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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Newest ‘Final Fantasy’ is 13 levels of fun

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

Two weeks ago, I previewed an assortment of games set to be released this month. After playing some of them, it is only fitting that I attempt to provide a comprehensive review. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give away the plot, I’m just going to focus on some key elements.

This review covers “Final Fantasy XIII,” a highly anticipated role-playing game that sold over one million copies on release day in Japan. I would go into the story, but why give away the core of the game?

First is the battle system—I’ve never seen one quite like it. It is neither a button masher—meaning that, as long as you can repetitively press the same buttons, you’ll win—nor is it completely turn-based, which would allow you to walk away for an hour while the game waits for you.

While managing how to attack your enemy, you also balance the roles of your teammates. There are six different roles: some offensive, some defensive and some that are in the middle. Balancing the use of these is key to winning battles quickly. Not only that, but the game developers have built this game to encourage experiments while battling.

Characters heal automatically between battles, meaning that the player doesn’t have to worry about backtracking and recovering between fights. Additionally, losing a battle does not revert the player back to when they last saved, but merely to right before the battle. allowing them to try again. While this may make the game a bit easier, it prevents the game from becoming slow with constant backtracking and level grinding (playing solely to get stronger rather than for fun).

When it comes to visuals, I must say that this is one amazing game. I usually don’t care much for the quality of graphics; after all, the original Mario arcade game is still an addictive and fun game even though it relies on old eight-bit graphics. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if my eyes were deceiving me or if I was really seeing what was on my TV screen. Even the background images are detailed enough to just sit back and look at the horizon. When it comes to the characters, they are even detailed down to individual strands of hair. Now I don’t think games need to look this realistic at times, but wow, this game was enough to make me reconsider my views.

Other noteworthy elements include the music, which is very good. This is despite having licensed “My Hands” by Leona Lewis as the theme piece for the American and European versions rather than possessing an original composition, as most games in the series do. The music that is retained from the Japanese version is among the better game music I’ve heard for a Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG). That said, the theme music becomes fairly fitting as the story progresses.

I’ve got one thing to say about the story that doesn’t give it away. It begins “in medias res”—in the middle of the action. The game begins right when most of the core characters are meeting and becoming involved in the fate of their world, whether they like it or not, and then tells the story of how they got there through a series of sometimes interactive flashbacks all leading to the confrontation that serves as a tutorial.

The game has a lot going for it. There is a great battle system, visuals that almost anyone would find amazing and a compelling story matched with fitting music. I rate this a strong four out of five because it is a strong title worthy of any gamers’ library.