I love the Final Fantasy series and credit Final Fantasy VI as the game that got me seriously into gaming. The story, the graphics, the characters; everything sucked me into the games intricately crafted world. I wish Final Fantasy XIII did the same thing, I really do. But it doesn’t; in fact it’s a down right terrible game.
Since Final Fantasy VI, I’ve played later iterations of the series, namely VII and VIII, but nothing has sucked me in like VI did. I also haven’t played a classic JRPG in years aside from Lost Odysee, a much better game than Final Fantasy XIII in my opinion. So, when I heard Final Fantasy 13 was finally being released on the Xbox 360, I was rather excited. I figured that maybe it was finally time to get back into the series.
I had this itch to return to my gaming roots, I needed some awesome turn based action all up in my Xbox 360. I went to the store, bought Final Fantasy XIII and threw the game into my Xbox’s disk tray, immediately hoping to relive my old-school JRPG days.
Let me start off by saying this is not a full fledged review, this is just my impressions on the first quarter of an expansive game that I was supremely disappointed by. I in no way played enough of the game to write a solid substantial review, but honestly, I really didn’t need to. From what I played I can easily tell you that Final Fantasy XIII game has serious flaws that cannot be over looked.
Ten hours later I can safely say that this game blows a ridiculous amount of ass. It takes everything that makes the Final Fantasy series an enjoyable experience and turns it on its head. The end result is quite possibly one of the worst and most disappointing video game experiences of my life.
I love exploration in video games and I’ve always found it to be Final Fantasy’s main draw. Square Enix decided to nix the whole exploration thing with Final Fantasy XIII. Instead it reminds me of an on-rails shooter. You find your self walking through a claustrophobic, yet beautiful environment, battling monsters every few steps. Exploration is non-existent and you’re basically walking down a beautiful pathway.
Sure, I’ve read that the game does eventually open up 20-25 hours in, but even then not to the extent of past games in the series. That’s just simply poor game design, it should not take 20-25 hours before a game actually becomes fun.
The absence of towns is another major issue. No more wandering around towns, talking to people and actually learning more about the game’s story. Instead you can buy weapons and equipment from a virtual store at save locations. This is another major flaw in the game from my perspective.
I’ve always felt the exploration of towns in Final Fantasy games added another level to story telling, the little facts you discovered, the people you’d meet, it all added to immersing you in the game’s world. You also don’t even have to talk to any NPC’s anymore, although sometimes when you run past them they’ll say something completely useless. I really do miss the good old days when I could wander around towns and learn about the games story and characters.
The games story also makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever. The opening sequence throws you head first into the action with little explanation of what is actually going on. Five hours in I still had no clue what the back story of the game really was. A simple explanation at the beginning of the game would have been extremely helpful.
I don’t mind the typical JRPG story, I actually quite enjoy me some spiky haired guys running around with impressively large weapons in a fantastically over the top story. Perhaps if I gave the game more of a chance the story would have begun to grow on me but I just could not get past its horrid battle system.
The games battle system is equally disappointing. Dubbed the paragon system, you only control one character of your three character party and have little to no control of your AI companions. You are however able to choose how you want your AI to act, altering and changing their Paradigm roles.
In the end you basically sit there and watch the battle unfold, kind of like nurturing a virtual pet. I found myself longing for the ability to have actual control over my team, the way classic games in the series worked. One good things about the battle system I actually enjoyed was that it was real time. This actually added to the sense of urgency in battles and kept the pace of the game flowing. I also was impressed with the fact that you can actually see your enemies before they attack you, Chrono Trigger style, no more random enemies seemingly appearing out of no where.
The games graphics are stunning, incredible even, regardless of whether your playing on PS3 or Xbox 360. The scenery is beautiful, the characters are carefully crafted and their hair looks just as yummy as you would expect it too in a Square Enix title.
I really wanted to like Final Fantasy XIII, believe me. I gave the game more of a chance then it deserved but I just couldn’t take it anymore, it just wasn’t fun and felt more like work than a form of entertainment. I have never returned a video game before but with Final Fantasy XIII I really felt I had to. It really was a disappointing waste of money.
I read rave reviews online for the game and slowly started to think I was insane, then I came across this review on Destructoid and realized I totally wasn’t alone in my hate for this latest iteration in the series. Hopefully the other two games in this interestingly named, ‘Fabula Nova Crystallis trilogy,’ trilogy live up to the Final Fantasy pedigree.
Please, this time, include some towns, shops and add that awesome exploration I love.