So I got bored and started writing console game reviews again. I recently got Final Fantasy XIII-2 so I figured I might as well review both of them.
Final Fantasy XIII is the first installment of the series on the PS3. It differs a lot from the previous entries in the series and has become something that is rather polarized. It is one of those games that you either love or hate. Few people lie anywhere between. The story is extremely complicated unless you pay close attention. Much of it still does not make any sense to me.
The game technically starts about 2 weeks chronologically before the earliest cutscenes in the game. This is told through various flashbacks. If you want to know more about it, you have to read some guide only available in Japan for it. Each of the main characters are branded by a Pulse Fal'cie (mechanical gods created by the "Creator"). It is believed that Gran Pulse is a land of monsters and demons and their purpose is to destroy Cocoon. As a result, they are labeled criminals and are hunted by the people of Cocoon. When a person is branded by a Fal'cie, they become a L'cie and are given a focus. The focus is a mission that is given to a person by the Fal'Cie. Should they succeed, they become forever crystalized until they are called upon once more by divine intervention. If they fail, they turn into monsters. Their brand becomes their source of power allowing them to grow stronger and gives them access to magic in order to help them fulfill their focus.
The main characters are given a vision that serves as their focus. This vision shows the destruction of Cocoon and it is assumed that they will destroy it based on their interpretation of it. Along the way, they are hunted by various soldiers from Cocoon as they attempt to uncover more about their focus and what they need to do to prevent it from happening. The problem is that the story is broken up into the chapters and it constantly switches between characters on a different route.
The first 9 chapters (half) of the game is very restrictive. You are assigned 2 characters for pretty much every chapter and you have to work your way to chapter 10 before you gain your full party. This is fairly long and tedious, but it gives time to focus on each character's personal development. It would have been nice if you could choose the order and allow you to play through one character's story until they all meet up sort of like what was done in Suikoden 3.
Like Final Fantasy X, there are no levels in the game. Instead, you gain AP from battles and you can spend it on the Crystarium Grid. The Grid is divided into 6 separate sections. 3 are for your character's primary classes, and 3 for the secondary. The classes are Commando (damage), Ravager (magic/break), Medic (healer), Synthesizer (support), Saboteur (debuff), and Sentinel (defense) The primary classes can reach up to level 5 and provide most of the stats. The secondary classes do not provide as large of a stat boost and are much more expensive to upgrade. The path is fixed unlike the sphere grid and there are caps for each segment of the game to prevent you from grinding too much. New abilities are unlocked as you progress through the game and spend your AP. There is little grind until very late in the game.
Each character starts with 3 classes, which are considered their "primary" classes. They will get most of their stats from these classes and the AP cost is fairly low until you unlock the last level of it. Upon beginning chapter 11, you unlock everyone's secondary classes. You set classes in up to 6 potential Paradigm Shift, which is just a fancy way of saying job change. The Paradigm system basically acts as a job change system from old FF games. You can have up to 6 different Paradigms set and in battle, you can switch between the presets you made. You only control the main character and everyone else will act according to their Paradigms. Commandos focus on offense. Ravagers will spam spells in order to break the enemy. Medics will try to keep everyone above around 80% hp. Synthesizers will attempt to give everyone buffs. Saboteurs will try to debuff enemies and eventually poison them. Sentinels will provoke the enemy into attacking them and then put up a defense to tank.
Each character also has a limit break in one of their classes. It is not a limit break in the traditional sense, but with your ATB gauge filled, you can use a special attack that is unique to each character after you unlock it. There are special effects that go with each one as well such as screen blurring, zoom, or special camera focus on that character. They also have the potential for extremely high damage. To me, it is pretty much a limit break.
Something new in FF13 is the introduction of the break system which acts as a damage multiplier. Much of the game relies on this. Ravager or Saboteur classes are used to force the enemy into break status where the damage multiplier is in full effect and deal much more damage. Regular attacks deal fairly little damage, even in late game. In practically every battle, you will attempt to break your enemy before attacking them directly with Commando.
The main problem in the game is that there are a lack of side quests. There are pretty much only 2 side quests that you can do. The first one is to repair Vanille's robot and to walk around until you get enough steps to obtain the rewards. The second one is all of the monster hunts. All of the optional bosses appear through the monster hunts, but you have to do them in a certain order. The higher tier monster hunts don't appear until you do the lower tier ones. Everything else such as the Chocobo are basically tied into the monster hunts as well.
The second problem is that you can only control one character and if that character dies in battle, you instantly lose. This would not be a problem if enemies did not have instant death skills. Although it is by low chance, some enemies will cast instant death skills and if it gets you, it is an instant game over. Luckily, you can just pick continue and the game will move you back a few feet just before you fought the boss. It would have also been nice if we could manually move our characters around in battle, but we cannot.
The last major problem I found is that the late boss battles more or less shifts between an offensive phase and a defensive phase. During the offensive phase, you just let everything rip and blow the enemy to bits. After this, the boss tends to go a little crazy and you have to switch to defense and heal up and rebuff your team. You switch back once the boss is no longer in crazy mode. Most battles end up like this, but the extra optional bosses are pretty much them in crazy mode a majority of the time.
I definitely like the music in the game. The music feels appropriate for each situation with only a few situations that sounds like narm, mostly Hope's angst side story. Once you get past that, it is fine. Serah's theme is probably one of my favorites. The sound is a bit inconsistent at times though with some scenes that sound louder while others are a bit softer. It is not too much of a difference, but you do notice it.
FF13 is a pretty good RPG. It is different from old FF games, but it is by no means bad. For the most part, you have to like the new changes to the game to enjoy it. Those who feel that it is not the same as the old ones will definitely be disappointed. However, the series is trying new things and it does have the potential to shift into a very good action RPG similar to the Tales series if they did so. My favorite part was the Paradigm Shift because it brings us one step closer to a traditional job change system that I have missed from the old games. The last of it was in FFX-2. The story would have been better if you played with each group in order at once rather than letting the game guide you. It will take most people multiple playthroughs to get it.
6/10 - The game is okay, but end game content relies on a lot of grind and pretty much the same strategy over and over again.