3 Jun 2010

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3) Review

Game: Final Fantasy XIII
Platform: PS3
Genre: RPG
Overall Score: 8/10
Comment: Fantastic battles marred with a disappointing story. Must buy for mindless Final Fantasy fans. For everyone else, don't expect too much and you'll be rewarded with a graphically impression adventure through Cocoon and the lands of Gran Pulse, with lots of rewarding battles.

Visuals: 9.5/10
The graphics here are really detailed and imaginative. Instead of the earthy colours of more realistic games, we get bright, colourful cities and pastures. The animation is also very impressive. Often times you'll wonder for a second if you are watching a pre-rendered FMV or actual in-game graphics. One of my favourite FMV scenes comes from late in the game, when the gang head back into Cocoon (this isn't much of a spoiler). It looks even more impressive than Advent Children as it has much more stuff moving in a super crazy action sequence (part of which can be seen in some trailers), and the animation seems much more fluid to me. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was Vanille's squarish bangles, but that's a minor issue considering the amount of detail in the character's face, hair, and clothes. But as impressive as all this seems, let me remind of Uncharted 2. That game, to me, still has the best visuals of any PS3 game, simple because of the better overall animation, and the snow levels.

Audio: 9/10
As always, the audio in this latest installment of the Final Fantasy franchise is top notch. Nobuo Uematsu did not compose the music for FFXIII, but Masashi Hamauzu (co-composer of FFX) takes over this duty very well. While a lot of people were complaining that Leona Lewis' "My Hands" would not fit in well, it doesn't seem to appear very often, and when it does, it is quite appropriate and did not seem out of place. One good surprise was the song that played during the fireworks scene:

It surprised me because I didn't expect another English song in the game, and I didn't expect it to be this good. However, I got a bad surprise when I heard the following (2nd half of the song):

Luckily this only played during the Chocobo area in Cocoon. The Gran Pulse version of the chocobo theme is much better. SquareEnix, please, don't do something like this again. If I wanted to hear auto-tune singing, I'll listen to the (much worse) English Ponyo theme song. I'm taking a point off the audio score just because of that.

Gameplay: 8/10
Just for the battle system alone, I would have given this game 10/10. It's really fun and incredibly rewarding when you beat a tough enemy. Be prepared to restart battles quite often before you start to get a hang of things. Even after that, you might restart some battles later on because of some minor timing errors when trying to beat an enemy as fast as possible. However, the level up system and pacing of the game decreases the gameplay score. The Crystallium system just feels overly simplified and tedious to use. Your stats are reduced to just 3: Hit Points, Strength, and Magic. I assume defense and magic defense are derived from strength and magic respectively. The pacing of the game is also very slow. Some people even describe it as a "30 hour tutorial". For the first half the game, you are slowly introduced to various gameplay elements, and only get access to everything in the 2nd half. The battles only start to get really interesting about 20 hours in. While I understand SquareEnix might have purposefully paced it in such a way as to guide players into the more fast-paced battles, most gamers will still find that it takes too long.

Story: 6/10
The character are quite interesting, but the entire plot and the motivations of all the characters (friend or foe) are quite messed up. You never know why they are doing what they are doing and why do they think that way. Their motivations are rarely, and even when they were, I just don't understand them. Amidst the long speeches and impressive graphics, the game wraps up with me still wondering what the hell just happened. This game goes down as one of the weakest stories of any Final Fantasy game. Disappointing.

Completed in 61 hours (including 6 hours spent fruitlessly trying to farm for Trapezohedrons). Only story missions completed.

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