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Final Fantasy XIII – Xbox 360

Final Fantasy XIII – Xbox 360

UnknownPlatform: Xbox 360

Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: December 16, 2010

Genre: RPG

Nerd Rating: 7.5/10

Reviewed by Paladin

Change is good, right? Sure, it keeps things fresh and interesting as opposed to stale and boring. Look no further than the Final Fantasy franchise for proof. Instead of repeating the same successful formula time and time again, each game brought something new to the series, and in the case of entries like FF VII or FF X, the entire format was changed, producing two massive successes. However, there came a point when it felt as if Square was looking for things to tweak just for the sake of tweaking them, leading to drastically different titles such as FF XI. After the whole MMO thing, they tried mixing it with the traditional RPG format. FF XII was a hit, but Square found itself at a crossroads: do they continue their trend of innovation or was the world ready for something a little simpler?

The result was an odd mix of both. Final Fantasy XIII featured brand new battle and leveling systems, but with a stubbornly linear execution, making it somehow complex and basic at the same time. Reception was split down the middle and understandably so. The things that work in FF XIII really work. The things that don’t make you want to play a different game.images-1

The elephant in the room this time around is Lightning, the first female lead character of the franchise. An expert soldier, Lightning fights with a precision ferocity while masking a hidden pain. Stoic and stern, she lets no one get between her and her goal, yet underneath it all lies an innate goodness. Sound familiar? That’s because longtime FF character designer, Tetsuya Nomura, was literally told to create a female Cloud Strife. The similarities are evident pretty fast. The same can be said for many of the characters: Hope is a young, hot-headed kid who whines a lot and even has longish, messy, light colored hair: Tidus. Vanille is a spunky, young girl that just can’t help but see the positive side of everything, complete with pigtails: Selphie.

The key word is similarities though. It would be easy to point out every way in which the six heroes borrow characteristics from other beloved FF stars, but after 12 games a few shared traits are to be expected. What surprised me was how each character has a complete and flushed out storyline that all develop at just the right pace. Some are more likable than others, but between their arcs, and unique attacks and weapons, I found myself drawn to every one of them by the end of the game. One thing that Unknown-1doesn’t need mentioning, but it’s so good I have to, is the voice acting, which is stellar. The actors give each performance their all, turning what could have been melodramatic archetypes into relatable people with their own struggles that feel real and well worth a hundred plus hours of emotional investment.

What causes all these struggles and emotional investment? Hands down the most confusing plot in any FF game. The basis of all RPGs is save the world and Final Fantasy is no exception. What makes one story better than another is the engaging and innovative way it’s told. XIII starts off ok when Lightning derails a train, other characters join her, and we get to fight creatively designed monsters while learning the intricacies of battle. The citizens of Cocoon (not Earth, but a different earth-like planet) are cared for by gigantic creatures calld Fal’Cie. These beings never speak directly with people, but communicate through their church, The Sanctum. Shenanigans happen, our heroes are turned into monsters called l’Cie (this games has a serious apostrophe problem) and find themselves outcast on their own world. Turns out, The Sanctum is hatching a sinister plot that involves Lightning and gang.

Simple enough until you get into the nitty gritty. The creator of the Fal’Ce left a long time ago for reasons, and the Fal’Cie miss him for more reasons. The only thing that will summon him back is a gigantic output of energy, possible only through destruction on a massive scale, i.e. The Sanctum manipulate the main characters into a position where they have to destroy Cocoon because, for even more reasons, The Sanctum can’t do it themselves. Oh, and Orphan is there. Don’t know who Orphan is? Neither do I. He’s a powerful Fal’Cie who’s sleeping and will cause bad things to happen if he wakes up, which of course he does, and that somehow ties back into daddy Fal’Cie coming back.Unknown-2

Three play-throughs of Final Fantasy XIII have yielded no further insight into exactly what is happening. Even Wikipedia and other info pages haven’t been able to clear it all up. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to completely understand the grand scheme in order to enjoy the game. Plenty of twists and turns await to keep things interesting, the side characters can be fun and fighting is engaging without being too complicated. To the game’s immense credit, it introduces the battle system bit by bit as the story progresses. This allows the player to seamlessly absorb all of the information without being overwhelmed, unlike entries like FF VIII, which throws everything at you at once.

Unfortunately, you have to enjoy walking in a straight line to appreciate XIII in its entirety. For reasons unknown to all but the developers, nine tenths of the game is spent pushing forward on the joystick as you move the protagonists from point A to point B, and that’s it. There are no towns to images-2visit, no hidden paths to explore, and no side quests until the last part of the game. There’s such a thing as being too open and expansive, but the complete lack of exploration makes for many long, boring stretches of repetitive fighting.

The biggest problem with Final Fantasy XIII is that it’s thirteenth in a series of ever changing games. After nearly forty years, there’s only so much that can be done to keep these games fresh. If it wasn’t for the great characters and their individual qualities in battle, this wouldn’t be worth playing. As a critic, the gameplay is too linear and the plot is confusing. As a gamer, I have to admit that there’s something about this one that keeps bringing me back. I prefer a linear game to one that tries too hard and I think XIII did the best that it could. It won’t blow you away, but for the price it’s going for nowadays, it’s worth sitting through.

Written by Paladin


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