GameSpot Reviews - Final Fantasy XIII Video Review

Uploaded by gamespot on 05.03.2010

Six unlikely heroes brought together by fate. Two worlds split apart by war. Towering beings
that force you to bend to their whims. Welcome to Final Fantasy XIII, a stirring and emotional
adventure starring Lightning, the latest in a long line of great final fantasy stars.
She's not the only star of this great story, however: Shes joined by four equally fascinating
companions... and one incredibly irritating one. They take a grand journey filled with
electric and heartbreaking moments that will stick in your mind long after the journey
is over. The great story comes at a cost: the larger portion of the skill progression
and exploration is shockingly linear. Freedom eventually comes, but the constant narrow
corridors diminish the sense of grand adventure. Fortunately, fun, flashy battles and gorgeous
visuals help pick up the slack. Final fantasy XIII is a great addition to the franchise
and a great role-playing game in its own right.
So I've mentioned Lightning, the beautiful and resolute heroine. She's the soul of final
fantasy XIII, but she isn't the only character worth caring about. Among others you'll meet
Snow, the roguish self proclaimed hero. And Hope, a lost soul looking for someone to blame
for his anguish. And sadly, you'll also meet Vanille, an annoyingly chirpy, happy go lucky
waif whose high pitched cries might want to make you reach for a set of earplugs. Fortunately,
the other members of your party are easier to root for. You meet them on the broken world
of Cocoon, where a great purge is underway to deport citizens to its nemesis world, Pulse.
While the story has a dull stretch in the middle, the tension between party members
and the great beings called Fal'Cie that govern the flow of society make the tale shine.
And what a world this is. Final Fantasy XIII is absolutely gorgeous, moreso on the PlayStation
3. The art design is quite lovely, equal parts organic, metallic, and crystalline. There's
a lot of detail everywhere and a nice variety of different locations. Everything looks meticulously
crafted, as if every rock, every blade of grass, every tower looks like it's exactly
where it belongs. And aside from some rare moments of slowdown, the game runs smoothly.
You'll spend a lot of time pulling up menus during combat, but everything is slick and
easy to navigate. And boy does that combat look good. It's flashy and colorful, and the
camera does a good job of making things look dramatic while still showing you what you
need to see. If you have both a PS3 and an Xbox 360, go with the PS3. The Xbox 360 version
features a lower resolution, so textures and cutscenes are blurrier. However, the Xbox
360 version is still lovely, so don't sweat the differences if that's the version you
The combat is a blend of real-time and turn-based elements. You have an action gauge that's
split into segments, and it rises during combat. Each action you take costs a certain number
of segments. Once the bar fills, you execute all the moves you've queued up, or you can
cut things short early if you need to. You only have direct control of one character
at a time. The other two members of your party perform moves on their own, and this is where
paradigms come in. Each character can use abilities from several different roles, like
a medic or a commando, but party members can only fill one role at a time. A paradigm is
a combination of roles, and during battle, you'll switch back and forth from one to another.
The first half of the game is relatively easy, but during the second half, you'll need to
experiment to see what works and have a good command of paradigms if you want to succeed.
And frankly, the combat is just a ton of fun when you reach that point. You'll be switching
back and forth between paradigms quickly and occasionally micromanaging your own spells
and abilities. And the boss fights are a great challenge that will have you checking out
different combinations of party members and roles.
You spend crystogen points you earn in battle to improve your attributes and learn new spells
and skills. You're limited to the three roles the game assigns to your characters to spend
points in for the first portion of the game. But eventually you'll unlock all six roles
for every character. The problems with leveling up are twofold. First, character progression
is incredibly linear. There are a few short branches off the Crystarium tree for each
role, but there's no reason to skip over them since you'll be able to earn everything available
to you before you gain access to the next level. Second, by the time you're free to
choose any role, there's no reason to spend points in them. You just end up spending points
on low level upgrades when you can use them for much more powerful enhancements. When
it comes to character advancement, freedom is an illusion.
The limitations also apply to the exploration. There's a stretch where you can pick up side
missions in the middle of the game, but for the most part, you are always moving forward.
The fact that the walkways and corridors and canyons you navigate are usually rather narrow
just makes the linearity all the more noticeable. A little variety would have helped... minigames,
puzzle solving, or something else to help break things up. Of course the plus side is
that the story and gameplay have a lot of forward momentum, and aside from a tedious
jog through a tall tower, no one area overstays its welcome.
So yes it has its problems, but Final Fantasy XIII is a long and great game perfectly worthy
of the franchise. It's got a story you can get lost in and a mostly great cast of characters
that will eventually seem like old friends. Plus, it looks absolutely beautiful. If you're
looking for a fun and involving RPG in an exquisitely crafted world, this one will fit
the bill, and in the process, might even move you in unexpected ways.