Frankenreview: Final Fantasy XIII

Come, brave adventurers, and witness the Final Fantasy XIII Frankenreview, a Franken so disparate we decided to run the graph right at the top of the post.

As you can plainly see, Final Fantasy XIII isn't shaping up to be the runaway critical hit that Square Enix was hoping for. Metacritic scores are currently hovering at 83 for the Xbox 360 version and 82 for the PlayStation 3, making XIII one of the worst-reviewed games in the main, numbered Final Fantasy series, barring portable remakes. That's not a good way to make your multiplatform, current generation debut.

Of course even the most hardcore Final Fantasy fans have their favourites and least favourites. It makes sense that the assembled video game critics would as well. Let's check out the spread, shall we?

The Onion A.V. Club

The first 20 hours of FF13 are like watching Star Wars' Death Star trench scene in excruciating slow motion. You march down tunnels, corridors, alleys-anything with high walls to keep you in the pipeline. It isn't just linearity that kills the fun. The excellent FF10, created by the same design team, also tended to proceed in a straight line. The real problem in FF13 is a pervasive disdain for players. The occasional battles peppered throughout the first few chapters are thinly veiled busywork, designed to kill time between hundreds of cutscenes. Those cinematics tell an imaginative tale, but in the most laborious manner possible. The story chronicles six characters-like rogue soldier Lightning and mourning father Sazh-who were marked for an unclear destiny by a self-serving race of demigods. Establishing that single-sentence premise takes the better part of a day.


Make no mistake-you'll be fighting a lot...You won't be facing random battles as you traverse through fields and forests. Instead, you're running down narrow hallways waiting for monsters to jump you. And, for the most part, you can't avoid enemy encounters, except when the game goes out of its way to tell you that you can: "Hey, check out that lumbering brute over there! It might be a good idea to run past him!" In those cases, yes, you can magically make your way past foes. But unless you use items that specifically enable you to avoid enemies, you're constantly getting jumped by the next mob of monsters around the corner. Unfortunately, without the conventional RPG downtime of towns and other assorted free exploration, that means that you're constantly on edge. There's no reward for getting through a dungeon; your reward is…well, another dungeon.


FFXIII dumps traditional levelling-up for a carefully-controlled system via what's called the Crystarium. It's a bit like FFX's Sphere Grid. You spend Crystarium Points - gained from defeating enemies - as you travel around the Crystarium, unlocking statistical bonuses and new abilities, and gaining role levels along the way. This, in theory, is fine. The problem is, the game "caps" the Crystarium relative to each chapter, limiting the number of Crystarium Points you can spend on your party members, and which roles are available to each character. Square Enix's goal in doing this is clear: to negate the need to grind. It's true, for the first ten chapters of the game (about 25 hours), there is absolutely no need to grind, or backtrack (you can't anyway), or move in any direction other than forward. But, ergo, there's no real need to think strategically about what you spend your points on within the Crystarium. You mindlessly evolve your character along a linear skill tree path in much the same way you explore the gameworld, stopping only to occasionally check out what your new abilities do.

PSX Extreme

Look, despite the depth, this just feels as if too much of the control has been wrenched from my grasp for the sake of streamlining very fast battles. I wrote an article earlier about how twitch-gaming may have affected FFXIII and I can only conclude that this is definitely the case. This is for people who quite honestly can't sit still for ten consecutive seconds. Even the cut-scenes, notoriously long in the series, have been cut down a lot. Just because there are a lot of things to consider doesn't mean I feel that depth in combat; too much is happening automatically behind the scenes. You can't ever control other characters in combat and although you don't need to, that's beside the point. You can't even choose your own party until you reach Pulse and even then, your options are always limited. Some of my favourite things about RPGs was setting up the party I wanted, exploring the landscape and visiting the towns, and feeling as if I were part of a virtual world. And you know, people can rag on turn-based all they want; as far as I'm concerned, that has always allowed the most amount of depth and intricacy because you had time to select from endless lists of commands.

Games Radar

Ever since FFVII, the series has been known for gorgeous CG cutscenes, and finally playing a Final Fantasy game where the in-game graphics aren't distractingly uglier compared to the CG cutscenes is pure joy. The in-game graphics are so good that it's not always obvious whether a cutscene is CG or in-game. You can still tell of course, but we often found ourselves checking for indicators like hair movement to figure it out. The graphics are the most instantly apparent aspect of FFXIII's polish, but there are so many other indicators that point to an absolutely meticulous attention to detail. For one, the menus are the most gorgeous menus of all time for any game ever. We dawdled around switching back and forth between character status screens admiring their beauty, and it never got old. Beyond that, it's amazing that in a game of this scope, we found absolutely nothing even remotely buggy or glitchy, something that's fairly rare to be able to say about a current-gen game.


I wouldn't say that Final Fantasy XIII has completely renewed my faith in the series, but it has shown me that Square Enix's experimentation with the classic role-playing conventions I had come to expect from the Final Fantasy can produce something fresh, new, and highly enjoyable. The company may have made a few missteps in terms of pacing, and they continue to try out new equipment systems that are far more complicated than they need to be (see The Last Remnant), but as a whole, Final Fantasy XIII is step in the right direction for the fabled franchise.

Considering the series, this Frankenview is one of the most shocking in years.


    Normally this would influence my decision to purchase. However, because this is Final Fantasy, I am going to buy it anyway and I know I will love every second of it. Final Fantasy XII received the same kind of mixed scores, and that ranks amongst my all-time favourite games.

    Im so glad they decided to rip out the active battle features, the menu based gameplay, the intricate levelling systems seen previously, and the ability to make characters for specific tasks(ala FF8s sexy Junctioning system, 4 HASTED up rogues? Hellz yeh!), not to mention all those STUPID towns and cities.
    So glad.. they finally made this franchise NOT Final Fantasy.
    Great going guys.
    Youve officially done it.
    This isnt FF, its SOMETHING. And its bad. Hell bad. We know why you did it, to appeal to wider audiences who didnt understand your games, but you did so by RUINING EVERYTHING THAT WAS GOOD ABOUT THEM.
    If I wanted THIS experience, then I was already able to get it by going to the MANY other devs who are already making this crap.
    Way to take a franchise and just pummel it into the ground. You and Enix really need to pull your asses out of your heads, no thats not backwards Im saying you gotta have SHIT FOR BRAINS to make changes like this.
    What happened Square? We used to be friends remember? The epic battles, the use of tactics and wit over automated freakin slotted up characters that might as well be CGI because I AINT PLAYIN THEM!

    Ahem.. vent done.

    I am about 10 hours into the game. The cutscenes are lovely, the story is interesting, and the gameplay consists of dull one way non-branching corridors with mostly unavoidable predetermined monster encounters.

    Battles are so fast that you are forced to mash the autobattle button most of the time to avoid a quick death. There is no meaningful strategy, party member AI is poor for buff/healing, and skill paths and item upgrades offer no real choice.

    But it still is a very polished game, and certainly better than most JRPGs. It just feels like most of the game world content has been stripped out, and comes nowhere near what was delivered in FFXII.

    FFXIII would have been much more impressive if they had delivered it in 2008.

    There's basically two factors at work in most reactions:

    1) Do you like the mechanics of the game (battle system, crystarium, no towns)?

    2) Do you like the characters and plot?

    and then the big finish- if you said no to one of the above and yes to the other one, does the no overshadow the yes?

    For me it's no, yes and no, and 80-something is pretty fair.

    One of the key problems for Square in the design is they created a lot of characters who are capable of making annoying first impressions, the opening couple of levels are the most boring designs in the whole thing, and they delayed introducing the full battle system too long... an awful lot of people seem to have formed negative first impressions as a result, which then colours how they see the rest of the game.

    I'm about 15 hours in and actually REALLY loving it. After the crappyness that was FFXII (sitting back and watching your characters fight for you is NOT fun) I was expecting this to be another fail, however; I've found the depth within the paradime system is to be rediculas. If your happy enough to swap all the time there is so much customisabiltiy its astounding (and fun!). Add in the kinda funkey upgrading system (although it looks like a hella grind at high levels) and i think this is fast turning out to be my favorite FF yet.

    And to those haters of the linearness, I reckon it's a nice change of pace to the open world games. Don't get me wrong, Dragon Age or Infamous were probably my favorite games from last year, but having a story told damn well from start to finish is refreshing.

    FFXIII is the first game in a long time where I've wanted to rush home and play.

    Although saying all that, Vanille has to be the most annoying character ever designed. But then I suppose Final Fantasy games always have to have one.

    Sounds like the next in the final fantasy movies as opposed to anything resembling an actual game.

    Despite disliking Jrpg's in general I am curious to try this.
    I have played Dragon Age - arguably the latest and greatest in traditional western RPG's - and have found it to be so very dull despite trying very hard to like it.
    So I am curious how the latest and greatest JRPG personally stacks up in comparison.

    Have to totally agree with the pacing being off. The game can be very stop-start, but also imo the first 20 hours are almost completely different from the rest of the game. I hated the first 20 hours as it bored me to tears, but absolutely love the game now I'm past it. I'm glad I stuck with it, but I wouldn't have kept going if it's wasn't FF game.

    I've just finished the storyline and i'm now working on the post credit play.

    I love this game, the graphics, the storyline, the character development etc.

    The only problem I have with the game is the lack of world exploration, the abundance of save points for shopping and the upgrading of weapons and accessories were an interesting way of performing that function however they really did step away from traditional RPG's with towns and inn's.

    Personally if I could have FF7 with FF13 graphics, the world would be complete and all wars would stop.

    I think people review games these days with far too much personal opinion. FFXIII is an absolutely BRILLIANT game. I'm almost 40 hours into it and I'm yet to find a fault.

    In saying all this, I've played every final fantasy game released. Square see FF as an evolving franchise, each game is different to it's predecessor. Even X-2 had a completely different system to X. People keep whinging about there being no towns or shops, which is a very enjoyable experience in all other FF games, but why does it have to be a bad thing?

    At the end of the day, it's Final Fantasy. No other developers can match their story telling, graphics and battle systems because they're perfectionists.

    Yet again, Square has released another TOP SHELF Final Fantasy, different to it's predecessors and just as fun.

    I think maybe the hype machine had a bit to do with people's crappy reviews. I bought the game having low expectations because of my dislike for FFXII and so far, I'm finding FFXIII pretty good. Admittedly not being able to explore the world too much is a bit of a letdown but it's not something the game should be crucified for like many reviewers have done.

    The biggest issue with the game I have isn't actually the linear gameplay, it's the battle system. I miss the formula of old (FFX and down) but I guess too many people were finding that stale.

    Note to Square Enix - to make this game's reviews go up (but sales probably down) - Don't call it a Final Fantasy.

    It stopped being a Final Fantasy 12 main games ago. This has nothing of it's former brethren - leave the name ALONE.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now