Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/09/10 | Genre: RPG
The Final Fantasy series is one of the most long-running franchises in the video game industry. Spanning fourteen installments, this series has left quite an impression on the youth of many gamers. Now that we have reached the thirteenth chapter in this mighty lineage, how does it stand up to past Final Fantasy games and other games of the genre?
To say Final Fantasy XIII is an evolution of the series is an understatement. Gone are most of the trademark makings of the past to allow for a completely new style. If games and movies had a child, that offspring would be FFXIII. Taking place in a mix of the far future and distant past, you take control of Lightning. She is typical Final Fantasy fare--dark, brooding, and highly trained. She is joined on her journey by a diverse ensemble as she makes her way through the world of Cocoon and beyond. Each personality you run across is unique and memorable, and the ample story scenes will help to flesh them out. As to not ruin the tale, twists and turns through out will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Gameplay is where the game departs from the ways of Final Fantasy titles of the past. Gone is the wait, attack, get attacked, wait, attack, etc system we have become so accustomed to. Instead battles consist of fast-paced and action intensive gameplay. You can only directly control one character, during the battle sequences, and give the other two, active in your party, a specific style of fighting know as the Paradigm system. Each character has roles to fill, may it be Medic (healers), Synergist (Buffs), or Ravagers (Offensive Magic Users). This adds a nice strategy to the game, and helps to make the player feel like he has some control over the rest of the party. As for the main character in the group, that responsibility rotates, so you don't have control of the same character for the whole game. Often times the games party splits up, leaving you with just two or three of the available party members.
When controlling the main character in battle, there is still an ATB meter, but its function is different than other Final Fantasy games. You are allowed to select a series of commands and once the bar has filled, they will be executed. You don't have to wait if you are close to staggering an enemy. If this occurs, all you do is push a button to use abilities sooner. Fans of the franchise will also find that all random battles are gone. Instead, you run into enemies on the map. Most of the time they are avoidable, if you so choose.
The battle system is not the only aspect of FFXIII that goes off the Final Fantasy reservation. Gone is the a world map to navigate. In its place, you progress through predetermined paths with very little exploration. This is one of the parts I don't really care for. Most of the game alternates between cinematic sequences and action segments. This often means for every five minutes of story, you will usually get five to ten minutes where you actually control the characters. This was done in an attempt to make the game have a more movie-like feel. To Square Enix's credit, it works.
If you so desire, there is the ability to skip the movie cinematics. This is nice for the times you have to face a boss more than once because you will die.
Leveling up in FFXIII is a lot like in the more recent games of the series. The best system to compare it to is Final Fantasy X's "Sphere Grid." Instead of gaining levels in the traditional sense, you earn Crystal Points throughout the game. These can then be used to learn more abilities in the Crystarium. All of the abilities you learn, HP bonuses, MP expansion, and status boosts are handled in the grid.
Graphically FFXIII is stunning. Whether you get it on the PS3 or the Xbox3 60 you will not be disappointed. The characters come alive before you on the screen and the environments are diverse and lush. One of the few flaws I found is in the small text during battles. If you are playing the game on an HDTV then you shouldn't have a problem, but on a standard television I found the font during the battles to be so hard to see. This caused me to not know how much HP I had or what paradigms I was switching to. Your mileage may vary if you are playing on a Standard Definition Television.
Most modern games feature voice acting, and Final Fantasy XIII is no exception. Each actor brings a unique sensibility to the characters they represent, and you feel the emotion of the scene. The rest of the games soundtrack is typical FF. Wonderful and moody.
So how does one summarize such a game? There are some who wish a Final Fantasy game should be turned based, mythical, and challenging. If those are the criteria, then Final Fantasy XIII fits right in. With its engaging battle system and timeless story, XIII falls in line with the great Final Fantasies of the past, while updating the series to face the future. Gamers owe it to themselves to dive into the world of Cocoon head on, and with their eyes set to the horizon. Give this game a chance, and I'm sure you'll fall in love too.