[Disclaimer: This blog does not represent the views or opinions of Enkido as he exists in a sane state and he cannot be held responsible for the content expressed in this article. For real, he recently dumped over 65 hours into a JRPG in a language he can't read well. Also, cocks.]
At the end of December of last year I was given the greatest gift I think I have ever gotten from another human being, an imported copy of Final Fantasy XIII. I made a promise to myself that I would complete the game before the NA release date. Why? I'm not entirely sure, but it does play to your favor. I recently finished it and having done so I want to share some of the things that I noticed about the game with you all, because I love you, the way a small child will immediately take to a rabies infected raccoon that has been hit by a truck. This is in no way a review, I'm far to lazy for that and if you really want to you can find those all over the internet by now. Instead this will be a presentation of the musing of a long time fan of the series, and his experience with the game. Also, I have not included any spoilers to the story or any other such thing, so feel free to peruse without fear.
I love this Picture
The Battle System
Now, I said that this isn't a review and I do stand by that statement, but I do want to talk about the battle system. As a big (read helpless) fan of the series, I can firmly state that this game has one of the best battle systems in the series. The closets comparison that can be made would be to Final Fantasy XII. Now to some of you, that is a terrible thing, but if I may, I only say this because that is what it is most similar to. To ease your worries I would say that although it has a slight similarity with the gambit system, it behaves much differently in practice and once into the thick of it the similarities are tenuous at best. Where XII's gambit system felt slow and disjointed at times, XIII always has the player engaged and doing something. The system is very different and as you may expect there are some small faults but overall it is a great system. One drawback is that it is a complicated system, and as such the game tries to ease players into it and takes a bit too long, in my opinion, to give the player access to all of its features.
A familiar graphic representation
"This is starting to look like a review..." Shut up you. Anyway, I really liked the story in XIII. The overall premise of the story is very good, but in my opinion there is one thing that really lets it down, the characters. They went to all of the trouble of establishing a really cool premise for the story but the devices that ultimately drive it fail to give it the depth that it deserves. I know that characters in a Final Fantasy title lacking depth is a real shocker (Cloud, Squall), but it is kind of disappointing when it could have made the story that much better. Not all the characters are bad, Lightning is actually an enjoyable main character, I love Sazh, and Fang somehow managed to win me over, but it seems like they tried to develop all six characters at the same time and it didn't quite work. Regardless, if you pay attention to the overall story, rather than focusing only on character interaction, you will find a fleshed out and ultimately interesting story.
Enhancers (I don't know what their called in the NA version, sorry) are basically the greatest thing ever. In past Final Fantasy installments buffs were mostly a throw away for me. With the exception of haste, they never really justified their weight in mp or casing time enough for me to consider them useful. I am happy to say that this has changed immensely, and giving them a dedicated job class has worked wonders. Haste is still a staple but now you will be counting on it to be on all of your characters soon after the battle starts to really deal damage and speed up your heal time. In addition, protect, shell, and spells like attack and magic up actually make themselves useful for the first time in a long time. There are monsters that can either really hurt or strait up one shot you into the ground, but if you cast protect/shell and buff yourself against the element they use they become easily manageable. Similarly, where attack and magic up would tack on another hundred damage or so, in XIII attack up with elemental damage can easily double the damage your characters are doing, especially in break mode. This applies somewhat to the Jammer, the dedicated de-buffer, as well, which are also extremely useful, but to a lesser extent than the Enhancer.
A good approximation
Remember in VII when you were a quarter of the way through the game and you had enough gill to buy out the entire city of Midgard? That doesn't happen in XIII. Money is difficult to come by. Monsters do not drop gil, only items, and in fact only items that can be used as experience for upgrading weapons. I remember going through the entire first half of the game and only having made around 10k gil, which if any of you ever played earlier Final Fantasy titles that is not a lot. Now note that that 10k is not what I had at the half way mark, it is essentially my total gross earnings throughout that entire time. One thing that goes hand in hand with this is that shops have not lowered their prices to account for this economic deflation. It's almost as bad as America's health care system. You want an accessory that increases your fire resistance? 20k gil please. The ray of hope is that some of the materials that monsters drop are not for upgrading, you will see that they only give 1 experience. You may think, why the hell would they even bother giving this to me until you go to sell it in a shop and it is worth 36k. Yes ladies and gentlemen, these are your cash cows. Unfortunately you only begin finding them in any real number towards the end of the game.
Like this but with more color
Items are a little weird in this game. In the beginning you swear by them, and you can never have enough. At some point however, I simply no longer needed them. I suspect it was around the time when my healers wised up and learned cura and life, but after that I never ended up using anything even remotely close to a potion or phoenix down. Maybe I'm doing it wrong but I managed to finish the game without them. There are exceptions, which are new items called smokes, which have a range of effects like making you harder to detect by enemies, to giving you certain buffs from the get go in your next battle. These are applied outside of battle and can really help in a difficult fight, but they are not really necessary.
Last thing. Music has been a staple in Final Fantasy games for a long time, and I would like to say that I really enjoyed the music from this game. The battle theme is my favorite of any Final Fantasy yet and I mean it. I am a sucker for violin but even without that the song just fits well with the pace of combat and never got old for me. Also, fans of the Chocobos will not be disappointed, as the game offers a great Chocobo riding theme. It's got a nice trumpet lead that makes it feel for lack of a better term somewhat jazzy. Overall the music is great and never seems out of place, fans of the music will not be disappointed.
LOOK WHO CAME: