James Quentin Clark
Final Fantasy XIII Impressions
The quick 'n' dirty summary article comes before the obligatory wall-of-text review.
12.30.09 - 4:06 PM

So I've been rocking FFXIII for about a week now and I have to agree with most of the other impressions pieces I've seen on the webernets: It is an exhausting and beautiful game that is bound to cause controversy among the FF fanbase.

You see, FFXIII's gameplay is not a big truck; it's a series of tubes, or rather, a series of maps, mostly unconnected to one another, each crammed with enemies ending in a cinema scene or flashback. There is nothing even resembling an overworld until around the 30 hour mark, and even then it's more like another large dungeon than a world map connecting various locations. With precious few NPCs to interact with, no cities and a dearth of side quests, FFXIII is banking on the player being so captivated by its story that you don't even notice all of the staple JRPG features missing.

I'll reserve judgment as to whether or not that was a good bet on their part. From where I am now, here's a breakdown on what fans can look forward to:

What to expect:

- The most beautiful graphics in any console RPG ever. Period. Full stop. End of sentence.

- Arguably the most beautiful music in any console RPG ever. Every moment is fully orchestrated and every song sounds fantastic. I rarely buy soundtracks. This one I made a point to purchase. I ordered it ten hours into the game (note: soundtrack release is scheduled for January 27, 2010).

- Challenge. You will die during regular battles. Sometimes frequently. This is probably the hardest Final Fantasy game ever made, and battles can take several minutes if you get flustered and don't exploit the chain break system.

- A strong story. This is not merely a decent RPG plot - it's strong science fiction writing. The cast is fantastic, particularly Lightning and and Sazh.

What NOT to expect:

- Towns.

- Any great degree of freedom to explore. This could be a major criticism in my review depending on how the second act develops.

- Minigames, dungeon puzzles, or even sidequests outside of the not insignificant mission hunts found in the game's second half. Makes the game seem kind of empty, don't it? Trust me, you'll be plenty busy just trying to get through the main game.

- A large variety of weapons and armor. There are a bunch of accessories, including bangles that increase HP. Weapons, however, won't change much as you'll mostly just repeatedly upgrade one weapon for each character until you max it out.

In conclusion, I can tell already that this game will continue FFXII's tradition of alienating much of the JRPG faithful. In the case of XII, I thought the risks the developers took ultimately paid off, culminating in one of the series' most innovative and stimulating installments. Check out my full import review in early January to see whether or not the risks paid off in XIII's case.


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