Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

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DaHeckIzDat
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Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby DaHeckIzDat » April 14th, 2015, 9:52 pm

Review of Final Fantasy XIII by DaHeckIzDat



Final Fantasy is, without a doubt, the biggest JRPG franchise we have today. While others, like Shin Megami Tensei: Persona or the Tales Of series, might be big in their own right with their own dedicated fanbases, they simply cannot hold a candle to the popularity of Japan’s juggernaut. I, myself, freaking LOVE Final Fantasy— I just haven’t beaten any of them. I don’t know what it is about JRPGs that I find so amazing. I enjoy some anime too, but I don’t obsess over them the same way. And Final Fantasy isn’t the only one, I freaking love the Tales games too. I’ve found that RPGs made in America (called WRPGs) are usually more interested in being immersive and making you feel like you’re actually a part of the world you’re playing in. While that’s all well and good, I prefer to be told a story, and that’s what JRPGs do best. Lots of other people think these stories are over the top and silly, but I personally can’t get enough of them.

But I’ve gone on about JRPGs in general enough. Final Fantasy XIII is, as you could probably guess, the 13th core game in the series. It isn’t the 13th Final Fantasy game, since there are the direct sequels like X-2, the prequels like VII: Crisis Core, and the unnumbered games like Final Fantasy: Tactics. But with each new numbered game, Final Fantasy completely reinvents itself storywise. There are absolutely no connections to the other games, apart from some shared terminology— like “gil” being money and the names of the spells you cast.

Final Fantasy XIII focuses on several different characters over the course of its story, but the one I always thought of as the MAIN character is Lightning Farron, a tough as nails soldier girl who would just as soon stab someone as say “excuse me.” She, and the rest of the crew, lives on Cocoon, a mechanical planet floating in the sky above the savage world of Gran Pulse. Cocoon is kept running by Fal’Cie, sort of demigod beings that each have their own unique purpose in making Cocoon tick. Everyone on Cocoon has been raised on stories about the evil denizens of Gran Pulse, and their insatiable desire to destroy their paradise in the sky. So, when a Pulse Fal’Cie is discovered on Cocoon, everyone goes nuts and the government decides the only way to quell the panic and eliminate the threat is to purge everyone in the city the Fal’Cie was discovered in. To the citizens dismay, they find that this means committing a massacre under the guise of a forced pilgrimage to Pulse. Lightning’s sister, Serah, has some sort of connection to the Fal’Cie, and she is determined to find her. When in danger, Fal’Cie are able to brand humans as their l’Cie, which makes them their servants. If a l’Cie finishes their mission (their “focus”) in time, they are turned to crystal and put to eternal sleep. If they fail, they are turned into mindless monsters called cieth. Lightning manages to find her sister, along with Serah’s fiancé Snow, a boy named Hope, an old pilot named Sazh, and a girl named Vanille, just in time for the Pulse Fal’Cie to reveal itself and brand them all as its l’Cie. Now all of Cocoon is afraid of them, and the military will stop at nothing to kill them. Still, they hold out hope that there might be a reason they were branded. Could they, perhaps, manage to turn this into a good situation?

You get all that? Good, because that’s all handed to you in the first level.

Like I said, if there’s one thing Final Fantasy does well, it’s tell a story. These characters are all very fleshed out, and I eventually grew to like them. I even grew fond of Lightning, even though at the beginning of the game she came across as a total -----. Snow has to be my favorite, though, constantly declaring himself the hero and making flamboyant rescues. He has a good heart, a flare for the dramatic, but is a little short in the common sense department. That’s good, because that means he, just like all the heroes, have character flaws. That keeps them from being Mary-Sues, which in turn helps keep the story interesting.

So, the story is good, but does it play well? That’s been up for debate ever since the game was released, and nobody has come up with an end-all answer yet. Most people’s biggest gripe is that it’s linear— like, ridiculously linear. While other Final Fantasy games aren’t exactly free roam, they at least gave you a decently sized map to explore. XIII doesn’t do this, and instead gives you a series of long, narrow hallways to follow. It does open up considerably towards the end, but to lots of players it was too little, too late. This annoyed me as well, especially since the levels were so long. They all look amazing, and every time I went to a new area I had fun taking in the sights as I followed road toward the inevitable boss battle at the end. But after an hour (or more) of doing this, they wore out their welcome and instead of being impressed anymore I found myself wondering “How much further is it?!” If this were an action game like Heavenly Sword, I could probably look past this since that would speed up the pace a lot. But since this is an RPG, every encounter pauses the action to take you to the battle screen— which I will talk about next.

Fighting in Final Fantasy XIII is different from any Final Fantasy that came before it, and, again, the reactions were mixed. Unlike other games, you don’t control your entire party. Heck, you barely control the party leader themself. The combat is almost entirely automated, to the point where the default option is “Autobattle.” Choose this, and an assortment of moves and/or spells will automatically be selected and performed while your teammates do the same without any input from you whatsoever. Tons of people hated this system, and claimed the only real strategy was “Press X to win!” I disagree here, however, because of one thing: Paradigms. The paradigms are the basis of the combat, and that’s where you’ll find the strategizing missing from the combat itself. Each paradigm gives the character a set of moves they can perform, like jobs do in other games. Commando makes them take on their enemies head on with melee combat, Ravager turns them into spell slinging wizards, Medic turns them into, well, medics, and Sentinels buff up their defenses so they can take punches for their teammates. Each character eventually gets access to all the paradigms, even though they each do best in one or two of them. You can only have three people in your party at a time, and you only have a limited amount of paradigm slots you can fill for them. The strategy comes in forming your party with the right people to make the right paradigm teams, and then switching between them according to what you need. For instance, you could start out with a Ravager/Ravager/Commando team to beat up your enemies and then staffer them, and then switch to a Ravager/Ravager/Ravager team to deal out some pain before the stagger wears off. Then you switch to a Synergist/Sentinel/Medic combination to heal the damage you’ve taken and buff up your fighters while the Sentinel protects you. Then you switch back to Ravager/Ravager/Commando and repeat the process. It’s not the same kind of strategy you’ll find in Final Fantasy VII or X, but I enjoyed it. It was like a puzzle, figuring out which fighters to bring into a boss battle, and which paradigms to assign to them. These two key things can turn a seemingly impossible boss battle into a freaking cakewalk. I’m actually glad they implemented the autobattle feature, because I’m sure I would have been overwhelmed if I had to manually control each fighter’s actions in addition to switching the paradigms. My only issue is that the fight ends if your party leader runs out of HP, it’s game over. In other games, this would only happen if the entire party got KOed, but here it’s just you.

The difficulty is the third thing I want to comment on. For a large portion of the game, the fights are easy. The boss battles provided some fun challenges, but for the most part the common enemies never put up much of a fight. That is, until you get to Gran Pulse (THEY NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT IT IN THE GAME SO THE FACT THAT YOU EVENTUALLY GO THERE IS NOT A SPOILER SHUT UP). Not only is Pulse where the game opens up like a Final Fantasy game should be, but it’s also the place where, for all your grinding and leveling up, you are suddenly nothing but an ant in a world of giants. Everything there can kill you, and everything there will make every effort to do so. Turns out, Gran Pulse is the endgame. For those who don’t know what that means, the endgame is where you’re supposed to go AFTER beating the entire game to further level up your heroes and tackle some extra tough side missions. That means that for the majority of the time you’re there, you’ll be running from monsters that you just have no hope of defeating— not because you suck at the game, but because you’re not the right level yet. Why they designed the game this way, I have no idea, but things don’t get any easier after that.

I mentioned that I’ve never beaten a Final Fantasy game, and that includes this one. I made it almost to the end, which is farther than I’ve ever made it in one of these before. Therefore, I think I played more than enough to form my own opinion on it. Why did I stop? Because the boss battles just got too hard for me. Even after playing Metal Gear Fantasy across Gran Pulse, one of the bosses just proved too tough for me to get past. Again, I play Final Fantasy for the story, and when you’re constantly having to die to a boss, rewatch the cutscene leading to him, and then die again to find out his weakness, it lessens the appeal. I just want to get to the cutscene AFTER the boss and find out what happens next. So, rather than force myself through this, with the knowledge that things would only get harder afterwards, I opted to quit playing the game and watch the rest on Youtube. And you know what? I don’t regret that decision. I enjoyed playing the game up to that point, but after that I was satisfied just watching someone else do it while I focused on the story. Even if I didn’t beat it myself, that still makes it the first Final Fantasy game I’ve seen all the way through to the end. Honestly, if I wanted to experience the story a second time I would just go straight to Youtube instead of forcing myself through the long, boring levels that got on my nerves so much the first time around.

And there you go. Final Fantasy XIII is not the best Final Fantasy game ever made. I’ll leave which one is up to you, and say that, despite all the bad press it’s gotten, this game is nowhere near as bad as people make it sound. It has plenty of flaws, that’s for sure. So many that I doubt I’ll ever be interested in playing through it again. But at the same time, it was a great experience that I’m glad I took the time to have, in one form or another. If anything, it just makes me even more excited to play all the classic games in the series to see how they stack up! My final verdict is that if you don’t expect perfection, you’ll enjoy Final Fantasy XIII just as much as I did. If you’re expecting an open world of complete freedom, and absolutely despise being led from objective to objective by the nose, then go play Skyrim because there’s nothing here for you.

I give Final Fantasy XIII a 6/10!

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Rev
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby Rev » April 14th, 2015, 10:18 pm

Nice review. I thought this was a really detailed and interesting review. I also like how you didn't just give the game a 10/10 and say it was the best game ever (they rarely are). Instead, you went into detail about what the game did great and what it struggled with. I haven't played FFXIII but your review definitely makes me want to give it a shot. Thanks!

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JustLikeHeaven
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby JustLikeHeaven » April 15th, 2015, 11:24 am

Awesome review.

Final Fantasy XIII might be one of the most hotly debated games of the previous generation. I'm a big Final Fantasy fan, so I picked it up and after about 17 hours of playing decided it wasn't for me. I tried. I really tried to like the game. I just didn't like it.

The characters were all kind of annoying but worst of all the story never grabbed me. Like Daheck, stories in JRPGs are very important and this one just didn't entice me. It never got to that point of no return...I gotta see how this ends.

I also didn't like the battle system. I've never hated random encounters or JRPG battle systems. I get a strange sense of accomplishment grinding characters in these games. The practically automated battles were not exciting.

Also, I'm not fond of the artisitc direction the series has taken over the past few entries. Well, basically since VII the games have all been this weird amalgamation of sci-fi, anime, steam punk, emo goth, fantasy. I miss the older games where it had touches of sci fi and other genres in there, but the FANTASY was still paramount. I miss figthing goblins and more traditional fantasy tropes. I think the last Final Fantasy with a setting I adored was Final Fantasy IX. No surprise since that was Hironobu Sakaguchi's last stand of sorts.

I just wish Final Fantasy could go back to it's roots a bit. The series is the penultimate JRPG series and the more it pushes forward the more it doesn't resemble anything close to a JRPG. The new game looks amazing, but again it doesn't look or feel like Final Fantasy at all. It just looks like generic anime. Would it kill them to go back to Black Mages, Fighters, Monks etc...? I just think of all the cool characters and classes in Final Fantasy VI (you could be a ninja with a cute dog for Pete's sake!), and I wonder why Square has abandoned it's approach. I think of how Nintendo has gone back to it's roots with 2D Mario, Donkey Kong Country etc... Imagine if Square Enix made a new Final Fantasy on consoles done in the style of the old games? It would sell like crazy. Oh well. Mini rant over lol.

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DaHeckIzDat
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby DaHeckIzDat » April 15th, 2015, 1:42 pm

JustLikeHeaven wrote:Awesome review.

Final Fantasy XIII might be one of the most hotly debated games of the previous generation. I'm a big Final Fantasy fan, so I picked it up and after about 17 hours of playing decided it wasn't for me. I tried. I really tried to like the game. I just didn't like it.

The characters were all kind of annoying but worst of all the story never grabbed me. Like Daheck, stories in JRPGs are very important and this one just didn't entice me. It never got to that point of no return...I gotta see how this ends.

I also didn't like the battle system. I've never hated random encounters or JRPG battle systems. I get a strange sense of accomplishment grinding characters in these games. The practically automated battles were not exciting.

Also, I'm not fond of the artisitc direction the series has taken over the past few entries. Well, basically since VII the games have all been this weird amalgamation of sci-fi, anime, steam punk, emo goth, fantasy. I miss the older games where it had touches of sci fi and other genres in there, but the FANTASY was still paramount. I miss figthing goblins and more traditional fantasy tropes. I think the last Final Fantasy with a setting I adored was Final Fantasy IX. No surprise since that was Hironobu Sakaguchi's last stand of sorts.

I just wish Final Fantasy could go back to it's roots a bit. The series is the penultimate JRPG series and the more it pushes forward the more it doesn't resemble anything close to a JRPG. The new game looks amazing, but again it doesn't look or feel like Final Fantasy at all. It just looks like generic anime. Would it kill them to go back to Black Mages, Fighters, Monks etc...? I just think of all the cool characters and classes in Final Fantasy VI (you could be a ninja with a cute dog for Pete's sake!), and I wonder why Square has abandoned it's approach. I think of how Nintendo has gone back to it's roots with 2D Mario, Donkey Kong Country etc... Imagine if Square Enix made a new Final Fantasy on consoles done in the style of the old games? It would sell like crazy. Oh well. Mini rant over lol.


I think a lot of it might be because that's what western rpgs are doing now. Dragon Age and The Elder Scrolls are our two main fantasy western rpgs, so maybe Square Enix thinks that going back to it's roots would just be white noise. Personally, I like how the games look these days. If I want to be told a Tolkien-esque swords and sorcery story, I have thousands upon thousands of options. Final Fantasy, and JRPGs in general, are DIFFERENT. People are using swords, guns,and magic all at the same time. You can summon a dragon to fight a mech on top of an out of control train. Those are things you don't often see in western rpgs, or in Western media at all , and that's a huge part of what draws me to Final Fantasy .

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JustLikeHeaven
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby JustLikeHeaven » April 15th, 2015, 3:28 pm

I get that the mishmash of multiple "fantasy" elements is part of the draw. The games have always had that weird mis-mash and it was a GOOD thing. It had robotics, mechs, guns, daggers, swords, spells, lions,tiger and bears...oh my! Final Fantasy has never been Tolkien-esque. It's like D&D in that it's this really WEIRD fantasy world that is familiar yet has a style all it's own.

My beef with the latest games is that it skews to heavily towards the sci-fi, how can I make this character cool for cos-play with his 60 zippers, really strange locales and just unfun worlds to explore. XIII in particular had a very boring setting. Think about how diverse and awesome VII was with Midgard, then Red XIII's canyons, Vincent's Valentine's Haunted towns...it was just more memorable.

I also liked controlling the stranger characters of the FF world. Like Mog, Cait Sith, Red XIII, Vivi etc...just having a party of 4-5 humans with impossible hair just ain't as fun. Look at Chrono Trigger and the cool characters you could control in that game...a big hulking robot, a savage cave woman, a nerdy scientist chick, a noble frog! So cool!

I know Square isn't going to go back to old FF anytime soon, so I'm just blowing hot air for no real reason. :mrgreen: Hey DaheckizDat...did you ever play XIII-2 or Lightning Returns? I've been tempted to try both of these, but was scared because I never finished XIII.

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ptdebate
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby ptdebate » April 15th, 2015, 3:59 pm

Good review, Adam! I think I read this (or some version of it) on your site as well.

I didn't find XIII to be as enchanting as my favorite entries in the series, but I thought the gameplay and graphics were solid. I also liked liked most of the characters quite well; they aren't as wacky as those of earlier FFs but definitely relatable.

JustLikeHeaven wrote:I know Square isn't going to go back to old FF anytime soon, so I'm just blowing hot air for no real reason. :mrgreen: Hey DaheckizDat...did you ever play XIII-2 or Lightning Returns? I've been tempted to try both of these, but was scared because I never finished XIII.


You wouldn't know it from the review scores, but XIII-2 and Lightning Returns successfully bring back a lot of what core fans missed in XIII--namely, the utter strangeness that characterized classics like VII. I definitely wouldn't say they're on par with the classics, but they absolutely have genuine intentions. There are many more varied and interesting places to explore in those games as well--and the visual and sound design of XIII-2 will absolutely take your breath away. In terms of aesthetics alone, it's the series' highest achievement in full 3D.

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DaHeckIzDat
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby DaHeckIzDat » April 15th, 2015, 4:37 pm

JustLikeHeaven wrote:I get that the mishmash of multiple "fantasy" elements is part of the draw. The games have always had that weird mis-mash and it was a GOOD thing. It had robotics, mechs, guns, daggers, swords, spells, lions,tiger and bears...oh my! Final Fantasy has never been Tolkien-esque. It's like D&D in that it's this really WEIRD fantasy world that is familiar yet has a style all it's own.

My beef with the latest games is that it skews to heavily towards the sci-fi, how can I make this character cool for cos-play with his 60 zippers, really strange locales and just unfun worlds to explore. XIII in particular had a very boring setting. Think about how diverse and awesome VII was with Midgard, then Red XIII's canyons, Vincent's Valentine's Haunted towns...it was just more memorable.

I also liked controlling the stranger characters of the FF world. Like Mog, Cait Sith, Red XIII, Vivi etc...just having a party of 4-5 humans with impossible hair just ain't as fun. Look at Chrono Trigger and the cool characters you could control in that game...a big hulking robot, a savage cave woman, a nerdy scientist chick, a noble frog! So cool!

I know Square isn't going to go back to old FF anytime soon, so I'm just blowing hot air for no real reason. :mrgreen: Hey DaheckizDat...did you ever play XIII-2 or Lightning Returns? I've been tempted to try both of these, but was scared because I never finished XIII.



Yeah, I just beat 13-2 (THANK YOU EASY MODE!!!). Even from someone who enjoyed 13, 13-2 is way better. Much more open levels, Caius is a great villain (infinitely better than Bart). The only things I didn't like we're that there were a couple levels you couldn't do ANYTHING on because they expexted you to buy DLC for it first. Also, the ending was pretty terrible and negated everything you just spent the entire game doing. Clearly cliffhangering you for the third game. Lightning Returns is very high on my to - play list, but first I want to beat some of the other games I own. Namely, Dragon Age : Origins, Milla's side of Tales of Xillia, and Tales of Xillia 2.

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JustLikeHeaven
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby JustLikeHeaven » April 15th, 2015, 4:54 pm

Also, thanks again for posting the review, because it has given me the motivation to revisit XIII. It's been probably 5 years or so since I've played it and I'm curious to see if I can finish it this time out. Will probably post some impressions in the "now playing" board once I start.

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DaHeckIzDat
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Re: Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 and 360

Postby DaHeckIzDat » April 15th, 2015, 9:59 pm

No problem! I'm going to write a review of 13-2 too, but I'm not sure when.


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