I bought Final Fantasy XIII on tues when it was released and spent a good two hours playing it. I would have played more, but us poor gamers still gotta work. So here’s my first impressions…
The FFXIII story revolves around two things – the Fal’cie and the L’cie, although I’m not sure what the difference is between the two, nor exactly what they are. Basically, infected people are getting “deported” which is a fancy word for “taken away to die”. One such person is the pink haired Lightning, a welcome break to Final Fantasy’s regular brooding male protagonists.
Of course, Lightning doesn’t want to die, and as we find out, she’s an ex-soldier. Which is the first of many similarities between Ms Lightning and Cloud Strife. The second is their jpop hair.
The game begins in a world highly reminiscent of FFVII’s Migar, green lights, big machines and lots of train tracks. As always, the graphics are impressive, stunning on a HD TV. The cut scenes and action are closer than ever in quality, seamlessly blending film style graphics into the battle sequences. Final Fantasy has always been glorious to look at and XIII is no exception.
As the story progresses, you join Snow and a group of rebels fighting for freedom (I just want to hear one of the soldiers yell “Rebel scum!”). Snow’s the guy with the bandanna and greasy blonde hair, who talks much differently to what I expected; I thought that he would be more of a charming rogue character, instead he’s an uber-noble freedom fighter that talks way too much. Mr Greasy promotes his group NOVA suspiciously like FFVII’s AVALANCHE. Yet another ‘This worked before so let’s do it again moment’.
Then comes mom.
Now, when Square Enix did their budget, visual effects was a big one, then programming, maybe sound etc. Script revisions were on the bottom of that list, towards the basement, maybe even lower, heading towards hell. The FF crew obviously have never animated a HD ‘mom’ before and probably could have given her a few more wrinkles, ‘cause tired ol’ mom looks like a 16 year old with grey hair. Given that it’s pretty hard to raise children in this time of war, she’s looking as fine as an ad for Chanel. So, Snow goes up to a group of scared victims and says something like “Who wants to fight for freedom, blah, blah, blah.”
And Mom steps up. Snow asks “You sure?” And here comes the most awkward line in the history of video gaming.
“Moms are tough.”
It has all the delivery of a young Anakin Skywalker asking Padme “Are you an angel?” It made me laugh out loud and cringe with embarrassment… But searching on the internet has made it apparent that at least one person cried at this moment… Ahem. Of course, after she’s uttered these words we know she’s destined for the clichéd dead mom, orphan child plot basket.
As for the other characters, well there’s your typical perky Rikku/Penelo/Selphie clone called Vanille, played by Australian Georgia Van Cuylenburg. And she bugs me. It’s not the accent (actually I rather like hearing an Australian in a video game). Nor is it the acting. It’s the callous way she’s so damn perky in a war zone, particularly towards said orphan whose mom just died. To paraphrase: “Oh your mom just died so sorry, let’s skip around and explore this zany temple/machine/thing. Oh you need a hug? Super. Ciao!”
The character I really enjoy is Sazh, the fast-talking, chocobo wearing, afroed man, who’s not quite sure how he ended up in this mess, or this video game. He’s a departure from typical Final Fantasy character stereotypes (the perky girl, the brooding hero with a sword, the kind hearted sidekick, the hot gothic chick). And the chocobo in his hair is so cute that it’s hard not to like him. The other characters include Hope, said orphan child, whose hair is as grey as Mom’s (obviously from bearing the burden of the world on his shoulders) and Serah, Lightning’s sister and Snow’s fiancée, who quickly becomes a npc, but I won’t give that exciting plot point away.
Now that I’ve had my whinge about unbelievable characters, I’ll move onto gameplay, which is… alright. Square Enix have moved away from the real-time battle system in XII, which was at times a bit too much like autopilot (for an example of this, some people were able to leave the game overnight and level up). They’ve returned to interactive battles, in that you must come into contact with the monsters to engage the battle screen. It’s an interesting decision and for me it sometimes feels like a step backwards. While the system in FFXII wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t a bad idea and could have simply been improved.
However, the action is definitely more involving and face-paced than its turn based predecessors. FFVIII lacks the static camera of past games, so that every move feels like a different animation. Even if you fight the same monsters (as inevitably you will), the battles do not feel as repetitive as past games. And you can do some pretty cool moves while laying up your ATB gauge. It’s a little bit easy given that there’s a button which says “Auto-battle” which chooses the most effective attacks for you. Also, you magically heal after every battle with no penalty, so there’s no more running to the next save point to heal everyone up. Which is good and bad, I got a little irritated when I’d go through a hard part of FFXII and then the save point would turn into a bloody monster, but then it’s not so challenging.
You don’t really level up in this game, but use a pretty little system that’s called the Crystalarium which could have been drawn as a straight line in terms of linearity. You don’t get much choice in what roles your characters do, and even during battle you can only control the “commander”, normally Lightning or Snow. You can, however, assign the roles the other characters take during battle, such as a medic, ravager or synergist.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIII is like the pretty girl at school. She’s popular and good looking, but she’s also a little vacuous and shallow. Despite this, I’m going to play it through. Call me shallow, but the graphics are so pretty it’s hard to notice the flaws.
That’s it for my first observations. I’d love to see where this story goes, and if it makes any more sense with a few more hours gameplay (author’s note: after 6 hours and watching the Good Game review it’s starting to make sense!). I’ll write another post when I’m later through the game, although given that most Final Fantasy games take around 100 hours to complete, I have another 98 to go.
Have you played Final Fantasy XIII yet? What do you think? Is the script bad or are moms really tough?