Late as Hell: Final Fantasy XIII Impressions.

 

I’m such a lazy, procrastinating bum. I say I will write blogs regularly, and I end up writing 2 in the last 3-4 months. I can’t guarantee anything, but I figure I might as well talk about games I’ve been playing recently and attempt to write some coherent thoughts down.

 
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.

 I like this a lot.

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.

Why are you weird!?

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.

Start the Conversation
7 Comments
Posted by Ace829

 

I’m such a lazy, procrastinating bum. I say I will write blogs regularly, and I end up writing 2 in the last 3-4 months. I can’t guarantee anything, but I figure I might as well talk about games I’ve been playing recently and attempt to write some coherent thoughts down.

 
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.

 I like this a lot.

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.

Why are you weird!?

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.

Posted by HS21

Characters suck. Sazh is the only one that would act like a normal human being. Which is kind of funny considering the kind of stereotype Barett was in 7. Six games later and the black guy in a Final Fantasy game doesn't make me cringe. Nice. 

Posted by vidiot

The characters can be hit-or-miss, but there are several surprises in the cast and you already discovered one: Sazh. Probably the most level-headed and relatable character not just in the cast, but a standout in the entire series as a whole. Hope, who was the first character I pointed to and proclaimed: I'm not going to enjoy that dude! Actually has natural and believable character development. Lightning does a phenomenal job as the lead, but the rest of the characters kinda can't keep up with the rest. 
 
Fang is fascinating but completely underutilized, Snow could have been really interesting but he sadly can't escape his anime cliche that's his base character. Vanille is the only character I can remember in the series, who actually get's worse as the story continues. Her actual motivations over why she acts the way she does is far more selfish and poorly thought out than I anticipated. I don't want to spoil anything: But it's pretty freaking stupid.
 
It's called "establishing narrative context", and it's what you and I have trouble with. It's a basic format of storytelling: Things like, establishing the setting. I remember when I played through the first Gears of War and I was talking to a few friends after finishing off the singleplayer. Someone in our group brought up the fact the game doesn't take place on Earth: We then all proceeded to stare at him and question this fact for the next ten minutes. That's poor storytelling. No matter how you cut it. So by contrast, what does Gears 2 do within the first ten-minutes? A giant montage of the actual war effort, coupled with a huge speech that establishes this basic pillar of storytelling organically. 
 
You're 100% right: The world of Final Fantasy VII was incredibly alien and was coupled with a huge deep back-story. Yet we were able to understand the core story without the use of an encyclopedia. Look at Star Wars for that matter. You don't have to stop and explain everything, but there are narrative devices that XIII could have used but doesn't. Why? I have no idea. The entire way that plot is presented is equally haphazard. Is Vanille the narrator like Tidus? Are we doing a FFVI splitting up the character party now? Is there any pacing with this thing? It's a mess.
 
I really enjoyed the combat, especially some of the boss fights. Sadly the difficulty doesn't go from "picking the right strategy at the right time" and becomes "THIS DUDE HAS HOW MUCH HP?! WTF?!" It get's a bit worse because the level design for the game can get pretty unimaginative, and the lengthy battles eventually work against it. You complain about grinding in Lost Odyssey, I found FFXIII much worse especially if you want to go after the other marks/trophies/achievements. This is from someone who S-Ranked Lost Odyssey.
 
Music is from Masashi Hamauzu who I first head in the "not really awful but not really good" Dirge of Cerberus. That soundtrack was overshadowed by this creep, and a lack of FFVII music. He did a good job though, and the stuff that's on that soundtrack is actually quite good. While I'm a huge fan of Sakimoto, I think he kinda held himself back a bit taking over for Uematsu in XII. I think Masashi did a pretty darn good job.

Posted by Apathylad

Vanille: Tee-hee! Hahaha! Anime girl pout! 
Snow: Let's go heroing, because this world needs heroes. And heroing is what heroes do! 
Hope: Emo, emo, whine! 
 
I put some hours into FFXIII, but I eventually stopped playing it. I may get back to it eventually. 

Posted by natetodamax
@Apathylad said:
" Vanille: Tee-hee! Hahaha! Anime girl pout! Snow: Let's go heroing, because this world needs heroes. And heroing is what heroes do! Hope: Emo, emo, whine!  I put some hours into FFXIII, but I eventually stopped playing it. I may get back to it eventually.  "
Lost it at "heroing" XD 
 
This makes me want to play it again. Maybe I'll get on that.
Online
Posted by Catolf

I liked the game, i need to finish up but i got distracted XD I do agree that they could have just told you what was going on instead of text based prologue..XP But that is my only gripe.

Posted by Clinkz

I liked Vanille because she was hot and I actually thoroughly enjoyed Sazh as a character and his voice actor. Ending was super shitty and the endless linear path really got to me. Loved the graphics though.