Final Fantasy XIII User Review
The first thing anyone might notice is the visuals. Although it's not as groundbreaking as one might expect from SE's series, it was certainly grade 'A' quality substance. Everything is clean, smooth, and vibrant at every turn. I certainly found myself at times stopping along the way just to move my camera angle around to see the scenery.
Although I've noticed many people on this site feel negatively towards the voice acting of some characters, I beg to differ. Any discrepancy anyone might have towards voice acting could almost certainly be aimed at the writing of the dialogue. This game is an example of a good story hurt by a mediocre dialogue. Sure Lightning can seem cold and un-colorful at times, but take a moment first to read her script. As someone with one of my undergraduate major's being theatre, I feel I have the expertise to say that the dialogue would be enough to make me decide against even trying to direct such emotionless word use. Some characters don't exactly have much to work with.
As a whole, however, the story is decent. It certainly isn't the best we've seen from the franchise, but it's definitely good enough that you have a strong desire to come back for more. Heck, this is the first time in my marriage I actually looked forward to my wife going to work so I could find out what happens next in a video game! Sure there are others that are interesting, but this one did grab my attention.
This game seems to be the first of the generation to be an Action-RPG. Each chapter is more like a new level. You progress from point 'A' to point 'B', and missing treasures is mostly just a rookie mistake since there's not any real exploration. While this may be disappointing to fans of the franchise, like myself, it's not necessarily a detriment to the game; it just means that it's more appropriate for it to be understood as an action-RPG despite the menus and ATB-like battle system.
The battle system is relatively easy to understand. It can seem complicated if you're watching a friend play it for the first time from the final chapter, but the game does a great job of slowly molding you into the full aspect of the battle system. It's certainly a spectacle for the eyes, but it can leave you feeling disengaged. In fact, the only time you really have a sense of accomplishment is after beating a particularly tough enemy, which are few and far between. Most people will spend most of their time hitting the Auto-Attack button due to the pace. The AI is semi-intelligent and good enough, but I really wish I was the one who got to decide what people did.
In fact, you can only control one character throughout a battle. I can't tell you how frustrated I would become as I waited for the AI to continuously cast protect and shell before getting to the Faith spell I want it to cast. This can be particularly annoying for Medics or Synergists (two of the six classes you may choose for your characters).
The customization for battle feels like a lot of effort went into it, but it is, in fact, very limited. The different paradigms allow you to prepare for most situations, but there isn't much to expand upon. Weapon and Accessory upgrading can certainly take you a long time, but there's not much else to it besides devouring your time. There are innate abilities to different combination of accessories and weapons, which is fun to discover, but again, it's pretty limited.
The music was good and engaging, although most of it was merely the same song with a slightly different twist in composition to accommodate the mood. The sound is clear and crisp, especially with a good quality surround sound system, and takes you to the moment. The controls are simple and easy to grasp, although the camera will bother you at times. (anyone else bothered by the camera while riding chocobos?)
Replay value is decent. And just that. It's decent... ok... so-so. You can get a large number of hours out of the game (75-100 if you want all trophies), but a majority of the replay aspect after beating the game is merely repetitive battling. If you like to grind out levels or farm gil, it can be a blissful experience (as it was for me). But I would expect for the average gamer, there would be little interest in playing much more or again after the game's first defeat. For this reason, replay value is very average.
For the action-RPG fan, this is a definite must-buy. For the traditional RGP fan, it may disappoint, but it's still a great game. For the action/shooter/hack n'slash fans, you may or may not like this. It's worth a try for you, but many won't be able to get into this title.
This next section is the part that may seem like much less of a fair review, hence why I split it up as mentioned at the start.
From the traditional FF fan perspective I carry, it was still a huge disappointment for me. I won't go into the whole Microsoft issue of this game being a multi-platform entry, but I will briefly mention the fact that the Xbox version of the game was released on 3 discs, rather than PS3's 1, it's graphical quality was noticeably lower than PS3's (which MS fanboys seem to blame PS3 for limiting them), and due to the cost MS places on developers for each disc it publishes, it has been rumored that Square-Enix left out the equivalent of 3 more XBOX discs worth of information from the game to save costs. This *could* have caused the game to be incredibly linear with next to NO exploration, towns (!!!), or additional side-quests that FF fanboys like myself have come to know and love.
No the real issue for me was Square-Enix's desire to make it a game more attractive to a Western Audience. Western gamers tend to like shooters and fast paced action games while the Japanese culture tends to purchase games saturated in artistry, good storytelling, character establishment, and strategy. Some North American fans, like myself and many others found at PSXExtreme, tend to go against the Western norm and find games the Japanese appreciate to be more entertaining. I, for one, am not a big fan of blood, gore, and extreme sexuality for the sake of blood, gore, and extreme sexuality that has made the North American gaming community famous.
Basically, it almost seems like in order to appeal to the North American culture, Square-Enix removed turn-based action. This means, that the gamer no longer takes time to carefully plan and execute it's action. Everything is fast-paced and gives you no time to plan. This sounds good to some people, but the bad thing is, you will spend most of your time just selecting the "Auto-Command" button leaving the AI to execute it's own strategy. In one title... it's "Twitch-Gaming".
I was disappointed since the genre seems to be going in a direction I don't particularly care for. While I thought it was a great game, it was NOT revolutionary, the story was only OK (although Fang turns out to be a pretty interesting character in my opinion, and I think it was Ben who said so as well?), it did NOT have in-depth exploration or many side-quests (optional missions, that's about it...), it had no towns (it was always so fun to explore new towns), and it's battle system lacked customization. It would have been better to have gambits or something again so I could decide what the AI characters used FIRST. I'm sick of waiting for my saboteurs casting deshell, deprotect, curse, and daze before getting to the poison spell I WANT them to cast first. AI's aren't as smart as me, you see.
As is what I hope to be true to my character in trying to make the best of a bad situation, I tried using the westernized FF13 as an opportunity to introduce my First Person Shooter/twitching friends to the world of Final Fantasy.
I had a diabolical plan in my head to hook them on that, and slowly addict them to the classics. Guess what happened?
I failed. Know why? The westernized FF13 still has too much waiting and not enough twitching for them. And they admit it. They absolutely could not STAND the fact you couldn't get your characters to dodge an attack.
So what did SE do in the end? They didn't appeal to western gamers very well AND they pissed off the ones loyal to them.
It's like a really bad marriage.
It's like SE is in love with the west and wants to be accepted by the west so badly, that they forget about the family that raised and loved them since birth (and truly, it's a well established fanbase that started almost with the first Nintendo. The first FF was released in 1988 and the turn-based aspect didn't change until NOW. Obviously, as one of the most renown organizations in game development, things were working for them before... why change?). But in the end, their lover (Microsoft) wasn't willing to make compromises, and they couldn't accept their new wife (SE) because they still resembled a little piece of their family (JRPG - Japanese Role Playing Game fans) towards whom Microsoft harbors so much hatred. If Microsoft wasn't such an abusive husband, they would have accepted SE for who they were and allowed them to maintain her good relationship with her family.
Instead, SE is destined to remain far too embarrassed to ever return to their family of JRPG fans (although just like the prodigal son from the Bible, we'd be more than willing to accept them back despite their past actions and disrespect), they will continue to try to appeal to their abusive lover while constantly falling short, resort to drug usage (of which MS will likely be an enabler towards) and inevitably commit tragic suicide, no doubt leaving behind some infant company with a different name in it's wake that Microsoft will continue to abuse after SE's passing.
As you can see, there's a lot at stake here.
The Western crowd did not find it twitchy enough for them. The JRPG fans didn't get the aspects of the genre they've come to know and love or the revolutionary game they're so used to getting from the Final Fantasy franchise.
It's a recipe for disaster.
It should be interesting to see how Final Fantasy 13: Verses, with a rumored Kingdom Hearts-like battle system, will do. It's still cause for worry, and Square-Enix may be headed down a long and lonesome road I cannot follow.
Square Enix... our prodigal son... please. Just return home. We will dress you in our finest robes and kill the fattened calf in your honor.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.