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3/29/2011

REVIEW: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)



Final Fantasy XIII is the last entry in the series made by the famous Publisher Square-Enix.  In this occasion, the game takes place in a huge fantasy planet called Pulse, inside it, there’s a utopia floating in the sky called Cocoon, where most of the important things in the story take place. In this universe, there are some demigod beings called the “Fal’cie” who live alongside humans in a time of peace. Eventually, a hostile Fal’cie from Pulse (the world below Cocoon) makes it into the city and infiltrates the organization ruling Cocoon, named “Sanctum”.

Being a Fal’cie, the creature has the power to grant magical abilities to humans to use them as tools for its own purposes, these magical humans are called “L’cie” and Sanctum sees them as carriers of a contagious disease that threatens the very existence of Cocoon. For this reason, the organization decides to realize mass executions of L’cie subjects called “Purges” using its gigantic military power to avoid the disease or curse to get into the city.

Along the inhabitants about to be murdered are a young girl called Serah and a little boy called Dahj. To save them, Serah’s sister, only known as “Lighting” and Dahj’s father named Sazh infiltrate the trains where the L’cie where being moved to have easy access to them. At the same time, a rebel group lead by Serah’s boyfriend named “Snow” takes arms and fight Sanctum to stop the mass-executions.

Visually speaking, the game is simply spectacular. Every location has very rich texture quality, anti-aliasing, frames per second, etc. As commonly seen in Japanese RPGs, the atmosphere is very varied, using natural surroundings like mountains, caves, mines, plains and different city locations which, unlike other entries in the series, are very modern in FFXIII, like the ones you would see in a sci-fi or cyberpunk setting. The characters come to life in an excellent way because they are full of movements, actions and reactions which avoid falling into the typical infinite animations some RPGs have (like Tales).

The Gameplay is completely fresh and easy-to-get-into, which makes the game very accessible to fans used to the genre as well as new-comers. Like in the vast majority of RPGs, outside battle, you will control the character you’re using as party leader. You can interact with NPCs, switches, chests and other objects with the “X” button. Sometimes, the characters will have to jump around several parts of the map you’re currently visiting; this makes the player pay attention to any location where the party members could go by jumping. Unlike many games in the genre, and particularly in the series, FFXIII lets you see the enemies before starting a battle with them. Avoiding the (in) famous “random encounters”. You can see all the mobs so the typical case where you touch one enemy and five of them appear in battle will never happen.

Inside battle, you will take control exclusively of the party leader, while the other two members will be handled by the game’s AI. The most important task in the battles (besides defeating the enemies, of course) is to fill up a bar called the “Stagger Bar” that every enemy has and acts as a damage multiplier. Its base is always 100% and you can fill it up until 999% by damaging the enemies so every hit would deal ten times the damage it would normally do. To successfully fill the bar, you need to attack the enemies in several different ways like physical, magic spells and status changes (like poison, sleep, etc). Every time you hit an enemy, the stagger bar fills up a bit, but it will slowly return to normal, forcing the player to create an effective strategy to play both offensively and defensively at the same time.

Like in many other games in the series, Final Fantasy XIII uses a “job” system where the characters have access to six different classes like Commando,  an equivalent of the Warrior, the Ravager (Black Mage) or Medic (White Mage), among others. To use these jobs the game offers you have to equip them in sets of three (one for each member). These sets of jobs are called “Paradigms” in the game, and you have the option to easily switch them inside battles. Example: You can use a paradigm with one commando and two ravagers to play completely offensively and if you feel in danger, you can switch to another paradigm with two medics and a ravager to balance the play style to your advantage. So, even if you only have control of the party leader inside battles, the excellent paradigm system provides with nearly unlimited options to create effective strategies to emerge victorious in the battles, especially in the boss fights which can be really hard.

In terms of soundtrack, it is definitely one of the strongest points in the game. The OST is really spectacular and follows on the steps of the great Nobuo Uematsu, who created the music for the vast majority of the previous entries in the series. Every song fits perfectly with what’s happening in the game, none of the themes become annoying if you have to listen to it for a long time (if you get stuck in a dungeon, for example). The voice acting is also very good. None of the characters feel like they have voices that don’t fit or are forced. The sound effects are also top quality. Every object in the game emits a sound. From the character’s steps, background conversations, rivers, wind to the machines and the beast’s roars.

Besides the excellent story, the game offers tons of sidequests around the entire world filled with great rewards for finishing them like weapons, stat boosts, armor and even the opportunity to ride a Chocobo. Doing everything the game offers will take around a hundred hours to complete if you have experience in the genre. FFXIII is definitely one of the best JRPGs in this gaming generation for its top quality in every aspect and though it’s not superior to other entries in the series like VI, VII or X, it deserves a lot of respect and should not be missed by any kind of gamer. 100% recommended.


Pros:


     - Excellent narrative that makes an amazing and interesting world come to life
     - The battle system, while simple, provides tons of options to created effective strategies in-battle
     - Great cast of characters and environments


Cons: 


    - Some of the dungeon maps are literally a straight line and are not worth explorating
    - Several of the story elements (like Vanille's voice and Hope's whining) can get into the player's nerves


Graphics and Visual Effects……..….10
Music and Sound Effects…………...10
Gameplay…………………….…….8
Replay Value………………….……9
      SCORE TOTAL……………………9.25/10

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