Bemoaning the fact that I haven’t gotten around to playing the damn game, I asked two friends who are halfway through with Final Fantasy XIII to weigh in on the game’s pros and cons.
Besides that, I also asked Aku and G and to compare Squeenix’s latest FF with their favorite Final Fantasy games from years gone by. This is what the boys came up with:
G (World 3 / FF VI fan)
Final Fantasy XIII? Sure, I like it. Square Enix’s latest flagship title played better than I expected thanks to its surprisingly fun (yet challenging) battle mechanics and gorgeous presentation. And this is coming from an old-school fan who had doubts since SE decided to ditch the classic fantasy-epic feel of Final Fantasy XII in favor of a more Anime-style mainstream approach.
To be frank; I wasn’t crazy about FFXIII when it was first announced back in 2006. I like my Final Fantasies to be more steampunk/fantasy and less science fiction thank you. Let’s not ignore also the mixed reviews it received when the Japanese version came out (exclusively for the PS3) last December 2009. So yes, my expectations were just above average and yet I really wasn’t intending on skipping it because hey– it’s still Final Fantasy and I love the franchise.
Overall, as I have hinted earlier, it’s a solid game and I highly recommend it to Japanese RPG fans. Sure, the game “opens” up REALLY late in the game– in which I like to dub it a “25 hour tutorial”–but the story is fortunately interesting and has kept me playing despite its semi-tedious shortcomings.
In fact if there’s one strong point of FFXIII that I keep raving on, it’s the characterization. Similar to my favorite Final Fantasy (FFVI), FFXIII doesn’t have a lead protagonist ala Cloud Strife or Squall Leonhart. Nope, the story revolves around all the characters making them feel all balanced and important as if they are all leading protagonists. I haven’t seen such effective storytelling like this in a Final Fantasy game in a while, and to me? That’s a major plus. Especially when it’s echoing my favorite entry in the series.
Final Fantasy XIII is not even in my personal top 5 favorite Final Fantasies, believe it or not. But it’s definitely my favorite modern, Anime-like FF title since Final Fantasy VII.
Akutenshi13 (akutenshi13.com / FF IX, XII, XIII fan)
Personally I like what Square Enix did on this title. I didn’t really have high expectations with this game, since I pretty much think the FF series tend to feel the same regarding the gameplay and story (with the exception of 12 and 13, being the more adventurous ones).
It’s a given that this game will have better graphics over the previous ones given the capabilites of the new consoles and technical developments. I love the rich environments, lighting effects and highly detailed in-game character models and textures. As for the character designs, there isn’t really anything new to me since Tetsuya Nomura’s designs elements tend to look the same. I like the look and idea of the transforming Eidolons/summon creatures though. They have a bit of steam-punkish feel crossed with futuristic design elements.
I think the paradigm shift feature they introduced in this game is a nice break from the old combat system (except for FF12’s gambit system which pretty much can “play” the game for you). You can opt to choose which actions to take when using your atb/action points so it still feels like the old FF system or just let the a.i. decide for you when you feel on focusing on managing which paradigm to use in certain situations. I like the idea that you are given a choice to build your character by his/her predetermined job class/es or change it entirely to whatever you like.
I also like the story. So far I think this has the best story from all the FF games I played (7, 8, a bit of 9, 10, X-2, 12). They are still using the same formula tho; the world is in danger, they band together to stop it, you get to choose typecast-ed characters(the lone wolf, the strong one, the perky one, etc.) with typical job classes (summoner, warrior, mage, etc). The good thing about it this time is that it focuses more on the main story, and less of the hero’s/party’s love interest and emotional dilemmas, which makes it a lot easier to follow. That or they really have good voice acting this time around to make it feel the story is better.
All-in-all I think it is a nice effort that Square Enix made a game that could cater to the old timers, casual gamers, and new players that aren’t too familiar with the franchise. Most fans would probably disagree with me, and maybe that is why I enjoyed it a lot better than they did. I already had my fix on games with multiple choices that affects the story (i.e. Heavy Rain, Dragon Age) or games that let you explore dungeons and towns (Dragon Age) so this is probably why I liked the new Final Fantasy. I can have a break from all the traditional rpg elements and just enjoy the story, the great graphics and the new summon creatures, which by the way are the very reasons why I buy Final Fantasy titles.