Final Fantasy XIII remains the most disappointing game in the franchise, and the classic series is all the stronger for learning from its mistakes.
It is not for nothing that Final Fantasy XIII has long been considered the most controversial entry in the series. From its infamous linear design to its poorly conveyed and self-defeating narrative leveling system, there is no shortage of reviews for the game. While an attempt at justification has been made by die-hard fans, that is not enough to redeem it in the mainstream consciousness.
Despite its initial success, popular opinion quickly split, and director Motomu Toriyama remarked that reviews were worse than expected for a main series entry. While no game is perfect, fans ignored mistakes from previous titles because the whole product still kept them entertained. On the other hand, despite promising ideas, XIII is so riddled with flaws that it is still difficult to overcome them all.
Final Fantasy XIIIThe problems started long before the end of the game. It was announced as part of the Square Enix project Fabula Nova Cristallis. Inspired by older titles in the series, Motomu Toriyama sought to create his new multiverse âlike a fairy tale that is passed onâ in different contexts. Sadly, he failed to recognize that the simplicity of fairy tales is what makes them enduring. Final fantasy, on the other hand, has a reputation for complication, and XIII was among his worst offenders.
What’s confusing, however, is that it didn’t need to be. The game takes place on a space station called Cocoon, whose inhabitants are exploited by the divine fal’Cie. The inevitable humanist rebellion will be familiar to anyone who has played a JRPG, but it’s often difficult to recognize it through the haze of uncontextualized lingo. Instead of weaving their definitions into the narrative, however, XIII gave players an in-game glossary and told them to do their homework between cutscenes.
This was further hampered by poor pace and inconsistent rules. Much has been said about the linear structure of the game, but it might have been forgivable if the writing had been convincing. The fal’Cie only being able to communicate in nightmarish visions could have been a uniquely Lovecraftian version of the show’s formula, but this was immediately undermined by their leader who suddenly conveyed his requests in plain English. Such contradictions have left many players lost and confused.
Compare that to Final fantasythe myth of the original crystal. Games like IV and V Weren’t much of a storytelling powerhouse, but their colorful worlds and melodramatic scripts meant players always had a sense of what they were doing and why. Each game’s archetypes helped convey great ideas instantly, and their lack of forgiving technical terms ensured that no one was left behind.
To his credit, XIII is pretty enough to follow its modern brethren, but it’s all style about substance. The world itself seems hollow, and its heroes are so mired in solemnity that, for all their glossy textures and expensive-looking designs, not a single one says anything as far-fetched but humanizing as “You, spoon bard!” Even when the tone finally rises, there has been so much miserable bitterness between the heroes that they just don’t feel as united as the less realistic but much more entertaining parties of the show’s golden age. .
These older games also had a better approach to character progression. Final fantasy has always had wonderful jobs, with classes like Ninja, Black Mage, and Geomancer offering the freedom to build the party of their dreams. XIII tried to resuscitate this diversity, but barely reached a fraction of it. The new combat system only has six roles, and the characters that can switch between them on the fly kill any chance of making them feel unique.
To make matters worse, the game slows down player growth. Upgrade levels are limited until certain bosses are defeated, and they peak sooner for some characters than for others. What this means concretely is that even when XIII opens, players will have spent so much time investing in each other’s lead roles that there is no reason to develop their mage’s newly unlocked melee prowess.
On the other hand, leveling systems like XSphere Grid offered a lot more flexibility. Their size and skill set meant players really had to think about what to invest in. While it was often more efficient to follow the predefined paths, it was still possible to break into the grids of other allies and add their skills to any hero. This could lead to some really wacky combinations, while XIIIthe protagonists find themselves with few defining characteristics beyond their character models.
Final Fantasy XIII is so disappointing because it had so much potential. The world is beautiful, resurrecting the class system was a great idea and the eldritch overtones could have created a unique sci-fantasy horror story. The size pieces were all there, but they were put together in the wrong order. To make good his defenders, he improves indeed after 20 hours. The unanswered question, however, is why any game should make a player wait so long for fun.
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