Final Fantasy XIII Retrospective

With the release of Final Fantasy XIII-2 today, we decided that it would be a good idea to look back on what we thought Final Fantasy XIII did well, lacked, and what we hoped to see from the next installment in the Final Fantasy series.  (My full review of XIII-2 will follow within the next two weeks)!

Fair Warning: In order to discuss XIII-2 there will be some mention of XIII and therefore if you have not yet played this game there may be some spoilers to follow!

If that haircut’s real, I better be the one that’s dreaming.

Square Enix’s attempt to take the Final Fantasy series down a different route and make the games more accessible to the general public ended up being either loved or hated by old and newer fans to the series. Personally, XIII was not anywhere near my favorite entry in the series, but I also did not believe that it was nearly as terrible as some suggest. In my opinion, the graphics and music were beautiful and the story was well written. The characters, overall, were an entertaining addition to the story as well; although one or two of them *cough*HOPE*cough* could get annoying at times. To clarify, I never exactly hated Hope… most of the time, I just thought that the game would have benefitted from less whining on his part in the beginning half of the game. Then again, it seems as though quite a few Final Fantasy games have had a character or two that people dislike. The game play was also an interesting spin-off of what is normally expected from the series, though there were times were I just wanted the classic turn based action rather than having to Paradigm  Shift entirely when I needed to heal someone. The linearity and the lack of side quests/mini games were the biggest issues that stood out to me while playing Final Fantasy XIII. I was disappointed that when I ran through Cocoon I could not actually talk to anyone. Part of what always I loved about the Final Fantasy series is the ability to talk to people about what to do next and things going on in the world around you. Talking to Wakka’s teammates about how much they loved Blitzball and how to play in FFX or talking to the other students in the Garden about the upcoming SeeD tests and how to prepare from them in FFVIII helped the player figure out how to be a part of these characters everyday lives. Likewise, when talking to the citizens of towns destroyed by the likes of Kefka, Edea, Sin, Kuja, or any other villain in the series gives the player a sense of how it would feel if that were to happen to them.  The aforementioned lack of side quests, even more so than the lack of towns were another issue for me. I guess that you could technically say that the monster hunting was in a way, a side quest, but I am speaking more in terms of things like the person asking you to find something like their long lost dog or like at the Golden Saucer area in Final Fantasy VII where you had the ability to arm wrestle or help a lost moogle find a partner. I have to admit that while I do not love the grind of training my characters for hours specifically to beat a boss, I could run around with my character all day playing mini games and doing side quests because even the slight variation in them keeps me interested longer.

So, now that I’ve said what I liked and disliked in XIII, I’d like to take a minute to say what I’d like to see more of in XIII-2 and what I’m excited about from the trailers I’ve seen thus far. From what I said above, it is probably pretty obvious that I would like to be able to explore towns and play mini-games and from the trailers I’ve seen and the demo, I would say that it looks like they did a pretty good job of integrating those things into the new title. However, there are a few other things that I hope this game does that I think the other game did well or could have improved upon. While I liked the battle system in XIII, I did feel as though it was not seamless when shifting Paradigms and I would like that to be faster if at all possible. Other than that, though, I just hope that the storyline is as compelling overall as XIII’s was and that the characters are able to draw me in as well as most of the cast  from the first game did. Additionally, I hope that the music and graphics are on par if not better than the first game. I have to say I am actually pretty excited about the team monster customization mechanic in this game. From the demo, it seems as though the level of customization that you get is pretty large. From their skills to their costumes, this aspect intrigues me considerably. I am also intrigued about the time traveling aspect and its impact on the game and its plot. I can only imagine that seeing Cocoon from 50 or more years before or after the current time in the game is going to be awesome. Echoing back to a game like Chrono Trigger where time travel is heavily involved and how well the concept was incorporated, I can only imagine that with the updated graphics and different locales of XIII that time travel in this game will be an awesome sight to see as well.

Now that I’ve given you my opinion of what I would like to see in XIII-2 I’d like to throw it out to you all. What do you hope to see  or  improved upon in XIII-2 that you think XIII did well? What would you like to see incorporated that was not in the first game? Also, if you’ve already started the game or played the demo, what do you think of how Square Enix has changed things to what players wanted in XIII-2?

– Megan Highwind has left the party.

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