A number of games have “good graphics”. However, this expression does no justice as to how absolutely awe-inspiring the visuals are in Final Fantasy XIII. No matter how many times you may have seen screenshots or videos of the game, it’s only when you see the visuals in action that you realise Square Enix has done the unthinkable: achieving graphics that rival the visual quality seen in the Final Fantasy CGanimated movie Advent Children.
The colours and animation for each environment and characters are bright and vivid. There are no jagged lines and the colours aren’t washed out or faded. On top of all this there are next to no loading times, nor is there a mandatory installation for the PS3 version of the game. Everything looks detailed and luscious, especially if you’re playing on an HDTV.
The plot focuses on the god-like mechanical beings called the Fal’Cie. They control Cocoon, a floating world inhabited by humans. A female soldier named Lightning wants to rid Cocoon of the Fal’Cie after her sister becomes cursed by one of them. What follows on from there is a mix of emotional tension between the characters and a lot of unpredictable twists and turns. The story will grip you till the very end.
However, we all know that no matter how good the visuals or story may be in a game, it’s the gameplay that either makes or breaks it. Thankfully, Square Enix has gone all out, and it’s now safe for me to say that the developer has achieved the most accessible role-playing game (RPG) ever. Casual gamers who may have shied away from Final Fantasy titles in the past will be missing out if they choose not to check this one out.
Just as in Final Fantasy XII there are no more random battles. All the enemies are in full view of the player. But unlike that game, combat isn’t seamless; instead if you make contact with an enemy, you’re transported to a separate battle field. The battle system has gone back to the Active Time Battle mode which was so popular with gamers in Final Fantasy VII. However, it’s much faster, it allows you to perform some aerial juggles and you only get to control one character (with the AI doing its own thing depending on what classes you choose for your supporting characters).
A major change that might upset some gamers is the omission of towns. No longer can you walk around talking to people and visiting various stores to buy weapons and items. You can sell or buy weapons and items during the many save points spread throughout the game. Personally, I felt this made the game flow a little faster, since it can be quite time-consuming trying to find the correct store just to buy one sword. Plus, you don’t really need to buy many items in this game, as your health regenerates after each battle and your magic is infinite.
With all these changes catering for casual gamers, veteran Final Fantasy gamers shouldn’t feel too isolated as there are still a lot of things on offer to keep them happy. There are still loads of beautiful cut-scenes to enjoy (both ingame and full-motion videos), not to mention subtle fan-service references to previous Final Fantasy games.
The latter part of the game is less linear than the first few hours of the game once you get to explore the vast world of Cocoon and undertake a few side-quests that expand what is already a lengthy game. You can also expect many epic boss battles; they’ll require a bit of skill and strategy and will test both casual and hardcore gamers alike.
Final Fantasy XIII plays like a gem and has the best visuals I have ever seen in a video game. It is without a doubt a groundbreaking and revolutionary title.