Blog the Second: Final Fantasy XIII (Chapter 1)

Posted by CrimsonDawn (21 posts) -

This is going to be slightly different from what my blog will usually be about. I plan to write my first proper on-site review on Final Fantasy XIII, which is a bit of a problem considering I have yet to play through the damn thing. Well no longer. I've gotten my hands on her, and I plan on -- hey, get your mind out of the gutter. Yes, I called the game a she. Is that really any different from calling a mode of transportation a she, or giving said mode of transportation a name? Wait, don't answer that... 
 
Okay, back on point. The chapter-based division of the game lends itself quite well to this sort of thing, so each blog post involving the game will constitute a single chapter of the game. Alright, maybe that isn't wholly accurate. Based on what I've heard of the game, both from Brad's review/Bombcast comments and from other people, a couple of the later missions get rather lengthy, so I'll use my judgment (yes, judgment; there will be no additional e from me, no sir/ma'am) and split up a chapter where I deem it appropriate. Since this sub-series will ostensibly be in the vein of a "Let's Play" series, there are bound to be some spoilers, but I will both offer fair warning and attempt to include them as sparsely as I can manage. 
 
Now, with no ado whatsoever, Chapter 1 of Final Fantasy XIII (played on the PlayStation 3, of course; I'll be damned if I'm going back to swapping discs unless I absolutely have to). 
  
Story/Characters: The story thus far strikes me as being vaguely reminiscent of the opening from VII, only with more refugees/innocent civilians involved. Considering it's still early days, I can't comment too heavily on the storyline, for obvious reasons, though I do find it a bit refreshing that there are divergent storylines from the outset (being told that you don't get your full party for a goodly length of time made me worried that I'd be stuck with only Lightning and Sazh, so it was a welcome surprise). I'm still not entirely conscious of the difference between the fal'Cie and the l'Cie (though based on the naming convention, it's quite blatant that there is a close, if not inherent, connection between the two). The physical characteristics aren't something that warrant mentioning, considering how long screenshots and the like have been available, so any character-related discussion will be focused on personalities and/or inter-party relationships. 
 
I do kind of like the government of Coccoon being portrayed as double-faced and overtly "evil" (or at least adamantly fulfilling their own interests), and look forward to the almost guaranteed uprising that will ensue from when the people (led by the player's party, I'm sure) learn of it and decide to do something about it.
 
Apart from there finally being a female protagonist, Lightning is certainly more masculine than I expected. Not physically, of course, but primarily in her voice. I'll be the first to admit that I was expecting a higher-pitched voice, which I don't believe would have gone well with what I had seen of the character from the trailers. The timbre of it very much suits a character who is a soldier, and there's a very no-nonsense quality that I believe will contrast well with some of the more expressive characters; she comes off as being very commanding as well, which fits well considering she'll be the main party leader for what I understand to be the majority of the game.  
 
Then there's Sazh. Oh Sazh, I've only just met you and you're already my favourite. From the first words out of his mouth he's, in my mind at least, slipped into the mainstay comic relief-type role that's a necessity for any story that purports to be a drama, and his voice certainly lends itself to that. Paired with his afro, I get a very 70s blaxploitation kind of vibe to him, yet in the few somber moments he's had thus far I can guess that he's going to be one of the more emotionally complex characters. And he has a baby chocobo. In his hair. Tell me that isn't the most off-the-wall concept you've heard of. My first thought when I saw it was that episode of Family Guy where Peter grows a beard which becomes the home of a trio of baby chicks. 
 
Snow's an interesting case. On the one hand, he seems to fill the generic "action hero"-y role, but is it just me or does he seem to recover a little too fast after dropping Hope's mother to her death? After he hooks up with the people from NORA again, he seems back to normal, cracking jokes and generally being a bit of a smartass. The only explanation I can come up with is that it's part of his character (using humor to cover up his inner turmoils and such), so I'll reserve judgment for a little later on. 
 
I won't say anything about Hope and Vanille, since I didn't get much of a chance to control them during this chapter, but I already get a sneaking suspicion that her voice is going to irritate me to no end. 
 
Y'know, considering the game is pretty clearly broken up into chapters (from what I understand, every time you get one of the story mandatory Bronze trophies you've begun a new chapter) I was half-expecting associated placards to point out the transition. I guess they didn't want to go too metatheatrical with it.
 
Graphics (for the first and likely only time): That opening cinematic was absolutely gorgeous.  
 
Voice Acting/Lines:  "It's hell without the brimstone." I like that line, and Lightning's delivery was pretty spot on for that sort of thing. I mentally connected that to "hell is other people", which doesn't make much sense given the context, but I'm sure with enough time and effort I'd be able to rationalize that. Doesn't mean I'm going to, though.  
 
"Moms are tough." Come on. Really? And twice, no less?
 
General Gameplay: Again, not much to say here so far, but first thing's first, a bit of a minor nitpick. The running kind of feels wrong. Perhaps I'm just used to more "heavy-set" characters (and no, I don't mean the classic RE tank controls), but Lightning just seems to a little too light on her feet. It's like getting into a car, and expecting it to handle like a car, but instead it handles like a motorcycle. It's not necessarily bad, which is why I label it as a minor nitpick, it's just something that I'll have to get used to. And I'm sure I will, given enough time. On a related note, the context sensitive blue/red zones are certainly a welcome change from past games. Part of the sense I got from the outset was that the linearity pervading the game was meant as a way of keeping the story driving forward, and eliminating the tedium of having a button press to get around/through/over obstacles certainly helps to achieve that.
 
I'm definitely digging the automatic health restoration after every fight. It's going to save so much time in the long run, as well as the need to carry around countless more potions and waste more MP than you would have to in games past. Wait, is there even MP? I haven't had the opportunity to make use of any magic so far, or summons for that matter, so I don't know if they activate like any of the early abilities I have use of (through AP) or if MP becomes available once an appropriately related skill does. 
 
Another interesting note that strikes me, when you've saved a game it doesn't offer up any additional statistics the way past games have. If you've played a Final Fantasy game in the past, you'll know what I'm talking about (party members, your current location/progress, wealth, etc.). Granted, this may well be due to the way the PS3 handles save files compared to the older systems, but then again, the consoles moved away from saving games using memory card "blocks" with the PS2, so I don't see much difference there. Then again, I haven't had a chance to actually load a game yet, so perhaps it does offer all that additional information on the loading screen. Also, it's not like it does away with that completely; the save file image is the logo superseded by whoever the current party leader is, so that's something. 
 
The camera controls are certainly taking some getting used to. Not in terms of the controls themselves, because it's not as if they're markedly different from any other title, but mainly...well, I wouldn't say they're "finicky", but they're certainly a bit over-sensitive for my liking. It's to the point where I have to be very careful and deliberate with my directional inputs. Again, just a minor nitpick, and I'm sure the longer I play the lighter a touch I'll re-acquire. 
 
Trophies Acquired: Instrument of Fate (bronze)

#1 Posted by CrimsonDawn (21 posts) -

This is going to be slightly different from what my blog will usually be about. I plan to write my first proper on-site review on Final Fantasy XIII, which is a bit of a problem considering I have yet to play through the damn thing. Well no longer. I've gotten my hands on her, and I plan on -- hey, get your mind out of the gutter. Yes, I called the game a she. Is that really any different from calling a mode of transportation a she, or giving said mode of transportation a name? Wait, don't answer that... 
 
Okay, back on point. The chapter-based division of the game lends itself quite well to this sort of thing, so each blog post involving the game will constitute a single chapter of the game. Alright, maybe that isn't wholly accurate. Based on what I've heard of the game, both from Brad's review/Bombcast comments and from other people, a couple of the later missions get rather lengthy, so I'll use my judgment (yes, judgment; there will be no additional e from me, no sir/ma'am) and split up a chapter where I deem it appropriate. Since this sub-series will ostensibly be in the vein of a "Let's Play" series, there are bound to be some spoilers, but I will both offer fair warning and attempt to include them as sparsely as I can manage. 
 
Now, with no ado whatsoever, Chapter 1 of Final Fantasy XIII (played on the PlayStation 3, of course; I'll be damned if I'm going back to swapping discs unless I absolutely have to). 
  
Story/Characters: The story thus far strikes me as being vaguely reminiscent of the opening from VII, only with more refugees/innocent civilians involved. Considering it's still early days, I can't comment too heavily on the storyline, for obvious reasons, though I do find it a bit refreshing that there are divergent storylines from the outset (being told that you don't get your full party for a goodly length of time made me worried that I'd be stuck with only Lightning and Sazh, so it was a welcome surprise). I'm still not entirely conscious of the difference between the fal'Cie and the l'Cie (though based on the naming convention, it's quite blatant that there is a close, if not inherent, connection between the two). The physical characteristics aren't something that warrant mentioning, considering how long screenshots and the like have been available, so any character-related discussion will be focused on personalities and/or inter-party relationships. 
 
I do kind of like the government of Coccoon being portrayed as double-faced and overtly "evil" (or at least adamantly fulfilling their own interests), and look forward to the almost guaranteed uprising that will ensue from when the people (led by the player's party, I'm sure) learn of it and decide to do something about it.
 
Apart from there finally being a female protagonist, Lightning is certainly more masculine than I expected. Not physically, of course, but primarily in her voice. I'll be the first to admit that I was expecting a higher-pitched voice, which I don't believe would have gone well with what I had seen of the character from the trailers. The timbre of it very much suits a character who is a soldier, and there's a very no-nonsense quality that I believe will contrast well with some of the more expressive characters; she comes off as being very commanding as well, which fits well considering she'll be the main party leader for what I understand to be the majority of the game.  
 
Then there's Sazh. Oh Sazh, I've only just met you and you're already my favourite. From the first words out of his mouth he's, in my mind at least, slipped into the mainstay comic relief-type role that's a necessity for any story that purports to be a drama, and his voice certainly lends itself to that. Paired with his afro, I get a very 70s blaxploitation kind of vibe to him, yet in the few somber moments he's had thus far I can guess that he's going to be one of the more emotionally complex characters. And he has a baby chocobo. In his hair. Tell me that isn't the most off-the-wall concept you've heard of. My first thought when I saw it was that episode of Family Guy where Peter grows a beard which becomes the home of a trio of baby chicks. 
 
Snow's an interesting case. On the one hand, he seems to fill the generic "action hero"-y role, but is it just me or does he seem to recover a little too fast after dropping Hope's mother to her death? After he hooks up with the people from NORA again, he seems back to normal, cracking jokes and generally being a bit of a smartass. The only explanation I can come up with is that it's part of his character (using humor to cover up his inner turmoils and such), so I'll reserve judgment for a little later on. 
 
I won't say anything about Hope and Vanille, since I didn't get much of a chance to control them during this chapter, but I already get a sneaking suspicion that her voice is going to irritate me to no end. 
 
Y'know, considering the game is pretty clearly broken up into chapters (from what I understand, every time you get one of the story mandatory Bronze trophies you've begun a new chapter) I was half-expecting associated placards to point out the transition. I guess they didn't want to go too metatheatrical with it.
 
Graphics (for the first and likely only time): That opening cinematic was absolutely gorgeous.  
 
Voice Acting/Lines:  "It's hell without the brimstone." I like that line, and Lightning's delivery was pretty spot on for that sort of thing. I mentally connected that to "hell is other people", which doesn't make much sense given the context, but I'm sure with enough time and effort I'd be able to rationalize that. Doesn't mean I'm going to, though.  
 
"Moms are tough." Come on. Really? And twice, no less?
 
General Gameplay: Again, not much to say here so far, but first thing's first, a bit of a minor nitpick. The running kind of feels wrong. Perhaps I'm just used to more "heavy-set" characters (and no, I don't mean the classic RE tank controls), but Lightning just seems to a little too light on her feet. It's like getting into a car, and expecting it to handle like a car, but instead it handles like a motorcycle. It's not necessarily bad, which is why I label it as a minor nitpick, it's just something that I'll have to get used to. And I'm sure I will, given enough time. On a related note, the context sensitive blue/red zones are certainly a welcome change from past games. Part of the sense I got from the outset was that the linearity pervading the game was meant as a way of keeping the story driving forward, and eliminating the tedium of having a button press to get around/through/over obstacles certainly helps to achieve that.
 
I'm definitely digging the automatic health restoration after every fight. It's going to save so much time in the long run, as well as the need to carry around countless more potions and waste more MP than you would have to in games past. Wait, is there even MP? I haven't had the opportunity to make use of any magic so far, or summons for that matter, so I don't know if they activate like any of the early abilities I have use of (through AP) or if MP becomes available once an appropriately related skill does. 
 
Another interesting note that strikes me, when you've saved a game it doesn't offer up any additional statistics the way past games have. If you've played a Final Fantasy game in the past, you'll know what I'm talking about (party members, your current location/progress, wealth, etc.). Granted, this may well be due to the way the PS3 handles save files compared to the older systems, but then again, the consoles moved away from saving games using memory card "blocks" with the PS2, so I don't see much difference there. Then again, I haven't had a chance to actually load a game yet, so perhaps it does offer all that additional information on the loading screen. Also, it's not like it does away with that completely; the save file image is the logo superseded by whoever the current party leader is, so that's something. 
 
The camera controls are certainly taking some getting used to. Not in terms of the controls themselves, because it's not as if they're markedly different from any other title, but mainly...well, I wouldn't say they're "finicky", but they're certainly a bit over-sensitive for my liking. It's to the point where I have to be very careful and deliberate with my directional inputs. Again, just a minor nitpick, and I'm sure the longer I play the lighter a touch I'll re-acquire. 
 
Trophies Acquired: Instrument of Fate (bronze)

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.