Initial Impressions: Final Fantasy XIII

logoIt’s been a long time since I’ve played a brand-new Final Fantasy game. And I won’t lie: it feels really damn good.

It also feels very different. Final Fantasy XIII is a very focused, linear experience – more so than any game prior in the series. There is little to no exploration, and no towns. Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t pause long enough to let you smell the roses; it’s constantly moving forward.

The result is a very story-driven approach, and while I’m not far in, I can say that I’m more intrigued by the setting and characters than I thought I would be. The dialogue is occasionally awkward, and the voice acting ranges from good to subpar. I hate to follow the crowd, but I have to single out Vanille – she’s awful. She literally sounds like she’s having sex with everything, all the time.

But aside from her, most of Final Fantasy XIII’s characters will grow on you quickly. Sazh, in particular, is great – as long as you don’t take him seriously. Lightning is overly bitter at times, but she’s interesting and strangely likeable in spite of that. Snow comes off as obnoxiously overzealous at times, but his stake in the story is arguably greater than anyone elses’.

ffxiiiFinal Fantasy XIII’s battle system appears to be exceedingly oversimplified at first glance – but, it doesn’t take long for it to start showing promise. At a little over five hours, I can say that I’ve more than warmed up to this new system. It’s the one aspect of the game thus far that really does feel more “streamlined” than “watered down.” I don’t think I’ve seen all it has to offer yet, so I’ll refrain from saying more – but, at this point, I can say that I’m enjoying it.

As for the game’s new form of character progression, the “Crystarum,” the jury is still out. It really seems to be a somewhat watered-down version of the Sphere Grid, and not much else. But to be fair, I haven’t spent much time with it, so I won’t pass final judgement.

Final Fantasy XIII is, indeed, very linear. There’s no exploration to speak of, no towns, few NPCs – few conventions you find in the average JRPG. However, I’ll admit that so far, the linearity isn’t bothering me too much. I’m looking forward to the world opening up somewhat, but thus far I can appreciate the story-focused approach that Square Enix has opted for.

Oh, and for the record: the game looks absolutely gorgeous. Final Fantasy XIII proves that there are some decent 3D animators and texture designers in Japan. It’s without a doubt the best-looking JRPG of the generation. The character models are detailed and expressive, and the environments are crafted with stunning detail. As always, the art direction is incredibly inspired. Final Fantasy has long been notorious for its pretty graphics – and Final Fantasy XIII does not disappoint.

FFXIII-1And finally, it must be said that Final Fantasy XIII really does feel like a Final Fantasy game. It’s hard to put one’s finger on, but when you play it, hopefully,  you’ll understand what I mean. I’m not a nostalgic guy, for the most part, but when I play Final Fantasy XIII, it brings back memories. There’s a reason why I still call it one of my favorite series of all time

Ethos and I will be bringing you more Final Fantasy XIII thoughts and impressions as the week goes on. If you happen to be playing it yourself, let your own comments rip below. Just make sure they’re spoiler free, plz.

Seriously, if anyone spoils anything, THERE WILL be blood.

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9 Responses to “Initial Impressions: Final Fantasy XIII”

  1. SiliconNooB says:

    It still doesn’t feel like a proper Final Fantasy game to me, as they’ve always felt fully featured and XIII is decidedly not. Actually the game that XIII’s level design reminds me most of is Dirge of Cerberus, though of course XIII doesn’t suck like DoC.

  2. Ethos says:

    See, I felt that at first too SN, but now that I am 10 hours in, the fact that I’m able to customize so much with Weapon Upgrades, all the Crystalium roles, Paradigm combinations, and tactics in battle, it feels fully featured to me. Just very different. And while I’m quite enjoying the story, and seem to be generally enjoying even the annoying characters more than most, I have yet to truly emotionally connect, and that will need to happen if this game is going to be remotely replayable.

    But you perfectly described Vanille, Riddles. I was the thinking the same thing. “WHY is she perpetually orgasming?”. Otherwise I like her a LOT more than her FFX counterpart, Rikku. That’s not to say that she’s my favourite character, she just doesn’t urk me yet. I don’t know where Riddles is, so I’m going to leave it at that for now. More in Scatter Storming later tonight!

  3. SiliconNooB says:

    A good battle system doesn’t make one note game design fully featured.

  4. Ethos says:

    Erm, I mentioned more than the battle system. But I agree that it does seem to be missing a little bit, but I have so much stuff to mess around with that my thirst for upgrading and customization is satisfied. While I don’t exactly miss towns, per se, I do miss relaxed exploration. I don’t need to explore a town with shops and NPCs, but it would be nice to slow down a bit and absorb an environment without the level obviously pointing you to a specific point. Especially because so many of these places are beautiful, it would be cool if there was a way to take it in. There’s only been one SORT OF example of that.

  5. SiliconNooB says:

    I really prefer to have the bulk of the story told in town environments, where I have to run around and find certain people to initiate cutscenes. I don’t mind shops located in savepoints though, that’s pretty user-friendly.

  6. Ethos says:

    Yeah, exactly. I love this shop/upgrade thing built into save points. But you nailed it. I thought of it while taking a piss after my last comment, that’s the pacing that’s missing. Even if not in a town, “where I have to run around and find certain people to initiate cutscenes” is what’s missing. It adds an element of personality.

  7. SiliconNooB says:

    It’s really what connects you to the world. I mean with XIII you have the dungeon crawling and the cutscenes, and there’s no action on your part connecting one to the other. There’s a massive disconnect and I’m having trouble identifying with what’s happening in the cutscenes because what’s happening feels almost separate from what I’ve been playing … It isn’t a game that you can really think of as something more than a game because it makes no effort to conceal it’s artifice.

  8. Andogo says:

    It’s not a spectator game, that’s for sure. Battles get more interesting after you start getting three-person parties, but my god, whoever thought that people needed three Sazh-Vanille battles in order to figure out how to interrupt “battles already in progress” needs a swift kick in the nuts.

    Them, and whoever decided to take out towns. I mean, yes, FF is linear, as are a lot of other games, which is why we refer to it as the “illusion of freedom” when we talk about exploration in FF games.

    And the datalogue… on one hand, it’s good that the game is supplementing all of its environments with background flavour texts, but if I wanted to read a book, I’d… go read a book? It’s the same story every time — ragtag team of emotionally stunted teenagers go save the world from the government — but usually I care about the world I’m supposed to be saving and understand it through playing the game, not by reading cutscene summaries. I watched Ethan play for a couple of hours yesterday and today, and all I got was… “why does she make that noise when she jumps?”

  9. DarthGibblet says:

    LIGHTNING IS THE ORIGAMI KILLER!!1!

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