Beautiful innovation: the first 20 hours of FF XIII

Final Fantasy games often seem like a mixed bag. One one hand, they tend to take too long to get into; the first ten hours or so always feel like something you have to slog through before things really become exciting. After a while, the battles can start to feel repetitive. They eat up more of our time than we really should allow. But they're also beautiful. And epic. Once the stories get going, they're fascinating. More importantly, they become addictive. Such games are definitely an acquired taste, but they're a delicacy for those of us who have come to enjoy JRPGs.

Final Fantasy XIII is particularly noteworthy in an already extraordinary series, though, because it brings about a number of design changes. While the game retains the amazing production values that the franchise is famous for, its gameplay has been modified to deliver something that feels faster paced than its predecessors and often seems more like an action title than a proper RPG. This might sound worrying to dedicated fans, but rest assured: based on our first twenty hours with the game, the outcome is excellent.

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