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Final Fantasy XIII: like a fat man on rollerskates

Final Fantasy has become a household name, but it also has made essentially every review I’ve seen of the game completely unreliable.  When it comes to stories and game play mechanics, the Final Fantasy series has seen it all, with varying degrees of success.  But now, everyone expects the series to be exactly the way it was when they fell in love with it, and every time someone mentions the name Final Fantasy, it’s immediately followed by what the latest game should have been.

Imagine that you live in a delightful neighborhood on top of a hill, in a small Podunk town somewhere in the north-east, with charm just dripping off of every branch.  An orphanage for woeful children is at the bottom of the hill, which your whole town contributes to on a regular basis.  Your next door neighbor is a three hundred and fifty pound, reliable pork barrel of a man, who lets call, oh, I don’t know, Brett.

He’s always been there for you, a reliable story-teller and real fun guy to be around, and you’ve always been able to count on him for some straight up adventures, you know what I mean?  The man has a knack for getting his head stuck inside the ornamental cannons lying around your quaint little town for some reason.

But one sunny summer day you walk outside and find Brett perched precariously at the top of your hill wearing roller skates and dressed in a turkey costume.  One hand clutching a ridiculous amount of sparklers, and the other is wrapped firmly around a full pot of scalding hot five alarm chili.  He’s wearing one of those miner’s hats with a light on it, and looks a little nervous.

“Whoa man, what are you doing?”  You ask, genuinely concerned.

“Oh hey,” he responds, his eyes never leaving the orphanage at the bottom of the hill.  “I’m just trying something a little different.”

This concerns you, especially since you’ve never actually seen Brett trying this sort of thing before.  You tell him as much, and he glances at you, a bead of sweat trickling past his nose.

“Don’t worry, man,” he says.  “This is going to be great.  Real innovation.”

“Well, okay,” you say reluctantly.  “If you say so.  When are you going to…?”

He snaps his gaze back on the orphanage in irritation.  “Aw, come on man.  Don’t rush me.”

Still, he’s your friend and you stick with him for a few hours, determined to not let him make this journey alone.  Finally, the wheels on the skates start rolling just as the doors of the orphanage open up, expelling a few dozen children, a nun and about four clowns for some reason.  And then what happens next is nothing short of magical, and you know what?  Brett was right, it was totally worth the wait.

So, yeah, that’s Final Fantasy XIII.

Oh, you want more?  Oh, fine.  Whiner.

Final Fantasy XIII is very different from every other RPG I’ve played in that you don’t actually, for the most part, control what your party is exactly doing in the midst of battles.  You have three people to a group, and only control one person, though battles move so fast you’ll be using auto battle for most of the game.  Instead you chose what roles your party performs during the fight, from offense to defense, which can be changed at will at any time.

But like I said, this game is slow to get moving.  You’ll play the game for a good hour or so before you ever get the ability to change or set your party’s paradigms, which feels like a long time when all you have at your command is the ability to hit something in the face.  One of the things I didn’t like about the new battle system, even after the paradigm system was introduced, was the fact that if your main character dies, it’s game over.  When you’re playing a game where the tide of battle can change literally in thirty seconds, it can be frustrating having to start a huge boss fight all over again.  Still, the game is lenient and will reload a few steps back from the encounter that stomped your face, so it’s not like you’re going to be losing any levels or items from the attempt.

from the start, the Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most linear games I’ve played.  They give you one straight path, and man do you take it.  I mean, there’s not even really any branches or places you can explore.  Sometimes the game holds on to a location for too long, and you’ll find yourself wishing at least for a change of scenery.  But then you can hear your old trusty friend on the roller skates, still sitting at the top of the hill, telling you to just hang on, bro, it’ll happen when it happens.

And then, finally, after over 25 hours or so, the game explodes into a non-linear section with more side quests than you can drown in scalding hot chili.  It’s a little unnerving after such a linear game, but extremely rewarding to experience.  Trust me.

As for the story, well, it’s a Japanese game and wears its origins on its sleeve.  Expect a lot of conversations about pent-up frustrations and uplifting speeches about the power of your heart.  That being said, the dialogue made me want to kill myself a lot less than a traditional JRPG, which I suppose is a plus.

Definitely pick up Final Fantasy XIII if you’re an RPG fan.  Honestly, there’s not a lot of games out there like it, and its innovative combat system and driving story make it worth the time.

You just gotta be patient, man.


One Response

  1. […] Rain does have some things working against it. If you’ve read Pecks thoughts on Final Fantasy 13 (and if the following analogy doesn’t make you at least curious on some level, you should […]

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