Final Fantasy XIII - Xbox 360 game review

I was out for several days due to longer work days and the holiday weekend, but I’m back with a handful of posts to come over the next few days while I’m off work. In that vein, I’m hoping to get more ‘new’ games posted soon when I get my hands on them. I have a few semi-new games on tap though, including Final Fantasy XIII for the 360. I’ve heard that the PS3 version is displayed at a higher resolution and generally the textures look just a shade better, but I haven’t seen that version in action.

However the 360 version looked great and came with three discs. There were quite a few changes to the more traditional Final Fantasy formula. This has been met with mixed results by fans. Looking at the IGN scores, fans rate it an average of 8.3 as I write this, but most of the comments in the review are negative. So, here’s what I thought after about 100 hours of play…

Graphics – 9.5:

The game is something of a technical achievement. There was stuttering framerate here and there, but only rarely in my play through. What I did experience consistently was a very appealing menu system, quality character models and engaging environments. Also the cut scene movies looked great, but then they almost always do in this series.

Music and sound – 8.5:

The music was good, though usually I find 2 or 3 songs that really catch my ear in the Final Fantasy games, and I go out to try and find them and listen to them outside of the game. I didn’t do that with this particular game. The voice work was pretty good, and really helped to drive the story home. That said, some of the battle sounds and quick voice clips were kind of repetitive.

Gameplay – 7:

It’s hard to rank an RPG game on things like precision controls and responsiveness, but the combat system works well enough – though it was one of my least-favorites in the series. There was also a lag in the menu system when you wanted to customize your skill points. Also, the customization never quite felt as good to me as the sphere grid system from Final Fantasy X, though that seems to be the obvious influence for the system used in Final Fantasy XIII.

Intangibles – 8:

The story was decent, but it took awhile to become something that was easy to follow. Some of their naming conventions could have been better, because key terms to the story were often named in similar fashion and for a newcomer to the story it could be a bit confusing. There is also a serious lack of mini-games and as someone who sunk a ton of time into things like Blitzball in the past, that was disappointing. Now, a lot of people complained about the linear storyline, but that did not bother me as much as I thought it would. In fact, the lack of doubling back over places I had already been was kind of nice. However, the game does open up quite a bit in the last couple of chapters, and there are a lot of side missions. You can also improve not only your character’s stats in specific fields but the weapons and accessories they use, though that system became quite a grind in my mind. I spent about 90 hours playing the game, many of which near the end were spent grinding upgrades and abilities. I thought it was a nice perk that certain accomplishments yielded game pics as well.

Overall – 8.25:

RPG’s are probably one of my two favorite game genres (the other being sports). I can sink a ton of time into them, and generally feel better about my investment than an action game that tends to be shorter in length like Alan Wake or F.E.A.R. I love the Final Fantasy series, as noted in some of my prior reviews. I really, really wanted to love this game, but I merely liked it a good deal. Technically the game is very impressive, and overall it tells a pretty good story. But the game itself is just not as strong as prior entries in the series. Combat worked well enough, but it and the systems for improving your characters were not as much fun as I would have liked. All in all though, I did drop nearly 100 hours into the game, and I think that says quite a bit in and of itself.

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