Final Fantasy XIII, a game claimed to be by many as the worst Final Fantasy ever, a game overall hated, a game I’ve finally been able to play. After many hours spent over it, after finishing it, after going through its post-game, there’s still a single thing I don’t understand: all the hatred towards this title. Yet I’ve enjoyed every single bit of it. Let’s start by saying this won’t be review about how good or bad is this PC porting. There may not be video settings yet, but I’ve been able to fully enjoy it and this is enough for me. What I want to focus on is the game itself, so let me first answer a very simple question.
What do I expect from a Final Fantasy? I expect characters that evolve with the story, an enjoyable story, a great setting, great soundtracks and to be challenging especially in its post-game. And that’s exactly what I’ve found. Of course, this doesn’t make this game flawless, but it’s far from being the “worst Final Fantasy ever”. Anyway, now that I’ve explained this point, I can finally move on.
Oh, the characters. They may look like the typical Japanese stereotypes and for a few hours they’re just that. Then, you slowly see them evolving. Almost each character goes through a journey that makes them change deeply inside. At first, one may not realize this, but if you think back about how characters were at the beginning of the story, you can see how much they changed. While their personalities may not be brilliant, I totally love how they’ve been developed and seeing how much they’ve changed through the story, shaped by events and situations they happen to be, is enough to make me say these characters are good. A special mention goes to the voice acting. I’ve played the game for most in Japanese because of my own personal tastes so I’m probably not the best person to say this, but I’ve found both the Japanese and English dub well done.
|Plot, setting and music|
The plot is nothing special, but it’s enjoyable and gets the job done. At first it may be incredibly confusing simply because you’re bombarded with names you have no idea what they may refer to, names that if they’d been changed into common words would have make everything less confusing. Also, the whole story, aside a few flashbacks and the continuous switching between characters for a good part of the game, it’s linear, just like every other Final Fantasy out there. The setting, on the other hand, is spectacular. Each single place is well-refined, well-defined and, despite the tunnel-like structure of each map until chapter 11, I’ve found myself never thinking once I was running along an endless corridor, probably thanks to the stunning sceneries, their variety and the beautiful music. If you’re a lover of futuristic settings and technologies, you’ll be able to find them here. If you miss running through the Calm Lands, once you’ll reach Grand Pulse you’ll feel at home. This, of course, doesn’t mean I didn’t wish some locations would have been fully explorable (first of all, Lake Bresha), but since I had fun while playing this game, the fact most of the game is a tunnel moves to the background. As I’ve said before, the soundtrack is simply beautiful. Even if Nobuo Uematsu hasn’t worked on them, Masashi Hamauzu has done a great job and I think they perfectly fit each moment and location. For sure, some themes are more memorable than others, but every single piece of this OST is amazing.
Along with the setting, I think it’s the most successful aspect in the whole game. Some people may not like the fact you don’t control every character within your party and I can’t deny at first I was a little skeptical about it. I have had bad experiences with characters controlled by the AI, so when I started playing it I was sure I’d blamed each single choice made by it. But I was wrong, completely wrong. Once you get used to the combat system, you realize how good the AI was done, how many possibilities there are and strategies you can use. The static one-turn-one-action system has been replaced by a more dynamic one-turn-many-actions where each segment of your ATB (Action Time Battle) bar grants you a moves. The classes stand still, but you can change them during the battle by using the Paradigm Shift command. Paradigms are combinations between character’s classes you make (or auto-generate) outside the battle and allow you to quickly adapt to the situation you’re in. Of course, you can simply hit the auto-battle (I personally use it when I’m against low-level enemies I didn’t intended to fight) and let the AI choosing each move for you, but the more you go on, the more you realize it removes all the fun. Add to it the fact the auto-battle, while it keeps the “best choice” for that situation, it doesn’t consider (de)buffs in the right way, nor area of effect damages and, for the time I’ve tested it out, never picks up exclusive skills and may end up completely destroy your strategy. Also, there are many little things that make this battle system even more interesting. For example, if your enemy uses a quake attack and your character has jumped to attack it, you won’t receive damage, or if your character is being attacked while attempting to lunch a spell, that move will be cancelled because they’ve been interrupted while casting it. The same, of course, happens to your enemies. All of this makes the combat system incredibly entertaining and you actually have to plan and think about what to do.
This is in my opinion the biggest flaw of this game. It takes about two hours to reach a point where the combat isn’t simply a “attack-attack-potion-attack” and about twenty hours to have the full control over your party. Since there are a lot of things within this game to learn, the developers decided to make you discover them little by little. Which, if it’s great because you don’t have to go through an endless tutorial at the beginning of the game, the other side of coin is that you’re tied to a very limited number of choices and options for a good part of the game. Not to mention the fact you may end up fighting for too much time with characters that don’t fit your combat style or you simply don’t like. Also, the number of cut scenes are absurdly high at the beginning to the point it may looks like you’re watching an interactive movie. I personally love sitting back and watching what’s happening, but for sure not everyone like it.
|In a nutshell|
To me, this game is great and I surely recommend it. If you like fighting, going through spectacular sceneries and watching cut scenes, you’ll surely like this game even if at first it will seem too slow. The story is enjoyable and the characters, while may not be amazing in term of personality, evolve so much you end up forgetting (and forgiving) everything else. This said, I’m waiting for the PC release Final Fantasy XIII-2, which should come out in a few hours, hoping it won’t take me a month to download it –maybe this time around Steam will give me a hand.