Final Fantasy XIII is almost here

Believe it or not there’s only two months to wait until the release of Final Fantasy XIII.  Over in Japan reviews have been good, but the same can’t be said about a large percentage of those who bought it.  Even so the game has whipped up excitement across the world, but what exactly will we be getting on March 9th?

First thing’s first, I’m no expert on this subject.  In fact up until about an hour ago I knew basically nothing about this game, but I’ve done a little research and to me it seems like a mix of good and bad if I’m being honest.

Firstly, Kotaku have done an article on the games’ first five or six hours of gameplay, and they seem less than impressed with the linearity of it all.  The article included the following picture, which is the first few hours pieced together.

Unless you’re fluent in Japanese you probably won’t have a clue what any of that means, but it appears to show the first three ‘chapters’ of the game along with a boss.  What you can see is that it’s incredibly linear, but at the same time one has to wonder why Kotaku are making such a big deal out of it.  For those who have played a lot of RPG’s the first few hours generally are pretty linear, the idea being that you get a feel for the game and the starting characters before being let loose in an enormous world.  However, while this formula remains true for most games in the genre Final Fantasy XIII allegedly features an ultra-linear story from start to finish, which is unusual.  Final Fantasy X was criticised in part for its linearity but at least there was some freedom late in the game, but that’s supposedly not so with this title.

Another quip is with the battle system, which is similar to what Final Fantasy XII uses – yet more ‘dumbed down’ for casual fans.  For those who ever played FFXII you’ll probably be aware that you can effectively make the game play itself if you know what you’re doing with the Gambit system, so now you can do more of the same but with added ease.

“Not sounding good so far” was what I thought at this point, but it gets worse.  According to what I’ve read there are also absolutely no towns and villages to discover on your adventure in Final Fantasy XIII.  So where do you buy stuff and replenish your health? At save points.  Sounds like fun.  You can’t backtrack to places you’ve visited before either.  And don’t forget the AI characters who’ll join you as the game progresses are AI controlled, which can only mean nothing but trouble.  AI characters are notoriously dense as Resident Evil 5 fans will tell you, so alternating between characters to get the most out of the battle experience won’t be an option and you’re almost guaranteed infuriating moments where your allies don’t do what you want them to do.

On the plus side, there are no random encounters.  Enemies are in plain sight and you can easily avoid them if you want to, but in all seriousness that’s about the only good thing I’ve read about so far.

At this point I should again reiterate that I’m not all that knowledgeable regarding what I’ve written about so far, these are all bits of information I’ve picked up on my travels.  A lot of it has apparently come from Japanese players courtesy of a translation, it seems as though even the most hardcore of role playing game fans aren’t entirely satisfied with what they’ve got which was also what happened with Final Fantasy XII.  That was a game that divided Final Fantasy fans practically down the middle, anyone who played it either loved it or hated it.  Personally I detested it, having spent £40 on a politically-charged mess of a game with annoying characters and a dull plot I just couldn’t bring myself to carry on after 20 hours or so of play time and being hopelessly lost in a desert.  Final Fantasy XI was again mixed with mixed opinions, personally I’ve never played it but it has a fairly strong cult following several years after its release.  Before that came the notorious Final Fantasy X-2, the first direct sequel in the entire franchise where the main characters were *gasp* women.  For whatever reason a large portion of hentai-loving basement dwellers didn’t take too kindly to this, but apart from being a little cheesy in places the game itself actually wasn’t bad.

In effect that means that the last universally liked Final Fantasy game (for the most part) was Final Fantasy X, released almost eight years ago.  Two games later, several spin-offs and numerous remakes later and they still haven’t got it right since, and if the fan reception towards Final Fantasy XIII is anything to go by it’s not going to change.  It seems to me that the only thing Square-Enix have done right recently is release both Final Fantasy VII and VIII on the Playstation Network, so either the Japanese public simply don’t ‘get’ Final Fantasy XIII or it really is another poor addition to the franchise.

Despite all that I along with millions of others will probably be buying the game upon release or soon afterwards, I’d like to read a few reviews and fan opinions before being disappointed the hard and expensive way.  I just hope there is some appeal to the game the Japanese have missed, failing that there’s always Final Fantasy XIV to look forward to.

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Posted on January 9, 2010, in Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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