Gam(e)ania is finally back and this time were going to take a look at one of most anticipated RPGs of 2010…you guessed it, Final Fantasy 13. This game is the start of what Square Enix is calling the Fabula Nova Crystallis collection, basically it’s going to be a set of games that all take place in the same general world but at different intervals of time, so the protagonists from one game will have no knowledge of protagonists or antagonists from another game. So far the only games in this collection that are known are Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 and XBOX 360), Final Fantasy Agito XIII (PSP), and Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3). Now let’s get to the actual game, shall we?

One of the biggest selling points of this game is the story and how that story unfolds. At the outset of the game you are put in the shoes of Lightning, however, you don’t know much about her except she’s pretty good with a high tech gunblade and that she is trying to find her sister Serah, who she believes is at the fal’Cie known as Anima. However, as the story unfolds you learn more about Lightning’s reasons for fighting and more about your party’s reason for fighting, but you won’t only be focusing on Lightning. At different intervals in the first 20 or so hours of the game you will find yourself controlling various members of your squad as the leader and learning about both their past and their current motivations.

Now, that being said, a big complaint about this game was that it was too linear. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it isn’t linear, I’m going to sit here and tell you…it just doesn’t matter. You’re almost never going to find a spot in Final Fantasy 13 where you sit there and say to yourself, “God, I’m lost, I need a map of the area to figure out where the hell I’m going.” But the thing is, the world that Square Enix has created is so beautiful and the story is so compelling that, to me, I never once found myself bored with it.

There were also complaints that there are no towns to explore. To me, this is just people wanting what they’re used to and what they knew before. Really, think through every RPG you’ve ever played and think about what really matters in those RPGs. Was it the town’s that were almost meaningless that appeared by the dozens or was it the fact that an event in the town helped advanced the main story? It was probably the event in the town that you remember, like do you really remember Nibelheim from Final Fantasy 7 because of anything else other than that iconic scene where Sephiroth is walking through the fire? In Final Fantasy 13 it condenses those moments without the towns and it gives you those incredible moments and incredible cinematic sequences without having to stop and explore a town for three hours. If you’re worried that there is no place to shop then don’t worry about it, the save points double as the shop system and believe me…there are a TON of save points scattered throughout Final Fantasy 13.

Let’s move on to the battle system. The main battle system uses ATB or Active Time Battle, which basically means the enemies won’t just sit around and wait for you to select your attack before they start their assault on you. Now, the battle system has taken some harsh criticism as well because one of the things you can do in battle is called “Auto-Battle” where the computer selects the attacks it thinks are the most effective attacks to employ. A lot of people think that this sort of dumbs down the battles.

However, another aspect of Final Fantasy 13 is how you level up. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to Auto-Battle thing in a second. The way you level up is after every battle you get Crystogen points and you use those Crystogen points on a Crystarium board. On the board there are a different number of nodes that show either an ability or a stat booster that cost a certain number of Crystogen points, basically think the leveling system of Final Fantasy 10. Now, you start off with three different Crystarium boards for three different classes, you can spend the Crystogen points on whatever class you want out of the three your character starts out with. The classes are Commando (Physical Attacker), Medic (Healer), Synergist (Uses spells to boost your stats in battle), Ravenger (Black Mage basically), Sentinel (Defender), and Saboteur (Inflicts negative status effects on enemies). That’s a lot of classes right? That’s where the new Paragidm Shift comes in. Basically, you set up Paradigms from the main menu using your battle party, so one Paradigm could be two Commandos and one Medic while another Paragdim is one Commando, one Ravenger, and one Medic. Once you get in battle you can use the Paradigm Shift system to switch between all your Paradigms to suit your needs in battle. You can make up to SIX Paradigms to shift between in battle.

Now, back to the “Auto-Battle” command, if you’ve ever been to RPGamer and seen the review Adriaan den Ouden did on Final Fantasy 13 there is no better way to put it than this, “Let the computer choose your attacks. Worry about what classes to use.” Because, really, even if you use the Auto-Battle command and you have the wrong classes…even the computer’s attack selection can’t save you from defeat.

Okay, we’ve got most of the logistics out of the way…let’s talk graphics. This game looks incredible on a scale that Final Fantasy, or much less any, game has ever seen. The character design in Final Fantasy 13 far exceeds anything this series has ever seen and when I say that I don’t mean “Snow looks like a cooler less douche version of Seifer and Lightning was made to be a female Cloud”, I mean just watch the characters talk. Look at the lips of the characters, they have the contours and lines that human lips have and they look moist for god’s sake. Their skin looks real and toned like a real human’s skin, it doesn’t just look like textured polygons it looks like flesh and bone.

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The environments in this game are so amazing, I just…just look…it’s hard to really describe how amazing they are, just look.

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Enviro

If you couldn’t tell, I LOVED Final Fantasy XIII a lot despite it taking a different path than the previous installments. One of my few complaints is that the only real side quests are mark missions, think like the ones from Final Fantasy 12, but there was no real reason to any of them except Mark #55…he gives an item that doubles CP you earn. It felt like such an afterthought and some of the later marks are so challenging that you don’t really see any reason to keep playing other than to get the PS3 Theme for certain Trophies you earn and those really aren’t that impressive. Another complaint is that while the voice acting is solid for the most part, Vanille’s voice actor is so terrible that despite how much I wanted to use her because, let’s be honest, she’s pretty…I couldn’t because her voice is so pitchy and squeaky that the annoyance outweighs her usefulness.

All in all, if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy or even RPGs in general then don’t let this game pass you by. This is easily the best Final Fantasy game since 9, without a doubt in my mind.

I give this game 4 l’Cie tattoos…out of five.

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Images courtesy of IGN.com and the Final Fantasy Wiki.