By Ace829 7 Comments
I began playing Final Fantasy XIII for the first time yesterday after giving up on Lost Odyssey’s difficult, optional boss battles (I needed to level up). After playing it for a few hours though, I must say that I came away pleased, despite the shitstorm of negativity it received from practically half the World Wide Web. My guard is still up against any future disappointment, but I feel safe in saying that I’m cautiously optimistic. So here are my first impressions of the latest story-based installment of the mega franchise, Final Fantasy XIII.
Final Fantasy XIII is one of the prettiest games I’ve ever seen since Eternal Sonata. That just had to be said right from the get go. Even on the “inferior” Xbox 360 port the game still looks lovely. The characters animations are straight out of a CG movie, even though there are CG movies in the game! The lighting effects are great, especially in the crystallized waves level. The backgrounds do look noticeably blurry, probably due to the whole 360 port thing, but you hardly notice it with all the action going on so it’s just a very minor gripe. This is a game that was made to look like a CG movie, even though there are CG cutscenes everywhere, the difference between the cutscenes aren’t as big as Final Fantasy X. So, graphically, Square has made a huge step in the right direction making this look like a movie, than a game.
The gameplay in Final Fantasy XIII is what XII should have been. While I didn’t hate the gameplay in XII, the grinding aspect turned me off the game so much along with it’s overly complicated plot, and boring main characters (Balthier and Ashe should’ve been hero and heroine). Anyway, I’m glad they did away with the MMORPG feel of XII, and replaced it with the traditional “flash of light into a battle arena”. It feels much more fast-faced and flashy which is something Square has going for them in this game.
The command list is also interesting with the presence of ATB bars. With the ATB bars I can perform multiple attacks as long as they fit in the whole turn of ATB bars. I can attack an enemy twice, or attack them and then shock them with Thunder. It’s a departure from the one command per turn from previous Final Fantasy games, and I welcome it with open arms. Battles feel much more fluid, and realistic than the old-school “stand in one spot until it’s your turn” though I don’t mind that too much. The absence of levels do puzzle me, as I wonder how I can gauge who is very strong in my party, and who is too weak to participate in the battles of the current level. I’ll have to wait and see. The Crystarium system is probably the key to this. I do like this modified Grid Sphere. It’s easy to understand, and a very good stat building mechanic. (I love the Grid Sphere). The Paradigm Shift is a much better Gambit system. I hated having to buy Gambits in order to get my character to do certain things. This system already has characters do what you want without the hassle of buying useless “80>HP Enemy” bullcrap. Plus you can change formations during battle which has put me in love with this battle system. The only thing that can ruin the gameplay for me is unnecessary grindfests. It wouldn’t totally ruin the game for me, but I would have trouble picking it up again. I’ve had enough grinding in RPGs years ago.
Some critics are right when they say FFXIII is littered with hallways, but I wouldn’t say that’s entirely true. After reaching the Pulse fal’cie lair, the environments did open up a bit to something akin to the FFXII dungeons. I did like the level design of XII so I hope XIII continues with that instead of the aforementioned hallways.
On to the story! I do understand mostly everything that is going on at the moment I’m at in the story, but that’s no thanks to the actual cutscenes. Instead, I had to learn the backstory through the game’s encyclopedia. I am not too bothered by this, but I’m wondering if it was so hard for them to write all that in the game’s prologue a la’ Final Fantasy VI. At least VII explained what the terms “lifestream” and “mako reactors” were. I had no idea what the hell Pulse and L’Cie were until I read it in the encyclopedia. Hell if it weren’t for the back cover telling me I was fighting in Cocoon, I would have thought Cocoon was the final boss or something. So yeah, the vagueness of the story annoyed me greatly. I’m still wondering about the characters. Lightning seems okay though she’s still one-dimensional at the moment. Losing her temper at the drop of the hat, but I won’t blame her for it. Her sister was in danger, though she could be more cooperative with Sazh. Speaking of Sazh, he looks like the most levelheaded person in the group. Hope is annoyingly wimpy, while Vanille is a weirdo, and it doesn’t help that she changes accents every 15 seconds. Snow also seems levelheaded, but his cheesiness makes me cringe a bit. It’ll probably grow on me. I don’t have a high opinion of the characters, but it’s too early to tell at this stage.
So that’s all for my impressions on Final Fantasy XIII, which has been enjoyable so far. I’m not too confident that it will get better as the game goes on, but the battle system is something I am greatly looking forward to.
Oh yeah, the music is alright, but I miss Uematsu.