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214 of 244 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As mature and objective a review as you'll find
So much has already been written about this game that reviewing it at this point seems unnecessary. However, as an exercise in hindsight, especially with Final Fantasy XIII-2 a month away as of this writing, I hope you will refer to this review if you want the opinion of someone who has played through it twice and read just about every piece of criticism there is about...
Published on December 28, 2011 by truster38

789 of 971 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Final Fantasy XIII - Doesn't Live Up To Its Legacy
Final Fantasy XIII - Doesn't Live Up To Its Legacy

Warning: This will be lengthy, detailed review (Spoiler Free).

Who Am I:

Avid RPG fan that grew up with the Final Fantasy (FF) series, dating back to FF2 (US). I've completed the game in just under 45+ hrs. I have no interest in doing the side quests - read below for more info on...
Published on April 12, 2010 by H. Javed

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214 of 244 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As mature and objective a review as you'll find, December 28, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
So much has already been written about this game that reviewing it at this point seems unnecessary. However, as an exercise in hindsight, especially with Final Fantasy XIII-2 a month away as of this writing, I hope you will refer to this review if you want the opinion of someone who has played through it twice and read just about every piece of criticism there is about this game. Whether you just want a new experience or are curious about the game because it's cheap now, please read on.

Let's get this out of the way first: the first 25 hours of the game are linear and story-driven. You'll be walking through alot of hallways and corridors and the story, told through the perspectives of each party member and via flashbacks, is one that will either hook you or lose you completely. This linearity is often cited as the biggest failing of the game, and it is if you want an immediately open-world experience. The developers took a huge risk in front-loading the game with exposition, and you'll either love it or hate it. How this linearity affects the gameplay and battle system is that you'll feel on-rails for this first portion of the game, as each party is pre-determined, as is how you level the party. The battle system is pretty complicated, so the game rolls each element out to you piece by piece. Let's get two things straight about the first 25 hours: just clicking auto-battle will not work past Chapter 3, and anyone who tells you otherwise didn't play the game enough to make an accurate critique of it, and it gets pretty hard towards Chapter 4 on through Chapter 10 (the Sazh/Vanille chapters, where you control two "specialists" in a party with no real power, can be tough, and some of the bosses are just about impossible if you can't figure out what to do). There is minimal grinding in these first hours, but you will have to basically fight every enemy put in front of you. There is very little money as well, and you don't really have to do any inventory management beyond equipping the best you currently have (mostly HP enhancers). In fact, it is advised that you hold on to absolutely everything you get and sell nothing except the items that have no use besides being traded for gil.

So basically, everything you've heard about the first part of the game is true, but whether or not that's really a bad thing depends on how much you hate linearity and the feeling that you're being "guided" by the game, as well as how much you get into the story. Again, this was a gamble by the developers, and the negative reaction to this and the subsequent changes in the sequel show that they've learned that modern gamers, for the most part, don't enjoy feeling like they're having their hands held. What I will say is that, since the plot is basically about fugitives on the run and trying to escape, this highlights the linearity even more than other games like Gears of War and Dead Space, that are just as linear but somehow aren't as "in your face" about it as Final Fantasy XIII.

So after you get to Chapter 11, to what might be your surprise, the entire game opens up in this epic, vast, beautiful, and daunting way. You choose your party, get to level them as you see fit, and set about leveling up in this absolutely gorgeous, lush, verdant environment. This is where you truly learn all the ins and outs of the battle system and how the game works. Again, I know it sounds ludicrous that a game takes 25 hours before you finally get to PLAY it, but if you're an RPG fan, you will LOVE how the game opens up at this point and joyously spend hours upon hours leveling your characters and learning the battle system.

So that's how the experience of actually playing the game is. One last note is that, if you want to get to Chapter 11 but just don't give a crap about the story, you can skip every cutscene, and doing so gets you to Gran Pulse in about 18 hours.

Now, the whole game looks great, arguably the BEST-LOOKING CONSOLE GAME OF THIS ENTIRE GENERATION, but it's when you first get to Gran Pulse that you really understand just how beautiful Final Fantasy XIII is. Take the pre-rendered cutscenes from the last generation, say Final Fantasy XII, enhance them to HD resolution, and you have what this game looks like IN-GAME.

Musically, the game is also just about perfect, with only some unfortunate bossa nova/jazzy stuff to lower the score. One other thing: this game has possibly the greatest RPG battle theme of all time. After countless hours I still love hearing it every single time.

To complete the presentation critique, the voice acting is almost uniformly superb. Yes, even Vanille, whose unfortunate stigma is more a case of cultural differences than a lack of quality in the acting (some things just don't translate well from Japanese to English, and chirpy, happy-go-lucky girls is one of them). It simply must be said that Ali Hillis' performance as Lightning is one of the most iconic in this generation of gaming, right up there with Nolah North as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series and Jennifer Hale as FemShep in the Mass Effect series. She makes Lightning one of the iconic, unforgettable Final Fantasy characters of all time, bar none.

I feel it's especially important to devote more time discussing the battle system. The ATB/Paradigm Shift system is a menu-based, turn-based take on real-time action elements. This game is about speed, something you're graded on after each fight, and about understanding each role and choosing the right paradigms. The combat is fast and very strategic, as you will NEVER be able to simply overpower enemies after the first few chapters. Everything is about staggering enemies, which opens them up for more damage, and this is accomplished by attacking with melee strikes, chaining with magic, de-buffing, and even luring them with your tanks/damage sponges (called "Sentinels"). Each party member has three roles initially and each role eventually opens up for all members, though some roles are just better than others in terms of what skills they learn and how effective they are. Also note that the game is over when the party leader dies, which can frustrate you if you're not used to that.

Combat can get really hectic, hard, and frustrating for anyone expecting a regular turn-based system where 80% of the combat is attacking and healing. You cannot succeed in Final Fantasy XIII without doing some serious homework on what each role does, experimenting with paradigms, learning each enemy's weaknesses, and utilizing ALL ROLES (damage by itself is never going to win). As far as speed and strategy goes, this system is probably the ultimate evolution of a turn-based system before Final Fantasy Versus XIII comes and probably takes the core series irrevocably down the path of real-time action systems forever. As mentioned, there are real-time action game principles that you have to respond to onscreen, such as being able to interrupt an attacking enemy mid-animation if the timing is right, or being interrupted yourself and having to re-adjust. The battle system is essentially a traditional turn-based system on overdrive, and you can think of it as one "turn" in this game equates to several traditional turns. If you take the time to learn the system and love RPGs, you will LOVE this system because, once you master it, it just feels great to earn five star ratings and beat enemies in a fraction of the time it used to take you. It's also unbelievably cool to look at, which is a given since the developers specifically wanted to re-create the battle aesthetic from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete [Blu-ray]. It must be said that, by any and all measure, the game does a poor job of explaining in detail what all the roles do and what you need to win. The basic instructions you're given are simply nowhere near enough to succeed, and it's up to you to experiment and see what everything does. A great example of this is that nowhere in the game's vast datalog/glossary of terms did I find definitions of what each buff/de-buff does, so if you forgot about Shield, Faith, Fog, etc, you're going to have to figure it all out yourself. Thankfully, you are not punished at all for dying, as you re-spawn at the same location after each defeat with no consequence, ready to re-shuffle your party and paradigm deck and go from dying to defeating the same enemy in two minutes.

There is one HUGE downside to all of this, and if this is an issue for you rest assured I'm doing you a favor by urging you not to buy this game: you never have time to directly choose any specific action. Your job is essentially to manage health bars, stagger bars, buff/de-buff statuses, and enemy actions, and shift paradigms when necessary. You have to set up moves in advance essentially, knowing the next three paradigms you will use before you even get there. You really don't have the time to choose anything but the auto function each turn no matter what role you're in as party leader. What this means is that, as the player, you are more or less tasked with developing strategies and plans of attack than any actual sense of "control." Even in non-action games, there is still a connection when you choose "attack" from a menu and watch the character perform the action right in front of you. That direct connection between player and character is just not there in Final Fantasy XIII, and if that sounds like it's an issue for you, trust me when I say you will hate this game.

In conclusion, the big talk these days for gamers is that Japanese games, and specifically JRPGS, are dead. Square Enix took a huge gamble in Final Fantasy XIII to stave off extinction, and it's obvious that the reaction has been mixed. This game is, if anything, choked full of perhaps TOO MANY ideas, changes, evolutions, and aspirations. They tried to revolutionize and save a genre that is dying, and how successful they were depends on your personal tastes as a gamer. I hope I've given you the relevant information, so please comment and I will respond.
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789 of 971 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Final Fantasy XIII - Doesn't Live Up To Its Legacy, April 12, 2010
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Final Fantasy XIII - Doesn't Live Up To Its Legacy

Warning: This will be lengthy, detailed review (Spoiler Free).

Who Am I:

Avid RPG fan that grew up with the Final Fantasy (FF) series, dating back to FF2 (US). I've completed the game in just under 45+ hrs. I have no interest in doing the side quests - read below for more info on that.

The Final Fantasy series has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. Very few RPGs can match the universe that this series has built in each establishment. So with each new Final Fantasy installment, criticism will be at an all-time high because the game has the highest of expectations and standards in regards to a RPG. Each FF game should drive the RPG market and show the shortcomings of the other RPGs. Unfortunately, FF13 has taken a huge step back in regards to the series and its attempt to evolve the RPG universe.

Let's get started with the review.


I know this word has been stamped, engraved into FF13 reviews. But most reviews have it correct when they speak of FF13's linearity. The one thing I will expand on is how this affects the entire game overall and not just the gameplay aspect. First, let me go over the level design.

The entire game is mission based. So once you complete a mission, you are done with that area with no return later. You can go back to very few areas during the last mission. Every mission is the same which makes FF13 feel very repetitive. Like others have said, you pretty much go down a tunnel, fight some creatures, fight boss, cut-scene, rinse and repeat. This is where FF13's RPG feel pretty much goes down the drain. There is absolutely no exploration, no world map, no towns, and no mini-games.

Yes the world 'opens' up after Chapter 11. But don't be fooled by reviews which state it is 'open.' It's just a big area with creatures in which you are allowed to do side quests. Side quests are summed up as - Get quest, kill monster, get reward, complete mission. While I have no problem with that particular formula, the problem I have is that you can't even do most of the missions because your party is limited on how strong it can get. When you finish the game, you are finally allowed to gain extra levels in order to do the side quests. But what is the point besides achievements/trophies? I use the example of FF3/FF7/FF10 where you are allowed to max out your level, get the best items, then when you feel like it, go beat the game. I read a review where they said it felt like an after-thought, I couldn't agree more.

Due to the linearity of the game, the story and characters suffer tremendously which hurts the game overall and not just the gameplay aspect.

Story, Characters:

This is the bread and butter of the FF series. With each installment, we (fans) expect an epic story with incredible characters that we get emotionally attached to. This is probably where I felt most 'robbed' when playing FF13. The story is the cookie-cutter save the world with little to no twists. While I understand many of the FF series have the same story, FF13 did a poor job of execution of telling it. It's simply too drawn out and gets boring at times. A lot of this has to do with the linearity of the missions. With it being level based and no exploration, you never have a chance to become immersed into the world and get emotionally drawn into what the characters are fighting for.

The six characters all have their unique personalities but you never really get a chance to develop any attachment to them. While the game does attempt to give you background stories for each character, it simply just falls short. This is the first Final Fantasy I have played where there really is no main character. Lightning, whom is on the cover, is probably one of least developed characters in the game. At several points in the game, you would think Vanille is the main character with the amount of story focus on her. I don't know how FF2, FF3, and FF7 did it but they had the formula right when it came down to character development.

Battle System:

The battle system has been revamped from previous installations. The turn-based combat is gone and now battles flow in real-time. This can make battles fun at times because you need quick reaction but also frustrating because you can't take a moment to decide what attack(s) to execute. There is an 'auto-battle' button that essentially plays the battle for you by selecting the best moves to use in any given situation. Also, you now also only control one lead character in battle, and your teammates are controlled by AI scripts. If the lead character dies, then it's game over for the whole party. I found this very annoying because your AI healer (whose commands cannot be customized) will heal another party member with lower health and you'll get hit the by the boss and die. Thankfully you can retry after each battle with no death penalty but it makes it very frustrating when this happens near end of a boss battle which you spend 10-15 minutes on.

Characters have 'roles' during the battles. It is essentially the job-system. For those who are unfamiliar, jobs are essentially broken down to: Medic, Attacker, Spell-Caster, Tank, Debuffer, Buffer. You can shift roles during the battle by executing pre-made 'paradigms.' You will find yourself on many battles switching back and forth from attacker-attacker-attacker to healer-healer-attacker. While the battle system is quick and intense, it is also tedious.

Summons (called Eidolons) for the most part are useless in the game. While they played a crucial part in other FF installments, they essentially are pointless in FF13 battles. There are only six summons (one for each character) and only the lead character can use their summon (typically once) during each battle. If you are expecting summons to do tremendous damage, well you will be disappointed. The only reason to summon is if your health is low and you know the boss is about to kill you, you can summon and your whole party will be at full health (and resurrected) after the summon has executed its attack. The best part of a summon is its animation and the fact you can skip the animation after seeing it once.


This will be short. The game is very beautiful and crisp. The cut-scenes are top-notch. The problem is that you start to notice where all the attention went into and what other areas suffered because of this.

Music also has been a very high spot of the FF series. FF13's music director, Masashi Hamauzu, simply did not do a good job with this installment. Nobuo Uematsu has been the original composer for most of the FF series but this was the first one he wasn't involved in and you can tell the difference. While the music wasn't terrible, it wasn't anything memorable. Also, the most unusual part is that no where in the game is the traditional FF crystal theme music.

Final Thoughts:

Final Fantasy 13 was more of a chore to get through for me. While I did enjoy some moments of the game, mainly near the end, it was very lackluster overall. During no time in the game did I feel like this was a Final Fantasy (except the chocobos). I felt as if the Director was trying to make his own niche and sway from the formula. Well in my opinion it was a failed experiment. RPGs need exploration and deep story telling to be successful. This is why you always see games such as FF3(6) and FF7 on top of the list. There is a reason why those games, to this day, are considered masterpieces. You don't sway from masterpieces, you build off of them. Anyway, I know I left out some things such as equipment and upgrading but honestly I just wanted to focus on the main categories when reviewing a game of this magnitude.

Feel free to leave comments.

Overall Rating: 5/10
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249 of 328 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prepare for Linearity (at first), March 9, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I have completed the main story arc, and am now working on Marks. Here's my (4.5-Star) review:

-As many preliminary reviewers have stated, this iteration of the Final Fantasy series is quite noticeably linear in nature in its first half. Compared to the previous FF installments, which allow you to explore a vast open world from the outset and take on various optional side-quests, FFXIII gives you neither for the first 18-20 hours of the game. Things open up after that point, but your options are still very limited compared to earlier FF games. There is also little opportunity to "level grind" (although the term doesn't explicitly apply here, more on that later) until you reach this point. You are given a proverbial "ceiling", a temporary limit to which your party members can be strengthened and developed, and for better or worse, you have to make the most of what's available to you to overcome the next challenging boss battle. Also, NPC interaction is highly limited, almost to the point of non-existence. Luckily, the story development balances all this out very nicely. It's like one big, long, winding corridor full of hurtles to jump, though the game manages to become more and more fun to play as you progress. And damned if it isn't the most visually appealing corridor I've ever seen.

-Which brings us to the graphics. Square Enix has historically made painstaking efforts to keep its Final Fantasy games on the very cutting edge of the graphics scene, and FFXIII is no exception. The characters--even token NPCs--are all meticulously rendered and animated, each doing justice to the art of the series' premiere character artist, Tetsuya Nomura. Their facial subtext is unprecedented in the series, making for very convincing performances. The way they move in battle is consistently a treat to watch, particularly in Lightning's case, as she vaults and flips about, slashing up baddies and tossing fireballs around the arena. Despite participating in chaotic battles with as many as 10 enemies on-screen, I've noticed absolutely no lag or slowdown in the framerate. The environments are positively SPECTACULAR in both their scope, lighting, and design. It's enough to make you cry, knowing that you're chained to a single path and unable to freely explore these awe-inspiring vistas, but don't worry, you'll get more freedom to roam in the latter half of the game. The prerendered cutscenes are even more beautiful, in my opinion surpassing the taut action and visual appeal of even the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete [Blu-ray] feature film. They occur fairly often, and they're an absolute joy to watch.

-About battles: the new battle system is a great departure from what FF vets might be used to. There are up to three party members fighting on your side, and you directly control the actions of the leader only. The other two members provide AI support based on their role in your party's currently active Paradigm (a battle plan that assigns specific roles to each party member, and can be changed on-the-fly at any time). Timing these Paradigm Shifts is the name of the game, otherwise you'll get pummeled in short order.
Gone are the days when you'd have to manage your party's HP and MP between battles; HP is automatically refilled for all party members (even KO'd ones) after every battle, and MP is non-existent.
Magic spells take the form of elemental techniques that are seamlessly integrated with physical attacks and other special techniques, in long hitstrings that cost only ATB Meter stocks. The focus is not only to survive and win battles, but to finish them quickly and decisively. It pays to have your strategy thought through before challenging the next group of enemies. Judiciously switching Paradigms in mid-battle is indespensible to victory, and necessary to receive a 5-star rank at the end of the battle, and ultimately more valuable spoils.
Summons take the form of Eidolons, who join you as AI-controlled battle buddies when called upon. You can also press Square to enter the Eidolon's "Gestalt Mode", wherein it transforms into some sort of vehicle that the summoning character rides on/in, unlocking new attack options and enabling you to execute the Eidolon's ultimate technique on command. Only the party's currently assigned Leader may summon an Eidolon.
"Limit Breaks" (as they are more popularly known) can be unlocked for each character once they've reached Chrystarium Level 4. They do not cost TP, and there are no special prerequisites for executing them; fire away to your heart's content. As with Eidolons, only the Party Leader can execute his/her Limit Break.
It takes some getting used to, but the game offers plenty of tutorials to explain how to make the most of the options available to you. Personally, I find this new battle system to be a lot of fun.

-Character levels as you know them are gone as well. Your party members' stats are boosted through the expenditure of Crystogen Points (CP) in the Chrystarium Development system (very similar to the Sphere Grid system of FFX). As you advance through the Chrystarium, you gain new techniques and spells, and increase the levels of each character's available Roles.
What does level up are your weapons and accessories. Spoils you earn in victory can be spent to allocate Experience Points to your equipped gear, raising their stat bonuses and special attributes, and even transforming them into other, more powerful items. I guess this is your incentive to shoot for that 5-star battle score.

-Camera movement feels a bit sluggish, but smooth. It gives the battles a cinematic feel, but when you're running around the map, it can be a pain. I like to sneak up on enemies so that I can get the initiative when the battle starts, but the slow-turning camera has robbed me of this opportunity more than a few times (though it's not a game-breaker).

-BOTTOM LINE: It's definitely worth checking out, but I recommend you rent this one first, even if you're a Final Fantasy veteran. FFXIII has its own unique style and flow; you either love it or you hate it. The story is deep, mysterious and compelling, and the characters each have very interesting, multi-dimensional personalities. If you can stick it out, you'll be handsomely rewarded with gameplay that just gets more and more exciting as you progress.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great game, loved every minute of it., August 30, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
It's really fascinating to see how many supposed hardcore fans of the series got their knickers in a twist about this game. Final Fantasy games have been evolving for years, and Final Fantasy XIII corrects many of the mistakes Square-Enix made in FFXII.

FFXII had no character development, or story, it had too much of everything; a battle system cluttered with pointless macros, constant running around doing pointless side quests that gave little to no reward most of the time, and probably the worst soundtrack in the history of Final Fantasy.
Now, FFXIII pretty much corrected all of those things. The battle system is smooth, enjoyable, fast and creative. There are side quests and mini games, but they're not annoying, nor do they get in the way of the actual story. The soundtrack is amazing, it's very reminiscent of FFX's blend of techno and instrumental. The vocal tracks, which are a constant throughout the game not just the cut scenes, are absolutely gorgeous. Probably the best thing about this title is that the characters actually change during the story. The only other FF that had this much character interaction was FFX, but the voice acting in FFXIII is much better, and thank god that the main character for this title is a woman, not a whiny teenage boy like every other modern FF game. The party banter that goes on during fights is a nice addition, it's awesome to hear someone respond to getting a heal when they're critically injured.

The biggest complaint about this game seems to be that it's linear. Well, every FF is. You didn't make any choices in FFVII, or VIII, or IX, or X or any other FF game. The good guys always win, the bad guys always lose, the world is saved, sometimes there's a sacrifice that's made for it, but in the end, every FF game is linear. It's true that with character development and environmental interaction the game could really improve. They should have made the Crystarium a bit more diverse, instead of making it a grind to get all of the crystals for all your roles. Then again, it's not that bad either, since it saves you from wasting half the game getting the wrong abilities. I remember how confusing and completely terrible the character progression in FFX was. I always ended up making the wrong turns and spending a lot of time trying to correct it.

With that said, FFXIII really is quite friendly to new players. Not having to start over completely when you die, having the option to restart encounters when you mess up, having a mostly linear ability progression, and having an auto-battle system that isn't completely fail will help new players get into RPGs. My wife, who has never played an RPG in her life absolutely loves this game. I tried to get her interested in other games, but she never cared. Teaching her about strategy and paradigm shifting while watching her play is actually one of the best gaming experiences I've had.

Like every other FF game, you have to grind for items and crystal points to make your characters awesome. I really don't see that as a chore, it's something that's part of just about every RPG. It's nowhere near as bad as FFVII where you spend 70 hours leveling up your damn materia.

My last point is regarding graphics. I honestly have never played an RPG that looked this good. The transition between cut-scenes and actual gameplay is barely noticeable. The FFXIII world is gorgeous, and the art department really went out of their way to make it looks alive and realistic. The monsters and bosses have meticulous detail, the characters, including the NPCs, have amazing facial expressions and the clothing and hair look realistic, which isn't easily accomplished.

I love this game, I loved playing through it twice, I enjoyed the experience and I hope future Final Fantasy games can take all the positive and wonderful things for this title and make it even better. To me it's a huge improvement over the last FF title, and I look forward to future FF games since Square-Enix really impressed me with this one.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Combines the best from the 3D era FF games, March 30, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I've played every Final Fantasy title from FFVI on, and I have to say, this is probably my favorite title of the series.

The graphics, it must be said, are simply amazing. When Square stated they wanted an engine that rivals the visuals of Advent Children, they weren't joking. The first time you unleash Lightning's Army of One ability, your jaw will simply drop, despite the fact that you've probably spent a good 30+ hours being amazed by the graphics already. On the PS3, 1080p is stunning, and the cutscenes are beautiful and plentiful. Prior to this, I thought Mass Effect 2 had set the bar for gaming visuals, but FFXIII makes Mass Effect 2 look obsolete.

In terms of combat, I find that XIII really combines the best of FFX-2 and FFXII. FFX-2, despite being much maligned by fans of the series, has the most interesting battle mechanism of all the Active Time Battle-based Final Fantasy titles. FFX-2 and FFXIII battle sequences look very similar. The difference, of course, is that instead of dress spheres that you then have to micromanage, now you have pretty much what amounts to preprogrammed gambits (as in XII). The advantages are obvious. I think XII made buffing and debuffing quite painless by allowing you to set them as gambits, and this is important because in previous titles, honestly, it is a simple pain to buff and debuff during mob battles.

You will have to use every one of the six classes effectively, even at the very end of the game. Can you say that about any of the FF titles in the last 15 years (other than IX, of course)? I can't. Usually you spam the best ability for all it's worth. For instance, once Yuna learned Holy and Tidus learned Quick Hit in FFX and your stats get high enough, combat became ridiculously easy. VII is all about the Knights of the Round spamming. Sure, XIII suffers from a bit of that, too. The Death spell is a bit overpowered, and Sazh's Blitz is simply unfair. But even with these, forget to use your Sentinel and Synergists, and you'll be dying more often than you should.

Which brings me to my next point. In terms of the frequency of Game Over screens, this is the hardest FF game of the 3D era, there's no question about it. Maybe that's not saying much, but you can get more emotionally (and physically) involved in the combat than ever before. You'll really be working for that Stagger, making split second decisions as to whether to go for that one extra turn of attacks or to heal/buff/debuff, whether to try Thaumatology or Diversity, whether to interrupt the current chain of commands or to wait. All these things matter. In what other FF title does that one split second decision matter this much?

As for not controlling the other party members, that's such a minor point in my mind. Other than not using the best attack spells from time to time, it really feels like the AI is well programmed and does not hinder your abilities much. In any case, if you had to control all three characters, this system would just lose its urgency and excitement because you wouldn't be able to make the overall strategical decisions quite as much. Considering how fast and hard some of the enemies hit, having to do everyone's healing while dishing out magic and working on renewing buffs would be really annoying to say the least.

I know everyone complains about the game's linearity (it's like X except no backtracking), but this game is really, really well paced, and a lot of that has to do. You can't get overly powerful because there are limits to what you are able to accomplish at any given point. Yes, I know, FFX had Key Spheres, but you could easily find Lvl 3 and 4 Key Spheres if you knew where to get them. Maybe RPG should stress the role playing aspect by letting you explore around before deciding to go ahead with the story. But I don't see anything that's truly realistic about being able to kill the hardest bosses in the story line with zero difficulty either, so I think it's a trade-off.

I finished the game at about 55 hours and the final two chapters were the best ending 10 hours of any Final Fantasy game ever. Usually, this is often a very boring portion of the game, and 55 hours is long enough to get leveled beyond decency in most other FF games. Not so in FFXIII. I still dreaded facing certain enemies, and the end boss of Chapter 12, rarely have I celebrated so much at beating a story line boss in FF.

I've compared this game a lot to FFX, which was previously my favorite title in the series, but not anymore. I think that it is true that at times, FFXIII does not feel like your average FF game. I mean, the only returning musical theme is the Chocobo theme, there are no towns and inns, and just about everything feels different from before. But once you dig deeper, you see elements of your favorite FF games from the past, only they have been distilled and refined into something that's more approachable. But approachable doesn't mean dumbed down. No, in this case, it means that combat is evolving, staying engaging and diverse until the very end. When you think about it, this is the only title other than FFIX that has achieved this, and FFIX did so with a very rigid character class system. Grinding for two hours won't change much in this game, only give you a bit more wiggle room. I find that to be absolutely brilliant.

This review is likely to ramble on and on, but I feel that this game needs to be defended a bit, considering people are quick to dismiss it for what it should be, instead of trying to judge it for what it is and what it is trying to do. I have a feeling that once the dust settles, people will enjoy this game more. I know that my first playthrough of this game was the most fun I've ever had in the first playthrough of a FF game, and ultimately, I think that's what the game should be judged by. I know I've logged more hours into FFVII than any other game, but I didn't have too much fun sometimes in FFVII. This isn't an issue with FFXIII.

Play this game with no prejudice or inflated expectations, and you'll see the title for what it is, yet another worthy FF title.
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40 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, May 26, 2010
Judith A. Sandage (Loveland, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I'm a 57 year old Grandma who loves Final Fantasy. I have played every one of them,some versions more than once. I am going to trade in my FFXIII for an Amazon credit, I will never be interested in playing this game again. What a major disappointment this was. I usually spend at least 100 hours on a FF game, I want to complete every quest and side quest, I love exploring and discovering new towns and areas etc. This game has nothing like that. The graphics were amazing but it only made me more disappointed because I couldn't go explore this beautiful world. The L'Cie, Fal'Cie or whatever they are was absolutely ridiculous. I hope S/E will go back to what made FF great.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More like a movie than a video game, March 8, 2012
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I like to actually play video games, interact with them via a controller... with Final Fantasy 13 you can start up the game and do other things, I'm "playing" Final Fantasy 13 as I write this in fact! Wow, I am able to be much more productive at doing other things with this video game. I cooked dinner and they even will fight without you.... you just have to occasionally toss your team mates a potion so they don't die and you'll get a 5 Star rating on your fighting skills!

They should have made this game in a similar style of FF10, that game had a good balance between game play and videos... but this one has just been totally taken over by videos to the point where I just do other things until it's time to fight something. Just boring.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Less fun than a sharp stick in the eye, February 15, 2014
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This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Arguments have raged for decades about which Final Fantasy game is the best in the series. Square must have been tired of this debate, because they put in what must have been an extraordinary effort to create the very worst game in the series, and a serious contender for the very worst video game of all time. Truly, my command of the English language is simply not up to the task of conveying how awful an atrocity this game is.

It's not merely slapped together. It is clear that considerable time and talent was harnessed to shape this foul turd. It manages to distill the very essence of terrible from every JRPG trope, while simultaneously eliminating every positive aspect and charm that is normally implicit in the genre.

The irony is that FF games started out as "the" open-world free roaming game. They are now as linear as it gets, with only rail shooters giving you less freedom. This game furthers that sad trend.

This game gives the illusion of freedom in how you build characters. Unfortunately, it's only the freedom to choose wrong. It would have been better if they just gave you rigid classes so you knew what they wanted.

The grind on this game is ridiculous. FF games have always had a grind in them but it's usually something extra, to get ridiculously powerful and two-shot the end boss or something. Here, it's a necessary part of gameplay...unless perhaps you know the exact arbitrary build required in order to get through everything in the game ahead of time.

Plot - Having a contrived and overly complicated plot is standard for these types of games, but at least you usually end up caring or having sympathy for the protagonist or their world. Here: I didn't care. All of the protagonists were so whiny, and the supporting characters so dumb I couldn't find myself caring about anyone or anything in this game.

Ok: It's a JRPG, so it's a given that you're going to have a group of annoying 2-dimensional characters with some overly overly pronounced character trait spelled out in 20-story neon lights that will go through horribly contrived and artificial character development steps* (if they even do develop) to become...slightly less annoying 2-dimensional characters. They've managed to actually make this character development step* into a game mechanic in this game; Final Fantasy's usual 50-lb sledge of subtlety has been upgraded to a 500-lb sledge of subtlety. Note, I have to say *step, because an arc would imply something smooth and potentially organic.

Unlike most JRPGs, the characters are entirely devoid of any form of charm or charisma. There's not even a single likable character in the bunch. This is the only final fantasy game since the characters have had personalities (FF4?) where I loath each and every single character.

Gameplay - The illusion of choice
The battle system seems like an interesting idea and, credit where credit is due, I'm glad they do try to innovate the approach to combat. The downside, is this one's junk. You only have direct control over one character, and even then you're usually too busy juggling paradigms to assign their moves directly. Therefore most of what your character does is auto-pilot, and everything your allies do is auto-pilot. Allies are supposed to gang up on the enemy you are currently attacking, but it frequently bugs out so they start attacking a different enemy, or will even sit there the entire battle without using a single ability.

So, the one thing you do have fine control over is the "paradigm", basically a set of pre-made (you can organize) ability roles for the party. You can choose which roles to have which party members specialize in, and form a group to your liking. Sounds neat...

But it's too good to be true. If you don't level your characters up just right in a very specific way, you'll end up having to do several hours of grinding. At too many points in the game, you'll end up fighting some boss with a pre-determined set of characters, requiring a set of roles that you may or may not have upgraded for them. What's that, you were using that character as a commando? Well, guess what, we're going to toss you into the battle where they are absolutely required to be a sentinel. What's that? you've been using that character as a ravager? Well, the one ability at the end of the enhancer path is a requirement for this battle...looks like you're going to have to go grind for 6 hours and unlock that ability if you want to progress.

If you've managed to avoid this piece of trash, then kudos to you. I recommend you continue to avoid it.
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63 of 87 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's like when your girlfriend thows out all your old tee shirts, February 11, 2011
RKOFANT (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Once I had a dream that I was stuck in a really long winding hallway and there were all sorts of scary monsters in that hallway with me. Whenever one would jump out of the dark and attack me I would freak out but then realized if I could just reach the X button the monsters would die on their own and I could continue down the hallway....oh wait that's FF13

This game has a truckload of hype behind it like every other FF game. Of course we all know now the developers were spending all that money and time on graphics and strippers. Take everything you love about FF and flush it down the toilet then make some other game that is not like FF at all. That's what this is.

It's really obvious square-enix was just trying to appeal to as many numbskull gamers as possible, like the reviewers at IGN who are distracted by sparkly things. They amped up the graphics and oversimplified everything to a fault. You are barely involved in the battles and the "free roam" section of the game is a joke. You basically just walk forward and hit x every so often. Maybe they should have just put you on a rail. I heard in FF15 you just need to yell teh words "I WIN!" to defeat enemies. That should make the game accessible for 99.9% of human beings and some animals like the parrot. I guess even some robots or a cleverly placed cassette recorder would enjoy the game as well.

Honestly if you want to buy this game...wait til one of your friends buys it and then wait outside their window while they play for 20 min. They should soon grow disappointed and eventually ragefull. That will be followed by them throwing the game out the window and right into your hands.
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154 of 215 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars one word: Boring, March 29, 2010
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Before I start talking about FF13, I'd like to take a moment to look back on its predecessor. For those of you who remember, FF12 had a lot of high expectations, promise, and hype. It had been the longest wait since the last numbered single-player Final Fantasy (FFX in 2001 and FF12 in 2006). During the first few weeks, many people played it, and many people (professional reviewers and "normal" players alike) gave it plenty of praise.

And then we collectively hit the 20 hour mark and watched the game fall off a cliff. We watched as interesting plot threads dissolved into nothingness. We watched as dungeons started stretching on endlessly at a snail's pace. We watched, with horror I might add, as we collectively realized that, with the Gambits, FF12 essentially played itself.

I was one of those people. I had written an early review of FF12 just a week after the game came out, about 20 hours in. And I had given the game endless praise. 9.5 out of 10 I said. 40 hours later, I realized that I had made a huge mistake. Consider this my formal recantation of my FF12 review. (Not to be confused with the informal recantations I'd been giving in the last four years.)

To make up for that, I promised myself I wouldn't give FF13 a review until after I had finished the game, for fear of making the same mistake, for fear of playing the game for 20 hours and giving it endless praise only to watch the game fall apart afterwards and force me to eat my words again.

So that's what I've been doing these last 3 weeks. Playing FF13 for the right to review it. And now let's see where it takes us...


Let's start with the easy stuff. I agree with the Uematsu fanboys on this one. Final Fantasy music just hasn't been good since Uematsu became less involved. And FF13 is no exception. It's almost like the composer of FF13 (Masashi Hamauzu for those who care) was afraid of making his music actually good, afraid to make it anything more than ambient background noise for fear of people actually noticing that, yes, there is in fact music in this game. (To be fair, it's a problem that plagues most modern video games.)

There are two tests for video game music. The first test is if a piece makes you want to pause the game and just listen to the music for a moment. FF13 fails in this regard. Most of the pieces are just not very memorable, and very few of them stand out. Sure, there are a few gems. But a few gems in an otherwise bland and flavorless soundtrack does not make for a good video game soundtrack.

The second test, of course, is if a few years from now, listening to the soundtrack will make me reminisce about the game and make me want to play it again. Unfortunately, I don't have a time machine, and my promise for not reviewing the game until I finish doesn't apply to waiting a few years for nostalgia to kick in. (That, and this only works if I have fond memories of the game to begin with.)


If you were to tell me FF13 has good graphics, I would probably believe you. If you were to tell me FF13 has bad graphics, I would probably believe you too. To be fair, I haven't bothered looking at FF13 screenshots side-by-side with FF12's, so I don't know how much better it actually is. If it weren't for HD technology, I don't know if these eyes could even tell the difference.

What I do know is that when you play the game with its real-time rendered graphics and you hit a cutscene and see what pre-rendered graphics can do, the difference is jarring. Are FF13's graphics good? Sure. But they're obviously not good enough to make Square not load the disc with pre-rendered cutscenes.


FF13 started off fantastically. Right from the beginning, the game puts you in the middle of the action and very quickly sets up a handful of promising character-based plot threads. The game quickly introduces you to the main characters, and then sets up the main plot thread that pulls the whole game along. And at the end of all that, you say "Wow, that was a great opening sequence!" And the game was only just beginning! (Footnote: This is a reference to my experiences with another J-RPG (which shall not be named), where I said, "Wow, that was a great opening sequence! Wait, that's the end of disc 1 already?")

And then the game falls apart. I have to give FF13 credit here. It took FF12 a good 20 hours to fall apart. FF13 managed to fall apart in only 3.

The problem is that FF13's storyline is incredibly slow. No, that's not the right word. "Slow" implies that the plot is actually going somewhere. FF13's plot went nowhere. The problem is that, after the great opening sequence, NOTHING HAPPENS. After the opening sequence, I crawled through hours of dungeons, fought dozens of battles, and sat through pointlessly boring cutscenes waiting for something to happen.

But wait, you say, that's anticipation! The game is generating anticipation of the story. That's a good thing!

No, anticipation is when you're wondering what's going to happen next. FF13's story is when I'm wondering if anything's going to happen at all.

Some of you will be quick to point out that much of FF13's story is told through flashbacks, and it's the flashbacks that I should be paying attention to for the story. Except (with a few very rare exceptions) a story cannot be told *entirely* in flashbacks. It just doesn't work. Flashbacks are retrospective in nature, and events in flashbacks feel more like backstory and setup for the "present" thread rather than like something that's actually happening. In FF13, the flashbacks end up hurting the story rather than helping it. Rather than enhance the story with interesting background information or a parallel plot thread, the flashbacks make a slow, uneventful story even slower and less eventful.

It wasn't until the 20 hour mark when something finally happened. I remember this because when you're playing a game where nothing happens, you remember when something finally happens. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. A few minutes later, the game brings you back to hours of nothingness.

Sure, from then on stuff started to happen. But it didn't help. The events in the story (if it can be called that) don't pull you along, but rather come out of nowhere and go nowhere. Rather than being driven, the story wanders. Literally wanders. Over 90% of the story is your party wandering around with no real purpose.

And all those character-based plot threads that were that were set up in the opening sequence? None of them are developed in any way, and most of them are unceremoniously dropped on the floor. The one character-based thread that is finally revisited was then immediately ended with a young boy crying to his nearest mother-figure. Literally. It's almost as though the writers just wanted to end that particular plot thread because they felt it would distract us from the main plot thread. But it's like Chehkov said. If you hang a gun on the wall in the first act, then by the end of the third act the gun needs to be fired. If the writers had no intention of developing and properly concluding those character-based plot threads, why include them at all?

In fact, I daresay FF13 has the worst storyline ever of any FF game I've played. Even FF1, whose storyline consisted entirely of a series of loosely connected quests, had a better story than FF13. Mainly because a series of loosely connected quests is *something*. Even FFTA, whose story is hated by pretty much every Final Fantasy fan in existence, had a better story than FF13. Because in FFTA stuff happens. In FF13, NOTHING HAPPENS. You know how they say Seinfeld is a show about nothing? No, Seinfeld is about something. FF13 is about NOTHING AT ALL. And unless that particular something is like stabbing yourself in the face, as far as stories go, something is always better than nothing.

And what's up with the names? Characters named Lightning, Snow, and Hope? Regions named Cocoon and Pulse? Crystarium? And what the hell kind of names are fal'Cie and l'Cie?


Some people say FF13 has a new combat system that's more action-oriented. It's not. It's just a minor variation on ATB. Hell, they still call them ATB Gauges. Yes, it is a lot more fast-paced than the ATB of your SNES/Super Famicom and PS1 days. But FFX-2 was even faster-paced, and FFX-2 was straight up ATB. To be fair, in FFX-2 you had to control three party members, but in FF13, you only control one. If they made you control all three party members, FF13's combat may have turned into an exercise in insanity.

Speaking of which, in FF13 you only control the party leader. The other two members of your active party are controlled by an AI script. Except that 99% of the time, the correct thing to do with the party leader is to select Auto-Battle and let the AI pick the moves. So really, the AI ends up doing everything. Remember FF12? Remember how people complained that the Gambits basically put the game on auto-pilot and was very non-interactive? Yeah, as it turns out, since you can't customize the AI, FF13 is even more automated. (At least it hides it well.)

The game designers did try to add an extra dimension to the game with Roles and Paradigms. Except that Roles are just character classes, and Paradigms are just the Roles your party is currently using. Nothing new here. Sure, you can change Paradigms mid-battle (called a "Paradigm Shift", apparently), but changing character classes is as old as the original NES FF3, and changing character classes mid-battle is as old as FFX-2. So really, Paradigm Shifts are nothing new either.

But I've always said that innovation is overrated, that good execution trumps good concept. So rather than debating whether Roles and Paradigms are innovative (they aren't), let's talk about what they add to the gameplay. Before Paradigm Shifts, if you need to attack, you press attack over and over again. If you need to heal, you cast heal over and over again. In FF13 with Paradigm Shifts, if you need to attack, you instead switch to the offensive Paradigm and press Auto-Battle over and over again and watch as the AI picks offensive skills for you. If you need to heal, you switch to the healing Paradigm and press Auto-Battle over and over again and watch as the AI picks healing spells and heals your party for you. Hmmm... I'm trying to see the difference here. (Other than the superficial difference.)

And then there's the Chain Gauge. Basically as you attack an enemy, you increase the Chain Gauge. When it's full, the enemy becomes Staggered and takes much more damage than before. I imagine they designed this also to add an extra dimension to the combat. Except that it didn't. Actually, it did the opposite. Rather than making battles more varied and more interesting, it made them all play the same. Every boss fight pretty much requires the same strategy. You focus-fire on them until they become Staggered, at which point their defenses drop and you can actually damage them. Compare to Chrono Trigger and FFX for examples of boss fights that have a variety of strategies *without* resorting to a gimmick like the Chain Gauge.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), FF13's combat is the least offensive part of its gameplay. It's just more of the same. Straight up J-RPG combat has become stagnant, and it's really difficult to change things up without venturing into Action RPG or Strategy RPG territory. (I can name exactly zero games that have managed to pull this off successfully.)


Whoever invented the Sphere Grid in FFX must have thought they came up with the best thing since sliced chocobo. ("Sliced chocobo"... that sounds so awful and morbid.) After all, FF12's License Board is just a variant on Sphere Grid, and similarly, FF13's Crystarium is also just a variant on Sphere Grid. Who can blame them? Linear stat growth is just so cliche now.

FF13's Crystarium is essentially instead of one Sphere Grid, each character has multiple Sphere Grids, one for each Role they have. This means you can either focus on one Role and specialize in it, or you can spread your Crystal Points around and level up each Role evenly and become a jack-of-all-trades. Basically, character customizability and multiple strategies.

Or at least that's what the game promised.

In actuality, the Crystarium is very limited. As you fight battles, one of the Roles on a character will fill up, and you'll be forced, whether you like it or not, to start spending Crystal Points on a different Role. (Or you could just save up those points, but as it turns out, it doesn't really matter.) Apparently, the game is tuned just so that right when you fill up all of your Crystariums, you get to a boss fight, and beating that boss expands your Crystarium. So unless you're skipping battles all the time, what actually happens is that you'll end up leveling up all your Roles evenly (and fully) anyway, just because of the way the game is structured.

Not only that, but the combat with its Paradigm Shifts make you *want to* level up in every available Role. A character who can only apply buffs or a character who can only heal is too inflexible to survive in combat. In order to get through battles without tearing your hair out, you'll need to use multiple Roles per character. And so, single Role characters simply do not work. (Although there's probably already a single Role challenge out there already.)

At about the 30 hour mark, the Crystarium opens up dramatically, and all Roles become available to all characters. So now, you would expect that the promise of choosing your Roles and customizing your characters to be fulfilled. Except as it turns out, non-starting Roles are so prohibitively expensive that, until near the end of the game, it's much cheaper to keep on leveling up your starting Roles. Not only that, but your characters are generally so far behind with their non-starting Roles that, ignoring highly specialized strategies, it's not worth leveling up non-starting Roles anyway.

So there you have it. FF13's Crystarium promised customizable characters and failed to deliver on that promise. Even FF12's License board, for all the ridicule it endured, was more customizable than this. FF13's Crystarium only provides the illusion of choice, making you go through the motions of directing the characters' growth, only to have them end up going down the paths the game pre-determined for them.


J-RPGs are linear. That is a given. Anyone who knows anything about J-RPGs knows that they are linear. Complaining about a J-RPG being linear is like complaining that a cupcake is smaller than a regular cake. (Cue relevant Penny Arcade comic.)

That said, FF13 is incredibly linear even by J-RPG standards. FF13 is so linear, it makes FFX look like Oblivion by comparison.

You know how people say in J-RPGs, you're essentially walking a straight line from beginning to end? Usually, they mean it metaphorically. But in FF13, you're literally walking a straight line from beginning to end.

The game consists entirely of dungeon crawling. No exploration. No side quests. No towns to interact with (not in the traditional RPG sense of "town", anyway). It's just dungeon crawling. And the dungeons themselves are linear. They are straight line paths from beginning to end, the only branches being obvious alcoves with items for you to grab. Those don't count as branches anyway.

To be fair, this gets better at around the 30 hour mark. You get to a region that you can actually explore. You get some side quests to do.

Alas, the region is full of monsters that are way too powerful for you to handle until the end of the game. (And because of the way the Crystarium is structured, you *can't* become powerful enough to handle them until the end of the game.) And all of the side quests are monster hunts, which this particular gamer finds particularly boring. And still no towns.

But my biggest gripe is that the dungeons are just too long and drawn out. In general, I don't have a problem with long dungeons. But having long dungeons at the expense of an already slow story, making me crawl through a seemingly endless dungeon when I'm already waiting for something to happen, is just asking for complete and utter boredom. And it takes *hours* to crawl through these dungeons. There's no good reason for a dungeon crawl to take that long.

It's a common problem among modern games. Game designers try drag out their games to take as long as possible, focusing on hour counts instead of actual entertainment. (It doesn't help that many vocal game critics cite low hour counts as a flaw for some games.) And since FF13's game designers realized they didn't have enough story to fill out a 60 hour game, they compensated by making the dungeons drag on forever.

Older games don't seem to have this problem. If FF13 had been made in 1991, it would have been less than 20 hours long and *still* would have had all the same content. And I wouldn't have complained.


FF13 bored me to tears. About halfway through, I started looking forward to the end of the game, hoping beyond hope that the game would be over soon. Not because I wanted to know how the story ended but because I wanted FF13 to finally be over so I could do something I actually enjoyed. (Like write a review that thoroughly trashes every aspect of FF13.)

Only my promise to finish the game kept me going. Because really, none of you FF fanboys would accept my review of FF13 as a bad game unless I had actually finished the game.

That, and I didn't want to break my streak of having finished every numbered single-player Final Fantasy game. (It was the same reason I went back and finished FF8.)

Let me make this perfectly clear: FF13 is a bad game. And I don't just mean "bad for a FF game". I mean BAD. The music is bland, the combat is uninteresting, the character growth system is a failure, the story is too slow, and the dungeons are too long. (And my spoon is too big.) The game is terrible in pretty much every way by any reasonable standard for games in general.

Still, FF13 was merely boring. It could be worse. At least they didn't make me actively hate the game. At least they didn't make it a grindfest. At least they didn't make the computer opponent cheat. (Oh wait, the final boss cheats, what with him having a skill that can randomly and instantly kill your entire party without warning.)
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Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3
Final Fantasy XIII - Playstation 3 by Square Enix (PlayStation 3)
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