Games People Hate: Final Fantasy XIII

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Posted by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

(Originally posted as part of the Games People Hate series of reviews at readingforwriters.tumblr.com)

With Lightning set to Return for one last adventure in just a few months, I thought this would be an appropriate time to review Final Fantasy XIII, the most divisive and reviled entry in a franchise that, over the years, has managed to alienate as many existing fans as draw in new ones. But that’s half the fun! Every numbered Final Fantasy game is a surprise. Every numbered Final Fantasy game is an event.

Before I get to my review, though, let’s get something out of the way so there is no confusion: I am an unabashed Final Fantasy superfan. I remember when Final Fantasy came out on the original NES, and one of my friends and I rented it one Friday night only to discover there was no way in hell we would be able to finish it over the weekend. I have played every numbered FF game and finished many of them two times or more. I’ve tackled Ruby and Emerald Weapon, Omega Weapon, Ozma, Penance, and Yiazmat. I own original boxed copies of all Japanese FF releases from I-XII, including all “International” editions. Wanna see my checklist? No? Here it is anyway. Behold!

I tell you these things so you will understand that I came to XIII as a longtime series fan. I knew what IV, VI, VII and X had brought to the table when I booted up XIII for the first time. But I did NOT know how much the internet hated the game because I had gone on media blackout for anything FFXIII related between the Japanese and US release. I wanted to come to the game fresh and form my own opinions.

Characters

Every FF game seems to go out of its way to create characters who are bound to be disliked. For example, many people on the internet seem to hate FFX’s Wakka. I, on the other hand, despise FFVIII’s Irvine with the blazing intensity of a thousand exploding suns. The playable cast of XIII is only six people, and the internet seems to hate three of them evenly. There is Snow, who wears a bandanna and talks endlessly about being a hero despite his striking inability to do anything at all heroic. There is Hope, a fretful tween who whines and mopes more than FFVIII’s Squall. And there is Vanille, whose chirpy Australian accent sort of makes you wonder what it would feel like to puncture your own ear drums. In her defense, Vanille turns out to be the most sympathetic of the three by the end.

The other three are Lightning, a compelling, though slightly one-note lead character; Fang, another Australian who is as wise and wry and likeable as Vanille is insipid; and Sazh, the second black character in Final Fantasy history, and easily the most likable member of the cast. Sazh is about twice as old as the rest of the adult characters, and settles quickly into a benign if exasperated role as the group’s father figure.

One complaint raised against Final Fantasy XIII as a whole was the English voice acting, with Vanille being the favorite target of criticism. But now that I’ve played the game in English and Japanese, I have to say it’s a wash between the two. Ali Hillis’s version of Lightning is great, but she can’t quite compete with Maaya Sakamoto, who just knocks it out of the park in the Japanese version. However, Reno Wilson, the English voice of Sazh, makes the English version. Wilson’s performance is one of the best I’ve ever heard in a video game, full-stop.

One legitimate complaint is that there is no memorable villain. No Golbez, no Kefka, no Sephiroth. Heck, I’d even take a Kuja over what’s on offer in FFXIII. Instead we get this crusty old white guy whose name I can’t remember. Then again, old white guys have been ruining the real world for generations, so why shouldn’t they ruin this game’s world too?

Battle System

Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is like a streamlined version of the one in FFX-2, which itself took cues from FFV’s Job System. But now Jobs are called Roles, because why not. Understanding Roles is the key to success in FFXIII’s fast and hectic fights. Battles are mercilessly difficult, but the game steadily and skillfully gives you all the tools to master it. Even after 25 hours, you may still see a tutorial screen pop up at the start of a battle. You can turn off tutorials, but that would be a huge mistake; strategies and abilities are rarely self-evident, and there’s no reason not to let the game teach you how to use them.

At any time you will have one to three members in your battle party. As mentioned above, the game chooses the party for you until Chapter 11, but you are still responsible for creating Paradigms to control their behavior. A Paradigm is a combination of Roles. For example, one possible Paradigm for three characters could be: Commando, Medic, Saboteur. You control the Commando directly, and the game’s excellent artificial intelligence tells the other characters what to do, depending on the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, which your party learns and remembers as you fight more monsters.

At the end of a battle, you are awarded both points and anywhere from 0-5 stars based on the length of the battle. These “prizes” are meaningless outside of a couple of trophies that require five-star victories. However, giving 0-2 stars is the game’s way of telling you that you could be winning a lot faster if you improve your strategy.

Sidequests

There are about 60 optional sidequests in FFXIII, most of which become available in Chapter 11. They take the form of unique monster battles similar to the Clan Hunts in FFXII. Some of them are groin-punchingly difficult, but you at least get to try them again if you don’t do as well as you like the first time.

And that’s it. For better or worse, there are no fetch quests, no weird Celestial Weapon Olympics like in FFX. It’s Final Fantasy meets Monster Hunter, and it’s great if you enjoy that sort of thing. (I do.)

Production Values

Before I even get to the graphics, I have to single out Masashi Hamauzu for the FFXIII soundtrack. This is the first fully orchestrated FF soundtrack—previous games employed a combination of orchestral and electronically produced tracks—and it is the best.

*Ducks to avoid bricks and chalkboard erasers thrown by Nobuo Uematsu fans.*

Uematsu writes more memorable melodies and tracks, no question. But the FFXIII soundtrack is one monstrous, cohesive and fantastic piece of music.

And then there are the graphics. This is Final Fantasy we’re talking about here. Go back and boot it up. Look at the variety of locations and the way the characters all appear against and interact with the backgrounds. Your Uncharteds and Halos might be more technically impressive, but this game simply looks magnificent. There was at least one point in every single chapter where I had to stop moving and just look around for awhile. And that’s only the game engine I’m talking about. The CG cinematics are the best in the industry. Only Blizzard even comes close.

Story

It’s completely bonkers, as you’d expect. Something about big old God machines enslaving humans to do their bidding, giving them magical abilities in the process. If the humans fail or refuse to obey, they turn into big weird monsters. If they succeed, they turn into crystal and “live” eternally as statues.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the story starts from a scenario of government-orchestrated genocide. At first I was kind of shocked at such heavy subject matter, but once I thought about other FF games, genocide actually isn’t too far out of character. You’ve got Golbez razing whole kingdoms and destroying families in FFIV, Kefka poisoning people and abandoning his own soldiers to die in FFVI, Cloud & Co. killing civilians with acts of terrorism in VII, different countries using “schools” to breed merciless armies of teenagers in VIII, sacrificial religion and heresy in X…quite a list, isn’t it?

Pacing

The dumbest complaint raised against FFXIII—parroted almost exclusively by people who only played a couple hours and then quit—is that the game takes 25 hours to get good. No, it doesn’t. It takes TWO hours to get good, which is admittedly still kind of rough. But then you hit Chapter 3 and BAM, the game takes off and just keeps getting better until, about 25 hours in, when it gets amazing.

My first playthrough lasted 96 hours, and I was kind of sad when I realized I’d done everything there was to do in the game at that point. Which is probably why I’m currently on my third playthrough in the last three years. Final Fantasy XIII starts off with a slow burn, to be sure, but even the fastest train in the world must ease its way out of the station at a crawl, right? And if you’re still on the train when those engines cycle up, baby, you’re in for a hell of a ride.

#1 Posted by believer258 (12208 posts) -

I've played about 8 hours or so of FFXIII and yes, the pacing is bad. I stopped playing because I was tired of this stupid freaking junkyard, which was an awesome setting at first but it got boring after a while.

That's a real shame, too, as pretty environments and fun combat are the two reasons to play FFXIII. I'll probably get back into it someday, but I really need to move on from that dark blue junkyard.

Oh, and I hate Hope. I dislike Snow, but he doesn't bug me too much, and Vanille... well, whatever.

Finally, I thought FFVIII was the most divisive? I mean, people seem to have gotten over FFXIII by now, but I remember a pretty vitriolic thread on FFVIII a few months ago.

#2 Posted by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

Interesting, I remember people hating VIII, but it seemed like that was mostly because it came after the almighty VII. I quite liked VIII, but I felt like it took even longer to "get good" than XIII, or indeed any of the others.

#3 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

I hate that pacing complaint, too. People see that Pulse introduces some new gameplay concepts and then hastily scream "THIS GAME FUCKING SUCKS, IT'S HALF TUTORIALS!" I'd use a "by that logic" here, but I can't name too many games that introduce a completely new gameplay concept late in the game. Path of Radiance (with the herons)? Devil May Cry (with the airplane)? That's all I have for now.

#4 Posted by wjb (1697 posts) -

I didn't mind XIII. I finished it in 60-ish hours.

I didn't care for the side-quests by the time I got to Pulse. Usually that's the time when things "get good," but I didn't care to start hunting monsters by that point. I enjoyed it in XII because the game introduces it earlier and you can do it in-between story beats, but I just wanted to finish the story in XIII by chapter 11, 30+ hours in.

Vanille and Fang were my favorite characters, if that says anything about me...

#5 Posted by Hailinel (25205 posts) -

I wish people would put more effort in talking about the FF games they like than the ones they hate. XIII is a great game that has some issues, but is far from the stain on the franchise people claim it to be.

#6 Edited by BigJeffrey (5111 posts) -

Fuck Hope, SO MUCH.

#7 Edited by YI_Orange (1172 posts) -

About the characters: I never knew that was common opinion. Snow was the only character I DIDN'T want to just shut the fuck up. I'm with everyone on Vanille and Hope, but the rest...not so much.

Fang I guess I don't really have a good reason for hating, but she just bugged me to no end for some reason.

Lightning was fine I guess.

Sazh was more likable at the beginning, but then he became kinda melodramatic and there was that whole suicide thing and I don't know, he annoyed me. I get him, but that doesn't mean I had to like him.

Snow talked about being heroic constantly despite not being very heroic, but that's kinda what I liked about him. He was a jackass, sure, but I appreciated the way he was trying to keep everyone else upbeat and had a "come on guys, stop moping around and let's do this shit!"attitude. He was kind of opposite everyone else and not really what I expected from a JRPG character. Maybe I'm remembering him wrong, I don't know.

Edit - Also, yeah, Jazzy Chocobo is awesome and I'm actually pretty into the battle theme.

#8 Posted by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

@wjb said:

Vanille and Fang were my favorite characters, if that says anything about me...

It says you have a different opinion than some people. ;) And as I mentioned in the review, I felt like Vanille's character really turned things around by the end of the game.

#9 Posted by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

@hailinel: This! And not just Final Fantasy, but games in general. Too much negativity in games these days. (I admit I am guilty of this too--I wrote a piece about Tomb Raider that had the Giant Bomb community grabbing their pitchforks and torches.)

My only problem with Final Fantasy is that I need more hours in the day to play and then write about how much I love each game in the series.

#10 Posted by wjb (1697 posts) -

@wjb said:

Vanille and Fang were my favorite characters, if that says anything about me...

It says you have a different opinion than some people. ;) And as I mentioned in the review, I felt like Vanille's character really turned things around by the end of the game.

I suppose if I was 15 years younger, I would've disliked Vanille because I used to not care for the upbeat characters (news flash: moody teenager likes moody characters; now it's the opposite).

I didn't hate any of the main characters in XIII, but I didn't have as strong of a positive reaction compared to a game like XII (sometimes I wonder if XII is my favorite). Hope sucked, but I understood his motivations. He was a dumb kid with a bandana around his neck (like my dog gets when it gets a trim).

#11 Edited by jking47 (1248 posts) -

I saw that you did not mention FFIX when talking about the series brought to the table and knew right away we would never agree. Great write up! Makes me think I should make a blog about my favorite Final Fantasy...(yeahright).

I had to go put on the FFIX soundtrack to stop myself trying to get in an argument over which is better though.

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#12 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@hailinel said:

I wish people would put more effort in talking about the FF games they like than the ones they hate.

@hailinel: This! And not just Final Fantasy, but games in general. Too much negativity in games these days.

Same here. Gaming needs more positivity and.....damn it. Can't find the Fairly Oddparents clip I want. Whatever, you guys know what I mean: cut it out with the hate and cynicism, gaming communities.

#13 Posted by gokaired (572 posts) -

Couldn't stand this game. the first time i played it i gave up in 25 hours (which WAS all tutorial) and the second time i played it the ending pissed me off and i had wasted hours of life i could have slept (strong words i know)

For those who don't like the "tutorial" argument i'll contest if you compared it to another game with similar function i can guarantee it was faaaaaaaar more fun in that game.

The story is rather senseless not as suspect as say ff7 destroying shinra buildings even though it's the populous only resource for energy and plumbing etc. but it contradicted itself sometimes in the same scene, the dialogue was repetitive too, always going in circles like a bad Evangelion episode ;) The Fal'cie are self sabotaging idiots just like the characters, I could give more examples but there are too many. Characters by... the last quarter did have growth but by then i didn't give a rats arse.

Gameplay, it's hard to call it simple because so are the ones before 8 but if you can okay a game with one hand without looking and win something is wrong, my second playthrough I experimented and it worked every time. maxing out weapons is tricky because once they are till you look at them you won't know and by then they'll deal with every enemy anyway.

The Crystarium is mindless and has no depth, just hold the button and wait to fill each path.

Level design, detailed and lazy. Even X had more variety.

Music was okay, but My Hands is dumb. Not because it's bad but it's like the main theme of 8, terrible context.

But what really took me out of half the experience was the inconsistencies, like how they pick and choose what drops will do the most harm or Snows stupid jacket, the senselessness of finding a focus or the stupid chocobo in the afro, I didn't know whether to laugh or be annoyed at the truth that the chocobos name could destroy the world ¬_¬

Anyway, I can't say this is the worst FF but it's among or THE most disappointing entry.

#14 Posted by Slag (4899 posts) -

Well I still think the pacing is definitely sub-optimal.

I completely agree that it hits its' groove earlier than most people say (personally chapter 2 is when it clicked for me). But the problem is that's a story overdose. It's kinda of like eating a cake all the icing first, then having all the dry cake all at once (Pulse).

The story tunnel was way too long and then when you hit Pulse suddenly you had dozens of hours of sidequests all at once, which takes that Story Bullet Train that was running at full speed and slams it into a wall.

the old formula of parceling out sidequests as the story moves forward was far better. It kept the gameplay in balance and allowed the player more freedom to play however they wanted.

#15 Edited by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

@jking47: I enjoyed IX enough to beat it twice and track down Ozma, but it felt more like a throwback than a trail blazer to me. However the creator of FF agrees with you, so who am I to argue? :)

Edit: XIII isn't actually my favorite FF. I just think it needs the most defending.

#16 Posted by Itwastuesday (984 posts) -

ff13 suxxxxxx

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#17 Posted by Superkenon (1506 posts) -

I've played through FFXIII twice. The game, variable as it is, holds a special place in my heart.

The pacing sucks.

For me, it's not that the plot is slow to get rolling, it's more that the only reason it's slow is because the game world is absolutely jam-packed with padding. Every area/dungeon in the game would benefit greatly from being half the length it is. As a guy deep into Final Fantasy and JRPGs in general, I'm definitely a fan of long games, but not when they're just being long for the sake of being long. Which this game is guilty of.

After a second playthrough to clear up my feelings about the game, I determined that there's very little wrong with the actual content of FFXIII. The characters are developed well, the story is touching, the setting is intriguing, the battle system is engaging. The problem is that all this great stuff is artificially stretched over a play-time it wasn't fit for, with dungeons sticking around past their welcome, and enemies becoming almost exclusively recycled less than halfway through the game, and just generally a lot more walking than there should be.

I mean, all in all, the story in FFXIII is a short one, which isn't a bad thing. I just think it would've shined all the brighter if it was hitched to a more appropriately-sized, concise package. That's what I think!!

My grumbling aside, thanks for the post. For some reason, I think this game is particularly fun to hear different peoples' takes on. It seems to be a lot of things to a lot of people. VARIABLE. For instance, despite how confident I feel in my assessment, I'm positive no one will agree with me! Nyek yek yek!

#18 Posted by Aetheldod (3736 posts) -

I agree the pacing was perfect and the best partwas that I didnt have to deal with the anoying lazy and terrible towns/towns people that plague FF games. I also disliked XII for its lack of focus (and the battle system wasnt for my liking). Also Sahz sucks and Lighting is the best there is >:3 (but yeah fuck Hope , I so wished I could stab that fucker).

Oh yeah by the way FF IX is the worst thing there is in FF history.

#19 Edited by TruthTellah (9481 posts) -

I think hate is the right term here. I don't think FFXIII is a technically bad game in the least, but I hated it.

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#21 Posted by Sinusoidal (1810 posts) -

I think hate is the right term here. I don't think FFXIII is a technically bad game in the least, but I hated it.

Exactly. XIII is gorgeous, plays well and has an interesting premise, but then is crippled by terrible pacing, unlikable and obnoxious characters and 30+ hours of strictly linear corridors cut up by cutscenes. It's such an amazingly produced clusterfuck. SO much wasted potential.

#22 Edited by Fredchuckdave (6162 posts) -

XIII is an utterly superb combat system and a decent storyline but doesn't have much exploration for about 30 hours; granted there are plenty of excellent completely linear JRPGs so I don't really get that as a complaint except that it is semi-unique to Final Fantasy (Tactics is pretty linear; and has by far the best storyline as a result, X is mostly linear and has a great theme and concept even if the characters aren't great). There's no reason to hate it unless you suck at the combat I suppose; it is quite a bit more challenging than any other FF which could throw some people off.

#23 Posted by HermanBloom (94 posts) -

I liked XIII, however I do agree with the people saying the pacing is far from perfect.

Fuck XIII-2 though, think that is the only FF game I haven't finished.

#24 Edited by Petiew (1361 posts) -

I like XIII but complaints about the pacing are not dumb and unfounded. The battle system is gimped in the first 20 or so hours. Rather than it feeling like they're adding new mechanics to keep the game fresh and interesting it feels like they removed vital components of the battle system that should have been in there from the start. It's one of the problems I had with XII's battle system as well, making both of them a chore to slog through at the beginning.

#25 Posted by xyzygy (10079 posts) -

Agree with pretty much everything you said.

#26 Posted by Verendus (348 posts) -

"Before I even get to the graphics, I have to single out Masashi Hamauzu for the FFXIII soundtrack. This is the first fully orchestrated FF soundtrack—previous games employed a combination of orchestral and electronically produced tracks—and it is the best."

Stopped reading right there. These are all opinions, defenders of XIII can find the mashing X/A button and sometimes switching roles in boss fights while letting the auto-battle do everything for you "Innovative, Tactical and fast paced" and think FFXIII characters aren't that bad.

But comparing the soundtrack to Uematsu's work, That's just more bullshit that I can digest in one post.

I'd say the game would be considered "Mediocre" at best if it wouldn't carry legacy of the series with Final Fantasy on it's name, but at FF standards the game is horrible and the fact they are forcing Lightning to be something popular with XIII and it's sequels is something that makes me hate the game even more. After XIII-3, I really hope we don't have to ever deal with anything that is from FFXIII, Square has failed massively this generation and they know it. Keeping the XV as "XIII Versus" would've probably hurt sales since most of people gave up after finishing (or quitting mid 20 hour tutorial) FFXIII.

#27 Posted by davidwitten22 (1708 posts) -

Man, I want to play FFX so bad now.

#28 Posted by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

@verendus said:

"Before I even get to the graphics, I have to single out Masashi Hamauzu for the FFXIII soundtrack. This is the first fully orchestrated FF soundtrack—previous games employed a combination of orchestral and electronically produced tracks—and it is the best."

Stopped reading right there.

Ha ha. Fair enough. Uematsu is a god, and if you'd read *just* a bit further you would have seen me admit that his individual songs are more memorable. In fact, his FF anthem is my favorite piece of video game music in existence. But there's just something about the XIII OST as a whole. All four discs of it complement each other so well, and there's only maybe two or three annoying tracks out of about four hours of music.

#29 Posted by Verendus (348 posts) -

@lordgodalming: With Uematsu's music, I personally always had a song stuck in my head (Most of the time at the place I had last saved on when beating the game for first time) and those tracks became memorable in near instant. Outside battle theme (which still was inferior to pre-X-2 games), I can't remember a single other track from the game on top of my head.

But on earlier games, I can name the song and most likely even play it by ear when it comes to FFVI-FFX soundtracks.

Well, all opinions..Hamauzu's work really was like majority of movie music to me. You don't really pay attention to it, does it fit the mood? Sure. Do you notice yourself having the track stuck on your head? No. Which in my opinion doesn't make it memorable.

If only Sakaguchi and Uematsu would still be with SE..Odds are we wouldn't be arguing about the damn game. Just one, happy FF family singing praising songs haha.

#30 Posted by lordgodalming (155 posts) -

@davidwitten22 said:

Man, I want to play FFX so bad now.

My favorite FF and favorite game of all time, period. I can't wait for the HD remaster.

#31 Edited by danmcn12 (86 posts) -

Interesting, I remember people hating VIII, but it seemed like that was mostly because it came after the almighty VII. I quite liked VIII, but I felt like it took even longer to "get good" than XIII, or indeed any of the others.

FF8 was hated; but it was more controversial then the universal hate FF13 received.

#32 Edited by Elwoodan (870 posts) -

I reallt enjoyed 13, though I fully admit the things that people disliked -the linearity and pacing- were both things I really appreciated. I have a terrible sense of direction, so the game just pointing me down a path and throwing cut-scenes and monsters in my way was A-OK with me, and the pacing made the changes in the characters personalities much more gradual and interesting. Sure, for the first few chapters Hope was whiny and annoying, but by the end he had accepted and adapted to the situation and Snows impotent bravado always made me laugh while I sent him to the bench to watch the real characters fight.

I'm not saying its the game for everyone, but I though they executed on what I wanted from a FF game -combat and CGI cutscenes- extremely well.

#33 Posted by sonicrift (305 posts) -

I played through XIII when it came out, and sold it after finishing, thinking I'd never touch it again. The day trailers convinced me to preorder Lightning Returns, I bought it again online. That was last month, and apparently it's still in the mail. We'll see...?

I'm hoping to resolve some of the Pulse grinding with a tool I found that'll let me alter my save file. I wasn't really into that part of the game. Like Shin Megami Tensei IV's Neutral route, the story sees steady progression, then hard stops. When FFXIII came out, I'd just quit my job, and had the time to commit, but I'd have trouble devoting my time to a game like that today. I think if SMT IV wasn't a portable game I could use to blow time on a streetcar, I might have not put in the extra 17 hours.

I remember there's a point, I think at Lake Bresha, where the battle system really opens up, and you start to get what it's all about. The battle system was really great, but the way the story was presented was a mess. Spending time in the Crystarium or Sphere Grid of XIII/X just makes me want to go back to a more traditional level-up, where I don't have to put the work in.

In my head, this game is one of the prettiest. I hope my order shows up soon. I'd like to play through it again before Lightning Returns. I didn't bother with XIII-2, but watched all the story segments played out on YouTube. I know what's up.

#34 Edited by Marcsman (3296 posts) -

Ruined the series for me.

#35 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4702 posts) -

FF13 is exceptional in a flashy themepark sort of way. Just look at that picture you posted! FF13, much like Child of Eden appeals to my love of bright extravagance.

#36 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1608 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@hailinel said:

I wish people would put more effort in talking about the FF games they like than the ones they hate.

@lordgodalming said:

@hailinel: This! And not just Final Fantasy, but games in general. Too much negativity in games these days.

Same here. Gaming needs more positivity and.....damn it. Can't find the Fairly Oddparents clip I want. Whatever, you guys know what I mean: cut it out with the hate and cynicism, gaming communities.

I think you're right to single out hate and cynicism and not negativity as a whole. Constructive, measured negativity is good, and I think vital. I'd love for us to rid ourselves of the knee-jerk, cliquey, intolerant, hyperbolic, and second-hand stuff, but I don't want the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

Applied to FF XIII (and especially XIII-2), this is why I've written thousands of words about what's wrong with those games, but am more tired than ever of the mainstream opinion of them as trainwrecks, especially coming from people who haven't played them. If someone doesn't like FF XIII and writes up why in a reasonable way, that's great, but if they just drive by a comment section and say "fuck that anime bullshit, Final Fantasy hasn't mattered in a decade!", fuck that.

@slag said:

Well I still think the pacing is definitely sub-optimal.

I completely agree that it hits its' groove earlier than most people say (personally chapter 2 is when it clicked for me). But the problem is that's a story overdose. It's kinda of like eating a cake all the icing first, then having all the dry cake all at once (Pulse).

The story tunnel was way too long and then when you hit Pulse suddenly you had dozens of hours of sidequests all at once, which takes that Story Bullet Train that was running at full speed and slams it into a wall.

the old formula of parceling out sidequests as the story moves forward was far better. It kept the gameplay in balance and allowed the player more freedom to play however they wanted.

Yeah, and the sidequests were largely mediocre busywork -- weren't they all "go to X location and kill Y monster"?. I find it weird that so many talk about how Chapter 11 was where FF XIII really hit its stride, because for me, it was where I started getting really fatigued by it. The Pulse areas were interesting to explore, but the things they had you doing in them weren't very well-designed or well-paced.

I don't think the linearity was a huge problem, and XIII-2 serves as a good counter-point to that idea. It dragged in parts, but if anything, giving the player more busywork would make the pacing even worse. The thinness of the plot in some chapters, repetitiveness of some areas, and lack of meaningful character progression was what got me fatigued, not the way the maps were organized.

It's also worth noting that the strict linearity (or, more accurately, the associated gating of the Crystarium) was what made the battle system work, because they knew how strong you'd be at any given point.

[...] I think if SMT IV wasn't a portable game I could use to blow time on a streetcar, I might have not put in the extra 17 hours.

You're from Toronto, aren't you? I don't think anyone else in the English-speaking world uses the word "streetcar".

@verendus said:

@lordgodalming:

With Uematsu's music, I personally always had a song stuck in my head (Most of the time at the place I had last saved on when beating the game for first time) and those tracks became memorable in near instant. Outside battle theme (which still was inferior to pre-X-2 games), I can't remember a single other track from the game on top of my head.

But on earlier games, I can name the song and most likely even play it by ear when it comes to FFVI-FFX soundtracks.

Well, all opinions..Hamauzu's work really was like majority of movie music to me. You don't really pay attention to it, does it fit the mood? Sure. Do you notice yourself having the track stuck on your head? No. Which in my opinion doesn't make it memorable.

If only Sakaguchi and Uematsu would still be with SE..Odds are we wouldn't be arguing about the damn game. Just one, happy FF family singing praising songs haha.

I can't speak to the older games' soundtracks, but keep in mind your lack of enthusiasm for the soundtrack isn't universal. I loved FF XIII's music -- it's one of my favourite game soundtracks for many of the same reasons (especially its eclecticism) that I loved Beyond Good & Evil's. I had the Archylte Steppe music stuck in my head for upwards of a week after finishing the game. I don't expect everyone to love it, but I think you're underselling it.

#37 Posted by believer258 (12208 posts) -

@verendus said:

"Before I even get to the graphics, I have to single out Masashi Hamauzu for the FFXIII soundtrack. This is the first fully orchestrated FF soundtrack—previous games employed a combination of orchestral and electronically produced tracks—and it is the best."

Stopped reading right there. These are all opinions, defenders of XIII can find the mashing X/A button and sometimes switching roles in boss fights while letting the auto-battle do everything for you "Innovative, Tactical and fast paced" and think FFXIII characters aren't that bad.

But comparing the soundtrack to Uematsu's work, That's just more bullshit that I can digest in one post.

I'd say the game would be considered "Mediocre" at best if it wouldn't carry legacy of the series with Final Fantasy on it's name, but at FF standards the game is horrible and the fact they are forcing Lightning to be something popular with XIII and it's sequels is something that makes me hate the game even more. After XIII-3, I really hope we don't have to ever deal with anything that is from FFXIII, Square has failed massively this generation and they know it. Keeping the XV as "XIII Versus" would've probably hurt sales since most of people gave up after finishing (or quitting mid 20 hour tutorial) FFXIII.

Might be worth noting that FFXV is supposed to take place in the same universe as XIII, that whole "Fabula Nova Crystallis" thingy.

#38 Edited by Excast (1041 posts) -

I just found the game lacking in a lot of ways compared to it's predecessors. I enjoy side quests and being able to explore a world. Of course, FF13 is basically devoid of sidequests and almost all meaningful interaction with characters outside of your party. Where are the NPCs to chat with? Where are the card games or other side quests to break up the monotony? Where are the puzzles or dungeons that go beyond "follow this straight path to the end"?

It's not a bad game. The battle system is among the best in the series, the music is fine, and the characters are decent. It just didn't feel like the complete, fleshed out experience I used to expect from a game with Final Fantasy in the title.

#39 Posted by Slag (4899 posts) -


@slag said:

Well I still think the pacing is definitely sub-optimal.

I completely agree that it hits its' groove earlier than most people say (personally chapter 2 is when it clicked for me). But the problem is that's a story overdose. It's kinda of like eating a cake all the icing first, then having all the dry cake all at once (Pulse).

The story tunnel was way too long and then when you hit Pulse suddenly you had dozens of hours of sidequests all at once, which takes that Story Bullet Train that was running at full speed and slams it into a wall.

the old formula of parceling out sidequests as the story moves forward was far better. It kept the gameplay in balance and allowed the player more freedom to play however they wanted.

Yeah, and the sidequests were largely mediocre busywork -- weren't they all "go to X location and kill Y monster"?. I find it weird that so many talk about how Chapter 11 was where FF XIII really hit its stride, because for me, it was where I started getting really fatigued by it. The Pulse areas were interesting to explore, but the things they had you doing in them weren't very well-designed or well-paced.

I don't think the linearity was a huge problem, and XIII-2 serves as a good counter-point to that idea. It dragged in parts, but if anything, giving the player more busywork would make the pacing even worse. The thinness of the plot in some chapters, repetitiveness of some areas, and lack of meaningful character progression was what got me fatigued, not the way the maps were organized.

It's also worth noting that the strict linearity (or, more accurately, the associated gating of the Crystarium) was what made the battle system work, because they knew how strong you'd be at any given point.

@sonicrift said:

[...] I think if SMT IV wasn't a portable game I could use to blow time on a streetcar, I might have not put in the extra 17 hours.

You're from Toronto, aren't you? I don't think anyone else in the English-speaking world uses the word "streetcar".


You're right the strict linearity really helped the battle system, but I think there was wiggle room there. e.g. I think they found a good balance in X which was just as linear when you look at it, but it had occasional breaks to allow you to mess with blitzball etc.

The linearity itself wasn't a problem it just was the lack of pacing variety. An occasional 45-60 minute sidequesting/grinding section between story beats is a nice change of pace and allows you to digest story beats without forgetting them. Variety is the spice of life. And it gives the illusion of control to the player.

Some of the story tunnels (like chapter X in particular) felt devoid of tension and just like long grind sections, because the tunnel ran so long without breaks.

I The older I get the more I wonder if sidequests are even a good thing in games, so many of them are just fancy excuses to grind and really artificially lengthen games. Looking back on the SNES I cna't help but wonder if the relative comparative absence of side quests is part of why those JRPGs are so beloved.

fwiw Streetcar is a very common word in America these days thanks to Portland, Oregon. It's the latest Urban design rage. It seems like every second tier city is exploring one to revive their downtowns in attempt to cash in on the success Portland had.

#40 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1608 posts) -

@slag said:



You're right the strict linearity really helped the battle system, but I think there was wiggle room there. e.g. I think they found a good balance in X which was just as linear when you look at it, but it had occasional breaks to allow you to mess with blitzball etc.

The linearity itself wasn't a problem it just was the lack of pacing variety. An occasional 45-60 minute sidequesting/grinding section between story beats is a nice change of pace and allows you to digest story beats without forgetting them. Variety is the spice of life. And it gives the illusion of control to the player.

Some of the story tunnels (like chapter X in particular) felt devoid of tension and just like long grind sections, because the tunnel ran so long without breaks.

I The older I get the more I wonder if sidequests are even a good thing in games, so many of them are just fancy excuses to grind and really artificially lengthen games. Looking back on the SNES I cna't help but wonder if the relative comparative absence of side quests is part of why those JRPGs are so beloved.

fwiw Streetcar is a very common word in America these days thanks to Portland, Oregon. It's the latest Urban design rage. It seems like every second tier city is exploring one to revive their downtowns in attempt to cash in on the success Portland had.

I'm looking forward to playing Final Fantasy X when the PS3 release comes out. There's a part of me that wants to sequentially catch up on the series from VI through to XII, but I'm not sure that's a realistic option time-wise.

I tend to agree about sidequests. I can think of scenarios in which they can be genuinely valuable, but in practice, they tend to serve as padding. The same applies to side missions and collectibles in something like Saints Row.

And yeah, some chapters in FF XIII were just badly-paced. Parts of the Fifth Ark (chapter 10, right?) were just copy-pasted rooms, and there's no defending that. The game would have been a lot better if it was maybe 20% shorter.

Re: Streetcars, I assumed they'd be called "trams" or "light rail" elsewhere. It's funny to me that they're all the rage in Portland, because in Toronto there's a large contingent that hates them taking up space on the street and wants them gone. Toronto's idiot mayor (in)famously despises them. Of course, getting mad about vehicles with 100+ people on them clogging streets is madness, and many of the complainers are from the suburbs and only encounter streetcars in the context of driving, but we're digressing into Toronto city politics, which is a topic I have an even greater love-hate relationship with than video games.

FWIW, I think streetcars are awesome. They're on of the biggest things I miss about Toronto living in Montreal, both practically (busses are loud, uncomfortable to ride, and generally obnoxious) and philosophically (I think they give downtown Toronto a unique ambiance, at least in a North American context).

#41 Posted by ArbitraryWater (12130 posts) -

@believer258: Is that even still true at this point? I feel like the renaming to XV is probably proof that it's not connected with the XIII series anymore.

#42 Posted by Slag (4899 posts) -


I'm looking forward to playing Final Fantasy X when the PS3 release comes out. There's a part of me that wants to sequentially catch up on the series from VI through to XII, but I'm not sure that's a realistic option time-wise.

I tend to agree about sidequests. I can think of scenarios in which they can be genuinely valuable, but in practice, they tend to serve as padding. The same applies to side missions and collectibles in something like Saints Row.

And yeah, some chapters in FF XIII were just badly-paced. Parts of the Fifth Ark (chapter 10, right?) were just copy-pasted rooms, and there's no defending that. The game would have been a lot better if it was maybe 20% shorter.

Re: Streetcars, I assumed they'd be called "trams" or "light rail" elsewhere. It's funny to me that they're all the rage in Portland, because in Toronto there's a large contingent that hates them taking up space on the street and wants them gone. Toronto's idiot mayor (in)famously despises them. Of course, getting mad about vehicles with 100+ people on them clogging streets is madness, and many of the complainers are from the suburbs and only encounter streetcars in the context of driving, but we're digressing into Toronto city politics, which is a topic I have an even greater love-hate relationship with than video games.

FWIW, I think streetcars are awesome. They're on of the biggest things I miss about Toronto living in Montreal, both practically (busses are loud, uncomfortable to ride, and generally obnoxious) and philosophically (I think they give downtown Toronto a unique ambiance, at least in a North American context).

I think that's a good call, I'm kinda envious actually that you have the opportunity to go in fresh into X. I don't know if I've forgotten enough about X to be able to play it or X-2 again.

yup chapter 10 was meh. Definitely too long for no good reason.

That's weird about Toronto's mayor. Maybe he hates them because Americans like them so much now? I don't understand why any major city would want less mass transit. That makes zero sense to me. Meh politics.

Toronto is a fun town, when I've gone I've always been amazed by how clean it is compared to major US cities.

#43 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1608 posts) -

@slag said:

That's weird about Toronto's mayor. Maybe he hates them because Americans like them so much now? I don't understand why any major city would want less mass transit. That makes zero sense to me. Meh politics.

Toronto is a fun town, when I've gone I've always been amazed by how clean it is compared to major US cities.

It would take an essay to explain it anywhere near accurately. It's wrapped up in a lot of identity politics and "downtown elites vs. suburban average joes" rhetoric (not sure if this plays, but "Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons"). Toronto amalgamated with its surrounding suburban municipalities in the late 90s, and the divide between the urban (pre-war, high-density) and suburban (post-war, car-centric urban design) mindsets was never really bridged. There's an enduring (false) idea that downtown gets more spending than it deserves, so when people in the suburbs have streetcar/LRT lines proposed to them, they see it as the subway-having downtowners giving them second-rate transit.

Toronto gets a bad rap from the rest of Canada (hating/"hating" Toronto is something of a national pastime, for various reasons depending on the region), so I always enjoy perspectives from people with no knowledge of what they're supposed to think about Toronto.

I'll have to cut myself off there to avoid further derailing this blog thread. Sorry!

#44 Edited by believer258 (12208 posts) -

@arbitrarywater said:

@believer258: Is that even still true at this point? I feel like the renaming to XV is probably proof that it's not connected with the XIII series anymore.

Well, I mean, TVTropes and Wikipedia say so, and they're the most reliable sources in the whole wide world, so it must be so.

It says they have a shared mythology, though, and not necessarily a shared world (?), so I hope you remembered XV's codex entries. EDIT: I mean XIII's. Sorry, late college nights.

#45 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

It says they have a shared mythology, though, and not necessarily a shared world (?)

All the 2D Final Fantasies have a shared mythos without a shared world. That....didn't turn out well.

#46 Edited by Verendus (348 posts) -

@believer258: I hope this doesn't mean Square will find a way to shove Lightning down our throats again.

If that happens, I won't buy a single FF game anymore, unless they bring old crew back and make that FFVII remake everyone dreams of.

Though odds are they'll find way to shove Lightning there somehow. She was controlling Caith Sith all along.

I wish Sagakuchi would just come back to clean the shit Toriyama has caused.

#47 Posted by squiDc00kiE (367 posts) -

I really liked XIII. Even the linear parts. I thoroughly believe that if this game came out as a new IP instead of a FF game, people would have loved it way more. People loved Eternal Sonata, as did I, and that game could not have been more linear and downright frustrating in parts. I just think those that were long time FF fans, had grown out of that phase without realizing it and whatever game came out was going to be a disappointment.

Also duders, stop asking for a FFVII remake. You don't know what you are asking for.

#48 Posted by squiDc00kiE (367 posts) -

I really liked XIII. Even the linear parts. I thoroughly believe that if this game came out as a new IP instead of a FF game, people would have loved it way more. People loved Eternal Sonata, as did I, and that game could not have been more linear and downright frustrating in parts. I just think those that were long time FF fans, had grown out of that phase without realizing it and whatever game came out was going to be a disappointment.

Also duders, stop asking for a FFVII remake. You don't know what you are asking for.

#49 Edited by pyromagnestir (4339 posts) -

Did people really hate it?

I played through the first 30 hours, got up to the part where I finally had access to the full team of party characters and the world finally opened up and gave you some room to explore, and promptly forced you to do a few FF XII style monster hunt type side quests, and I lost interest. I liked that side quest in FF XII I just thought it was too little, too late. I kinda want to go finish it one day.

My only real complaint, the switch roles mechanic was interesting but I didn't like how I couldn't swap an individual characters role on the fly, if I decided a boss fight would go better if one character were buffing, one were healing and third tanking, then switch the buff one to attack, I couldn't do that unless I had those sets premade before entering the boss fight, which would have required some serious, supernatural level foresight on my part. It was really only an issue in bossfights though, most normal fights worked fine with the half dozen readymade sets.

#50 Edited by zels (207 posts) -

@pyromagnestir: It's a poor game in a beloved franchise, I guess that some people would go that far for a game.

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