Video Game Cat Review
Date of Review: January 7, 2012
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
Language / Country of Origin: English / USA
Online Capability: None.
Prequels: Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy XI Online, Final Fantasy XI Online: Vana’diel Collection, Final Fantasy XI Online: Chains of Promathia, Final Fantasy XI Online: Treasures of Aht Urhgan, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings.
Sequels: Final Fantasy XIV Online, Final Fantasy XIII-2.
Equipment Needed: None.
Maintenance Required: No special maintenance required.
As with most Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XIII sets our heroes in motion to save the world from evil forces. This game is set within two separate realms: Cocoon, an artificial, floating sphere ruled by a government known as the Sanctum and Gran Pulse, the world situated below Cocoon. Both places are controlled by godlike beings known as the fal’Cie – who illustrate their power over the humans by transforming some of them into l’Cie, or servants who must complete specific tasks – known as their Focus. Oddly, l’Cie are not told what their Focus is, but if they successfully complete their task, they morph into crystal and are given eternal life. If they fail, they are condemned to a life as Cie’th monsters.
The Sanctum fears the fal’Cie and is acting to exterminate all l’Cie or anyone with known associations to Gran Pulse. Lightning, the hero of our game and a former solider of Cocoon, has taken on the Sanctum in order to save her sister who was recently made an l’Cie. Throughout her journey, she is accompanied by several allies – united in their quest against the Sanctum and the fal’Cie.
Final Fantasy XIII is a single-player game that follows a fairly linear storyline. Unlike many other RPGs (including those in the Final Fantasy series), there is little open world gameplay. During the first part of the game, on Cocoon, players cannot explore worlds or look around towns. Instead, they are led down narrow walkways and corridors toward a target symbol – which indicates the direction you must travel to advance. Some players may find this limiting, although it does mean that one can avoid getting lost investigating areas that have no relevance to the main storyline and can abstain from wasting hours grinding to level up your character. The linearity changes once one enters the world of Gran Pulse, where players can openly explore and take on 60+ side quests if they so desire.
Most of the game takes place on foot, although if an optional mission is completed later in the game, players can ride chocobos. Unlike some previous Final Fantasy games, enemies can be seen before they are encountered in battle mode – giving players the chance to either take them on or avoid them. It is only possible to control one character at a time even though a maximum of three characters can be used in battles.
When in battle mode, the lead character can select from a number of options, letting them either attack, perform magic or utilize items. The other characters involved in battle will follow a role that they have been assigned to, using the game’s artificial intelligence (AI). There are six different roles available in the game: Commando (focused on attacks), Ravager (focused on black magic), Medic (focused on white magic), Synergist (focused on helping allies), Saboteur (focused on sabotaging enemies) and Sentinel (focused on protecting allies). Each character only has access to three individual roles at the beginning of the game, although they eventually gain access to all of them later on. Various combinations of roles between players are called Paradigms. The game only allows six Paradigms at any one time and these must be generated before players enter into battle. Different combinations have varying amounts of success for different enemies. Since the combat is fairly fast-paced, the combinations of Paradigms that are set and used will determine if a player wins or loses in battle. This is especially true as the game progresses and not so true at the beginning of the game. However, this appears to be deliberate so that you get the hang of programming Paradigms and learning each character’s strengths and weaknesses.
Each action in battle requires a specific number of points in the ATB (active time battle) gauge. Players can choose to either select which actions they want to perform or can select the autobattle command – letting the AI choose for them. Enemies have attack meters, called chain counters, which increase as the enemy is attacked. Chain counters begin at 100 percent and increase at different rates depending on the enemy’s weakness and the attack being used against them. Similarly, the amount of damage dealt to the enemy is based on the chain counter. Once the chain counter reaches a certain number (unique to each enemy), the enemy goes into Stagger – where they are slowed down and at their weakest, allowing the greatest amount of damage to be dealt to them. Although players obviously can be hurt or poisoned within battle, once an enemy is defeated, all characters’ status ailments are removed and full health is restored.
There are six main characters within the game (3 males and 3 females) and each one can summon a specific creature (known as an Eidolon) into battle. Many of these creatures have been seen in previous Final Fantasy games (including Odin and Bahamut) although there are some new entrants as well. When Eidolons are used, players can access the Gestalt mode – where the Eidolon changes into a new form and performs unique attack sequences.
As mentioned above, it is not necessary to spend hours developing your characters’ skills, as this game uses a new leveling-up system, the Crystarium. After each battle is completed, players receive crystogen points, which can be used to purchase accessory slots, different skills, hit point upgrades or magic points, within the Crystarium. Each character’s Crystarium is unique, based on the roles that they are able to assume. Although it may seem that you can just keep collecting crystogen points to advance your character, the full Crystarium is not available at all times and only becomes accessible after certain checkpoints are reached.
If you do want to spend time making sure your character is the strongest possible, you can do so by developing your equipped weapons and accessories. Anything you receive after battle (such as fangs or bomb fragments) can be used to improve weapons and accessories. Some of these items can also be purchased. Some items have greater effects than others and applying them in the right order can have dramatic consequences. Shops are only available at save stations, which are scattered throughout the two worlds. However, maps and enemy statistics/characteristics are available to the player at any point in time.
Overall, the game requires more strategy than it does quick reflexes. Yet, some of the tougher battles will involve fast thinking and planned attacks. The game is not so difficult that it will put off younger players or those new to the Final Fantasy genre nor is it so simple that it will dissuade hardcore gamers.
Cultural / Historical Value:
This game is a classic interpretation of the Final Fantasy series, building off the previous works but reinventing the battle mechanisms from a turn-based system. This title has frequently been commended for its rich graphics and majestic soundtrack. If you want a complete Final Fantasy collection, this title should be included.
Teaching / Learning Characteristics:
Final Fantasy XIII is a good example of a solid RPG with high artistic content – including exquisitely composed and produced music and realistic graphics and animation. The transition from regular gameplay to pre-produced cut-scenes is almost seamless. Although the writing and story/plot are somewhat convoluted, game designers can look to this title to learn how to create quality RPGs.
This is not the kind of title that one would want to play beginning to end repeatedly. However, there are a lot of side missions that one can play to provide added value. Apart from the central plot, there are 64 Cie’th stone missions as well as a handful of other side quests.
Obviously, this is appropriate for Final Fantasy fanatics, but general RPG admirers will enjoy this title as will connoisseurs of rich graphics and grandiose theme music. Since this game is not heavy on violence or blood, it is appropriate for younger audiences as well as older players.
About the Author:
Shannon L. Farrell, MLIS, MS is an Assistant Professor and Liaison Librarian at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins. Having been an avid gamer for the last 25 years, she has a great interest in incorporating videogames into library and educational environments. She has conducted research on the topic, examining current use of videogames in libraries and the resources available for collection development purposes. Shannon is a member of the ALA Games and Gaming Round Table. Since she plays videogames on a daily basis, Shannon is a regular contributor and editor of reviews for VideoGameCat. She also maintains the VideoGameCat Twitter (@thevideogamecat) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/thevideogamecat) accounts.
|Golden Joystick Awards 2008||One to Watch Award||Nominee|
|Golden Joystick Awards 2009||One to Watch Award||Third Place|
|Golden Joystick Awards 2010||RPG of the Year||Third Place|
|Golden Joystick Awards 2010||Soundtrack of the Year||Winner|
|Spike Video Game Awards 2010||Best RPG||Nominee|