Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BEDA 28: Final Fantasy XIII

In honor of my dad's birthday, I'm going to give you a full review of Final Fantasy XIII!

Alright, so these things aren't directly related, but it is my dad's birthday and I did finish FFXIII today, so they do have something in common.
Actually, this is a totally inappropriate blog for today because I can't think of anything my dad would be less interested in or understand less.
Sorry dad! I'll write something more interesting tomorrow.
Now, for a full review of Final Fantasy XIII.

The Plot:

The Final Fantasy series is one that prides itself on plot. On the title screen you can see that the character designer for the game gets his name right up front for everyone to see. This position of importance for such a specific role should tell you how important plot is here. Some of the greatest characters in video game history have come out of the Final Fantasy franchise, and it's a position that deserves a lot of respect. It's also a position that must create a tremendous amount of anxiety in the creator, as a failure to follow through on the success of the past is simultaneously guaranteed and unacceptable in the eyes of the gamers. All we want is another Cloud, another Sephiroth, another Kefka...

That said, it is amazing to me how often Final Fantasy fails to offer us a central villain that we can focus on. Really, the two character names that stand out most in FF history are the villains, primarily Sephiroth and Kefka. The names of the heroes are numerous and tend to fade in our memories, but you'll never forget the names of those villains that you hated and attempted to destroy for 50 hours of your life. And yet FFXIII fails to deliver here just as 8,9 and 12 did before it.
A lack of a clear cut central villain always takes away from the plot, but FFXIII made up for it in a way by simplifying the story line to a "save the world" mission and pitting the heroes against everyone while on a clearly defined goal.
Well, sort of, it gets a little muddy at the end.

The Battle System:

Final Fantasy XIII introduces into the series one of the greatest combat systems known to man. It's really like the game designers went directly to the fans and said "What do you like about the final fantasy battle system and what don't you like about it?" and based the style around that.
  • Instead of a long and unorganized list of items that you have to scroll through in the heat of battle, you get like five.
  • Your AI is beautiful and functions on its own through two flawless systems. One is that through the use of your Libra ability you can see the weaknesses of all your enemies and your AI will act accordingly. Two is that, through the new "role" system, the actions of the AI are limited to one of six roles of combat.
  • A rating system after reach battle (based on your speed and represented by 1 to 5 stars) forces you to constantly reevaluate your playing and makes players think differently about the game.
Things I didn't like about the system mostly revolved around the issue of lead-character dominance in battle. I absolutely love to summon, and by the nature of this system you are extremely limited in your summoning ability. By keeping Lightning up front for most of the game, I was limited to her one and only summon any time I wanted to bust him out. Of course I was able to switch around the team and put other characters into lead positions, but once I found a team I was comfortable with and was by far superior to any other team I could think of, I didn't want to mess with all that. Especially as I trudged through a menagerie of harder and harder enemies in order to reach my final destination. I wanted a strong team, not diversity for diversity's sake.
That said, even if I had been able to use all of the summons at any given time, the summons in this game were weird Transformer-esque teammates who came out and fought beside you for a minuscule amount of time, rather than doing tremendous amounts of damage. So, yeah, I thought the summoning aspect was a little on the weak-side.
Also, in the vein of lead-character problems, I was infuriated with the "main character dying = instant Game Over" system. The worst was when the main character (i.e. the one you are controlling) died when the rest of the team remained totally unharmed. Enemies with instant kill abilities and the sudden teaming-up of all your enemies against the main character made this aspect of the game infuriating. However, it didn't happen too often, so it can be forgiven.

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