Jarv Reviews a game: Final Fantasy 13

Well, I’ve been watching far less in the way of films recently, since the acquisition of a PS3 and this game. As a result, I’m a bit short on material, so I thought I’d just bang out this review which will, at the very least, give Droid an(other) opportunity to be rude to me for a while.

Since I first played Final Fantasy 7 years ago, I’ve been hooked on these fucking things. I even liked 8. The only one that I would say is out-and-out shit is X-2, which is a load of side-quests in search of a game. I would go as far as saying that FF12 is probably the greatest game I’ve ever played, and I was really, really looking forward to this instalment.

 I have to say, from the start, that this is a superb game. However, I also have to say that it isn’t anywhere near as good as 12. That’s not a criticism, per se, because very little is (it’s like comparing a football side to Brazil 1970) but when the series consistently hits unprecedented heights then it does feel a bit like a let down. Nevertheless, it is still extremely good

If you’ve never played Final Fantasy, then this is how they work: there’s a completely fantastic world composed of a strange mix of futuristic technology and magic. You initially play an androgynous anime character, before assembling a party of usually well-drawn characters to stop an extinction event instigated by a completely demented villain.

 

Final Fantasy 13 is no exception (aside from the fact that the main character is clearly not androgynous). The storyline is lovingly put together with a small band of cursed people battling an unjust fate theme that really works a treat. You play Lightning, an ex-Soldier with a filthy temper and the quest follows her and her friends’ attempts to avert the destruction of the world they live in (Cocoon) at the hands of the demented Fal Cie who are determined to create a huge sacrifice to bring back God.

Final Fantasy games always look stunning, and this is unsurprisingly beautiful. The various playing locations (particularly the second main location, Gran Pulse) are superbly rendered and, damn it, gorgeous. The characters are all excellently devised and also brilliantly painted. The monsters aren’t the usual Final Fantasy collection of blobs etc, rather, they’ve spent some time and redesigned them. This is undoubtedly a good thing. There are monsters that you will have certainly seen before, but most of them have recognisable names and unrecognisable appearances.

  

 The sound is also simply superb (even if the soundtrack is sung by future Butlins employee Leona Lewis), and the voice acting is actually an improvement on previous instalments.

Previous Final Fantasy games (the exception being 12, again) have clearly drawn character roles. One character is your white mage, one your battler etc. For Final Fantasy 13, they’ve ditched that. Instead, you can customise your party as you see fit, and there’s far less of the tedious “fighting the same battle repeatedly to level up” stuff as a direct result. You then assign roles to your characters for battle, and switch between set ups during the action. At first, this does feel a bit alien, but after a few battles (which you’ll comfortably win) it becomes really intuitive. Basically, leave it on “relentless assault” until you get a bit fucked up, then put it in Combat Clinic to get them back to strength before swapping back to your offensive lineup. You can fuck around with other roles such as saboteurs and shit like that, but it doesn’t really make that much difference, and most of the big monsters tend to be immune from sabotage anyway.

Then there’s the action. In previous efforts (with the exception of 12, shockingly), battling was turn based and random. This time round they’ve devised an Active system and, as in its illustrious predecessor, there are no random encounters. As a result, the battling feels fluid, and the role changes (called Paradigm Shifts) add a new dimension previously missing from other games. This is a definite plus. Once you master the role options (and it doesn’t take long) switching between them in the midst of battle becomes completely intuitive- even if you end up using only about 3 of the possible 30 set ups. As the game progresses you also earn the ability to summon fuck off monsters (stunningly animated) to help you kick some ass, and square finally found a way to interject this staple feature of Final Fantasy without ruining the flow of battle, and also without you relying on them exclusively.

 

 However, and this is where I start to be negative about it, there are problems. The first is that it doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game. The first third basically splits the party into 3 groups that each follow a linear storyline. Party A moves from point A to point B, then there’s a gorgeous cut scene, before party B moves from Point C to point D etc. There are pros and cons to this. The big pro is that the storyline in this section is damned compelling and following the three strands is exciting stuff. The big con, and it’s the big con of the game is that two of the characters are fucking irritating moping cunts, and one of them is an irritating chirpy cunt. Luckily they group Chirpy with Mopey, so the exposure is limited, but that still means that a vast tranche of the game is less enjoyable. To be fair to the Chirpy character (Vanille), she’s the direct descendant of Penolo, Selphie, Rikku and the like so her chirpiness isn’t surprising. However, the incessant whinging of Sazh and Hope is beyond the pale and without precedent. They really drag some of the cutscenes right down, and it was a wise move to allow the player to fast forward them. Another blunder, but this is far less of a cock up, is that the map screen rotates with the direction the character is facing. As a rule this wouldn’t matter, but Gran Pulse is basically a big expanse and it’s easy to get confused and realise you’ve just tracked back on yourself. The minimap rotating is fine, but a solid point of reference would have been nice.

The second major drawback, and it is similar to the first, is that there’s fuck all in the way of sidequests etc. There’s a huge amount of unlockable stuff in the game, but they don’t help you out at all with how to achieve it (something they also repeat with upgrading weaponry). This means that if you want to 100% the game (something I won’t be doing) then it’s going to be a long and lonely road. There’s a hunting sidequest that’s pretty easy to spot, but apart from that not a damned thing.

 

Overall, would I recommend it? All in all, I would. However, I’m not sure that I’d recommend it at full price, and it’s far too big to be a rental. Final Fantasy 13 is a sumptuous, superbly realised game with a couple of flaws that doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game (there’s no interaction with non-characters to go through: none of this “walk into shop, press x to talk to dwarf” stuff.) Not to mention that for all the flaws of the party characters (I just ended up using the 3 women, and not for pervy reasons) the ending is both sad and uplifting. It’s a beautifully animated close scene and one of the most rewarding victory sequences that I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, Squaresoft have learnt from previous complaints, and if you save it after your final victory it actually puts you just before the last boss, but with a teleport location to the main sections of Cocoon and Gran Pulse.

A flawed but worthy effort. Oh, and fuck Chocobos. They sucked in the 80’s and they suck now. Get rid of them, please. 

Until next time,

Jarv

   Jarv’s Rating: 3 Changs- a great game, but not a great Final Fantasy game.

 

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

12 responses to “Jarv Reviews a game: Final Fantasy 13”

  1. Jarv says :

    Re the sport comparison. If you want another one, then it’s like comparing a cricket team to Australia 2003.

    Dunno enough about American sport- Babe Ruth’s Yankees maybe?

  2. Droid says :

    When Droid played a Final Fantasy game, this is how it worked.

    Disc went in PS2. Game started. Sat watching 10 minute cut scene. Finally started game. Moved little japanese character around a market. Repeatedly walked up to other little japanese characters and pressed X to try to get then to tell me what the fuck I was meant to do. Got frustrated at the sing song gibberish sounds they made. Mashed every button. Threw my controller on the ground. Ejected disc. Played Fifa.

    • Jarv says :

      This one is nothing like that.

      They dump you into the middle of a battle- and it’s literally go from point A to point B killing everything in your path.

      They also mark the map so you know where you’re meant to be going.

      I think there’s pros and cons to this approach, for me, though I liked it once I got used to it, and if I hadn’t detested two of the characters so much it would have rated much higher.

  3. ThereWolf says :

    Been ages since I’ve played any video games. I did play a demo of an FF game many years ago. While it looked stunning, I couldn’t get into it, too long winded. Or maybe it was down to my lack of patience.

    I was always more into the survival horror stuff, Resident Evil, Silent Hill.

    Anyway, there’s one major drawback in this case: I haven’t got a PS3…

    • Jarv says :

      So was I. With the exception of FF, I don’t touch RPG’s.

      Also, as I say with this one, there’s none of that long windedness to it. It just drops you straight in the action (it’s actually the mid point of the story as well)- you get the odd flashback to the previous days, but it’s very much from this point forwards.

      I loved the Resident Evil series. Is there one on the PS3? Because that will need purchasing.

      • Droid says :

        There is Resident Evil 5 which I still haven’t completed. I’m quite far in to the game but I haven’t played it for yonks.

      • Jarv says :

        Does it follow on from Code Veronica- which was RE4.

        I haven’t played what they called RE4 and I didn’t know there was an RE5.

        I want a new Silent Hill. The last one, The Room, was a bit of a let down.

      • Droid says :

        It’s set in Africa and is more based on the RE4 gameplay which is slightly more free than previous efforts.

        RE4 on GameCube was a fucking awesome game. So good that I finished it twice. Something I’d never done before. I went back and played it again on the harder level.

        Great game.

        RE5 is pretty good.

      • Jarv says :

        Is it the one that got accused of being racist? Which was ludicrous.

      • Droid says :

        Yeah 5 was accused of being racist because the zombies were black and the male protagonist was white.

        It’s completely fucking ridiculous.

      • Jarv says :

        Fucking daft. There’s been black zombies in RE since the beginning, and not to mention that one of the main characters (and an evil one) of RE2 was fucking chinese.

        PC thinking.

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