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  • Final Fantasy XIII/XIII-2 Review

    Final Fantasy XIII/XIII-2 Review

    ~ Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 ~
    ~ Square Enix ~
    ~ Age Rating: 16+ ~
    ~ Genre: JRPG ~
    ~ PS3/Xbox 360 ~




    Wishes can come true, but not if you just wait for miracles. Miracles are things we make for ourselves, here and now.



    Authors note: Well finally it's here, this review took me forever to write due to me being busy with real life a lot, but its here, probably the longest review i ever wrote too.

    The game i picked to review this time is rather controversial, this is the only final fantasy i know of that is either liked or completely hated, the opinions just jump back and forth, that's why i will ask you to keep the comments civil, if you did not like the game i respect your opinion, i simply wouldn't want it to turn into a flame war because of differences in opinions.

    Also please note that all screenshots are clickable which will take to their pages in the gallery, this is done because the screenshots are in HD resolution, which would dissort the posts for a lot of users. Also please note that not all screenies will be 1280x, some of them aren't as high quality as they should be, but its rather hard to find decent ones, especially for XIII-2, which only had the E3 playable demo, making my choices rather limited.

    Also before someone starts pointing out that i didnt play a game enough and didnt know something, i have the game completed 100%, all missions with 5 stars, all trophies, final boss with 5 stars too, if i didnt say something, i simply forgot, look at the length of this thing >.<.

    But enough of ranting from me, enjoy the read ^^.



    • Graphics: Great, great and again great, graphically this game is dressed up as pretty as possible.
    • Music: A solid music score as you would expect from the final fantasy series.
    • Sound: Picked well and very fitting, voice acting of great quality also.
    • Controls: Good controls, easy to navigate, characters are responsive and movement is fast enough and smooth. Camera control works OK too.


    Release dates:
    • December 17, 2009 ~ Japan
    • March 9, 2010 ~ NA/PAL
    • December 16, 2010 ~ International




    Graphics in detail: This game features some of the best graphics in games to date, and whether you like the game or not you have to agree with that much, the characters are polished to absolute perfection, lots of details both on them and on the environment. The graphics are so top notch that there is barely any difference between prerendered cutscenes and actual ingame cutscenes, you have to look pretty closely to be able to tell the difference. The only real way to visually see for certain it is the characters hair, they had to simplify it a little bit for the actual game, it is however barely noticeable. In one review i read someone call this games graphics bland, but i call total BS on that, if its bland then about time you adjust your contrast, compared to the most generic modern shooters and even most rpgs, this game is actually really colorful.

    Music in detail: The games music is great, like most final fantasy tittles, the musical part is very well done, with a good variaty of both calm tracks and more up beat ones, battle music is well picked too and doesn't get on your nerves. I liked pretty much all of the soundtrack, im saying pretty much because there is one song i absolutely hated. To those who played this, its the one in Pulse side paths, where you go towards a city ruin and marks 4 to 7 or 8 are. That music got on my nerves so bad, the area is pretty big and takes some time to get through and the music sounds like one of those annoying elevator songs. After 10 minutes of it i had to mute my tv cos i couldn't take it anymore.

    Sound in detail: Both the sounds and the voice acting was brilliant, cant really find anything to pick on here, the monsters sounded nice, attack sounds made sounds you would expect them to, voice actors were well picked and did proper acting with emotions and such, which in some ports from japan are somehow forgotten. A nice touch was to give Fang and Vanille australian accents to separate them from the other characters, not gonna say particulars to save the spoilers.

    Controls in detail: Nothing much to pick on here either, they worked and they worked well, character running speed was good, menus were easy to navigate and easy to understand, camera wasn't that bad either and since you don't really need to click on anything during running around you can easily use both analogs and fix it if you so desire.

    Story: So the story, it's solid, that would be the word to describe it, its not anything spectacular, like most FF games, it is rather predicable, though the ending did surprise me a little bit. But despite it being predictable its presented very well and is interesting and immersive. Im actually rather glad they did not try too hard to make it super exceptional, too many games try that these days and fail beyond miserably, they turn it into either something that makes no effin sense or create plot twists that are just beyond ridiculous. This one is more of a solid action film, you know the good guys will win in the end, but it still makes it interesting to watch. I'm not gonna go into much detail here to avoid unnecessary spoilers.



    The playable characters of the story, now bare in mind even though i am going to rip into each one of them for fun, i actually like all the characters, except one (I'm looking at you Hope). They start out pretty far on one type of personality, but as the game progresses they gain significant depth about them and get developed really well. Also oddly enough there is no giant boobs galore which is a trend in japanese games, all the characters are very.. normal. There was only one villain with quite big breasts.
    • Lightning ~ ライトニング ~ Raitoningu: Technically the main protagonist of the story, but since in the game all the main characters are equally important, her role as that is quite diminished. Personality wise lightning is tsundere, though she kinda softens up later in the game.

    • Snow Villiers ~ スノウ・ヴィリアース ~ Sunou Viriasu: The tank of the story, literally, not only is he only really good as a tank gameplay wise, but his personality keeps up with it just as well, constantly going on and on about he will save and protect everyone.

    • Oerba Dia Vanille ~ ヲルバ=ダイア・ヴァニラ ~ Woruba Daia Vanira: Vanille you will either love or hate, there is no really other way, she is one of those bubbly happy even though my heart is bleeding kind of characters. I personally liked her, but ugh she has the running animation thats just... messed up.

    • Sazh Katzroy ~ サッズ・カッツロイ ~ Sazzu Kattsuroi: The stereotypical black comedy relief character (note i said stereotypical before you start fussing at me for being racist). If you ever seen a black guy in a movie, supporting a white character and throwing random jokes, well thats Sazh.

    • Hope Estheim ~ ホープ・エストハイム ~ Hopu Esutohaimu: The emo boy of the story, and boy does he do it well, he makes Cloud look like a cheerful person. He's officially my most hated character, not because of personality though, because he is just useless in general. Honestly what is hope good at gameplay wise? He is a crappy healer, his HP is too low even compared to vanilles, his magic attacks are also not quite up to lvl, the only thing he is good at is def buffing and even that is taken away from him by others later in game. Screw Hope.

    • Oerba Yun Fang ~ ヲルバ=ユン・ファング ~ Woruba Yun Fangu: The amazon character of the story, with a personality and strengths to match it, not really much to say on this one.

    • Serah Farron ~ セラ・ファロン ~ Sera Faron: She is NOT a playable character, the only reason for her mention here is because of XIII-2, which should be previewed way way down this post. She is the younger sister of Lightning, she has one of those fragile, yet really strong at the same type of personalities. Though i cant really say much more about her at this stage without just going off and copying her description from the official site.



    • There are 2 other guest characters Lebreau and Gadot, but they only stay in your party for max 10 mins, and well they are so unimportant that square enix didnt even release 3d renders of them.




    Paradigm shifts:

    The core of the battle system in this game, to put it more simply it is jobs for your characters, each character has 3 core jobs that belong to him/her, and later on 3 that do not belong to him in the later stages of the game. The types are as follows:


    • Commando (COM) - Attacker (ATK) JPN - The melee paradigm, contains physical attack skill sets and neutral magic skills.
    • Ravager (RAV) - Blaster (BLA) JPN - Alternatively the magic attack skill set, depending on the character will contain just ranged magical attacks, or both close ranged magical and long ranged magical.
    • Sentinel (SEN) - Defender (DEF) JPN - A purely defensive paradigm, it only has like one attack that counters enemy attacks, the rest is taunts and defences, it makes the character take tremendous amounts of punishment and at the same time lure the enemies off the other party members.
    • Saboteur (SAB) - Jammer (JAM) JPN - Debuff skillset; damage debuffs, defence debuffs, poison, slow and Death for Vanille.
    • Synergist (SYN) - Enhancer (ENH) JPN - The buff skillset, more or less the oposite of the previous skillset.
    • Medic (MED) - Healer (HLR) JPN - Well this is kinda self explanatory, heal heal and more heal, with Esuna thrown in there.




    A pretty weird system on the first look, you can switch between the jobs at any time in battle, but once you change you have to change for the whole group, and while any combination of characters is permitted, you can only have 6 sets, it's really more than plenty though, cos there are a lot of combinations you don't need. In the end the system works really well, and adds a nice difficulty curve, on the other hand it also makes life easier since the skill lists get shortened up, since with all 6 jobs you would scroll for an hour through the list and get killed before you select anything.

    Crystalium Grid:

    Now this one looks like a total mind rape at first glance, but its actually a simplified version of the FFX sphere grid, except now its in 3d, you get 6 trees total (some will take time to unlock), and you climb up the grind in a rather linear path with some minor splits along the way to get skills and such.



    This is also where you beef up your ATK and MATK and HP, the defence was taken out of this game for some reason, it doesn't bother me or anything, just seemed a bit weird decision.

    World exploration:

    The game is pretty long and will feature a large variety of environments, and all of them are beautiful, that is only my opinion of course, but some of the stages were some of the prettiest environments i seen in games, and i am a hardcore gamer.



    However, and you will hear this complaint in a lot of reviews, the game leads you in pretty much a straight forward path through the game, till you reach Pulse of course, that area is just HUGE, makes the calm lands in Final Fantasy X seem tiny and that already took a sweet while get across, not to mention a bunch of side paths the area has. But that just barely balances out the remainder of the game, would have been nice to have a couple more areas like that.



    The enemies are always on the map in this game, which i really liked, because you can prepare your self depending what enemy you see, and retreat and such if necessary, some enemies will chase you if they see you, pretty far too, the fliers will swoop down on you to make their attacks. All of this makes the environments pretty realistic and alive, and this of course means, that apart from a couple ambushes and boss fights, you will NOT have any random encounters, and while they are pretty much a part of the final fantasy series, i hate them so much, especially when you are backtracking in the lower level areas and get the damn swooshing sound and have to fight another enemy that you will benefit nothing from.

    The Battle System:

    Well the battle is based on an ATB system (Action turn based), that means the combat is semi real time, you have to wait for the action bar to charge up and then you can execute the actions you selected. The system however was much improved compared to FFX-2 and especially over FFXII, I'm sorry if anyone like 12, but i absolutely hated the system there.

    Sadly you do not have any control over your team mates, they are controlled by the AI, you only change their assigned job. This isn't bad however, the AI is really good and there is only a couple complaints i could give it at all. One is healing loops, where if one char dies the healer wont have time to res him/her because it's too busy keeping up the hp up, and the other thing is buff order, sometimes it would be more convenient to cast defence or attack buffs as a priority, but the buffers always seem to follow a specific order. But as much as fighting and such goes, they do the job very well. Still would be nice to have some control over the AI like my hated 12 had.



    The battles have somewhat expanded too, while you are limited to 3 active team members at a time, the enemy is certainly not limited to that, i think 10 was the maximum i faced at one time, not quite sure on the number. Most of the time only the weaker enemies will be in large groups, but there are exceptions to that. Also a nice addition is 3 way battles, those can vary, some monsters will keep fighting each other and completely ignore you, some might switch agro to you after you hit them enough, some will immediately go for you.

    Another important feature is the stagger bar, this will be your worst enemy and best friend, every (nearly) enemy has a stagger point, once you hit it enough it will stagger, from that point on till the bar drops, you will be able to give it major hurting, some enemies cant even be killed without staggering them.



    The enemies them selves are variation between unique types and semi palette swaps, however even the palette swaps aren't totally the same, each model will look a bit different from the others. But yeah even with the swaps, the number of amount of unique types of enemies available is nice and satisfying.

    Oddly though there is absolutely no way to escape battle, once you are engaged, its a fight to the death, however the game saves a checkpoint before every fight and if you totally screw up you will be able to hit retry and start off just before you engaged the enemy, its a very nice thing to include since if you cock something up, you wont have to worry about when you last saved.

    The game also features a ranking system for each fight, which is a combination of time taken and damage done per second, but the second is closely linked to the first, so only the amount of time taken is the important thing, however the requirements of time taken will increase with how strong your characters are, so don't expect to kill everything with 5 stars when going to some place with lower level enemies. The rating it self affects two things, one is the chance of drops and rare drops, the other one is the recharge of TP bar. Obviously better ranking will yield results.



    As much as downsides go, there are 2 major elements that could be attributed to it, first is that while you can see the enemies on the map, once you agro them you will be taken to a FFX and below type of stage to carry out the fight, they could have just left the fights in where they are, it wouldn't have been hard to make it work.

    The second and at times a very irritating thing is the inability to move your character. It seems really odd they excluded that, especially since some attacks seem to actually nearly encourage your character to escape them, one example would be the highest level wind attack, its a aoe with multi hit damage, and when you cast it under the enemy, the attack it self doesn't do much on the first hit and if your character being busy with something moves out of the way, you actually avoid any further damage, however if you keep standing there your chars HP gets raped like no tomorrow, not to mention getting tossed in the air and needing time to recover.



    The third, and minor thing, which however should have been included, is the ability to use the summon of only the leader of the team, there is absolutely no reason for this as all the characters share the same technical points. And since most of the elementals have pretty specific attributes, it would be much more convenient to summon any of the 3 team members summon.

    Eidolons:

    These are the summons of the game, there are 6 or 7, depends how you count (one is two summons at once that combine into one). Each character posseses a different one and they can be summoned into battle. The summoning involves 2 stages.



    The first stage is the summon will fight beside you, similar to final fantasy x Yuna's summons, this will make the other party members retreat, leaving only the summoner and the summon. The summon upon entry will fully heal your HP and take off any debuffs you might have. Two things are important in this stage, the summons gestalt bar, this charges by you and the summon attacking enemies and will be important in the next stage. The second is the summons timer, the summon it self is actually immortal, but everytime it takes hits it will take off some off the timer.



    The second stage is where the summon transforms to a some sort of mount, each summon has a different one, and in this stage you will get a selection of commands each costing a certain amount of points. The amount of points you have depends on how much you filled up the gestalt bar in the previous stage. You cannot take damage at all in this mode, however there is no point in dragging it on as you want to stagger the enemy or raise his stagger bar as high as possible at least. Once you run out of points you will be able to release one final ultimate attack (you can do it earlier too though) which does some pretty nasty damage. After that the summon retreats and your teammates come back, healed (and resurected if they were dead) and dispelled from debuffs also.



    Some other things that deserve to be picked on:
    • Lack of npc interaction - They made 2 beautiful cities in the game, one of which wasn't a hostile area at all and was crowded with people, but for some reason they skipped NPC interaction, which was kinda disappointing. They fixed that in the XIII-2 which i will cover later, but it simply should have been there in the first place.
    • Lack of side quests - Part from the tiny robot quest and the Cieth missions there aren't really any, well the Cieth mission part is huge, but its really just boss hunting, its fun but it isn't enough. That has been fixed in XIII-2 too but it should have been there also.
    • LVL 10 Crystarium only unlocks after you beat the game, no offence or anything, but thats stupid, sure i went back to game after i beat it and messed around a good 40 hours if not more worth of gameplay, but there was no reason to keep it locked till that late in game.
    • The grinding is just PAINFUL, i think they used the drop tables from one of their MMOs or something. There is simply really too much of it, specially farming for the ultimate weapons. You need one specific mat to create them, and there is one enemy that drops it at a 5% rate and you can buy it for 2 mil, now 2 mil is incredibly much in the game, plus you will need another 2 mil just to max out the ultimate weapon, it all simply turns into a huge grind fest. (Yes i am aware that Long Gui's drop it at 25% rate, good luck killing that though without at least 3 ultimate weapons though).




    Key Pros:
    • Amazing graphics
    • Great musical and sound score
    • Well balanced
    • Solid story


    Key Cons:
    • Battles could be more immersive
    • Could be less linear
    • Too grinding based
    • Some people simply preger STB than ATB type of combat


    Spoiler








    Platforms: PS3/Xbox 360

    Release dates:
    • December 15, 2011 ~ Japan
    • January 31, 2012 ~ NA
    • February 3, 2012 ~ PAL


    What has been changed in FXIII-2:
    • Mog clock - I'm not quite sure i like this, also I'm not sure if this applies to all the mobs in the game or only to some maps, it has been previewed only in the E3 demo and that is the only playable information we had so far apart from a couple short trailers. With this system you get something similar as random encounter, but it is timed, once the enemy appears before you, you have a certain amount of time to attack it, the faster you do it the better you start off, apparently preemptives will be achieved this way now.

      Spoiler


    • Hidden items - seems now not all boxes will be just thrown in plain sight and you will need the help of your moogle to find them. Nothing really major here, adds a bit of an extra flavor to the exploration.

      Spoiler


    • Quick time events - Those occur during cinematic sequences in battles - Im really not sure if i like this, on the one hand it adds an extra degree of dificulty and keeps you more on your toes, on the other hand im afraid they might have broken the smooth flow of battle or made it too dependant on these cutscenes, which would take away some skill.

      Spoiler


    • Summoning - Summoning normal mobs within the game which imho is a very nice touch since the Eidolons are probably not gonna make much into the story, though Lightning has been seen using hers. Also there will be a thing called ferral link, little information is available for it, but it seems to involve linking your self with a mob to boost your skills.

      Spoiler


    • NPC interaction - woopie square enix, you actually learned. While this is a thing that should have been in the last game in the first place, its still a nice that they added it.

      Spoiler

    • Multiple endings - Not a very common thing in final fantasy, usually its either one ending or one ending and a little bit better ending with like one extra cutscene. Either way I'm not complaining as it raises replayability, just hopefully it will have a save game plus.

      Spoiler

    • Time flow - The environments changing depending on your actions in the game, the mentions of this are rather vague and I'm not sure if it applies to minor things, or only major changes.

      Spoiler

    • Side quests - The director in one of the interviews promised a bunch of side quests and such, the usual final fantasy style, which is a good thing cos the previous game really lacked it.

      Spoiler

    • Puzzle stages - I'm not really happy or unhappy about those, but meh every rpg has to have some puzzle.
    • So so far so good, seems like square enix actually listened to people, and hopefully other features like area sizes will be addressed too, they do look a little bigger in the screenshots. The returning characters that i know that are confirmed is Lightning (At least partially playable), Sarah (Main), Snow (Unknown), Hope (Unknown), some of the NORA members. Also a new character Noel Kreiss is confirmed as a main character.

      Spoiler

    • The reason i didnt say a thing about the story is to avoid spoilers, the trailers do reveal some, so be warned.
    • Well thats about it here, without giving you too much spoilers and such, if you want more, google it ^^.

    Spoiler










    Well I'll leave it up to you to decide whether this game is good or bad, i personally liked it, some people don't, its a good tittle to try at least, especially if you like the final fantasy series.

    No score, XIII-2 trailers below.

    Thank you for reading ^^.





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