- Publisher: Square-Enix
- Developer: Square-Enix
- ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
- Genre: RPG
- Pros: Great graphics and music; fun combat; Crystarium; decently “real” characters; chapter 11 on is awesome
- Cons: Goofy story; difficulty spikes; weapon upgrade system; extremely slow start; game doesn’t really reach full potential until 20+ hours in
Story & Setting
Final Fantasy XIII tells the story of six characters brought together by an intertwining series of events in the 13 days before they all officially met. The setting is split into two worlds – a futuristic world called Cocoon that floats above a wild and dangerous underworld called Pulse. Cocoon and Pulse have been at war for centuries driven by fear and ignorance of each other. At the heart of both Pulse and Cocoon, however, is a mysterious race of behemoths call fal’Cie. The fal’Cie provide light and energy and food for the people of the worlds, but they occasionally need to recruit regular people to help them do certain things. When this happens, those people are branded l’Cie and are given a specific job to do. Pulse l’Cie want to destroy Cocoon and are feared. Cocoon l’Cie are bound to protect Cocoon. If they don’t finish their task, they are turned into monsters. If they do fulfill their task, they turn into crystal and live forever. Unfortunately, the tasks they are asked to do aren’t always clear, which is where the main story really begins.
While the story is kind of over the top, the six main characters are generally pretty good and actually change and develop as the game goes on. They feel more real than a lot of RPG characters who tend to be way over the top. Final Fantasy XIII’s cast represents mostly normal people who accidentally stumble upon their fate. They don’t know exactly what they are supposed to do, or even if they want to do it at all, and the characters generally react to these situations the way you’d expect real people to. The story is confusing and goofy, but you press on because you care about the characters and want to see how they adapt. And, for the record, the lack of towns to visit is pretty easily explained by the context of the story (you’ll see), so the lack of towns to explore is a pretty weak complaint.
Also, the game is kind of oddly weighted in that the first 10 chapters will take you about 20-25 hours while the final three chapters will take 25 hours or more by themselves. After chapter eleven, the game opens up and isn’t nearly as linear anymore and is, frankly, where the game really starts to get good. It begs the question, though, as to why the whole game couldn’t have been more like the last half and less like the boring first half. Don’t misunderstand, the first ten chapters are enjoyable, especially if you connect with the characters, but Final Fantasy XIII is at its best from chapter 11 onward and it is sad it takes so long to get to that point.
Another slight issue along those same lines is that you can’t choose the characters in your party until around chapter 10. You use pre-selected teams up to that point and switch between different parties (often in entirely different locations), which, again, messes with the pacing a bit.