Reader Review: Final Fantasy XIII

Reader Review: Final Fantasy XIII

Do you have what it takes to get a review published right here on Kotaku? David does, as he finds his eyeballs resembling a Bounty bar.

Yes, that’s right, we’re now publishing reader reviews here on Kotaku. This is your chance to deliver sensible game purchasing advice to the rest of the Kotaku community.

And thanks to the very kind chaps at Madman Entertainment, purveyor of all kinds of cool, indie and esoteric film, the best reader review we publish each month will win a prize pack containing ten of the latest Madman DVD or Blu-ray releases.

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.


  • Great review, David. I feel the same on almost every point. Twenty hours in and have only just begun to understand the various terms and storyline.

    Although I like the character skill leveling (in that it resembles FFX!) I would put its interface on the Hated list – just so hard to navigate and view.

    Overall great fun though! :]

  • I agree with the battle “hated” section, although the camera isn’t too much of a problem for the majority of fights. I have more of an issue with the camera when it zooms in on your party leader, only to have the screen filled with (admittedly very pretty) Firaga or similar, and a heap of numbers.

  • Have to agree with the review but I have to add my 2 cents worth about the music! Just hearing that theme song repeat over and over again while running around exploring the world is just annoying! I have this song now constantly stuck in my head while at work!

    • Is it just me or is the Pulse Chocobo music the bomb diggity?
      I love it.
      It’s got a drum solo in it, come on!

  • I think it’s clever to not spell out every detail of the fal’cie, l’cie situation. It kept me more more interested not knowing what was going on and made me appreciate every new little datalog update. FF fanboys shouldn’t complain about RPG’s having text, remember before voice acting?

    • I often compare a good RPG to a good novel. It’s all about the story, and i certainly don’t mind reading a few blocks of text to help it along. It let’s you immerse yourself in the world a little more imho, as you don’t have someone dictating what the characters should sound like etc.

  • Hey guys, Thanks for the thoughts/feedback. This is the first review I have written. Having played many more hours since writing this, I can say that I love this game. I hope I didn’t come across as too negative in the review.

  • Hmmm… This was a nice, short, simple review of Final Fantasy XIII. I would agree with most of the ”loved” and ”hated” parts. Since I’ve almost completed FFXIII (completed my story but I got Mark missions left), the shift to a more ”western” style of play irrates me more than I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the game even if it was linear because the story was good. The battles were frustrating for me. The camera angles had something to do with it but I ended the game without being really challenged. Some of the Mark missions are extremely tough and needs skills to make it through but the main story was a joke for many reasons. Party fully healed at the end of each fight, getting a 5-star rating even though only the leader survived, beating the game with weapons lvl.1 in hands (and the debuffs were sticking on the bosses!), the really bad ”auto-battle” of Lightning as Ravager (making her lose precious time *jumping* between spells and strikes)… to only name a few. The strategies were easy to decide. I feel that the main story was made for casual gamers and non-japanese gamers while the Mark missions were implanted for the hardcore gamers. The main problem about Mark missions is that you only gain items when defeating them and no additionnal story-related cutscenes.

    I would still replay the game because it was good and realy fun, but, like I said, maybe too easy for me.

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