Cocoon..... A city of wonderment and beauty. Kept safe from the world of Pulse below, the Sanctum Fal'Cie created peace and prosperity for all. It was believed that it would last for ever. The tranquility of Cocoon was shattered by the awakening of a Pulse Fal'Cie. Everything suddenly changed, and the lives of six complete strangers was changed for ever. They were turned into L'Cie, servants of the Fal'Cie, and given a focus in which they had to complete. It was not a matter of can or can't, it was a thing that just needed to be done. Within a mere thirteen days of fates being intertwined, the battle was begun.
After the fantastic epic of Final Fantasy XII, everyone could not wait to get their hands on XIII. The hype for the game was beyond anything seen since Final Fantasy VIII in 1999. But unlike VIII, more than a few people felt let down. Final Fantasy XIII was a good title, but it just seemed like it was not quite up to the legacy that is Final Fantasy.
On the good side, you have perhaps the greatest show of graphics seen in a RPG title. Both in game and CG cutscenes are magnificent. If it is attention to the details you want, you will get them with abundance in XIII. There is little to nothing in the game that doesn't just make you say wow. The backgrounds are impressive, the areas you travel through, all the way down to the movement of every single character, enemy, and plant. Within this aspect, I think the game just towers over the rest of the titles. There is perhaps too much detail...but who would not like too much detail?
Graphically the characters are beautiful, and full of detail. Even the mouth movement and expressions are beyond any other title. That being said though, there is little to no depth in them at all. Testuya Nomura has continued down the road of rehashing each and every cliched character from the past. We've seen much of this before: Snow (Zell), Lightning (whom Nomura was actually told to design as a "female Cloud"), Vanilla (Rikku) and Fang (Paine). The only new character designs were just as horrible...Hope and Sazh. Hope is a pathetic little wannabe who goes through the usual tween emo to adult in less than an hour. The situations that throw him into the game should make us feel sorry for him, but you just get annoyed with him. And Sazh annoyed me perhaps the most particularly; he is a horribly stereotyped character of African descent, even down to the idea of something stuck in his "must have 70's" huge afro (in this case a Chicabo rather than a pick). The more than blatant flirting he does with Vanille which hits on the "must have white girl" steriotype, and the scoring of the music played when he is the party leader in the first portions of the game. At some point in time, I wish that Japan would wize up to the fact that these steriotypes are just not funny. Japan did, as the majority of anyone over 40 would tell you, made a omage to the late King of Pop from the Jackson 5 in the form of Sazh's son Dajh. This can actually be taken as a true tribute rather than a steriotype, because Michael Jackson's fan base inside of japan.
And that would bring up another slump...voice acting. Though there was some descent voices, such as Fang and Lightning, The others were not so great. Vanille had a voice that was just down right annoying after the first five minutes or so. There is perky, and then there is Vanille. She is just so much over the top, most will want to turn the sound off while she is present. And Snows voice had almost no emotion change at all, even when it was supposed to. All you hear is how he is going to protect Cocoon, protect his family, portect his friends, protect the rain forest...kidding. But seriously all he does is say he is going to protect, and it has about as much emotional impact as the words I am typing.
Story wise, the game is of Final Fantasy fare...shortened, chopped up, and put through the blender. Perhaps the biggest draw back is the beginning. You are thrown right into the middle of the action, thus barring any time for development, back story or fleshing characters out. The slow brewing of story found in early titles is just gone. We have now got the microwave story equivilent. And it is sad to see. And in all reality it is nothing new or fresh either. The typical group saving the world from the controling Fal'Cie. Do they save themselves or everyone? With the story found from VII, VIII, X, and XII, I thought this one would have been just awesome. I was completely wrong. Good story? Yeah, but not up to the grand story telling Final fantasy is known for.
And then there is the battle system....oh boy. Some good points, some bad. The good definitely has to be the fast pace. Being a lover of the quick battles found within Final Fantasy X-2, this was even faster. Love that edge of the seat feel, where everything is a blur of moves, and you are bent on beating the enemy. The clock is ticking and you do not know if you are going to make it......
and then you get XIII, and wow. Not since Mystic Quest has it been so easy to fight. Basically you press X, repeat, and win. If you die, you can hit retry, which also gives you a few seconds to get away from the enemy....kind of like the save anywhere feature of Mystic Quest. Speaking of, there are plenty of save points. Too many actually. There are several times throughout the game, where if you sivel the camera from the save you are at, you can see the one before it and after it. Just drug the entire challenge of the game down to nothing basically.
I had hoped that the job system called roles would add the fun of V and X-2 into the frey, but sadly this time around, there was nothing really fun about it. There are a total of six different roles for your characters to choose from. There is a catch though. You only get to use up to three, called primary roles, until about midway through the game. These roles are expanded by gaining CP (Crystarium Points) after battles, and unlocking crystals in the roles Crystarium. Much like the Sphere Grid of X, but crappier. You are limited in the expansion, until you pass certain points in the game, thus you cannot level grind very much. Also your secondary roles cost almost double the CP of the primary roles, making it very difficult to properly expand them once you get them. And as for the roles in battle....well, once a Synergist gives all the buffs he has available to him/her, the character just sits there. Same with the healer, and Saboteur. Thus you are limited to fighting with the Commando's and Ravagers. Would it have been too very difficult to add the Attack command in every role???
The old familiar, or not so familiar in appearance, summons make their return in Final Fantasy XIII, as well as a few new ones. Everyone I am sure was thinking "Oh yeah! Bahamut has return to tear enemies apart!" Well, not really. You can use your Eidolon as long as you have 3 TP (Tech Points). You gain a small amount of TP after each battle. Basically, like older FF titles, you can use them once in battle, but unlike the others, you can only use them once in battle with several battles in between before the next use. Of course there are VERY, VERY rare items to fully charge the TP gauge, as well as accessories that help give you more, but you will still have several fights between use. And as far as summons go, XIII has the most useless ones. I have maybe seen two times where my summons have killed any of the enemies on the field. Thus their lack of any power what so ever makes it seem trite to even bother getting the TP to use them. Especially when the TP can be used elsewhere.
Music in FFXIII is beautiful. Some reminiscent scoring from older titles for the nestalgia as well as some of the most beautiful scoring in rescent games. But unless you have a surround with the volume up, you miss the majority of it. It almost feels like the musical score is playing in the background on an elevator. Speaking parts both in the main characters as well as the NPC characters is difficult to hear. Why would you make such astoundingly beautiful music, if you are going to make it this difficult to hear? and for the first time since perhaps the SNES days, there is no way to adjust it period. A flat out dissapointment for people like me who look forward to the music in the game.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIII is a nice try at something new...but it just was not there. I was sadly dissapointed with the game, and made more so after playing Final Fantasy XII again after. Perhaps they will achieve a greater game with Versus XIII in the near future. But this one should really be the spin off title, rather than the main one. It has a lot of great effort, and some outstanding quality. But the lacking of what makes a great RPG as well as a great Final Fantasy is enough to make you dissapointed.