Final Fantasy XIII


By: Alan Bell    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Saturday 6 Mar 2010 10:00 AM
 
 
 
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Final Fantasy is one of those epic series that seems to transcend fad or the whims of gamer fascination. Constantly reinventing itself, it's as relevant (or even more so) now than it was in 1987. This, the thirteenth iteration in the main series (there have been numerous spin-off titles as well), has arrived some four years after the release of the previous title.

To describe our breath as baited is like saying space is really big or that it's nice to beat the Aussies in a one-dayer.

The backdrop for Final Fantasy XIII is a world in chaos. The powerful government is deathly afraid of the world below and they're using that fear as an excuse for what amounts to ethnic cleansing. Thrust right into the middle of the conflict, you'll take control of a vast array of characters who find themselves playing a key role in how things play out.

Without ruining too much of the story (which, lets face it, is something you should discover for yourself in any Final Fantasy game), you'll soon form up a band of heroes and begin an epic quest to resolve the situation. That the party you form up resembles the cast of Lost, we assume, is a complete coincidence... (there's even a slightly silly Australian girl!).

Normally we'd talk about the visual presentation of a game a little later, but for Final Fantasy we're going to make an exception: Final Fantasy often sets the benchmark for visual delights and, as this is the first to hit the current generation of consoles, how it looks is something a lot of people are going to want to know about straight away.

Final Fantasy XIII looks unbelievably good. The pre-rendered cutscenes are preposterously gorgeous, of course, and the game-engine sequences aren't a let-down either. This game looks incredible. The art style and its execution is second to none.

The only thing that lets it down is the weightless and slightly quirky way in which most of the characters move around the environment (helped not even a little bit by the twitchy camera and character controls).

The non-interactive story sequences are numerous and lengthy, yet never bore you as they reveal the story or fill in background detail on some random character. If you've got a big TV and want to show people what HD or a next-gen console is all about, there's no better way to go about it. Rumours suggest the 360 is a little less impressive, but, with only PS3 code to test, we were unable to ratify these claims for ourselves.

Gameplay in Final Fantasy XIII revolves around you running your character (which you get no choice about - you play certain characters at certain times and cannot switch them, even in combat) around the map until you encounter an enemy, at which point it switches to combat mode. If you're quick, you can initiate combat mode before the enemies become aware of you (netting you an opening attack before combat-proper begins) but most enemies will spot you far enough out to make this fairly rare.

Combat starts off pretty basic - time fills a bar and, once it's topped off, you perform the actions you've queued up. Actions take different amounts of time to perform (so a powerful area-effect spell might take twice as long as a single attack). They also have different results, so there's a little bit of thinking to be done, but there aren't many moves to choose from and the "auto combat" button is so shiny, it's hard not to hit it.

Target selection is performed by choosing names from a list, which in turn changes which enemy you're targeting. While this makes perfect sense and works well enough, there are occasions when you'll be attempting to target a specific character because of where they're standing, which can be quite hard when your only selection method is a list that doesn't reflect the enemy's actual location.

As you get used to the way things work, however, the system evolves, adding the ability to execute moves before the time bar is completely full (a necessity, as this bar grows longer as your adventure continues). You'll also pick up the ability to change the way your team roles are assigned, summoning, and more. The way the system is gradually expanded is perfectly paced, resulting in a complex and involved combat system you can become an expert in.

Character levelling is handled by spending points earned each in successful battles. The better you do in combat (which generally comes down to killing things faster than the par time), the higher your rating, which in turn leads to more points and better loot.

You then use these points to advance your character's abilities down one of a number of trees in a direction you choose. The interface used for this character expansion is, like many of the game menus, rather confusing, and was clearly designed with aesthetics (rather than usability) in mind. You'll get the hang of it quick enough, but that doesn't stop it being a bit weird.

As you progress through the game, encountering new characters, advancing the story and unlocking more of the game's functionality, your inbuilt guide computer will gain more and more entries. These entries help to explain every facet of the game, including both re-explaining key story elements and actually expanding on the backstory of the world. If you don't mind pausing to read from time to time, this system works really well and helps to flesh out the game's lore in a way only a series of full-length movies could otherwise do.

There are no real towns in Final Fantasy XIII, so commerce is handled by interacting with regularly spaced terminals through which you can buy, sell and save. Quite how these little machines end up in some of these outlandish locations is up for discussion, but they do. You gain access to more retailers through this internet-shopping-like experience as you progress, and the retailers you can access will gain more stock from time to time as well. Fortunately the system clearly indicates when something has changed, so figuring out when you should check back with a retailer relies only on you being awake, rather than having to pay any particular attention.

Initially the maps are very linear, with no options as to how you progress. As you play, however, these areas gradually start to provide you with some light exploration opportunities until ultimately the map opens right up. This will annoy some people to start with but it really is a great way to gradually introduce the levels of complexity present in the gameplay mechanics. By the time the world gets big and scary, you'll have the skills and options with which to tackle it.

The sound in FFXII is, unfortunately, a mixed bag. The voice acting is awesome (even if one of the characters is kind of annoying, it still suits her and is well done), with a great soundtrack with all the epic sweeping scale a Final Fantasy game deserves. The effects are great in the cutscenes but in-game (particularly when just wandering around) they'll occasionally be glaringly awful. Overloud shoes thumping around being an obvious lowlight. Still, overall the package is very solid and frequently spectacular.

Final Fantasy XIII is a fantastical foray into a magical imagination. Ably supported by gorgeous visuals, the gameplay ramps up at a rate than can only be described as perfection as you fall in love with the characters in your party and the environment in which they adventure. It's not perfect in every way but the imperfections that are to be found are like dust on a diamond - there, certainly, but utterly irrelevant. Final Fantasy is back and it was worth every second we had to wait - here's hoping we don't have to wait for the PS4 or Xbox 720 for our next adventure.


The Score

Final Fantasy XIII
"An epic fantasy experience."
9.2
Excellent
Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min

 

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Comments (32)

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Munkah NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 10:09 AM Posted by Munkah
Can't wait to pick up my copy!
 
 
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Mr_Mthrfkr
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 11:31 AM Posted by Mr_Mthrfkr
despite this positive review, im still not convinced i should get this game. Im a huge fan of the series, however couldnt find myself getting into the last installment either. From the little info out there about Verses XIII it looks great, so i may hold off on the FF series untill then.
 
 
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KatalystaKaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 11:56 AM Posted by KatalystaKaos
Nice review. This is is getting mixed reviews, from 5-9's, I think a few reviewers out there might not really be 'getting' this FF rendition, for me it's a must buy and, all being well with the PSN, this is where I'll be spending my next few weeks gaming. Will be interesting to see the 360 version too though I have read of possible problems with that version, it'll probably get a patch and be fixed about the same time as Heavy Rain(Grrrr)
 
 
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SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 12:01 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
Certainly on my must-buy list, but soo many games still to get through first and soo little time to do them means i will have to hold off on this for a bit
 
 
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maniaclemax
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 1:06 PM Posted by maniaclemax
As much as I am a final fantasy fan. I am still umming and ahhing about this one. NZGamer and 1UP have given the most generous scores from what I have seen despite many staple FF elements being dumbed down. Though in saying this I prob will buy this because, hell, Final Fantasys always have that charm that I love
 
 
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Soyerz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 2:05 PM Posted by Soyerz
Watched the review for this on GT. It does look very good but the dialogue does not look too amazing. The red head chick has what sounds to be an Aussie accent. Eh...
 
 
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ChatterboxZombie
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 3:13 PM Posted by ChatterboxZombie
If any PS3 owners buy this game, you're breaking the oath that angry fanboys everywhere made when it was announced for the 360 as well.

but i don't blame you, its not like you have any better games to buy

dare i say it, imo?
 
 
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Soyerz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 3:23 PM Posted by Soyerz
6 March 2010, 03:13 PM Reply to ChatterboxZombie
If any PS3 owners buy this game, you're breaking the oath that angry fanboys everywhere made when it was announced for the 360 as well.

but i don't blame you, its not like you have any better games to buy

dare i say it, imo?
Your opinion fails...
 
 
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Oliver
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 5:58 PM Posted by Oliver
6 March 2010, 02:05 PM Reply to Soyerz
Watched the review for this on GT. It does look very good but the dialogue does not look too amazing. The red head chick has what sounds to be an Aussie accent. Eh...
Haha yeah I saw some people complaining about that somewhere. Australian? WTF?

Hot though...
 
 
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winnebengo
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 8:28 PM Posted by winnebengo
Lost Odyssey is the best RPG of the current generation that I have played, which as we know came from Hironobu Sakaguchi's Mistwalker, the creator of FF. Since his departure from SquareEnix the franchise has really started to branch from the traditional JRPG characteristics in terms of combat and leveling up, which is not necessarily a bad thing as experimentation can breed innovation and new trends are sometimes born. But other times they can lead to irritating combat mechanics *cough*Last Remnant*cough* (I know its not FF but it came from SquareEnix and suits what I am trying to convey).

Anyways, I digress, and am looking forward to giving this a crack when it comes out.
 
 
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Soyerz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Sunday 7 Mar 2010 12:09 PM Posted by Soyerz
-Sigh- Tuesday cannot come soon enough!
 
 
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Phurdonk
On Sunday 7 Mar 2010 12:44 PM Posted by Phurdonk
No matter what reviewers say, I'm getting this game.
 
 
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OriginalSin NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Monday 8 Mar 2010 8:54 PM Posted by OriginalSin
I never got around to getting a PS3.... but that might have to change.
 
 
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Soyerz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Monday 8 Mar 2010 10:56 PM Posted by Soyerz
8 March 2010, 08:54 PM Reply to OriginalSin
I never got around to getting a PS3.... but that might have to change.
It is also on 360, bro.
 
 
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jbl316 NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Tuesday 9 Mar 2010 8:16 AM Posted by jbl316
I would have given a 10 for graphics. They are mind-blowing Great Review by the way.
 
 
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Wozza NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 10 Mar 2010 12:29 PM Posted by Wozza
I really didn't like FFXII but XIII has me hooked. Everything a Final Fantasy should be.

Looking forward to reading some reader reviews. :)
 
 
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Rufdiggy
On Wednesday 10 Mar 2010 8:40 PM Posted by Rufdiggy
VII > X > 8 > 9 > XII > XIII

Still a good game (8.5/10) but really lacking for a Final Fantasy IMO. Storyline is average, voice acting will kill you (what's up with the hybrid Oz accents?!). Battle system is fast and fun. Customisation/development is a bit too random (dependent on certain victories as opposed to player preparation), relects the whole linear criticsm.

My biggest gripe is the pace of the story, everything (as is typical of a lot of Japanese story structure) just tears along, while the characters keep finding ways to reiterate the same sentiments. There's a feeling that perhaps they tried to make this one too "serious" (despite Vanille, whom I could kick).

My opinion after a day or so of play... it may improve...
 
 
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Astarael
On Friday 12 Mar 2010 4:17 PM Posted by Astarael
I've been playing through the Xbox 360 version on one side of my lounge while my flatmate plays the PS3 version on the other side, and regrettably the PS3 version does seem somewhat more clean cut and shiny. Also I'm about 12 and a half hours in and there is NO END TO THE LINEARITY! The maps are straight up and down, side to side with the occasional aside for a treasure chest(which can't really be called chests anyway). Another thing that really let me down was the music. While it was nice and fit everything really well something just didn't feel quite right, then i found out that it was some random guy and not Nobuo Uematsu who did the the other final fantasy's. If I approach this game not as apart of the FF series then it's brilliant but in comparison with past efforts, it's a bit of a disappointment.
 
 
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prick-ly
On Friday 12 Mar 2010 8:55 PM Posted by prick-ly
im 20+ hours in and at end of chapter 9.

so far i have not enjoyed it much at all, main culprit is the haphazard gameplay.

to deal any significant damage to an enemy you must chain many hits together with your characters to put the enemy into a sort of break mode, this is difficult if you are switching jobs mid battle to buff, heal etc and this makes for very lengthy battles, even more so if you only have 2 characters???, once 1 enemy is dead you have to repeat for the next and so on grrrr, a better way this could have been done was just hit an enemy with its weak element, an example fight against 3 viking enemies took me 8 minutes (not a boss fight).

AI is flawed Fang would never attack the same enemy that lightning & hope were attacking, this again extended the length of battles, later on (when i had all characters together) this problem disapeared.

crystarium is more or less a poorly executed copy of the sphere grid from ffx, the difference is it is not shared with other chars instead they have their own slighty different variation, some chars will get abilities unique to only them, it is also a pain to navigate as it is in 3d but still it is so linear it does not make much difference anyway.

some positives: it looks pretty, characters are more or less perfect looking avatars and im glad to say a black guy who reminds me of denzel washington :p, sound track is nice, most models pretty fluid looking etc.

conclusions:

pretty visuals do not make up for ill concieved and poorly exucted gameplay, this is all style and no substance, last gameplay rich FF was FFX, if you are after a fun japanese developed rpg look elsewhere (blue dragon, lost odysee, eternal sonata or the back catalogue of quality ps2 rpg's), as it stands this game is stressful and throughly awful.

i wish anyone stubborn enough to finish this game the best of luck.
 
 
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spockrodgers
On Saturday 13 Mar 2010 2:28 PM Posted by spockrodgers
6 March 2010, 11:31 AM Reply to Mr_Mthrfkr
despite this positive review, im still not convinced i should get this game. Im a huge fan of the series, however couldnt find myself getting into the last installment either. From the little info out there about Verses XIII it looks great, so i may hold off on the FF series untill then.
i recommend i hated 12 weak story and boring game play but though thirteen is very different it is very good don't hold out
 
 
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lexcalibur NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Monday 15 Mar 2010 3:20 PM Posted by lexcalibur
I came into this more cynical then any other game I've ever played. I read all the reviews which complained about the linerity and expected this to be a crapfest.

I'm about 10 hours in and I gotta say, I'm honestly enjoying it. I see how others may be put off by the lack of FF conventions, but honestly I think the story is tighter and more interesting for it and the battle system actually takes strategy this time opposed to just spamming the attack.

The experience system is great too, not the grid but how you gain more experience for fighting more efficiently. It actually made me interested in going into fights and trying to dispatch enemies quickly, finding the best strategies and getting those 5 star bonuses.

This is the first FF that's grabbed my attention in a while.
 
 
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jbl316 NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Tuesday 16 Mar 2010 10:10 AM Posted by jbl316
15 March 2010, 03:20 PM Reply to lexcalibur
I came into this more cynical then any other game I've ever played. I read all the reviews which complained about the linerity and expected this to be a crapfest.

I'm about 10 hours in and I gotta say, I'm honestly enjoying it. I see how others may be put off by the lack of FF conventions, but honestly I think the story is tighter and more interesting for it and the battle system actually takes strategy this time opposed to just spamming the attack.

The experience system is great too, not the grid but how you gain more experience for fighting more efficiently. It actually made me interested in going into fights and trying to dispatch enemies quickly, finding the best strategies and getting those 5 star bonuses.

This is the first FF that's grabbed my attention in a while.
Agreed. Despite some of the negative reviews from some other people I still love this game. Great battle system and best graphics I have ever seen.
 
 
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itachi
On Tuesday 16 Mar 2010 12:54 PM Posted by itachi
Played it now and in chapter 12 and loving that it is very open now, also loving the weapon upgrade system.
 
 
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lol
On Tuesday 16 Mar 2010 8:34 PM Posted by lol
I've never ever played a final fantasy
they sound aswomely as though
might hire it out and see if it is good

X]
 
 
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ryanrayx2 NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Wednesday 17 Mar 2010 4:38 PM Posted by ryanrayx2
FINAL FANTASY FTW!!!!!
 
 
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oblivious2
On Thursday 18 Mar 2010 8:44 AM Posted by oblivious2
6 March 2010, 11:31 AM Reply to Mr_Mthrfkr
despite this positive review, im still not convinced i should get this game. Im a huge fan of the series, however couldnt find myself getting into the last installment either. From the little info out there about Verses XIII it looks great, so i may hold off on the FF series untill then.
impressive visuals but no freedom to move or play its too controlled
 
 
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oblivious2
On Thursday 18 Mar 2010 8:49 AM Posted by oblivious2
17 March 2010, 04:38 PM Reply to ryanrayx2
FINAL FANTASY FTW!!!!!
does ftw mean for the weird
 
 
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oblivious2
On Thursday 18 Mar 2010 8:55 AM Posted by oblivious2
does ftw mean for the weird
 
 
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VernonWainohu
On Thursday 18 Mar 2010 9:46 AM Posted by VernonWainohu
Hi All :) I'm a long time reader, first time poster! After reading numerous reviews (both positive and negative), reading multiple posts (again, both positive and negative) and playing the game for myself, if I step back I can relate to arguments from both sides of the fence. First I think its safe to assume that we can all agree that the GRAPHICS are second to none!!! The Final Fantasy franchise and cutting edge graphicscut scenes go hand in hand, that will never change. Next I would like address the LINEAR game play. Over the years we have become accustomed to a free-roam foundation and having the ability to choose our own individual paths … we have come to expect this feature in the majority of our games. Final Fantasy has been renowned for its wide open landscapes and allowing the player to select his (or her) destination as they see fit … each game is different from the last, attempting innovation and always evolving so its no surprise that would change things up again this time round. With this in mind I think the LINEAR game play fits well for the sake of continuity in alignment with the Storyline. I don’t think it would have made sense to be able to detour or become sidetracked by side-missions/side-games (Come on lets face it … The whole planet hates you!!! Are they seriously going to ask you to save their puppy!?!). Next up, Combat System. To me, this is one of the more radical changes. Unable to change characters mid-battle, limited abilities selectable based on role, constant paradigm shifting etc, etc, etc … You may view these as negatives … I on the other hand believe this to be a welcome challenge :) Preparation is key, knowledge is power and strategic shifting is victory. I enjoy this aspect of the game very much, and when I turn what should be a 45 second battle into a 3 minute marathon, it gives me a chance to reflect and adopt new paradigm strategies. Other features that would make for good discussion, would be the leveling system, weapon and accessory upgrades and character development … oh and also the lack of gil!?!

If you are looking for open area game play I can only suggest that you go back and play FFX or FFXII.
If you are looking for a different battle system, go back and play FFVII.
If you are looking for a different leveling system, go back and play FFX.
If you don’t like the story line, I’ve got nothing for you … lol you’re either going to love it, hate it or feel neither here or there about it .. you’re on your own for this one! :P.
 
 
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ChatterboxZombie
On Monday 22 Mar 2010 5:05 PM Posted by ChatterboxZombie
Comment has been removed.
Im talking about them breaking the whole "ps3 exclusive" thing ya jew
 
 
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twisterjamz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Tuesday 23 Mar 2010 5:32 PM Posted by twisterjamz
GOW3 check, FFXIII no check
 
 
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Bank NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 17 Apr 2014 5:52 PM Posted by Bank
Bought it from TradeMe after a long 4 years a month ago - because of the massive controversy and sometimes hate.

Played it for the last 3 days straight and I'm enjoying it. A HUGE LINEAR GRIND but I was wrong to avoid this baby of my fav series for so long.
 
 
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