Right, time to finish up this year.
First of all, a note that I played through Kero Blaster and Sayonara Wild Hearts before the year ended. Both short fun games that absolutely justify their low price. I'd go on more about them, but I have a bigger fish to fry.
A bigger and smellier fish
Final Fantasy XIII was released in 2009 for the PS3 and XBox 360. It's an RPG and is the latest in my "Play every mainline home console Final Fantasy Game in order" quest. For what it's worth, I played the XBox One version, which offers a higher resolution then the original.
The game follows Lightning up above there and 4 other schmos as they find themselves branded as "L'cie". L'cie are people who have been given a task by mysterious entities known as Fal'cie, if these L'cie don't accomplish said task, they get transformed into undead abominations. Which makes it a real pity that the Fal'cie always neglect to elaborate on what the actual task is. The Lightning gang decides that this sucks, so go off to either complete whatever their task is, or remove the L'cie branding somehow, all while being hunted down by normal people who are terrified of the L'cie (People get given magic powers when they become L'cie).
Now that paragraph sounds relatively straightforward, but don't be fooled. It's a lot more complex then that, and that meager understanding you see above only happened 20 hours in.
Which brings me to the first of many issues I have with Lightning's bogus journey, the plot is stupidly complex! The game immediately starts throwing made-up words around under the impression that you're supposed to know what they mean. I'm still not entirely certain what a "Fal'cie" even is! It then shoves all the other details it can't fit in its cutscenes into a datalog. A menu option that's there to explain what the actual eff is going on. Paragraphs of reading per subject quickly made me stop caring about what is going on, and subsequently stopped caring about the main cast. Lightning is a boring Cloud expy, Snow is meh, Hope won't stop being a whiny brat, and Vanille has a stupid run animation.
Sazh though? Nah, he cool. Legit the only likable character here. Dad trying to find his son after they get seperated? Believable.
Sazh deserves to be in a better Final Fantasy. He's like a normal 30 year old man who accidentally wandered into an anime. He's great!
So the basic gameplay involves you running around and getting into fights with various things, but before I get into the fights, it's time to focus on the second thing I hate about this game, 90% of it involves running down corridors. I was going into this knowing about FFXIII's reputation for being much more linear then previous entries, but I wasn't sufficiently prepared for it. I mean, I know I'm not a fan of huge sprawling open worlds, but for an RPG, this is way too far in the other direction! You know how long it took me to find anything that can even be described as an open field? 30 hours! In chapter 10! Out of 13 chapters! And after you progress through said field? Back to corridors for the rest of the game! Barely anything warrants exploration, you're funneled from one fight to the next, unless there's a cutscene, then you're funneled towards that.
Now, I would ask what the hell happened, but I already know the answer to that. This is the first time Final Fantasy made the jump to HD. HD development is incredibly resource intensive, especially back in 2009. And credit where credit is due, this is a very pretty game. Even when upscaled to 4K, it manages to still look pretty, but that kind of graphical prowess meant that the actual environment had to be trimmed down, and it's not a trade-off that's worth it. Graphics are still the least important aspect of games. Anyway, let's talk about the battle system.
Only 393 damage? Your terrible flan has failed!
Boy, how do I explain this? Remember how I said that in FFXII, the most efficient way to fight was to use the Gambit system and effectively let the game play itself? Well, FFXIII makes it even less complex, by removing the gambit system and devolving every character to 6 "Roles". The AI handles what abilities the character does depending on these roles for you when you select "Auto-Battle". You can select the moves yourself, but this is generally not the best idea, mostly because everything happens at a blistering pace! There's no defense stat (No, I don't know why), so you're constantly taking large amounts of damage. You just don't have the time to be faffing about in menus, so selecting Auto-Battle is the only way to be efficient.
You'd be better off focusing on when to use Paradigm Shift. It's a mechanic that allows you to quickly swap the roles of your current party around to better cope with a sudden change in the flow of battle. When you take too much damage, you can shift to a more defensive setup that includes a healer to mitigate further damage and heal up, etc. So it mostly devolves into mashing A, until something goes wrong, and you panickingly swap to a more appropriate Paradigm. It's OK enough, but when I got into it, stuff started to really get on my nerves. So here's a quick bullet pointed list of things I hate about the battle system in this game.
Every battle is either brain dead simple, or almost impossible nightmares, there's no way of telling, you could easily die at any moment. It feels like the developers were aware of this, because when you get a Game Over, you get plonked right back to where you were.
Speaking of Game Overs, you get one if the character you're controlling dies. No, it doesn't matter if the other two are still alive, you lose. (I hate it when RPG's do this!)
Everyone has hitboxes, in a turn-based RPG... So if you go in to whack an enemy and they decide to move somewhere else, you'll miss. You have no control over this.
Each time you do the first Paradigm Shift in a battle, you get a painfully long animation, like so.
Enemies still attack you during that.
It's all just so frustrating and unsatisfying. It focuses more on the spectacle of it all, while providing few strategy opportunities. Battles just devolve into a frantic panic, fine for action games, but this is a turn-based RPG. It's way too hectic!
Anyway, I'm not done with gameplay gripes. Let's look outside of battles. You don't level up in the way you'd expect in this game, because of course you don't. You get CP from fights, which can be used to improve those Paradigm Roles I mentioned earlier. You get stat boosts and new abilities as you go up those various trees, it's kinda similar to FF10's Sphere Grid, except way more restrictive. I actually have no problem with this, what I do have a problem with is the eighth thing I hate about this game. There's a hard limit to how much you can improve your party. And I don't mean reaching the end, I mean that the game will arbitrarily stop you from advancing those roles until you reach a certain point in the plot. There were more then a few moments when I was stuck on a challenging boss (Or in one case, a random group of stupidly difficult enemies) with no option to go and grind. Honestly, the only thing worse then that is level scaling!
Also, why are the majority of the weapons you find complete and utter crap? There's no sense of progression with the stuff you find along the way. The first weapon you find is probably better then the one you find in Chapter 11. It all got to a riculous plateau when I found a weapon that didn't offer much benefit in stats, but arbitraily halved Sazh's HP when equipped.
My thoughts exactly.
Money is ridiculously hard to come by, as well, just for that extra stamp on the face.
And finally, there's the music. Each song is fine on it's own, but the soundtrack as a whole takes a Mario World approach, remixing a couple of songs multiple times. It works for a relatively short platform game, but for a 50 hour RPG? It starts to grate after a while. Oh, and my tenth and final thing I really hate about this game?
Those three notes? That's your victory fanfare!? I mean, that kinda just perfectly sums up the decline in audio quality Final Fantasy has taken since Nobuo Uematsu stopped working on the series, doesn't it?
So that's Final Fantasy XIII, a game that sacrifices an awful lot in the pursuit of looking nice. Well, except the menus. Those are some proper slick menus!
But I feel I owe someone an apology. Back when I lambasted Final Fantasy VIII to hell and back, someone disagreed with me (I might be wrong, but I think it was @Sheikah). So I'm gonna set the record straight.
I was wrong, FFVIII isn't the worst Final Fantasy ever. I'm sorry.
It's still bad, but it was way more enjoyable then this tripe!
36 games total. Not bad. Averaging more than 1 every fortnight.