This game has been a long time coming. I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series and ever since I saw the first shots of this new game I have been desperate for it to be released. I didn’t know what to expect as its predecessor Final Fantasy XII was a huge flop in my opinion. I’ve been hoping and praying that this game would be nothing like XII. It appears my prayers have been answered! Read on to find out why that is.
Final Fantasy XIII tells the tale of Lightning, her sister Serah was branded and made a soldier by the evil forces of the Fal’cie. This branding subsequently makes you an enemy of the world, Cocoon. After certain events take place, Lightning then meets Snow (her sisters fiancé), Sazh a man on his own personal mission, Vanille a seemingly innocent child, Hope a young boy after revenge and eventually Fang, a mysterious woman who appears to have been branded a long time ago.
These stranger’s fates become intertwined by a tragedy, they all get branded as L’cie, enemies of cocoon just like Serah. As a L’cie you have a mission which is only revealed to you in part by dream. If you don’t succeed in this mission, or focus as it’s referred too in game, it’s an eternity of living as an undead monster for you. You have to do this whilst dealing with personal torment and anguish and dealing with the hate of the entire world. L’cie are dangerous beasts to the citizens of Cocoon and the army will never let you forget that.
The story is one that I find very hard to describe in simple terms as it’s just so in-depth and confusing at times but it’s a very interesting one with lots of plot twists and surprises waiting for you. It’s also a very emotional story and one that makes you feel very in touch with your characters. The most important factor of a RPG game in my eyes is the storyline behind it all, without that you have a bunch of characters running aimlessly around a pretty landscape. I believe that Square-Enix have gotten the story bang-on this time round.
As previously mentioned there are a fair few playable characters in this game, all of which have their own back stories and different personalities. Lightning was supposed to be loosely based on Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife. I can sort of see the similarity, Lightning starts off being a very cold and calculated character but lets her guard down over the duration of the game. Sazh is probably one of my favourite characters, he’s just: normal. He’s an ordinary guy who’s been dropped in a very extraordinary situation. His witty one liners keep you entertained throughout and he has a chocobo chick living in his afro! Only in Final Fantasy could that happen! Next up there’s Snow, he is Serah’s fiancé and sworn protector. Lightning and Snow don’t really get on to begin with and he’s cocky and has a reckless attitude. Vanille is a ridiculously chirpy young girl, she’s always happy and smiling and this in turn motivates the group a little. On her own however, Vanille is a completely different person and seems very troubled by something. Hope is a young boy from a different town altogether, he was visiting when the fateful string of events that has changed his life forever happened. He can be pretty whiney and annoying but it’s nothing you can’t get over. And last up there’s Fang, you meet her a little later on but she’s a mysterious woman that appears to have been branded too, only something’s different about her...
The second most important aspect of a RPG is the battle system as you tend to use it an awful lot! Final Fantasy XIII is no exception to that rule, what is exceptional however is the way in which you go about knocking your enemies out. Square-Enix have decided to go back to their past games and bring back the ATB system (Active Time Battle to those not in the know).
The basic premise of the ATB system is you have to wait until the ATB bar loads and you then pick your actions and execute them resulting in the bar starting over. The twist in this game is you are able to chain together several attacks in one go. As you progress further in the game the more ATB slots, or available attack slots you gain enabling you to use more powerful chains. The drawback of this being the more slots you have the longer the bar takes to load, but this is counteracted by allowing you to cut your chain short at the press of a button and executing only what has loaded.
This system allows battles to run a lot more smoothly as it gives you time to plan your next actions properly. For those times when you’re sick and tired of beating up the same enemies time after time there’s the auto battle button which lines up attacks ready to go saving you the hassle of picking attacks out yourself. Be warned though this does not always give you the optimum combination of attacks for the enemy you’re against.
Bolted onto the top of this fantastic system is the Paradigm shift mechanism. In short, each character has a class which is decided by you in the character development screen, something I’ll go into a bit later. Paradigm shift enables you to change tactics and team focus at the press of a button. Are you being hammered into the ground by an opponent? No problem, press your shoulder button, select a different strategy, or paradigm and off you go. The possible combinations are endless. A few of my personal favourites are “War and Peace”, this gives you one character attacking, the other healing, “Diversity” which gives you 1 attacking, 1 healing and 1 drawing enemy attention away from the medic. It is also possible to make your own paradigms from the start menu but if you don’t want to mess with things the preset ones are just as good.
Summon beasts also make a return, this time as Eidolons and they are certainly interesting. Different to previous instalments but I won’t divulge too much for risk of ruining the surprise! They are incredibly helpful though and are invaluable for helping you out of some pretty tight spots.
The battle system is an absolute joy to use, the action flows so smoothly and the paradigm shift system gives you complete control over what your characters do and what skills they are able to utilise in battle, my favourite in a Final Fantasy game so far.
As previously mentioned the character development system has also had a major revamp. Gone is the collecting XP to level up to level 99 learning abilities on the way. It has instead been replaced by the Crystarium. Instead of collecting XP at the end of battles characters now collect CP, Crystarium Points. These points are spent on a grid which resembles Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid. Each character has their own Crystarium in which to spend the points, it’s down to you though as the player to decide which jobs you want each character to develop. The different classes are: Commando – attacking, Sentinel – heavy defence, Ravagers – mage, Synergists – give the party status enhancing buffs, Saboteurs – remove buffs from enemies and Medics – heal the party. It is entirely possible to spread the points over many different jobs or its just as possible to stick to one job each although its always handy to have some basic Medic spells on all characters. Using the points you also purchase character attributes such as extra strength and HP. This is essential as you don’t upgrade automatically like you would with the traditional XP per battle system. This makes the game incredibly fun to play as all the major decisions are left down to you, these are your characters, they are yours to mould into whatever you want them to be: I do love a little freedom in my RPG’s.
From the very first scene in the game you just think “WOW!” it’s breathtakingly beautiful, easily the best looking game I have seen for quite some time, every single inch of the many locales in game are drenched in gorgeous visuals and styled with even the smallest details. It looks like a similar style to FFX which is no way a bad thing. A mixture of heavy industrial machinery and rich cultural influences in towns and city’s works so well, my ideal fantasy place. Characters are also designed well, Lightning rocks a girlie soldier look whilst Snow has a laid back coat and hat combo on. Each character’s outfit designs perfectly compliment the characters personalities.
Running around this vast world couldn’t be easier too just use your directional sticks to run and control the camera and your off, a mini-map makes things easier for you but your shouldn’t really need to even look at it. This brings me on to my one niggle with this game so far. I love to run around and look in every nook and cranny of a map, hoping to come across some epic loot in a hidden corner or maybe even hidden summons like in FFX but in XIII all exploration is pretty much gone. Everything is so linear, you start at one end of the map and practically just walk forwards and you’ve reached your destination. That twinned with the lack of shops, it’s all done via save point and it does feel like everything is already mapped out for you which of course, it is but I don’t like to feel that way.
Making the linearity more interesting however is the amazing soundtrack, my face literally lit up when the famous “chocobo song” (fans of the series will know the one) came on but remixed! The music really helps to set the mood in the game from big dramatic pieces to soothing relaxing mixes. Leona Lewis’s foray into the world of video game theme songs is also starting to grow on me a little!! Audio wise the voice acting is completely top notch, Vanilles voice irritates me but I’ll get over that!
I could go on for hours and hours about this game, as you can tell from this already lengthy review. But Final Fantasy is my passion and I feel like weve finally been given a true Final Fantasy game after such a long wait. It’s such a fun game to play and if you like epic stories of tragedy, betrayal, love and war then this is definitely the game for you! I strongly urge anybody who even looks at the box and thinks “hmmm I’m not sure”, just go for it and buy it. It truly is something else, I’ve yet to play an RPG on the current consoles which is anything like this. A must for everyone’s gaming collections.
FINAL FANTASY XIII (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Making the linearity more interesting however is the amazing soundtrack, my face literally lit up when the famous “chocobo song” (fans of the series will know the one) came on but remixed! The music really helps to set the mood in the game from big dramatic pieces to soothing relaxing mixes. Leona Lewis’s foray into the world of video game theme songs is also starting to grow on me a little!! Audio wise the voice acting is completely top notch, Vanilles voice irritates me but I’ll get over that! I could go on for hours and hours about this game, as you can tell from this already lengthy review. But Final Fantasy is my passion and I feel like weve finally been given a true Final Fantasy game after such a long wait. It’s such a fun game to play and if you like epic stories of tragedy, betrayal, love and war then this is definitely the game for you! I strongly urge anybody who even looks at the box and thinks “hmmm I’m not sure”, just go for it and buy it. It truly is something else, I’ve yet to play an RPG on the current consoles which is anything like this. A must for everyone’s gaming collections.