The newest “Final Fantasy” release traps players in a pretty box with its simplistically linear game play.
The latest installment of the epic “Final Fantasy” video game saga leaves a stale, acrid taste in your mouth that no amount of breathtakingly luscious graphics will expunge.
“Final Fantasy XIII,” the newest release from Square Enix’s revolutionary role-playing video games, forgoes the series’ traditional open-endedness for a lackluster, mind-numbing linear style of game play. For the first 20 hours or so of play, the player is subjected to a tunnel-like endeavor: You know exactly where you’re going at all times.
While some players will become enamored quite quickly, frequent “Final Fantasy” gamers will feel trapped in this prison-like creation. (In all fairness, after said 20-hour mark, the prison does expand, reminiscent of games in years past.)
The problem with this linear style is that the “Final Fantasy” series has always had a sense of adventure in the way you could explore within the game. “Final Fantasy X,” for instance, harbored a multitude of hidden locations, mini-games and side quests. A single, thorough run-through could take well more than 50 hours. “Final Fantasy VII” was also a powerhouse that stole your life; the overworld was so expansive you could easily get lost looking for your next pre-rendered cutscene.
On top of that, FFXIII restricts character growth to a painstakingly sluggish pace for the majority of the game, allowing access to certain levels only at specific times.
That’s not to say the game doesn’t possess merit, though.
What’s a “Final Fantasy” game if it doesn’t look good? Played on the Playstation 3, FFXIII has a visual and aural superiority unmatched by anything else on the market. It’s a rare moment when you aren’t blessed with a vibrancy that will leave you drooling. The CGI cutscenes leave you in wonder as they progress through the story line; they’re so beautiful you can’t help but be awed.
The story line is also realistic and compelling, drawing you in with the serious plot and making you laugh with some of the more hilarious antics.
The innovative new battle system coalesces intuition and quick reaction times in a way not seen before in the series. FFXIII uses an active time battle system (a staple for most of the series), but it works differently, using a command-based core. Players have the ability to stack commands even when the ATB charge is filling up. Breaking from tradition, the game does not use MP (magic points), but cost points in their place for certain actions.
Part of the new battle system includes the “Stagger State,” which is activated after the enemy has been subjected to a chain combo for a certain period of time. When this happens, the enemy loses resistance and become susceptible to high amounts of damage. The state does eventually disappear, requiring the player to start building a chain again.
Another plus is the score, which, while not composed by longtime “Final Fantasy” composer Nobuo Uematsu, leaves your heart pumping and your eyes tearing up. The addition of “My Hands” by Leona Lewis for the theme song was a poignant choice.
Other new features include the Crystarium, the game’s leveling system; roles and paradigms, which dictate what characters are capable of; and eidolons (the summons feature for this game), which play a major role in FFXIII. For more information about specifics, visit www.finalfantasyxiii.com.
This game would be better as a rental ($60 is a bit much for pretty pictures), but you might not have the time to complete it in five days.
So, in essence, yes, the game has its perks, but still, no matter how pretty the package is, it’s what’s inside that matters. “Final Fantasy XIII” is mostly fluff, even if it doesn’t show.
Editor-in-chief Dominic Baez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Video and photo courtesy of Square Enix