I believe the best way to open this review is to begin with a quote from a professor at my university who opened up today with this, “…I know you’ve all had me before, but prepare to Paradigm Shift as you’re all going to have to become Commando’s and come out guns blazing.” You’ll have no idea what this means until you’ve read further into the review, but I geeked out. That quote alone shows the reach that the Final Fantasy franchise has on its cult following and its impact of prioritizing its fans’ lives for them. My professor is a Final Fantasy nerd. Awesome.
I truly don’t even know where to begin with this game. I am overwhelmingly excited at the product before me, that I can’t even think straight. First, I’ll mention how skeptical I was for this game. Not that I had a lack of faith in Sqweenix, but more of a personal dilemma I’ve somehow developed. I’ve never…and I mean never…have been able to get into a game where the lead role is female. I don’t know what it is, or why it has become like that for me at all. Now I’m faced with the epidemic that my favorite gaming franchise is forcing me take on the role of Lightning.
Lightning is an ex-soldier of Guardian Corps and is the lead heroine of the game hell-bent on saving her sister, Serah, who has become what the game introduces as an “l’Cie”. First you open with a masterful cut-scene followed by an intro level that is like a memory of the opening of FFX when Tidus meets Auron. In short, the story is amazing, as always, however this time it’s not as linear as prior titles. You aren’t spoon-fed the plot and everything isn’t so cut and dry. Confusing? Yes. But this is what I love about the game. The story line gives you just enough to salivate and from there you have access to unlimited datalogs in the game that add pieces of the plot and tie things together nicely.
I posted on my Facebook page how this game was amazing after only about the six hour mark and a friend asked “visually amazing, or game play amazing?” and I simply said “both”. Even during the PSOne days, the cut-scenes have always been visually stunning. But this is the first game in the franchise where after a beautifully rendered scene I was not complaining about game play graphics as a comparison. It used to be like viewing a Ferrari in the show room and driving home a Chevy Cavalier. From the backgrounds and the environments, to the character designs and mannerisms…everything is exceptional.
The characters of Final Fantasy have always been something I thought Square-Enix excelled at with getting you emotionally attached to them. I can’t even tell you who my favorite character from the franchise could be due to how much I love them all. Every character in the franchise has a special place in my heart and I was extremely worried about this lineup. For starters, were my missions as Lightning going to entail scouring Pulse for fire sales on Ugg boots? Oh, how my opinion quickly turned. Her character traits resemble that of a female Cloud. You can’t help but appreciate the tough exterior masked with beauty. Then you have Sazh who I was not interested in at all as he looked like a walking cliché until I found out his afro is actually a nesting home for a Chocobo. Chocofro? Nailed it.
The battle system was the biggest concern for fans. Yes, it is turn based. But it’s finally upgraded without taking away from the experience. Everything and everyone is always moving and it’s not just red rover style of enemy vs. hero, and you even have control of the camera. You’re also introduced to the “Paradigm Shift” and now this review has come full circle, right? These are different strategic alignments of your team that you switch on the dime to have different members perform different tasks. Characters react on their own as well, so depending on what class and role you chose for them, determines how they’ll act in battle. The level up system is called a “Crystarium” which strongly resembles the sphere grid of FFX. From here you level up the different roles and classes of your characters based on preferences and whatever you feel like spending Crystal Points (CP) on for attribute boosts.
All in all, the game is phenomenal. I am thoroughly impressed with almost every aspect of the it. Yeah, there are a few minor things that stand like the prologue text that appears while loading a game that just moves at blazing speeds, or the way footsteps sometimes sound like a golf clap, or even how in Vile Peaks it just sounds like “Eye of the Tiger” is waiting to explode through the soundtrack. But all are completely wiped out in comparison to everything that is pure awesome about this game. I’d say Trembo Slice for the win, but FFXIII definitely knocked me out.