious little about. You are offered no explanation about the universe whatsoever. For a game that focuses so much on story-telling via elaborate and meticulously directed cut-scenes, FF XIII severely lacks a coherent plot. Know that the game comes on 3 DVDs, but as you may have guessed most of that space is reserved for all the fancy cinematics. Normally, this won't be a revelation for anyone familiar with modern-day JRPGs. Also, I wouldn't have any problems with it, provided I knew what the hell was going on. Instead, I've spent hours trying to interpret the sequence of events that took place in the hope of making sense of it all. No luck. Characters need more work as well. It seems the game tries too hard to lure you in with over-emotional, clich'd, child-like heroes right from the start. Well, it doesn't work that way, folks. Characters need time to develop and most people need time to respond to them, ultimately deciding whether they like them or completely detest them - or, in fact, if the characters invoke no emotional response at all.
Doing my best to comprehend what the developers wanted with the storyline, I started to shift most of my attention to the game itself. The combat mechanics in FF XIII relies on the so-called Active Time Battle (ATB) system, which allows you to chain different moves and attacks, inflicting as much damage to enemies as possible. There's a great deal of skills, attacks and items to manipulate with during combat and everything is done in real-time, so you have to stay on your toes and respond pretty darn fast; especially, if you're dealing with tougher, more resilient adversaries. Now, there's generally nothing wrong with the gameplay. It takes a bit of practice, although it becomes quite fun when you try out all of your options. The only thing is that it takes way too much time to get to the good bits of Final Fantasy XIII. After many, many hours of playtime, the game was still going through tutorials on some of the basics of combat and character control.
The art direction is great, as are the visuals, music and sound effects, the gameplay is actually quite good and engaging when it gets going, a satisfying amount of different skills and combat abilities for each character;
Excruciatingly slow beginning and tutorial, equally slow and poorly told story with infantile and clichéd characters, you'll probably end up skipping most of the cut-scenes (and my God there are a lot of them).