Final Fantasy XIII review

Final Fantasy XIII review

After much hype and anticipation, Final Fantasy XIII is finally in the shops. Hardened gamer Laura Ford finds out if it matches the glory of Final Fantasy X.

The long awaited next instalment of Final Fantasy – possibly the largest and most well-known RPG franchise ever – is finally here. I’ve played every previous instalment of Final Fantasy. Even the cringeworthy dress-up game Final Fantasy X-2. I’ve followed updates on Final Fantasy XIII since the release of the PS3, I’ve watched every trailer, and I’ve read every review on the Japanese version.

Hearing that Microsoft brought the rights to bring the Final Fantasy series out on their console was not the best news I could have heard. I’m no Sony fangirl (I own both a PS3 and Xbox 360) but Final Fantasy has always had a stigma in the Western world for being a very Japanese style game, which may not appeal to a general western audience but has always been a massive hit with anime and RPG fans, the core fan base. Now Microsoft have got their hands on it, it seems as though the game has tried to Westernise itself. Leona Lewis singing the theme tune makes me cringe. However, I was willing to overlook this… or at least hit the mute button.

Final Fantasy XIII’s complicated storyline follows an ex-female soldier called Lightning and a group of miss-matched individuals as they fight against a corrupt government and a supernatural force. I don’t want to ruin the storyline, and it’s complicated… so just play the game and don’t skip the cut scenes!

Having watched the trailer, my expectations for the graphics on Final Fantasy XIII were very high. I expected the FF graphics to surpass any game currently on the market. The good news is that Final Fantasy XIII meets and blows these expectations out of the water. The cut scenes are absolute perfection (Just check out the hair – how many polygons?) and even the in-game graphics are better than anyone would expect. If only the English voice acting could have been as good! Some voices are so irritating you may want their character to die in battle just so they shut up.

And onto the actual game play. The navigational and adventure aspects of Final Fantasy XIII are quite linear – although this does change later on into the game. The world map has been removed, along with any proper sense of full control over the flow of the game. This was done, I believe, to help progress the storyline and keep players focused, which it does – however it also loses one of the major aspects of the Final Fantasy game… freedom.

The battle system is fast-paced. It differs from previous Final Fantasy games in that user now only controls one player while the rest are AI. All characters can be influenced by the new job changing system paradigm shift; this allows all characters jobs/roles to be changed on the go, which address a new level to the strategy of the game.

Although similar battle systems have been featured in previous Final Fantasy games, they have never been this successful. All the visual magic, summons and attacks of the old games have been combined with the new fast-paced features of Final Fantasy XIII to make for a really interesting system. A new weapon system based on levelling and a character improvement system similar to that of the sphere grid of Final Fantasy X will satisfy all diehard fans of the Final Fantasy series.

Heading towards the end of the game, the linear style opens up and allows for some free roaming. This is the player’s chance to go on side quests and do some level-grinding which will be popular amongst many fans. Once the game is completed, players can free roam and level caps are raised… if only the whole game was more like this.

The hype was churning away for Final Fantasy 13 long before its release date was even set; with such a long running series, fan expectations were high. If this had been any other RPG I would have been amazed at the graphics and impressed by the overall game style. I’m not sure I’d include this in my favourites within the Final Fantasy series – however, as an overall franchise, Final Fantasy is hard to beat. At least they keep trying new things, keeping the game quality high and seeking to improve.

Final Fantasy XIII