It’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’.
Final 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.
And 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.