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This review was submitted by David Rogers. If you’ve played Final Fantasy XIII, or just want to ask David more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Final Fantasy XIII (360, PS3)
Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII arrives, burdened by the weight of expectations, like a strongman pulling a jumbo jet. Yeah, he’s strong but that’s a lot of jumbo jet.
Visuals: Let’s get it out the way first: FFXIII gently removes your eyes from your sockets, slowly lowers them in a bath of melted chocolate, then rolls them in coconut. It looks that good. The character models, costumes and scenery are breathtaking and I can guarantee that FFXIII is the only game this year that will have you marveling at how far real-time digital hair rendering has come in the last decade.
Cutscenes: What? I like cutscenes. I like when they’re well done. I like it when my fingers don’t automatically start hammering at the start button to see if the developers were merciful enough to include a skip scene option. The voice acting is surprisingly good for a Japanese overdub (if you can deal with the cultural cringe of hearing one and a half Australian accents in a game) and they blend so well with the gameplay that you don’t resent the fact that they crop up every two or three minutes.
Battle: Final Fantasy games hinge on the mechanics of the battle system. You’ve got admire a developer who will take the hot buttered perfection of FFXII’s battle system and reimagine it. There is a lot to like here: the fluid nature of the turn-based battles, the flexibility offered with the Paradigm system, the lack of random encounters. But unfortunately, it’s not all good news (see Hated: Battles)
The Story Telling: I’m ok with not knowing exactly what’s going on, it is part of the JRPG experience. But when you’ve got to have screens and screens of text to explain what’s going on, something is amiss. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for that conversation:
Developer: “Wait, none of this is making sense. What’s a fal’Cie again? I’m getting Pulse and the Purge confused. We need to make this clearer for the player.” Writer: “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Developer: “Screens and screens of text?” Writer: “Let’s go to lunch!”
The Linear Path: The traditional overworld has been (for the most part) abandoned, replaced by maze-like levels that feature no turns, alternate paths or dead ends. There’s a word for that type of maze: a corridor. But when the corridor is smeared with such stunningly beautiful CG art, you tend not to care as much.
Battles: The new battle system moves away from the Lets-All-Stand-In-A-Line-And-Politely-Pummel-Each-Other-In-Order but the camera swings around so maniacally that it’s sometimes difficult to ascertain where your character is during battle. The result is no doubt spectacular but it does take a little getting used to.
There’s enough of what makes the Final Fantasy series great present in this game to satisfy the hordes of fanboys/girls (of which I am one) but you would be hard pressed to convince a player new to the series that Final Fantasy XIII is an essential purchase.
Reviewed by: David Rogers
You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words - yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.