Xbox 360 Review: Final Fantasy XIII

Is it unlucky 13 for the Final Fantasy series?

In Final Fantasy XIII, players will embark on an awe-inspiring journey through the floating cityworld of Cocoon and the savage lowerworld of Pulse, encountering a diverse band of would-be allies along the way. With seamless transitions between real-time gameplay and in-game cinematics, and an evolved Active Time Battle system offering a perfect harmony of spectacular action and strategy, this is an adventure unlike any other. Do you have the courage to face your destiny?

Hype has been building over Final Fantasy XIII since it was first unveiled and caused many arguments between 360/PS3 fanboys, especially when Sony’s key RPG became multiplatform. After all that, does FF XIII meet expectations? In some ways it does, but it disappoints in others. The game is set on a linear path and there’s very little exploration to be found, which will annoy long-time fans of the series, but at the same time it gives the game a bigger sense of urgency to its plot, which is decent and gives you just enough motivation to push through to the end.

All your shopping will be done at save points as opposed to towns like in classic FF games. Towns still exist, but not in the traditional sense. Combat starts out slow in the first few hours, but becomes incredibly deep as everything unlocks. FF XIII’s combat puts auto moves on default, which selects the best moves for your fights, but frees you up to choose paradigm shifts and to maintain your team. It’s a complex and tough system to get used to, but once you do…it becomes second nature.

All of these things seem like a huge departure for the series, but after a while things do start to look familiar. Summons return and there is still a huge emphasis on farming, grinding and upgrading your characters. The crafting system is a bit weak compared to other RPGs, but does the job just fine. As a whole, it’s a great package but the game seems to be entirely focused on the story and ends up looking too linear in its design.

Being a Final Fantasy game, you would expect high production values. Well, FF XIII certainly doesn’t disappoint in this area. Cutscenes are jaw-dropping and facial expressions are amazing, the worlds themselves are pretty, but corridors in design. There are a few bad textures if you look close enough, but that’s merely nit-picking. Voice-acting is incredibly cheesy and makes it hard to believe the characters, so I’d suggest switching to Japanese voices and put the subtitles on. The music is amazing and you will be humming the battle music for quite some time…

The Verdict

Final Fantasy XIII takes some huge risks in mixing up what has made the series famous and while veterans may be angry, it’s still a great RPG that shows why Square-Enix still knows what they are doing. It’s a must-have for any FF fan, despite the changes made. Go into it with no expectations and you will enjoy it from start to finish.