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Final Fantasy XIII Review

Final Fantasy is synonymous with RPGs, creating fantastical worlds and engrossing the player hours on end with its game play, storyline and graphics. To celebrate the franchise's 23 year anniversary, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIII on March 9, 2012 in the US. Square Enix knew that this was to be their most anticipated Final Fantasy game in the company’s history, but are they late for the party? With other games to occupy gamers’ time, does thirteenth entry of a legendary series have what it takes to reclaim the hearts and wallets of fans?

Final Fantasy XIII’s story is of a world and its people in pain and suffering from an oppressive force. The story takes place in the floating human city of Cocoon and the land it floats over Pulse. The humans of Cocoon live in a society where there is peace and harmony, yet shrouded in secrecy, lies and fear of Pulse. For those who come in contact with anything from Pulse is branded an enemy of Cocoon and is purged from the city and into Pulse. As an exile of citizens is underway, a resistance group is lead by a man named Snow, attempt to stop the government in purging of its people.

While random fighting is going on, a young female solider named Lightning, with the aid of a man named Sazh, fight their way to find their loved ones who have been taken by the government to be purged. In the middle of all of this two children, Vanille and Hope are caught up in the fighting and end up in the middle of the crossfire and escape from the fighting. It’s not long until all five of them end up in a hidden complex in front of a fal’Cie named Anima. It is then by their unknowing bond that they have, that they are given a Focus to save Cocoon and the world that it hovers over.

Centered around a group of chosen few to save the world and those who live in it seems to be the basic plot for Final Fantasy XIII, as seen in past games and even in other RPGs, making for a bit of a stale and over used motif. What makes FF XIII stand out is during the game, players will take control of each of the characters at different point, giving a brief back story and a view of the situation from their eyes. This adds to the story motif on how one faithful event can affect strangers that do not know each other and bring them together for a common goal. Although this formula has been used by many, FF XIII will still manage to captivate the imaginations of players and evoke the feeling of us against the world. The narrative drives hard the notion of “do I save myself or do I save those that fear and hate me?”

Square Enix has kept the basic controls and gameplay the same throughout the Final Fantasy series, with a few tweaks here-and-there. This tradition has been broken in Final Fantasy XII, where they have experiment on a revamped battle system and made some major changes. One of those major changes is the revamping of the active time battle system (ATB). Now instead of choosing each action for each of the party members, only one character will be controlled by the player while the others are controlled by the AI. To compensate for the loss of control of party actions, a system called Paradigms was created. Each member of a party of three takes on one of six Roles; Commando (uses physical attacks), Ravager (assault with elemental attacks), Sentinel (absorb enemy attacks and counters), Synergist (cast ally buffs), Saboteur (cast enemy debuffs) and Medic (cast healing spells). A combination of any of the three creates a Paradigm based on the combination. As each Role is activated, the AI automates all the actions that will be taken place so that the player can concentrate on managing other aspects of the party. This makes players take a more strategic approach and forces them to think faster.

In addition to the new system, leveling up has also been changed. Instead of leveling up characters themselves, their Roles and weapons will be leveling up. Players will level up Roles through the Crystarium system. After battles CP points will be awarded and used to level Roles gain new abilities, spells etc. As for weapons, they will be leveled up by obtaining various parts that will be traded in as XP, depending on the rarity.

Eidolons (summoned creatures) once again make a return, except unlike previous games each party member will have accessed to only one eidolon each. Once summon, they will join the battle beside their summoner as the other two party members leave for a brief moment. The most notable change however is the surprising lack of towns to trade, save, etc in. Despite this sounding like a drastic and unneeded alteration, the removal of towns is a minor change and fits in with the story; after all, it wouldn't make sense for your party members to visit towns when they're wanted “criminals” that are on the run.

Square Enix is famous for pushing the limit in regards to graphics, cutscenes and music with their games, and Final Fantasy XIII is no exception to that rule. Final Fantasy XIII is the first FF game in the next gen HD games. The world comes to life in high definition 1080i, as shown in the night time skies filled with the color of fireworks, the vast grass plains of Pulse, and the technological wonder of Cocoon to name a few. Each environment works to immerse players the game's world. Tetsuya Nomura is back on board as lead character designer, giving the characters and even the monsters and summons new, unique looks. The Eidolons, for example, have been redone to merge the fantasy and technological setting of the world. Shiva is now a pair of sisters who form together into a motorcycle, while Odin transforms into the horse Xion. This is one of the few games that an HD set up is needed to experience the graphics at their best. The sound effects are all standard for any RPGs: gunshots, sword clangs, shouts and grunts are all present with nothing special standing out. Square Enix has been on a good streak when it comes to casting actors for their games, as all the actors here perform solidly. Composer Masashi Hamauzu is the leading composer for this game and gives FFXIII a unique, enjoyable score overall.

Like most numbered Final Fantasy games, FF XIII has no replay value but is long enough to keep players entertained. The game clocks in at over 40 hours for me just for the main story, and clocks in far more if I finish every single side quest and max out all characters. As such, the game can and will give just as long an experience as many other RPGs that do have replay value. Final Fantasy XIII has been one of the most anticipated games from Square Enix since they first show a trailer to it back in 2006. Since then interest in the series and in the genre in general, has seems to dwindled over the years. With other games offering non linear game play, FF XIII seems to be a relic of a past generation. It may not, in my opinion, be the best game in the Final Fantasy series, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game. In fact, Final Fantasy XIII is a great game with or without the Final Fantasy moniker. Square Enix shows that they know how to make memorable experiences and will continue to do so in the HD era, with Final Fantasy XIII as the first step.

- Mike V.

article id: 1040 | poster: OG

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