While levels aren’t given like some standard RPG titles, the Crystarium functions in a similar fashion. The Crystarium is available for each character and each individual Paradigm can be leveled. Crystal points, or CP, are earned after every battle in Final Fantasy XIII, and the points are used to upgrade any of the 3 stats (Strength, Health and Magic), learn a new ability, level up a Paradigm and more. Since each character has some abilities more readily accessible than others, each character is best suited for certain Paradigms and setups. The Crystarium does allow for some flexibility and options, and while incredibly streamlined, it serves its purpose well.
From the very beginning of Final Fantasy XIII the game is incredibly linear. Square Enix seem to have trimmed all of the extras and what is left is the story, combat, and simple platforming. The platforming is as easy as walking up to pre-designated “jump” spots and being jumped to the next platform. One of the most surprising things about the title is that there are very few rest points found throughout the experience. While there are towns found in Final Fantasy XIII, they aren’t towns by standard definition. They are just as linear as the dungeons throughout the game, but are very welcomed. The problem is that up until later in the game, it feels like there is no break to gather thought or do something different. While this is obviously intentional by design, it makes for an experience similar to a single-player shooter experience where the variety lies in the combat.
One great thing about Final Fantasy XIII is when the game finally opens up at around the 25 hour mark. At this point the team is introduced to a huge open area filled with monsters and treasure. The best thing about this area is that not only is it completely non-linear, but there are hunt missions available which send the player to hunt and kill a particular foe for spoils and high CP. The hunt missions are a huge change of pace and are both challenging and a lot of fun, but are unfortunately the only additional content in the game. There are no card games, Blitzball or the entertainment filled Gold Saucer like previous titles. Fortunately, the combat, story and characters drive the experience on their own shoulders.
Final Fantasy XIII is simply a breathtaking game to look at. Each of the 6 main characters are some of the most detailed ever seen in a game. Hair and accessories move with character movement, and animations make each character realistic as well as believable. Although the texture resolution isn’t very high, the draw distance and backdrops make for stunning environments. The most impressive detail about the graphics is how many environments there are. Final Fantasy XIII is a huge game, and to have so many different environments that are all equally look as great is a huge accomplishment. On top of that, the presentation of menus and the UI are both great and function immaculately. The sci-fi world of Final Fantasy XIII has a lot of personality and makes a huge impression the second a player selects “New Game”.
As with the visual presentation, Square Enix did a remarkable job with audio as well. Voice acting is a premium in Final Fantasy XIII, with both friendly and enemy characters acted at a high level. While there are some strange dialogue moments, and several characters are seemingly annoying at first, character interaction is lifelike and makes it easy to become immersed in the story. The music is beautifully composed and while not as memorable as previous Final Fantasy titles, many of the scores are catchy and help drive the experience. Boss themes and the main theme for the game are both excellent tracks and some of the best in the series. Both the music and voice acting both play a huge role in the great storytelling that Final Fantasy XIII offers.
Final Fantasy XIII is simply a massive game. From beginning to finish the game clocks in at around 60 hours in length. As stated before, there are no real extras other than the hunting missions, so almost all of the experience lies in the story and combat. However, leveling characters and upgrading weapons add some flair to the game and allow for some degree of customization and drive. Also, several of the trophies for Final Fantasy XIII reward themes for the PlayStation 3 XMB which is definitely a nice addition. Final Fantasy XIII delivers roughly 100-120 hours of content as well as a deep story which is more than enough for the sticker price.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIII is a high-quality RPG experience that is like no other. Square Enix has gone in a bold new direction with this latest installment and has delivered something that feels like nothing else on the market. Many traditional Final Fantasy themes such as summons and chocobos are all here, and while the linearity and lack of variety is disappointing, the presentation is simply spectacular. The story, characters and combat are all some of the best in the series and help invigorate the gameplay which the game depends so much on. While the first instructional hours are a rollercoaster ride, the bulk of Final Fantasy XIII is a challenging experience and an unorthodox but worthy addition to the Final Fantasy series.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Challenging fast-paced tactful combat.
Terribly slow start and a lack of variety.