Final Fantasy XIII

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 90/100

Final Fantasy XIII Review
Developer: Squire Enix
Publisher: Squire Enix
Format Reviewed: Xbox360
Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken

Final(ly) Fantasy XIII is in the hands of lots of role-playing gamers who eagerly wanted to experience its next level of graphics and gameplay, whether on PS3 or Xbox360. There was a lot of commotion around the Xbox360 release as many fans stated that it’s should keep to its roots and should be a Playstation exclusive game. What they probably forgot is that the original Final Fantasy was released for Nintendo. Anyway, shall we have a look at what Final Fantasy XIII is all about; the real things that matter such as story, battle system, graphics and of course the female point of view!

 Final Fantasy XIII female gamers review

As soon as you hit the start button, you’ll be astonished how beautiful and smashing the designs and graphics are. Truly breathtaking and the game hasn’t even fully started yet. It’s the full version of the teaser, which we have seen a couple of years ago, and it turns the beginning of our journey in a marvelous setting with an overload of words like Pulse, Cocoon, l-Cie, Focus, Cie’th and fal-Cie. The story doesn’t make much sense in the beginning, but true Final Fantasy players now that they will be sucked into the story within a couple of hours, transformating in their new world and at that point everything becomes logical. Nevertheless I’ll try to give you an explanation of the story.

Final Fantasy XIII takes place within the scope of two worlds, Pulse and Cocoon. There are mechanical beings called fal-Cie which have godlike powers and crystals residing. People who are marked by the fal-Cie are called l-Cie and each has a Focus, a goal the fal'Cie wants him or her to fulfill within a certain amount of time; however, the fal'Cie do not explicitly say what the goal is: l'Cie learn what their Focus is by interpreting visions that are given to them. L'Cie may also gain the ability to summon an Eidolon, superb strong monsters who fight with the l'Cie. However, if a l'Cie dies before completing his or her Focus, fails to tame his or her Eidolon, or fails to complete his or her Focus within a set period of time, he or she becomes a monster known as a Cie'th. If a l'Cie does complete his or her Focus, the reward is not much better: permanent transformation into a crystal. For this reason, being chosen as a l'Cie is seen as a curse.

 Final Fantasy XIII female gamers review

Fal-Cie contructed a paradise for humanity: the shell-like city of Cocoon, which floats high above the surface of Pulse under the power of the Cocoon fal'Cie Orphan. Then, the Cocoon fal'Cie created life forms and machines for Cocoon's inhabitants to use, and humanity flourished. A war was fought between the fal'Cie of Pulse and the Cocoon fal'Cie, and Cocoon prevailed in what was eventually known as the War of Transgressions. However, fear lingered in the hearts of the people of Cocoon, for the day another invasion might come from the world beneath again. Although most Cocoon citizens have never seen Pulse with their own eyes, they have been told that it is a dangerous place that has strange effects on those who venture down to its surface. Consequently, anyone who is discovered to have been in contact with anything from Pulse is immediately subjected to quarantine and exile by the theocratic government of Cocoon, known as the Sanctum.]The Sanctum enforces this policy with its strongest military branch, PSICOM.

The character Snow leads the resistance group, NORA, in an attempt to stop the purging of civilians. On the other hand, another character called Lightning, fights her way past PSICOM soldiers to find a Pulse fal'Cie, Anima, who turned her sister, Serah (who is also Snow's fiancée), into a l'Cie. Through a chain of events, these three, along with two exiles, Vanille and Hope, are forced by the fal'Cie of Pulse to become l'Cie, and with that became enemies of humanity with the Focus of bringing about the downfall of the Orphan, who provides the fal'cie Eden with the energy it needs to run Cocoon. Slaying Orphan would supposedly result in Cocoon's demise. While the story evolves, more important characters will join the party.

 Final Fantasy XIII female gamers review

The story continues as long as you can beat the multiple enemies in battles. Although in previous Final Fantasy games the enemies had a fun factor when it came to their designs, now they’re (looking) serious! Enemies are integrated into the world environment and their location can be seen on the map, but by contrast, battles do not take place in the same field. Instead, there is a short transition and players are transported to a new battle screen, separate from the main playing world. Players need to use their strategic commands in order to win battles. Players are able to chain large numbers of commands together in order to achieve attack bonuses. Multiple commands can be chosen and stacked into slots per turn and released at the same time to form a combo. The number of command slots increases as the characters grow in strength. These commands include series staples such as physical and magical attacks: Attack, Fire, Blizzard and Cure, as well as new ones such as the non-elemental Ruin and Ruinaga. Each command has a value (Cost Points) which determines how many times the commands can be used per turn. The ultimate command is of course the summoning of the character’s Eidolon, which is very powerful but also an eye catcher with smashing battle-scenes. A "Stagger State" is one of the new features of the Final Fantasy XIII battle system. The enemy becomes staggered when a chain combo has been maintained for a certain period of time on an enemy, filling its stagger bar to maximum. When a high level combo has been achieved, the enemy will glow and enter this state for a limited time, during which the player will be able to inflict high amounts of damage and, if the Launch ability has been learned, may knock enemies high into the air, disabling the enemy's moves. The chain bar will gradually deplete during this period; when it becomes empty, the break state ends. In battle, the player can only control one character at a time out of a party of up to three. In the beginning it’s not possible to choose the controllable character and party members which is good to learn the varied actions of each character and to power-up their roles. Another great feature is the automatically health restoration of each party member after the battle is over.

What do you want to be when you grow-up? Strong, alive, and victorious of course! To achieve this, a Role system exists in order to control what abilities are available to characters in battle and how to improve them. Rather than having all abilities available to characters as they are learned, abilities are restricted to certain Roles, similar to the Job system of previous installments. The roles are divided in Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Synergist, Saboteur and Medic. Commandos use physical attacks, slowing the rate of stagger decay and striking for high damage, especially with a high stagger percentage, while Ravagers use elemental abilities like Blizzard and Thundaga, greatly increasing the stagger bar. Synergists use buffs like Shell and Brave to enhance the party's characters, while Saboteurs use debuffs like DeShell and Bio to hinder the enemy. Sentinels provoke enemies, absorb enemy attacks and counterattack, while Medics exclusively heal, using abilities like Cura, Raise, and Esuna. Each character may only take on one role at a time, and each combination of three Roles for a given party is called a Paradigm. Up to six Paradigm combinations may be stored in a Paradigm Deck at any one time. During battle, players may switch between them which is very useful. For example when you are with 3 characters in battle, and all three are attacking but the health I drastically decreasing, you can switch to a programmed medic Paradigm to heal the characters and then returning the previous Paradigm to finish the battle. In order to unlock abilities and increase attributes such as maximum health and special commands, you’ll need to gather Crystogen Points. These can be gained after a successful battle and can be compared with experience points.

 Final Fantasy XIII female gamers review

From a female point of view, female characters always played an important role in the Final Fantasy games. The most important female characters in this game are Lightning, Vanille, and Fang. Lightning is a very independent, determined and cold-blooded character, but she is also shown to have a compassionate side while the story evolves. Her goal changes from time to time (Finding Anima, save her sister, stay alive, etc), but it’s tough to succeed. She fights with a gunblade (gun and sword collapsing into the other) and can manipulate gravity with a device on her thumb. In battle, Lightning is very agile and uses acrobatic moves. She also can summon the Eidolon Odin to fight by her side in battle, who can assume a horse-like form that she can ride on. While riding, Lightning dual wields Odin's detachable sword.
Vanille is a mysterious but upbeat young girl who is being exiled from Cocoon. She has a childlike innocence and is shown to be very compassionate, but at times she can also be very stubborn. Her giggling and childlike behavior works on my nerves and therefore is not my favorite character to play with. Although in battle she knows how to handle her weapon which is a form of foldable fishing rod with multiple lines that can be reeled and used to attack enemies and she can summon the Eidolon Hecatoncheir, a multiple-limbed, earth-elemental summon who can transform into a bipedal mech armed with machine guns that she can pilot. Who could have thought that such an innocent child could summon that much magic!
Although Lighting and Vanille are playable characters early in the game, Fang comes later into play. She’s a raven-haired woman with clothing that resembles the traditional Indian Sari adorned with tribal accessories. Though she is a l'Cie from Pulse, she originally works for the Cocoon Sanctum. It later turns out she and Vanille are the only two given the focus to summon Ragnarok. She wields a spear that can transform in battle, and her Eidolon is Bahamut, a strong flying summon.

 Final Fantasy XIII female gamers review

It takes a while to understand the story and the meaning of l-Cie, Focus, Cie’th and fal-Cie, but the gameplay and controlling will be taught step by step, and in an easy pace. After a couple of hours, you’ll understand what is going on and why the characters want to achieve their goals. But if they’re going to make it, is up to you. Make wise choices when it comes to character roles, upgrading weapons, installing attributes and analyzing your enemies in order to beat them. Of course the battle system is a huge part in Final Fantasy XIII and cold and hard wars are fought. But the game truly contains quite a lot of emotional elements. Not too dramatically but enough to give it a human touch in a fantasy world in trouble. To increase the emotional influence, the graphics and character expressions are astonishing. Even if you don’t understand a bit of the story, some expressions don’t need words. And let me use that last sentence to underline this review, some games don’t need words, they simply need to play them! And this is such a game!