Welcome to the second part of this sort-of introspective of the Final Fantasy series (the first part being around here somewhere). Like all good self-respecting article-writing guys, I'm going to direct you towards a far superior, more in-depth look at the series written by SMPS (and occasional HG101) contributor Pat/Pitchfork. It's right here and a great read and I've tried not to mimic it too much. Probably.
On t3h Cyberpunkz (In MY Fantasy RPG? It's More Likely Than You Think) (FF7)A worrying trend in FF games, starting with FF7 (though one could make a similar case for the steampunkish FF6) is having all these futuristic trappings alongside the mages and moogles. Something about getting all your "you must go to cave for item to defeat the darkness" fetch quests via Mog Twitter or CactuarBook just seems malapropos, and characters with swords are completely ridiculous in a world full of automatic weapons and flying attack drones, even if those swords are also guns somehow.
Because FF13 is a Final Fantasy game made after FF7, it too has an all-too-modern setting for its Logan Run-esque hapless mortals to amuse themselves in as their caretakers plot their demise. They even start with a similar "rebels on a train" sequence for Jenova's sake! And then a scorpion robot! I guess this counts as throwing a bone to all those FF7 fanboys crying out for a HD remake.
Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on FF13 for this. It's not like there aren't many modern games where your characters can hit solid metal robots with sticks to brutal effect (sup Enslaved). But I am a little annoyed they turned all the bombs into gamer dice because "the future".
On Dramatis Personae (FF8)So here's where the similarities really start to stack up. Almost every character in FF13 has an analogous member in FF8's lineup of whiny schoolchildren. Maybe they all came from the same orphanage but forgot, huh? So in no particular order:
Lightning = SquallVoted in unanimously as party leader, despite being a misanthropic loner with very little affection for anyone under their care. Sure, why wouldn't that make sense. Maybe it's because they both have swords that fire bullets? Like that's Final Fantasy's version of holding the conch shell? Both go through the sort of cutesy-poo "daww they're human, really" development where they'll go from grimacing and never saying a full sentence to anyone to except to call them a dumbass, to smiling occasionally.
Snow = SeiferThis could go either way between a Seifer or Zell match. Like Zell, he's a good-natured dumbass who punches things instead of picking up a gun like a smart person. Like Seifer, he's a romance-obsessed douche with a dumb white trenchcoat. Considering Snow starts mildly antagonistic, with a couple of cohorts in the form of an androgynous "one of the guys" gal and a butch surfer type, he strikes me as a Seifer-esque "I'm not a bad guy but my opinions are different" dipshit. Sorry Snow. No, wait, I'm not.
Sazh = Zell
So that makes Mr Comic Relief guy (when he isn't trying to suicide himself) Sazh our Zell ersatz. Ersazh. Heheheh. Sazh is actually a pretty cool dude, whose early prowess as a Synergist made him kind of useful, before he spent the rest of his early chapters as a Commando guarding little Miss Glass Cannon. Zell isn't useful at all, unless the enemy is made out of hot dogs. Durger-murder aside, Zell has a horribly exploitable limit break attack (oh, so like all the other horribly broken limit breaks in that game) and not much else going for him. OH MAN indeed.
Vanille = SelphieCut out the sugar, ladies, you'll give yourselves diabetes. See how endlessly perky you are after losing a foot.
Jihl Nabaat = QuistisThe calm, collected chick with the glasses. A riding crop you use to hit people with isn't a million miles away from a whip, either. Aw hell, they're the exact same character, only they made FF13's Quistis pure evil for some reason. Maybe Franziska von Karma and the Baroness convinced them that haughty types wielding dominatrix weapons are traditionally villains? When a good guy comes around, they must whip it. Whip it good.
Fang = EdeaAnother character that begins as an antagonist, swooping in with the enemy's militia to beat some sense into your characters. Of course, the truth is far more complicated, and at one point they both become playable and are hilariously broken to boot. But then you get to keep Fang and it's like "oh, sweet".
Hope = ?Man, it's just as well no-one in FF8 is as whiny as Hope. That game had enough problems. Hope's FF8 equivalent can be the Card Queen because I hope they both die in a fire for introducing the "Random" rule wherever I go. Or in Hope's case, for never shutting up. "Ooh, I'm sad my mom died. I'm too scared to jump over obstacles. I'm going to stab pubebeard." Well then do it, you wuss. I'm convinced Operation Nora had something to do with attacking my sanity.
Barthandelus = UltimeciaStands to reason that both games would have a human-looking antagonist, introduced some 2/3 the way into the game, who later transforms into the same kind of giant angelic monstrosity you'd expect to see Bayonetta pounding down on with her hair beasties. This type of character isn't unique to either FF8 or FF13, sadly.
On Eidolons As Plot Devices (FF9)Eidolons are what FF9 and FF13 call the summoned deity things that have become one of many FF trademarks. Unlike in many other FF games (well, except maybe 6), they're pretty integral to the plot and the development of the characters as well. In FF9 the Eidolons are pretty much the scary "destroy the world" McGuffins for the first half of the story until something shinier comes along for the flamboyant Kuja to wet himself over. In FF13, they're a series of really sadistic puzzle boss fights where you have to discern the correct approach to fighting them before they tear you to shreds for being too chickenshit to carry out your duties as some god machine's plaything. In either case, I never used them much after picking them up, choosing instead to stay focused on attack strategies that don't factor in overlong animations and stupid Transformers bullshit. Your mileage may vary.
On Linearity (FF10)So when FF10 came out, a lot of derision was hurled at how every location on the map was essentially one long road from A to Z(anarkland) with monsters at various points. There was even an enterprising fellow setting up motorway service stations for you to chill out at for a while. Then you hit a big plain and the game seemed to open up a bit more before entering the final few dungeons.
If you've played FF13, this all sounds pretty familiar no doubt. Except the linearity has, somehow, intensified in its one-track mentality. It might as well be a rail shooter. On top of a chocobo. " Chocobo's Safari". Needless to say, after being positively spoiled by FF12's massive and perhaps confusingly oblique playing field (not to mention those of WRPGs such as Fallout and Oblivion), this is what got the most flak in FF13's many negative critiques. It certainly stands out, but I guess it all depends on your predilection for extraneous exploration. A labyrinth, after all, is traditionally a single unerring path made complex by its many twists and turns.
I feel like history's greatest monster for trying to defend FF13's linearity. Moving on.