Jenkins’ Final Fantasy XIII Review
Five years. Five long years I and so many others waited for the next Final Fantasy release. They spent enough time on it for us all to expect something truly amazing. What a disappointment. This game is a shining example of how great graphics don’t make a great game.
Final Fantasy XIII is the story of Lightning, Snow, Sazh, Vanille, Hope and Fang. You can tell right away which name doesn’t belong on that list, that one is the token black. Everyone has different backgrounds and everyone has some sort of secret or problem, someone they’ve lost or someone they’re searching for, that sort of thing. All in all, the characters are pretty likable, except for Vanille. Vanille is a peppy 19 year old with some sort of distorted Australian accent. She also doesn’t shut up, ever, since she’s the narrator. After series of strange coincidences, you all end up together while trying to save each other as all hell breaks loose between the army and a bunch of rebel factions. Together you get branded as L’Cie, and given the forbidden powers of using magic and a specific mission that they have to figure out for themselves somehow. Except for Fang, you get her a few chapters later. Eventually you have to save the world but also have the power to destroy it. I really don’t want to go into detail any more than I already have because any answer will just have three more questions behind it. This shit’s huge.
But there’s something good to be said about the story as well. Its deep, interesting, and more messed up that anything that has ever been released beforehand. Trying to explain what happens would take hours. But to the player, it’s damn interesting. But it’s also one of the problems with this game. It spends a lot of time telling you about what’s going on around you. The cutscenes are long and so frequent; it feels more like watching a 50 hour long movie. There would be more replay value if there was more time spent actually playing. Also, you’d think by now that they would have included a more interactive story line, decisions to make that have an impact or anything of the sort but no, you just get to keep watching. One more thing, there are many cutscenes that show the events of the 13 days before the events actually start to unfold. Most of these cutscenes take place at a firework ceremony and nothing interesting or important happens here. You keep thinking something’s going to happen so you don’t skip them if it’s your first play through but they all just piss you off when they end.
Now, the graphics are amazing but it’s clearly what they spent most of their time and money on. They didn’t realize that nowadays people don’t give a shit how nice the plants next to your characters look. We clearly didn’t care before when they looked like shit. Hell, they made your characters look better. In this game it makes them look average because everything looks so spectacularly designed and vividly polychromatic. For each new map, I bet each plant had its own guy, and it still took 5 years to make them all. And you know they took forever on the characters themselves. The graphics for the people in regular gameplay is probably better than the graphics for prerendered cutscenes from the previous installment. And get even better for the cutscenes in this one! I don’t even want to imagine the long painful hours that went into drawing every individual feather on a chocobo’s back. Short version, everything looks fantastic.
Let’s move on to gameplay.
To start, the game is split up into 13 chapters (yeah, the game really like the number 13), with each chapter usually ending with an epic boss fight or something really important happening. Unfortunately you spend the first ten chapters following a specifically laid path. It doesn’t even have the decency of giving you the illusion of freedom, you pretty much get a line to follow. The worst part is that on the radar map, it still tells you which way to go, which is completely useless until chapter 11. What’s worse is that for the first ten chapters, you feel like the game is holding your hand, only to have that hand slap you in the face once you hit chapter 11. The difficulty spikes to a threatening level as soon as you get ditched on the giant open field, the first one in the game, and it’s already been like 25 hours of gaming.
The leveling system is probably what pisses me off the most about this game. They tried to make a newer, shinier version of the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X and failed hard. They called this the crystarium grid, which is split in 6 for the 6 job classes. You advance spots on the grid with the crystarium points you acquire from fighting. Much like Final Fantasy X, each spot you advance will upgrade one of your stats or teach you an ability. Only they seem to have forgotten a few statistics, most of them to be exact. Unlike most Final Fantasy games or RPGs in general, you only have three stats that can be upgraded. THREE. HEALTH STRENGTH AND MAGIC. This game doesn’t even have fucking magic points, all magic is free to cast. It’s not like you have a large array of spells to choose from anyways. Final Fantasy I had magic points and they’ve been there in every other game. This one should have somehow had more stats to upgrade than before, not less. And it gets worse. There’s a limit on how far on the grid you can advance for each chapter. It basically tells you how strong you’re going to be by the time the chapter boss rolls around. And this happens during the entire game. You don’t even get the full grid before the final boss. You can train all you want but it’ll get you nowhere until the next chapter. I’ve never had a game tell me I can’t level up anymore before a boss, and this happens at every boss. Good thing most of the bosses are very unchallenging.
To anyone watching, the battle sequences look intense but to the person playing, they’ve probably stopped being so shiny and interesting a long time ago. Sure your party consists of three characters but you’re only controlling one. You can’t even tell the others what to do; they’re almost entirely on their own. Really what it is is everyone runs around until their ATB(Action Time Bar), has risen enough for them to perform their actions. Only you can only see the ATB of the person you’re controlling, since it’s the only character who’s actions you have control over. The ATB itself goes from two command slots to six by the end of the game, most commands take up one slot, some take two or three and only one takes five out of six. But get this, while you’re fighting there’s and auto command button for those who are lazy or bored. So instead of going through the menus and selecting attack five times or fire five times, you can just choose auto command, and it will decide the best tactical decision in the current fight. And chances are you’ll choose it almost every time. The only thing that adds any kind of depth to the battle is the paradigm system. You get to choose 6 combinations of classes (known as paradigms) you want your characters to be during a fight. At anytime during the fight, you can change the classes of your characters by changing paradigms. So when you get low on health, you’d switch to a paradigm with two or three medics, heal up and switch back to a mostly offensive line. Every enemy you fight has a combo meter, if you combo them enough then you’ll stagger them, and begin to deal up to 10 times more damage than you normally would.
One more thing, summoning. Every Final Fantasy has summoning, and this time they’re called Eidolons. At some point during the game, every character hits an emotional wall and an Eidolon comes out to help them on their way. How? By making you fight it and impress it of course. And this makes all their problems seem a little bit easier. Too bad these fights are hard as fuck. And a couple of them are chapter ending bosses, SO YOU CANT LEVEL ANYMORE BEFORE FIGHTING THEM. Now there’s another bar, below your health, which you expect to be for MP, BUT ITS NOT, it’s called TP for technical points, and it too goes up to 5. Getting it up to 5 takes a good deal of fighting but luckily summoning an Eidolon only takes three. And besides, the only other abilities that utilize the TPs are Libra, which you’ll only use on bosses, and Quake, which isn’t that powerful anyways.
There’s a lot more that pisses me off about this game:
– Without a speed stat, everyone’s ATB goes up just as fast, there’s no difference between characters or classes.
– Crystarium points stops rising at one million, so if you don’t regularly tend to each character, they’ll eventually fall behind, and since chances are you’ll choose three and use them, it’ll happen.
– Although each character has access to all 6 jobs eventually, starting a new one is so painfully expensive that it’s not worth it until the very end.
– Eidolons are pretty weak unless the combo meter is already charged, but if you charge it completely before calling it, stagger mode will run out before the finishing strike can be used, so you need timing, when they should just kick total ass like they did before.
– Final Fantasy XII had the most status ailments of any, it was a bitch but it made things more interesting. Aside from the ones that alter your strength, Final Fantasy XIII has only 6, which is the least.
– YOUR HEALTH IS REGENERATED AFTER EVERY FIGHT.
– After every battle there’s an annoying screen which rates the battle you just did with a star rating out of five based entirely on how fast you kill everything. Most of the time you get five stars and this doesn’t change anything.
– You spend all your gil on random items which you implement into your gear to make it stronger, instead of potions and other items you’d think are useful. Upgrading gear is a long and painful process.
– When leveling in the grid, it drags along the path between nodes, makes a very irritating noise that always increases in pitch while you do it, and just takes a really long time.
– You’re gear has a specific level, and you don’t.
– You obtain legendary gear by upgrading instead of fighting something awesome on the side. And since you’re never instructed on how to upgrade once the level is maxed, good fucking luck trying to find the legendary shit.
– Every game since number 8 has a creative new mini game on the side, this one does not. It has a downgraded version of the mark hunting quests from number twelve. It’s downgraded because instead of the bounty hunter style of twelve, you run around a giant field looking for floating rocks, which will then tell you what to look for, but not where. And they don’t get nearly as epic as the last two hour fight from Final Fantasy XII, not even close.
– The hunting quests are the only thing to do after you’ve beaten the last boss.
– You don’t unlock the full sphere grid until AFTER you’ve beaten the last boss.
– Who thought an old priest looking guy would make a great main bad guy?
– A BABY CHOCOBO COULD NOT LIVE IN SAZH’S HAIR.
– THE IDEA THAT THE EIDOLONS CAN ALL MAGICALLY TRANSFORM INTO A MODE OF TRANSPORTATION IS JUST STUPID, ALSO TELL ME HOW ONE RIDES A FUCKING CASTLE.
– WHY IS THE CHARACTER WHO HAS THE MOST ANNOYING VOICE AND WHO ADDS THE LEAST TO THE STORY THE FUCKING NARRATOR?
The part of this game I enjoyed the most was trying explaining to my high roommate, just what the fuck happens, and failing hard. I give this game a 2/5, one for having such awesome graphics and another for the epic storyline. Too bad it fails everywhere else. I recommend this game to anyone who doesn’t know what an RPG is supposed to be.
Final Score: 2/5