Final Fantasy XIII - PS3 and Xbox 360
Format played on: Xbox 360
Time played: 46 Hours for Main Quest, 80+ in Total.
This is a review for Final Fantasy XIII as played on the Xbox 360. Unless you are completely new to computer games or this genre, then you have probably heard of the Final Fantasy series. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, the series of games are RPGs about a cast of characters who usually end up rebelling in some form against a great evil. This sounds generic, but each instalment is completely independent from one another, and consequentially will have new worlds, new characters and new storylines in each different instalment which are bound together by certain clichés of the series – such as various monsters/storyline elements appearing in each game. Final Fantasy XIII might edge away from some of those clichés to a large degree, but this game is fundamentally Final Fantasy and after spending a good time with the game, you will realise just how close to home to the series this game is.
Final Fantasy has always been well known for its melodramatic storylines, and it’s deep and complex characters. This is where the thirteenth instalment in the series delivers to your heart contents. The game’s storyline is set within two worlds. The first of these worlds being the more predominate throughout the storyline – Cocoon – a manmade world in the sky where the citizens rely on technology provided by their god’s, the ‘fal’Cie’. These people fear the world that Cocoon hovers above, the organic planet – Pulse. To the brainwashed citizens of Cocoon, anything related to the world below is dangerous, and must be purged beneath. The main cast of characters are branded as people who have been in contact with a fal’Cie from Pulse, and thus the main story begins. To say anything else would ruin it, but never before have the characters of Final Fantasy been so engaging, and have intriguing backgrounds. One or two of the characters might grind on you a little, but watching their personalities grow throughout the game is one of the highlights for me, and is certainly a rewarding experience.
With all this praise comes some criticism regarding the storyline. Though the story is quite complex, (the latter half of the game justify this) the former half of the game can be quite slow to start with and often misleading conversations between the characters can confuse the audience, or at least confuse me. Thankfully, the game comes with a feature called ‘datalog’ that has an extensive explanation of the storyline. Some of this can often seem ambiguous but the storylines intentions and it’s real purpose are shown here.
Graphically, this game is phenomenal. I spent the majority of the first disc (around 5 hours) playing the game in standard definition. This bugged me because I was completely blown away by the groundbreaking visuals on standard definition and kept thinking of the intensity of the graphics via an HDMI cable. Miraculously, I shortly came across a HDMI cable and I found myself just gasping in a yawn like position for about ten minutes. It is absolutely breathtaking. The amount of detail that has gone into this game cannot be ignored. I can count of at least five different locations where I would be walking around and I literally just stopped everything I did and just messed around with the camera in order to take in the view. Beautiful game.
Another fantastic feature about the English versions of the game is how the developers have adjusted the lip movements of the character models to match the wording of the English voice-actors. This was a much appreciated feature which really makes the game feel like you are watching a high budget movie. I only wish that many other foreign games took the time to do this. This is a sign of high production values, but also compliments the details with the game environments beautifully. I own the Xbox 360 version, but the visuals are still breathtaking. I have heard that the Playstation 3 version has a sharper frame rate, so if you own both consoles and want to invest in this game based on the visual aspect, then I would recommend getting the Playstation 3 version.
The gameplay involves moving the main character around a field map and battling encounters as with all other flagship Final Fantasy titles. The battle system lives up to the standards of the previous games. All enemies appear in the world map in similar vein to Final Fantasy XII, but once you encounter these enemies, the battling goes to a different screen like the first ten entries of the series. This is a satisfying mixture of both new ideals for the series and the nostalgic battling of the older titles. Magic points have been expelled in this game, every action you make takes up a certain amount of time on the ATB bar, so weaker moves such as ‘attack’ will only take one placement on the ATB, whist other more powerful moves such as ‘death’ will take five placements on the ATB. The game's battling revolves around the 'roles' you can give certain characters, and you can switch the entire 'roles' of the party to suit the battle scenario (In a similar style to Final Fantasy X-2's job system).
Of course, there are some negative aspects to the battling as well. There are several battles throughout the game where you must fight a summoned beast, and attempt to fill up a gauge by performing certain actions in battle. This seems okay on paper, but combined with a timer you are forced to have creates a unwelcome challenge and ends up being rather dissatisfying and becomes an overly tedious task.
This leads us to the point of the review where I must discuss the ‘controversy’ of this particular Final Fantasy entry – The linearity. This game does not feel like your normal RPG. You do not talk to random people. You do not find random shops or quirky buildings. You also do not do any real exploring until Chapter 11 of 13 in the game. This is a great shame. The developers have stated that to do this on a graphic engines of this scale would take over ten years to accomplish, so it is understandable, but one cannot help but feel that there was a little special ‘something’ that has been lost along the way. The game attempts to redeem itself by adding a huge amount of side missions and hunts to be completed after the main storyline, and although it works to a certain extent, it does not quite substitute the lack of freedom provided in other titles of the franchise.
Masashi Hamauzu has composed the music for this game, and although one or two pieces are a little repetitive, and one or two pieces that are a little irritating, or sound like they should be in a elevator, the music can have its moments. With particular reference to ‘Blinded by Light’, ‘Vanille’s Theme’ and ‘Born Anew’. The bad aspect of the music is that it steers too far away from the traditional music that we have all come to expect. The battle theme, although brilliant, has been completely replaced by a new composition, as opposed to a remix of the previous theme. The victory fanfare and prelude have also come under the hammer, which has received mixed reactions from audiences. It is not a great concern of mine, but I have to question the credibility of these choices, especially regarding a game that has seen a lot of changes to the format already.
Final Fantasy XIII is certainly a game that anyone can easily pick up, and get engrossed in its magical storyline, fascinating characters and beautiful misc-on-scene. Sadly, for more hardcore fans of the series, although it does not disappoint, I cannot help but compare it to other games in the series and see what flaws the thirteenth entry has. The lack of freedom, combined with dramatic changes in the music is blocking the path to a perfect score, and thus I have chosen to give the game a very respectable
8 out of 10.
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