Brief Impressions of Final Fantasy XIII

I’m only about five or six hours into the game, but it has been fun overall. My Japanese is terrible so there won’t be any spoilers here. I’m barely following the story as it is.

Graphically,

  • It’s obvious Square-Enix focused primarily on the faces and the facial expressions and they’re pretty impressive (compared to the PS2 generation anyhow). Unfortunately, this means less detail for everything else. Lightning and Vanille are both pretty thin and when they bend their elbows or do anything at all with their shoulders, these joints become very sharp and pointy. The rest of the game looks great, but these things stick out as a sore thumb.
  • So very shiny. For all the focus on realism, I don’t understand why everyone has to look like plastic dolls. We’re not quite talking Star Ocean 4 level of the “uncanny valley,” but it’s a shame nonetheless.
  • Up close, the detail is impressive. I like minor touches like the thread texture of the characters’ clothes. And someone at SE must be obsessed with hair.
  • I’m glad Nomura has been reined in somewhat. I’ll probably never be a fan of his, but FFX (and thus FFX-2) characters looked ridiculous.

Aurally,

  • The music hasn’t been catchy, but this is neither a good nor a bad thing. With the limitations of the SNES, old FF games necessarily had simple but catchy tunes. Uematsu never being classically trained probably had something to do with it too. Newer games in the series, however, are trying to emulate movie scores more and more. Taking FF12, for example, I can’t really hum any melody from it off the top of my head, but I feel like it’s one of the stronger FF soundtracks. With that said, however, FF13’s soundtrack has been unremarkable so far. The boss theme, particularly, is just missing oomph.
  • I think the voice acting has been decent, but I can’t understand half of what they’re saying so take that with a grain of salt.

Gameplay-wise,

  • Ah, what would be a Final Fantasy game without linearity? Personally, I think this criticism is overblown. “Game of the Year” Uncharted 2 is as linear as they come, but no one complained. To be honest, they aren’t structually that different. They play differently, yes, but in terms of story progression, it’s the same: walk a couple steps, see/kill bad guys, watch cutscene, repeat.
  • People will say that FF13 is supposed to be an RPG, as if that means something. That’s just griping on what you think a Final Fantasy game should be, rather than what it is or has become. The traditional RPG in the FF series died a long time ago. Ever since FF4, I felt, the series has been nothing more than an interactive movie. As an interactive movie, the FF series has done its job.
  • No MP whatsoever and I don’t care. People think this makes FF13 a “casual” or “streamlined” game, but again, what does this truly mean? Is a game more fun when I have to fumble around in menus to find some MP restorative item? A video game is about interactivity, and I think this was the right choice by SE. There is nothing interactive about staring at a row of numbers and maintaining them (trust me, I played a red mage in FFXI and it was no fun). Sure, you still have to maintain such things as HP in FF13, but it’s no different than say an FPS in this case. I just don’t feel the lack of MP being any valid criticism.
  • I’ve heard that there aren’t any towns to visit as one might find in other RPGs. I stopped bothering to talk to most NPCs a long time ago, so I don’t really think I’ll lament this change. It’s just funny to me: most people complain about the trope in RPGs where heroes randomly ransack the homes of villagers, but take it away and people complain.
  • I think one major criticism you can make is that the game is just so easy. I can barely understand all the tutorials the game throws at you, but I still haven’t had any problems whatsoever so far. The problem is that the game doesn’t really think big enough. We have a combo system, but it goes to waste because you can’t really do anything at lower levels. I can only queue up three attacks at any given time and I only have three moves (as Lightning). As a result, all possible “combos” have been exhausted and they ultimately mean little in terms of strategy. I don’t understand why RPGs don’t just give you the whole pantry to start, i.e. why can’t I just do 20 hit combos using ten different abilities from the get-go? The start of the game would be a whole lot more fun than mashing attack, AOE attack and ranged attack over and over. I suspect “purists” would complain, however, if all abilities were unlocked from the start (“BUT WHERE’S THE CHARACTER PROGRESSION!”).
  • On a minor note, the camera during exploration is horrible. I fight it more than anything else in this game.

Is the story any good? I’m afraid I’ll have to wait till March to say anything substantial about it.

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4 Replies to “Brief Impressions of Final Fantasy XIII”

  1. No, clearly the #1 problem/critique is whether or not there’s any girl hot enough and distinct enough to carry on in hentai. FF7 had Tifa, FF8 kinda bombed with Rinoa, FF9 was for Lolis, FF10 had Yuna and Rikku (TWO) as with FFX2, FF11….whatever, FF12 had Princess and Bunny but still no match for FF10/X2.

    Now with 13, we have female Cloud, and some other hot chicks that somehow lack distinction at the moment. Of course this is really unfair to judge right NOW, but I’m just bringing it up cause you seemed a bit too serious.

  2. This is always going to be one of them game the new generation will hate just for the sake of hating, and probably are just lame excuses used to wallpaper over their hatred of the fact that there’s a 360 version of it. The fact remains: as Bioware said earlier in the week, they’re not entitled to tailor their games around what the fans want, it’s up to them to look past their expectations and see the game for what it is instead of what it isn’t, and people these days just aren’t prepared to do that.

    I’m still getting it day 1 here in Europe regardless of the shit people say to make it sound bad. I’m a fan of the series, but I won’t be judging a book based on other people’s interpretations of its cover. I’ll make my mind up only when I play it myself.

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