I haven’t played many of the Final Fantasy games because I’m not a massive fan of JRPGs. Saying that I did play Final Fantasy X up to the tricky end boss and did rather enjoy it. Final Fantasy XIII is the first game on the next-gen consoles and to some degree is aimed at people who are new to RPGs as it’s far too simple for most hardcore gamers and holds your hand most of the way through.
Playing as a number of characters from the land of Cocoon, the game begins as the government tries to purge the inhabitants of the land and send them to the neighbouring land of Pulse. You see, they’re a little bit scared of people who are given magic and turned into l’Cie by god-like beings that float in the sky called fal’Cie. Yes it all sounds a bit weird and convoluted but basically it’s a story of genocide and a band of people who get caught up in the mess who have to try to put things right for personal reasons and the greater good.
Battles are in real-time and you have to wait for a meter to fill up before you can perform the moves you’ve selected. You can only control one lead character per battle but by changing paradigms mid-fight you can change what your team mates choose to do, whether it’s strengthening party members, healing them or helping to kick a boss’s ass. Once you ‘stagger’ an enemy by filling their hit gauge you can deal out more damage and this is the key to succeeding.
For the first 20 hours though the game is very linear. There’s little chance to explore, long cutscenes have to be sat through and battles seem to run almost on auto-pilot. When you get to Pulse things open up a bit more but there’s certainly not the sense of freedom that you’re making your own adventure like you get in games such as Mass Effect 2 or Fallout 3.
As you’d expect though, the cut-scenes look truly fantastic in HD and some of the locations you visit are stunning as well, it’s just also a pity that when you’re running about areas your characters all move a bit unconvincingly.
It’s certainly a long game coming in at 3 discs on the Xbox 360 but you will have to be prepared to put the hours in before you truly start to enjoy it. For this reason Final Fantasy XIII gets 7 out of 10.
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