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on December 28, 2011
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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on April 12, 2010
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.

Linearity:

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.

Graphics/Music:

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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on January 27, 2014
I love this game! I know some/many people were not a fan of its overly linearity; however, that was for the first 10 or so hours of the game. At the early stages, it made sense- leading you through the sprawling environment as the story progressed. It was not a detriment to the game.

Graphics- Beautiful rendition of the world(s) you traverse. Each section had its own feel to it, a natural extension of the game world. Each environment was well-constructed. Caves were made to show the sheer depth and unknown, large expanses made it feel as if you were travelling though the wild, lost, ruined cities were created to give that exact emotion as you transverse through it.

Music- Very beautiful musical compositions. I still listen to the song "Dust to Dust". Such a sweet, sad, melancholy melody that goes perfect with the environment(s) it is played in. The music is seamless, drawing you further into the game.

Gameplay- You won't be finishing this game in a rush. 70+ hours to beat the game, far more for 100% completion (missions, weapons). You control three characters, later on to be decided by you. Battles are seamless- you transition from the overworld to a battle with minimal transition and no loss in graphics. Battles are fast-paced. You have paradigms, or battle postures which you can switch to better efficiently defeat your enemies (melee, magic, defense, heal, debuff, buff).

Characters are limited in what they can be customized to. You can choose their weapon, and accessories, but that is it.

Overall, a lovely RPG. I would like to note that this is my second FF game I have played. I played and completed FFI (orginal NES version) and just started getting into FF. I've played many other RPGs and JRPGs (Elder Scrolls 3-5, Legend of Legaia, Chrono Trigger, Man's series, KotOR 1&2, ect).
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on March 9, 2010
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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on January 24, 2015
I knew that people hated this game, some loved it, so when I got my PS3 for Christmas this year, I took a gamble on this controversial game. I plan to play every FF game, so I decided to start with this to get it out of the way...and I can't see why people hate this. Yes, it's linear, and there's NO exploration or towns, or NPC's to speak with, but FF13 was a different FF game. It was trying to break it's old system-much like how us Pokemon fans hope that one day, it might take a chance and do something different. I heard from all my friends, and forums that they wanted FF to change and take a risk, and it DID. Except it wasn't met with that enthusiasm that the developers had hoped for. Just say FF13 and gamers scream in rage.

I think the problem is because dedicated fans didn't expect the game to be so limited. And if I had been playing this series and been a fan long enough to care this much, yes, I probably would be a little upset. But not enraged. Because really, what most people are starting to finally admit, is that this game wasn't as bad as the fandom made it out to be. See, there it is. The fandom. I understand nostalgia, and wanting new awesome things, but there's no need to bash this game. Here is why I enjoyed this so much, and am continuing to check out the rest of the franchise:

Graphics: Ask anyone, and they will tell you that FF13 is absolutely GORGEOUS, STUNNING, etc. Truly, a masterpiece in this aspect. Even for someone like me who doesn't know too much about graphics and game mechanics can instantly tell that this game has some of the BEST graphics on the PS3.

Battle System: Paradigms. Wow. These things are really confusing at first. And to those who insist that there is no strategy in this game, I beg to ask how you could say that. Since this is the only FF game I have played, I won't be comparing this to anything. You have roles that each character can level up in. Some are Commado, Synergist, Ravager. What people say is that there's no strategy involved because the game chooses the best roles and attacks against foes. Yes, BUT you make those decisions too. It gets difficult trying to space out your roles and changing them to win the battle, and lots of thought and consideration must be made to win, and to leveling up the best role for each party member. Weapon customization doesn't really happen until late in the game. DON'T SELL ANY OF YOUR ITEMS!!!!! You need these to upgrade. Keep everything. Look up guides for weapons later in the game.

Linearity: Yes, linearity. Apparently such nonsense didn't exist in other FF games. Maybe, not too sure, but this is what most people raged about. But so what? That's what the game wanted. Yeah it sucks that you can't do anything else. But the graphics, sound and story entertained me enough to go on. Please, try to overlook this part if your'e a FF fan.

Soundtrack: Do I need to explain how AMAZING this is??

Story/Characters: Yes, this has a story. Many fans instantly will say how convoluted and dull and confusing and cliche it is...and yes, they are right to an extent. I generally hate bad storytelling, ESPECIALLY if a game is trying to make it a huge part. BUT, I really enjoyed FF13's story!!! If you ever get confused, the game keeps a record of what has happened to refresh your memory. You can go look up the plot online too, but don't read too far ahead. I got spoiled. Lightning, people say, was too tough and had very little emotion in her. I have to say no. She is a SOLDIER burdened with guilt, sadness, and RAGE. She is one mad woman, and throughout the game, we see snippets of her past to justify her cold exterior. Snow and Lightning's sister have a touching story that really makes Snow stand out as a great character, and when he gets caught up in the life of Hope, I really became invested. Lots of people hate on Hope. Why? He is a BOY who went through something terrible, and is doing his best to control that grief. I rooted for him, and found him and Lightning to share a mother-son bond. (I don't see them as a pairing some people insist they are. Lightning is like a mother to him!!!!) Then we have the super optimistic cute girl Vanille, whose voice might annoy some, but I found endearing, and Sazh, who also has a pretty neat story.

Despite how people hate on FF13 and it's story and characters I cannot say that I agree. It really is a good game, if you can smother your intense love for the other FF games and keep an open mind. Sure it is not the best game on the system, and most likely not the best FF game (since I am now going to play the others) but I highly enjoyed it and really believe it deserves a chance. Too much hate already exists in this world. Why should this happen in the gaming world too? Give FF13 a chance: it's pretty cheap now, the graphics are great, and it just might surprise you! I know for a fact that a lot of fans of the franchise do appreciate this game, even if they don't regard it in the same light as FF 7 or FF 10.
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on August 17, 2015
Final Fantasy XIII gets far more hate than it deserves. The graphics are beautiful, the voice acting is great, and the story is good.
I recommend playing the game with the mini-map off for the majority of your play time. Taking that away from the screen opens the whole world up to your senses. You feel a lot less linear and find yourself using your brain more to move your character from point A to point B. There are so many small details and beautiful graphical effects to enjoy! The Soundtrack is a MASTERPIECE. (Thank you, Masashi Hamauzu!)

The characters in this game seem to be generally disliked, but if you take the time to sit down and really relate to these people....they're much more likeable than you'd think. I've seen people just hate them for their character flaws (Lightning is a stoic boring heartless character blegh, Hope is a whiny baby - get some balls) and I'm like....why are you judging them for their flaws and nothing else?
How about WHY they act that way? What are they dealing with in their personal lives right now? And do they change at all? What bonds are formed between these characters?

And the scenes where no words are used and there's only music and movement to tell a story?
Those scenes touch my heart so much.

Just you wait for a scene in PalumPolum involving Hope, Snow, and Lightning's Knife.
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on September 27, 2014
"Final Fantasy XIII" has terrific production values, a fun combat system, and an inexplicable story that I couldn't have cared less about by the end. The story starts out OK if not great, with the introduction of Lightning and Sazh traveling on board a train whose passengers are about to be purged from the planet. But as it goes along, you start to realize just how nonsensical and unmoving it all is. Previous games in the series did a better job with storytelling using text bubbles. The other downside is the severe lack of NPCs to interact with, towns to visit, and exploration in general. The world just doesn't feel as whole as it should. Most of the game is spent running forward down tight hallways, which isn't necessarily that much different than "FFX," but "X" didn't feel this monotonous, and also had a story worth caring about. It's not until Chapter 11 (out of 13) that you're given an open area to freely wander. That's after about 30-35 hours, and the side missions there are all `travel here to kill this creature'. What "FFXIII" does well, it does very well, with absolutely gorgeous visuals, an all-around excellent soundtrack, and an ever evolving combat system that keeps you much more engaged than usual as you're constantly shifting tactics during battle. You start out being forced to use certain characters at certain times, but eventually you can mix and match different characters and paradigms (party's current jobs) to suit your needs or the needs of the situation. There's also the sub-game of upgrading weapons and accessories, and in earning 5-Star rankings on all 65 side-missions. The combat and beautiful artistry of the world, like the vast ocean that crystallizes solid for you to travel across, make it worth experiencing.

--- 4 STARS ---
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on June 13, 2015
We're introduced to the world of Cocoon and Gran Pulse where the Fal 'Cie and La 'Cie are involved in the War of Transgression. From the trailers, I did not like this game. I found out later, it's because all of the promotional material does a bad job of introducing the story. The story is complex so it can be hard to simplify it. Once you play the game, and pay attention to what's going on then you can get it. This game is very linear, it can be hard to earn money, and upgrading weapons/levels; yet alot of things open up once you reach Chapter 11, so you must be patient - sorry if I just offered a spoiler. I know alot of critics say this is not a traditional RPG, and it should be done differently, yet because I have to work long hours, I really, really enjoyed the fact that I could play an RPG game and complete it quickly versus playing it for months or a year to beat the game with 100% completion.
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on May 10, 2014
I've been playing Final Fantasy since I was 11 years old, and it is hands down my absolute favorite game franchise ever. In the beginning, if a certain game system didn't have Final Fantasy in its game lineup, I wouldn't buy it...but after playing this unlucky 13th installment, that's no longer my attitude. The absence of Sakaguchi, the original creator of the series, is very much apparent in this game, even more so than the also-horrendous Final Fantasy 12.

Before I elaborate on what I dislike about this pathetic excuse for a game, let me lay out the few things I did like, even though these are more like common elements of the Final Fantasy games we've all come to know and love:

Music: Although Nobuo Uematsu had no hand in the scoring of this game, the music was impeccable. It was edgy, and a complete spin from how it audibly depicts a character or area. The music was one of the few things that wrang any positive emotion out of me while playing.

Graphics: Aesthetically the most attractive looking game released on PS3 and Xbox360, but being Final Fantasy, I would expect nothing less. It's colorful, there's dimension for days, it's clean, it's crisp, it's the future.

Battle System: It seems as though the new standard for fighting in this game, as precedented in FFX-2, is real time speed. The faster you choose a command, the faster it is executed and can overlap with previous and following actions, IE: ganging up and or constantly pummeling on enemies. I would almost consider this game's setup my favorite if it weren't for the paradigm system, but I'll get to that later.

Fang/Vanille: Say what you want about these two, but Fang and Vanille were the life of this game. Claire Feron might be on the cover of the game, but it was clearly not her story, it was theirs. Not only did these two women have the most entertaining personality and character development, they were often the ones indirectly explaining how to play the game and further understand the overall story. Fang is also hands down the strongest and most skilled character in battle, while Vanille kept me laughing the whole game with her kooky sayings and charisma, or me on the edge of my seat with her compelling story.

Linearity: Everyone and their mom complains about how constricted you are with moving from area to area, but I must say I liked that feature the most. Why, you ask? Because the FF nerd and completionist in me would want to explore everywhere and do everything I could to do better in the end....but with that eliminated, it made my suffering of having to play this game end alot sooner than later.

On to the cons of the this game:

Characters: Never in all the 15 years I have been playing Final Fantasy have I ever hated a group of six misfits more than I hated this bunch. Apart from Fang and Vanille, these people you have the misfortune of playing with are all bland and one dimensional with the most hideous costumes and hair I've ever seen in the series. Claire clearly wants to get a sex change and be Cloud....or Zack I should say, Hope is a crybaby, Snow is an egomaniac, and Sahz is a neglectful parent. Quite frankly, I would have been content if they all turned into Cieth stones.

Story: Switch out the sick and infected with people that have stupid objectives marked with tattoos, and put the government behind it...you have the story of Poveglia Island.

Gameplay: Was Quentin Tarantino asked to the direct this game? If he did, the 80% talking and cut scenes, 15% missions, and 5% leveling up makes that abundantly obvious.

Paradigms/Crystarium: There are six possible roles your characters might have, but they'll end up with three, and you might not like what you end up or even use it because it was predetermined what they would have before you even started the game. If that's not enough you have to level each of these roles to learn abilities, one which might take you well over an hour to do. Oh wait I forgot, you can't level up until nearly halfway into the game. Hang on! I'm not finished, did I mentioned you need crystarium points to earn those abilities? And you that you need several hundred of them to make an measurable progress? Or that you only get about 3-10 points per battle? Or that a little more than half way through, the required point amount doubles? You think that's it? What about the fact that if you don't have one certain ability for a boss battle, there is no way that you could win it? Or the fact that if you don't follow the suggested paradigm changes and frequencies...you won't win that way either? Did I also mention that when, more than halfway through, you can take on a fourth role?....But the potency of the abilities that you can learn is halved, but the crystarium point requirement is doubled? Is your brain mature enough for this?

Challenge: That's the problem, there is none. There is so much talking in this game, you do very little leveling up in this game. When you fight bosses, winning isn't determined by strength or strategy, but by following direction. I was able to single-handedly defeat the final boss with my weakest character because of one ability she had. And thinking back now....that's how I deleted all the other bosses. One.measly.ability.

Satisfaction: By the end of the game, I didn't feel good for beating the game, I was angry I wasted a week and $25 playing it.

I'm hoping Final Fantasy 15 will be better because I've all but lost my faith in this series. And I'm not paying money to play 14, hello, WoW or Skyrim anyone? Did anyone else forget the failure of FF 11?
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on October 20, 2014
Final Fantasy XIII (FFXIII) is my first adventure into the Final Fantasy (FF) franchise. I think I'm lucky in that aspect, as I don't have anything to compare it to. For me, this game is one of the few that manage to completely engross me and pull me in. But, it's not without flaws.

The Bad -
It is VERY linear. At the beginning, as you're getting a feel for game mechanic, it's nice. But, as the game progresses, some levels and maps can be pure grinds. The game literally drops you right into the middle of the plot during an event called the Purge with no explanation for lead up whatsoever. You're kind of left going...wait, did I miss something? Well, no...you didn't. There are HOURS of back plot for the game. To learn some of that prologue, you HAVE to read the Datalog. Character descriptions, back building, character dynamic are all most heavily explored though that area. If you don't read the Datalog, you'll spend most of the game vaguely befuddled and wondering if there is a point to all this. The story takes a good 15 hours or so to unfold, and if you get bored before that, you'll end up hating this game. I remember thinking, "This game has no freaking PLOT!"

The Good -
Actually, it does have a plot, and it's a brilliant one. The story is fabulous, and brought out in cut scenes of flashbacks and memories, beautifully rendered as only FF have a reputation for. There's as much lore in this single game as Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins would have. Once you get to Chapter 10, search out Final Fantasy XIII Episode Zero for even MORE backstory, detailing the events leading to the Purge. I wouldn't do this before Chapter 10, as it is has copious amounts of character spoilers.

Combat -
At the beginning, combat is very much a Monkey Presses a Button. Don't zone out too much, however. That changes rapidly enough. By the time you reach Chapter 4, your sole means of survival is the ability to rapidly switch between Paradigms to best rack up combo chains, heal, stagger, beat up, buff and debuff. You'll be glad for the auto attack feature in the end.

Voice Acting -
There's really nothing bad that can be said here. Lightning and Snow are both wonderfully acted by their American counterparts. Lightning is voiced by Ali Hillis, also known for her portrayal of Liara T'Soni in Mass Effect. Snow is voiced by Troy Baker, aka Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite and Joel, Last of Us. I once read that Hillis' acting in FFXIII rivals Jennifer Hale's in Mass Effect. They're right. She becomes as memorable a female protagonist as FemShep or Elizabeth Comstock.

Graphics and Music:
The graphics are beautiful, when the cutscenes start, you can forget that you're playing a game. The music can be haunting in places, but most of the time, it just serves as background.

Should you buy this? Well, yeah, I think so. If you've got the patience to watch the story unfold and come to life, then you'll love this game. If you don't, if you can't stand the linearity of say...Dragon Age: Origins, then give this one a pass or rent it somewhere. But...if you can go into this with an open mind...you can easily escape into it for hours to come.
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