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Final Fantasy XIII (PlayStation 3) artwork

Final Fantasy XIII (PlayStation 3) review

"If I were to base my opinion of Final Fantasy XIII solely on the reviews of others, I never would have played it. Like many, Iíve been a fan of the series since FF VII, played every installment, and come to appreciate certain ideasóthose of which are now missing, shifted or minuscule. "

If I were to base my opinion of Final Fantasy XIII solely on the reviews of others, I never would have played it. Like many, Iíve been a fan of the series since FF VII, played every installment, and come to appreciate certain ideas--those of which are now missing, shifted or minuscule.

Side-quests are few and far between, the ability to speak to NPCs and free-roam is gone, and the once powerful monsters a player could summon have turned into bizarre machine-like entities that morph into vehicles.

Iím not going to lie: Everything youíve probably heard about the game is true.

I imagine that many will frown on such, cast FF XIII as a mistake, and pass on it completely. I was almost one of those people. Yet dismissing this--considering only the negative aspects--would have been a grave error. Restructured or not, Final Fantasy XIII is phenomenal, because it still holds many of the things that made the series legendary in the first place.

No one capitalizes on the visual aspect quite like Square, and in FF XIII itís demonstrated in its usual, epic fashion. Cities are vibrant, pulsing futuristic worlds where airships litter the sky, and the land surrounding them an endless scope of rolling hills and massive mountains. Characters have their own unique style, extravagant hairstyles and striking outfits--as weíve come to know--and each is rendered flawlessly, making this perhaps one of the most defined, and best looking games in existence.

And that only lends itself to help Square tell their story, one that--although altered--is as captivating and engaging as any that came before it. No longer is the presence of good and evil so blatant; the sides of right and wrong defined.

Final Fantasy XIII takes place in Cocoon, a land inhabited and controlled by powerful entities called Falícies. Most watch over the humans, and maintain everything from the weather to distributing food. But not all of these god-like beings are compassionate, and below the surface, hidden amongst the people and their cities are the Pulse Falície--deities with questionable motives, that taint--perhaps even possess--anyone who draws near, imbuing them with a task, known as a ďFocusĒ, that requires completion--no matter what it may be.

Because of this, as well as the infection many face, Pulse Falície and the humans theyíve chosen are sworn enemies of Cocoon--hunted, exiled and even killed if they bear the mark. When the game begins, introductions are made to six seemingly ordinary people who have their lives ripped away after this infection takes hold, and spirals from there.

What unfolds is a story unlike any other Iíve seen in a Final Fantasy game, It draws you in almost immediately, and blurs the line between prototypical protagonist/antagonist from the start. They are as frightened and unassuming of their fate as you are, and you canít help but attach to them, and try to determine who the enemy really is. Some feel despondence or even hatred for being selected as a Lície; others only apathy. Some members even despise those on their own team, but the fear from normal society, and the intense hunt from the army builds a bond between them--one based on survival and desperation--regardless of their own emotions. And as they tread further, they discover flaws in the logic of both their own beliefs and those of their culture. Little is known of the Pulse Falície, but the doubt on whether theyíre truly a plague begins to surface, growing stronger with every chapter. Itís there the game touches on very real life issues, like propaganda and what happens when we allow ourselves to be dictated by a higher power, rather than face the fear of living our own lives.

True, most of this is not self-discovery, and the game--being so linear--leads you where it wants you to go. With that structure, random encounters were eliminated--replaced by specifically placed enemies to hinder your progress and further the story. Itís a style more common with action games than RPGs, however itís the battle-system that defines Final Fantasy, and keeps it true to the genre.

Like Shining Force Neo or EXA, you battle with a team, but your control over them is fairly limited. You simply make choices for your leader and the other members are dictated by A.I. But rather than a list of attacks they use at random, they have styles with different attributes and techniques. A Saboteur can use poison, and assault an enemyís stats. A Synergist can increase yours. Sentinels have high defense and can draw enemy attacks from weaker members. Commandos are relentless brawlers. Based on which style you choose, your teammates will act accordingly.

Though battles are focused and use a much faster pace, Final Fantasy still requires that you use strategy to win as opposed to constantly mashing one button.

Styles can be customized to pre-set combinations known as Paradigms. Facing light enemies, a team with two or three Commandos can be used to chain attacks together and blaze through the fight. When encountering a boss, you can draw their attack with the Sentinel class, while your Synergists boost your overall stats.

Youíre given the capability to switch back and forth at any time, and your success depends on your ability to read each situation and make choices accordingly.

Itís addictive, and a definite change from previous installments, all the while a vast improvement to games that forced you to scroll through countless menus, and then choose a single ability for three or four characters.

And itís the battle system that defines Final Fantasy XIII in general.

Itís change.

It eliminated some elements that elevated the series, but in my opinion were bordering on stagnant even before this. Hard-core fans--at least a portion--are bound to see this in a negative light. But if Iíve learned one thing about the industry itís that it requires amendments--and must be bold in its endeavor--or risk something far worse than a few kinks.

They are minimal, once you get used to them. Final Fantasy XIII still stands as one of the best games this year. Yes, itís different but in the best way possible--designed for the new generation and the constantly shifting genre. Itís a brave, brilliant step forward into the future. One that will--in time--make history.



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Community review by Nightmare (May 11, 2010)

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