Final Fantasy XIII


I like Final Fantasy a lot more than I should, but after the Persona IV experience I am starting to suspect it has something to do with the work-reward balance and the time it demands. The amount of effort you need to put in to actually accomplish something is bigger than shorter games, and it is not afraid to tell you you have failed – meaning the feeling of accomplishment when you cross hurdles is greater. Also, the simple fact that you spend more time playing this game means the mere familiarity of it will make it appealing.

In terms of how it compares to the other games in the series, FFXIII is a very linear experience where what exploration exists is more or less confined to a single chapter and separated from the overall story and rest of the game. It is a bit sad since you do not have the freedom to change pace and do something else if you want to anymore, but I guess after the very open last iteration some experimentation with a more Xenosaga-like progression was in order.

The battle system is what usually changes a lot between Final Fantasies though. FFXIII offers a mix between the somewhat revolutionary system of FFXII and the more traditional ATB systems, having well defined encounters but letting players focus solely on overall strategy instead of micromanaging commands. This leads to a faster, almost real-time battle system that actually functions to make the most of the IP, for once I actually used all of those status-enhancing spells to a meaningful degree. FFXIII has also removed most of the internal economy, no stats – not even health – are kept between battles so each fight is a new start. Dying will not set you back more than to just before the fight, which is a pleasant surprise considering the strict adherence japanese game developers usually have to old design ideas.

I like these changes as they remove a lot of the tedium and let you focus on the overall flow of the game, but it is a bit weird to see SquareEnix removing so much from the game. Less is more to be sure, but minimalism taken far enough will ultimately remove the game altogether. Maybe they consider the narrative and art styles to be the core of the game, and FFXIII offers nothing new in this regard – all of the character archetypes are there, so are the mysterious demigods and all of the sentimental monologues about how everything can be accomplished as long as you believe… But maybe I am just too old to appreciate it. Graphically it is kind of a letdown, the design is decent and the prerendered cutscenes are stellar, but technically it is not very impressive – looks more like a hi-res PS2 game than one from this generation. Not ugly, but you expect at least some technical marvels from games of this caliber.

Of the main Final Fantasy series, all of the games have a personal meaning to me – a connection to the place I was in my life when I played them, in a sense. It is going to be interesting to see where I will be when FFXIV is released, and if I will even have time to play it.

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Posted on Jul 28/10 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »