Travel around the Internet long enough, and you will come to two opposing conclusions: Final Fantasy games are amongst the leaders in innovation and the growth of the Japanese RPG genre, or, conversely, Final Fantasy games are everything that is wrong with the stagnating Japanese RPG genre. We’ll tackle the former in a bit, but as for the latter, this thought generally comes from some of the linked items that are seen throughout much of the series, such as chocobos, the use of a Cid character, and the fact that Final Fantasy games have seen many a remake over the past decade as Square Enix introduces their classics to new fans (or repackages them for old ones looking for a fix). Of course, that thought can also come from those who dislike JRPGs in general, and, seeing Final Fantasy’s standing in that community, lash out at the most easily recognizable name.
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Mar. 10, 2010
That’s a bit unfair though, as Square has been very good about branching out with their flagship franchise. To kick off their popular Playstation 2 era, they released Final Fantasy X, which removed the world map and created a more linear adventure that was fueled by its story, the first voice acting in an FF title, and an excellent battle system that combined turned-based combat with some impressive summons, a new leveling system, and the ability to switch characters in and out of combat on the fly. Final Fantasy XI was an online MMORPG, which was clearly a step in a different direction, and FFXII combined elements of the two to create something completely different: a single-player game that felt like playing an MMO in many ways. While the opinions vary on just how successful XII was insofar as creating an excellent game, there is no doubt that it helped pave the way for XIII, which, in this reviewer’s opinion, is a far superior outing for the long-standing franchise.
The story in FFXIII is part of what will power you through the game–yes, this is a mostly linear adventure, but somewhere along the way people confused linearity for being bad. That’s not the case with this game, as the reason for its linear nature comes through as you play–it’s a story of escape and running for your life for about 15 hours, so it’s no wonder you don’t have the ability to go wherever you please. It’s not like the game doesn’t present you with plenty to do, even if it isn’t giving you much of an option to do it. If you skip out on this game due to its being more linear than you would expect from an FF game, then it’s your loss.
The main character is Lightning, though as far as a “main” goes, XIII has more in common with VI than any of the other games in the series, as each character will take the lead at some point in the adventure as you focus on their story and character development. I don’t want to delve too much into the story and give anything away, but Lightning is a former member of the military who is trying to save her sister, who happens to be the fiance of another character, Snow. Serah, the fiance and sister, is in danger for reasons you will learn, and both characters are separately out to save her. There are other people in the mix for various reasons, and everyone eventually comes together until tragedy befalls them and they have their own problems to escape from, starting you on your adventure. Apologies for being vague, but it’s the kind of adventure that’s best experienced for yourself so you can see how everything develops and turns out, from both a plot and character development standpoint.
In fact, as far as character development goes, this is the most successful Final Fantasy in a long while. There may be a few characters who rub you the wrong way long enough that you feel there is no hope for them, but everyone has their chance at redemption, and by the game’s conclusion you will like the character that has grown before your eyes over 60 hours. Hope starts out like the cliche whiny teenager, but if you think about it, he has a lot of reasons to complain, and will have his chance to move on. Vanille starts off as a goofy, fun-loving teenager that rubs some people the wrong way, but she also has her moment of transformation, and you learn why she acts the way she does. Lightning is the gruff, militaristic type, but even she has her moments of tenderness, and because of the way she acted all the time before, they mean something to you when they happen. It also helps that the voice acting for each character is superb–Vanille’s voice seems out of place on occasion, but otherwise, your ears won’t mind the loss of the Japanese voice actors.