Final Fantasy XIII

The thirteenth installment of the Final Fantasy series has come to the PS3. The graphics are gorgeous and the battle system, which is a total departure of what you are used to, is actually fun once you get the hang of it. The game though does not transcend many of the other games and falls short in story and presentation, two of the series’ staples. Even with this the game still is better than New Vegas and wins the 2010 RPG of the Year.

Presentation: Final Fantasy XIII focuses on a group of misfits that are running for their lives from the corrupt monarchy and eventually are looking for a way to save the sister of the main protagonist; Lightning. The story revolves around a type of sickness that causes people to become things called L’Cie. The group gets branded as one of those and has to fight to survive while at the same time looking for a cure. The concept is very interesting but it is not executed very well at times.

For most of the adventure the game chooses which characters you get to control which makes it feel like you are too constrained. There is a reason for this and it’s solely based on the fact that the characters keep getting split up while being chased by the empire. I wish this was not the case though because you are not allowed to pick your team set up until almost the end of the game. This is the most restrictive game in the entire series.

The battle system, called paradigms, makes fighting feel fast paced. It is interesting because you set automatic movements for the characters in your party. You only control one character this time around so like the previous game’s gambit system, the CPU controls the rest of the team based on your commands. My only gripe is that you lose the entire battle if your main character is knocked out even if the rest of your team is fine.

The level up system is very intriguing. The best way that it can be describes is an evolved version of Final Fantasy X’s system. You choose what you want to level up based on the class you want evolved. More paths are opened to you once you get to certain chapters of the game which keeps things at an even pace. Each character has what you call main classes to level up but can modify attributes in every single class. Snow is a tank character, so he has more options in that class than Vanille who is more of a magician. Basically, there are limits to everything but it seems fair to me. The only gripe I have with the system is that maneuvering the grid is sometimes confusing as you have to hold X and pick the right option you want and sometimes the 3D model is finicky. 

Graphics: The game’s characters are some of the best the system has produced. They are the most beautiful I have seen up to this point. The levels they travel have their hits and misses, mostly because you go from point A to point B. This feels like you are fighting in corridors and does not give the graphics the justice it deserves in some parts. The enemies look great and once you reach Oerba, the graphics truly shine. Character models shine especially in cutscenes. It is a beautiful game that is not given justice due to the narrowed pathways of the maps.

Sound: The voice acting is good for the most part except for some characters that come out as beyond annoying (Vanille). The game does have some good tunes; the main fight song is very memorable. The soundtrack as a whole is not as strong as the previous entries in the series though. The battle songs are the strongest of this soundtrack with very few if any memorable tracks.

Controls: The camera is never really a problem as you travel. The control set up for fighting is a unique change. Changing character classes on the fly makes strategic planning a vital part of this adventure. The corridors can be a little too close for the camera to show you if an enemy is behind you at times but is not a major issue. Jumping looks a little funny but it is a change to the series.

Final Fantasy XIII has its ups and a lot more downs than the series is known for. The highlights include the graphics, character models, battle system and level up system. The negatives include the loss of character control for most of the game and a story that is not explained smoothly. The game can become frustrating also due to the fact that if your main falls in battle the game is over. You can revive other characters but not the one you are controlling. The story could have been epic but it falters in its explanation. I did like the hunt missions though, which increases the replayability of the game for the new game plus section. Lightning is a very strong female lead and should give rise to more lead female protagonists for the series. However, the game does falter with the presentation of its confusing story, weak antagonist and repetitive gameplay. Let us see how the next game in the series comes out.

Score: 8.6

2010 Game Awards

*Best RPG (PS3)

*3rd Place Best Graphics (PS3)