12 Mar 2010

Gameplay: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3): Part 1

Despite mixed reviews, I still felt really excited to play this long-awaited entry in the Final Fantasy series. A number of key personnel from Square's FF7 era worked on this game, adding to my already high expectations of this game. However, this "expectation" I have for this game isn't what most of you are thinking about. I'm not looking for the best graphics. I'm not looking for great music or gameplay either. What I'm looking for is a game with great characters, fantastic story-telling, and an imaginative world. And from what I've played so far (about 3 hours in), this game has delivered.

If you're looking for major story spoilers or a step by step walkthrough of the game, look somewhere else. I've decided NOT to cover it frame by frame, as I felt that taking photos and noting down details while playing took a lot of enjoyment away from the game. I felt that I would give a clearer picture of my thoughts about the game if I waited till the end of a gameplay session to write it down. With that said, I'm bound to reveal a spoiler here and there, but nothing too specific. I guess the main purpose in doing this is so that my friends can read about my thoughts and then play the game for themselves to see if they feel the same. So here it goes....


As I said in my previous post, there's a lot of back story being fleshed out in the datalog. Square Enix has crafted an intricate and detailed world with which to tell their story. At this point of the game, I can see that there's a lot of un-tapped potential in the story, which I'm sure would slowly grow into the epic proportions that Squenix is so good at doing. Nothing much to say about the story at this point though, except that perhaps too much of it is being told as text in the datalog instead of cinematics and gameplay.

Character Development: 

The opening sequence, where Lightning enters the scene on a train, kind of reminds me of FF7. You could even argue that Lightning is just a female version of Cloud (being an emo soldier running away from the military they used to work for). Sazh even reminds me of Barret. Both are stereotypical black dudes that serve as some sort of comedy and both have a dark back story. But the similarities stop there. Lightning shows her vulnerability a lot earlier than Cloud does, while Sazh turns serious during a tense moment. These 2 characters were instantly likable, perhaps because I had played the demo last year.

Hope and Vanille, on the other hand, started out as the wimpy emo kid and act-cute girl. However, as the game progressed, these 2 characters were slowly fleshed out. Just like Sazh, they too have inner conflicts, and the character model animation and voice acting presented that very well. You'll slowly realise Hope's inner turmoil and get a glimpse under Vanille's happy-go-lucky mask.

Snow, the other main protagonist in the game aside from Lightning, pales in comparison to these 4 characters. He's a shallow, one dimensional "hero", no different from how typical shounen characters like Naruto start out. I'm hoping that he'll get more character depth as we go along and not end up as just another guy avenging his girlfriend/wife/friends/family.


Battles at the beginning were rather boring, even though they go by quickly. You're fighting the same few enemies over and over again just to get to the next cutscene. The map is linear and there are frequent pauses for in-game cinematics. They do a good job of introducing to you some of the battle mechanics early on, but the pacing of new things being introduced was a bit slow. And then suddenly, after the first boss battle, they introduce to you the AI system (called Paradigm Shift) and "level up" system (called the Crystalium System). It would have been better if the Crystalium system was introduced a little earlier on though. I will talk more about these 2 systems in my next post, since I haven't had a chance to test out their effect on battles yet.


Production values for this game is really sky-high. While it didn't instantly "wow" me like how MGS4's first loading screen did (the TV "commercials"), the overall presentation of the game is really really good. The characters look good. The environments look good. Even the menus look good. Music was fantastic in one particular scene (surprisingly, it had a singer singing in English, and the song fits really well). Voice actors did a great job of portraying their characters, except maybe for Snow. The whole game just oozes class and style like no other game on the PS3 (or any other console for that matter).

After playing the first hour or so, my first thought was "so far so good". But now, having completed the first "boss" and taking a peek at the Paradigm Shift and Crystallium System, I'm really looking forward to play more FFXIII :)

As usual, let me know if you like what you've read by commenting in the chat box =)

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