A Great Game That Should Have Been Better
This is my first Final Fantasy game since the Playstation games. Yup, you heard me right. Being my first Final Fantasy for a decade or something, I had no clue what I was getting into. I was always very found of JRPG's such as the Shin Megami Tensei games and somewhat the Star Ocean games. But I don't think i have ever played such a game with such a fun and fulfilling battle system as Final Fantasy 13. The visuals are mind-blowing. Characters are compelling, and the story did not meet my expectations, but still kept me second guessing.
A portion of the game switch's between perspectives every hour or so. Sometimes you are given control of a support character. Which sometimes really sucks. Having to play the medic or the buffer/debuffer is not fun. This is probably only a personal preference but I only really enjoy playing as Lightning in battle. Sue me.
Now that I've talked a good two paragraphs of shit about this game, now its time to tell you that this game is pretty awesome after fifteen hours. Fifteen hours! A game shouldn't take that long to get good! Ugh! Which makes this game really hard to recommend to most people. Sure, some people can slug through 10-15 hours of dull gameplay and get to the good parts. But most won't, or wouldn't want to play crap when they couple be playing something resembling fun.
Anyways, the game gets awesome fifteen hours in. All the characters finally get together and you can chose your team to fight guys, set up your paradigms, and the level system starts to open up, and upgrading finally seems somewhat important. Once the pieces fit together the game is amazing. But if only it would have been ten hours earlier.
The Paradigm system is the soul of the battle system. It lets you change the characters classes on the fly, which in crazy fights, is a necessary. The fights get so hectic that your need to be constantly paying attention to health bars, Paradigms, buffs/debuffs, and using your attacks or dude your dead. Don't get me wrong, its not tedious at all. It actually makes you feel awesome and is so fulfilling.
In order to learn moves and gain additional strength/magic/health points you need to use the Crystarium. Which is basically a cool looking way to just level up your character. But you don't level your character per say, you level up the roles your character can use in battle. Which is interesting. You get to chose the role you want your character to excel in basically. If you want Lightning to be a badass sword slasher, you level up her commando role. If you want her to be healing dudes (Why would you ever want to do that?) you level up her medic role. Ect, ect.
The upgrading system is interesting. In order to upgrading your weapons/accessories you need to use some material you gain after battles. Using materials on weapons/accessories give it experience points. Then sooner or later your desired equipment level up and gain strength/magic on weapons and the effects on accessories will vary. It's kinda cool. But you end up just using most of your material on leveling up Lightnings weapon and then a couple hours later think “Oh wait! I should totally level up these other guys weapons so there magic/strength attacks don't suck!” But that's probably just me.
Now lets get to the battle mechanics. It's in real time which makes choosing individual attacks somewhat difficult when there's a bunch of stuff to keep track of. When it gets to hectic and you want to just focus on switching your paradigms and such there's a handy-dandy option called “Auto Battle”. Which auto-selects moves to fit the situation your in during battle. Oh course you can select the individual attacks on your own if you please, and will probably give you more benefit then hitting auto battle all the time. But auto battle isn't a “Oh I'm not good enough at this game so this system is going to pick my attacks.” kind of thing. It's more of a “Oh crap there's way too much happening right now for me to waste time to pick attacks individually.” It's nice and works well.
The visuals look amazing. They put so much effort into the cutscenes and it shows. The character models look great, enemy designs are pretty good besides some outliers. You'll be traveling through jaw dropping visuals of various environments such as Gran Pulse and Cocoon. The cities of Cocoon are full of exaggerated lights and colors. The fields of green in Gran Pulse go for miles it seems. Everything about this game just looks amazing.
The pacing in this game is really weird. Like I stated many times before, the beginning is boring. Then it finally starts to pick up and the story starts to get really interesting. Then, suddenly the story hits a fucking brick wall and doesn't progress for nearly 20 hours. In those 20 hours the game finally starts to open up and you can take side quest and such. Gameplay wise, it's probably the most fun part of the game. Story-wise, it sucks.
The game seems really stretched out. During the sequences where you have 2 set characters in your party are the most boring part of the game. Most of those sequences just have you running along the linear path fighting enemies. Then a cutscene every 30 minutes or so. I mean sure, thats what most of the game is. But the game makes you control a support character fighting sometimes endless amount of enemies is not fun at all.
After those 20 hours the story just starts to go. The last 5 hours of the game are most likely my favorite. The last 5 hours sets a tone, a pace, that I have never felt in a game before. Maybe I'm extremely off-base on this. But the last couple of hours sets this mood that really pumps up your blood pressure. The music, story, characters, all just come together into this crescendo that blew my mind. I... can't describe it. I don't know why not, but the felling I got from the last couple of hours was amazing.
The story is kinda not good. I liked the characters, but they never were really fleshed out. But the universe does not compel me at all. Half way through the story is was finally starting to understand what was going on. The terminology really threw me off. L'cai? Fal'cai? Sanctum? PSI COM? Dude whaaaaat? I really think it's the terrible pacing is the reason why the story isn't fantastic. The story and universe aren't bad, but they could be explained better.
To understand the beginning and even the middle part of the game story-wise, you will need to use the Datalog, which is like a like FF13 encyclopedia. I wish I didn't HAVE to go into the Datalog to understand what was going on during parts of the story and the terminology. Somehow I wish they could have got me introduced to this universe and tell me this character driven story in a more streamlined way. They just drop you into this crazy universe in the beginning of the game and have no clue whats going on, which just lead to me stumbling through parts of the game story-wise.
Oh dude the music in this game is amazing. It's so good! I don't think I've heard such a amazing soundtrack since Persona 4. I am humming the battle theme right at this moment typing this, even after I beat that game 2 weeks ago. The music really carries some of the cutscenes on its back with its perfect placement and tone that fits the story. I really want to learn the Violin and play the battle theme.
This game is amazing, if you strip out all the fat this game has, which is mainly the opening 20 hours. If the game was more streamlined and 20 hours were cut out of the game, this would probably be my game of the year, but it's not. The game dragged me along this story where I never completely knew what was going on. I was bored out of my mind for 20 hours which I shouldn't have to suffer through. But do I regret it? Do i regret that I lost 20 hours of my life playing a tutorial? No, I don't. The game gets so good after those 20 hours and those 30 hours I spent after that are probably my some of my favorite hours of 2010. I really wanted to give this game 5 stars. But the overall game ise'nt that good. The back half is amazing, but the first half bogs it down so much.
The boring as crap 20 hour long tutorial and crazy ass pacing makes it a hard game to recommend. If you can put up with it then this game is great. But you shouldn't have to put up with it. After that hump you will experience a awesome and fun battle system, amazing visuals, and a compelling soundtrack. The lackluster story could and should have been better. But the pros out way the cons which makes Final Fantasy 13 a great game that could have been better.