What's there to say about Final Fantasy? A series that is known for huge stories, crazy plot twists, amazing character/monster design, amazing music and visuals, thought and emotional invoking, exploration, hours and hours of game play. Final Fantasy is a series that I have been addicted to ever since I was in late elementary school. The idea of playing a game that was so different from most of the games of the time. You actually have to work to build your character up and think about what you are doing rather than just being put on a platform and pointed in a direction and follow that path till you reach the goal.
As I'm going into this rant please remember that if you put a name on a game "Final Fantasy" it will have a lot to live up to, because of its history. So many games with the Final Fantasy tag over the past few years have done just the opposite and XIII is no different. I have not beat the game yet but I've put quite a few hours into to so I can make a good observation about what the rest of the game will be like.
Let’s start where all Final Fantasy games start... in the beginning!
This again is something that every Final Fantasy game is known for, the set up for the story. Final Fantasy XIII starts of very “ho-hum”. Usually Square does a great job of grabbing your attention and shake you like a newborn baby with shaken baby syndrome. They did a very bad job this time around I was left yawning right from the start. You will also notice right from the beginning the music is no where near as good. When Nobuo Uematsu was doing the music the game had depth and feeling just because of the music he came up with. Now it just feels bland.
This game seems like they tried to take bits from FFX and duplicate it but failed. The level up system is done in the same fashion where you have a grid that you have to select your upgrades such as more HP or more MP. Which is not bad but it was not executed as well as FFX.
The battle system at first glance is rather confusing and as you progress through the game you are taught how to use it and it becomes quite interesting. You have to implement a lot of strategy to play this game rather than very little thought. Basically how it works is you control only one character, yes only one the other characters are computer controlled, which is the worst thing about this system, you select your “Job” and then attack. You can select several attacks at once and you can mix it up. Be it just a simple attack, magic, blitz, or what ever it will be – depending on your character you can select multiple attacks or multiple magic’s or do some magic and attack all in one action. As you hit the enemy they have a stagger bar that will increase and when that bar maxes out the enemy will get dizzied and you will for the most part have free hits for a certain amount of time. Stronger enemies will still be able to attack during this period but it will not be as effective. So your main objective is to switch your jobs around to find the best way to dizzy your opponent so you can crush them.
At first I really hated this battle system but over time I have come to love it! It does have its ups and downs. The biggest thing I like is the strategy involved in figuring out how to kill the opponent. The bad thing is some battles will take forever. If you don’t know how to kill the monster even weak monsters will take too long to kill and it gets boring quickly. The other bad thing again is thought the entire game you only control once character at a time. Of course you will get to play as every character in the game but only being able to use one of them in a battle is like only having one arm and one leg in an Olympic swimming match.
Another thing that really annoys me about this game is when you die what happens? You start right at the begging of that fight you just lost. Now what is up with that? There is really no downside of loosing a battle because you just get another chance, and another, and another. Some people might see this as a god send, I see it as a flaw in the game. If you don’t die in the fight and you win your life also replenishes. So you’re at full strength in the next battle, again which just does not make sense.
Now on to how you encounter enemies. No random encounters, you can see them coming in front of you. This is sad only because it’s so much easier to get a preemptive attack; on top of that they give you items to make it even easier. You spray your self with this item and it some how makes you invisible to your opponents. You walk up to them and immediately gives you a free hit to each one of them. Which just about maxes out their stagger meter so you can kill them really quick on those preemptive.
No over world no real exploration. I’ve not even really been to a town, I’ve been dropped into an area of a town but not gotten a chance to look around and talk to people on the street. No stores, well not really, you can’t shop at stores. You buy your items from little kiosks in the battle fields. These would be little computers that control everything. You can save your game, or access stores. With what little money you find in the game it doesn’t really matter anyway.
One of the really cool things about these kiosks though would be the upgrade system. As you play through the game you’ll find materials that you can use to upgrade your weapons and accessories. It’s basically like grinding in Phantasy Star Online where you use these items to make your weapons stronger, I’m sure there is a limit as to when the weapon cannot be upgraded and further but I’ve not yet come to that point. The idea of customizing your weapons in this game is probably the best idea out of everything they have tossed into Final Fantasy XIII.
The monster design of some of the monsters and characters really has me thinking though. They really messed with classic enemies some for the good some for the bad. Such as the Bombs, they are now these metal monsters that some what resemble the bombs of the past but not at first glance. Some of the new creatures in the game are rather dumb as well. Like Incubus it’s a bird creature that does a Native American dance while it’s fighting. I’m sorry but I just did not understand that, I want to find out if this dance was actually based on a real dance but alas I’ve not yet found it.
How about the Eidolons, or as most people may know them Guardian Force, or maybe Summons or Espers? What ever you call them in this game they are called Eidolons. I don’t even know what is up with them. Shiva and Nix transform into a motorcycle. Odin transforms into a horse. Though when you summon them and use them in battle they are very cool, that is until you transform them to do a dual attack.
And the character names like Lightning, Snow, and Hope. Come on Square couldn’t you think of something better than that or are you all tapped out in the imagination department. As for Vanille, she is the most annoying character from any Square game invented! She is a tween/teen that acts like she is only 6 years old. The voice actress that either killed her or it was the script that killed her.
Much of what I may be griping about in this game may just be minor gripes and I probably would not have even complained about them if this was not a Final Fantasy game. Had they slapped a different name on it I’m sure I would not be nit-picking at it as much. Come on though. Like I said if you are going to put that name on a game you are going to have a lot to live up to so it better be done right.
End thoughts as a Final Fantasy game I'd give it about a 5.5 out of 10. If it did not have the Final Fantasy Name it's more of a 6.5. What I would like to see is Square to go back to the roots and make a real Final Fantasy game that closely resembles a Final Fantasy 6 style but with the graphics of FFXIII. I can’t believe that I spent $60 on this. Of course I’m going to finish the game because I want to get my money out of it. If you have read this rant, and are a fan of the series or maybe your new to the series, please rent it before buying it.
I think I need to go download FF7 for the PSN or maybe I should just go play some SNES Final Fantasy to wash this out of my memory after I finish.