Final Fantasy XIII

aka: FF13, FFXIII, Fainaru Fantajī Sātīn
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(prices updated 9/29 9:00 PM )

Description official descriptions

The city of Cocoon is a flying utopia, floating high above the skies, separated from the world below which is known as Pulse. It was created with the intent of shielding humans from fal'Cie, mysterious beings who live on the Pulse. But from time to time, the fal'Cie find ways to contact inhabitants of Cocool, turning them into "l'Cie" - perceived by humans as slaves of the fal'Cie, destined to do their bidding. The Cocoon government, Sanctum, uses their own specialized army known as PSICOM to "Purge" citizens who are suspected of becoming l'Cie, and banishes them from Cocoon.

A former Cocoon soldier named Lightning searches for her sister Serah, who was branded as a l'Cie. Her fiancee Snow, leader of a rebel group that opposes the Purge, meets Lightning and a few other companions as they venture into a fal'Cie dwelling to rescue Serah. However, having fulfilled her unknown mission from the fal'Cie, Serah turns into a crystal. Her last words to Lightning and Snow are "save Cocoon". Determined to find out what exactly the fal'Cie wanted from Serah, the heroes attempts to contact a fal'Cie, and as a result turn into l'Cie themselves - without knowing what their mission might be...

Final Fantasy XIII abandons its predecessor's concept of battles taking place on the same screen as exploration, returning instead to the older separate battle screens triggered by contact with an enemy on the field, like in Xenosaga games. The Active Time Battle system from the previous Final Fantasy games returns with some changes. The player only controls one character in battle; the other two should be assigned behavior patterns called Paradigms. Commands and attacks can now be stacked into battle slots, which allows for use of multiple commands in one turn for a devastating combo. These commands are filled based on the ATB cost which eliminate the need for MP. Also, the entire party's health is restored before every fight, since magic cannot be used outside of battle. Summons which are popular in the FF series return with the name Eidolons, and each I'Cie has one. Character growth is managed via a system called Crystarium, with the player able to choose abilities to learn or parameters to increase.

Spellings

  • ファイナルファンタジーXIII - Japanese spelling

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Credits (PlayStation 3 version)

999 People (909 developers, 90 thanks) · View all

Director
Scenario Designer
Main Programmer
Art Director
Graphics & VFX Director
Main Character Designer
Image Illustration
Storyboard Director
Music
Scenario Concept
Lead Scenario Writer
Event Planning Director
Map Planning Director
Map Planning Co-Director
Battle Planning Director
Battle Planning Co-Director
Lead Battle Programmer
Character Modeling Director
Character Texture Director
Battle Motion Director
Event Motion Director
Cut Scene Director
Lead Cut Scene Programmer
Background Graphic Director
Background Technical Director
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 78% (based on 54 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 75 ratings with 3 reviews)

One of the worst JRPG games ever made. Calling it a game is a real stretch.

The Good
Graphically, Final Fantasy XIII is still relatively impressive in 2022 although noticeably aged in places. Parts of the soundtrack are great. When characters speak, their mouths move as they’re supposed to. None of that odd puppet like mouth movement from Final Fantasy X.

The Bad
Everything else about Final Fantasy XIII is awful. When the soundtrack isn’t good, it is absolute CRAP! Whose idea was it to have such vomit inducing lyrics in tracks like “we will find them, we will find them” in the Chocobo theme or “chasing rainbows“ in the Sunleth Waterscape theme?! If the tracks aren’t good or terrible they’re forgettable.

The characters are pitiful in Final Fantasy XIII. I didn’t like any of them. They’re all stupid and obnoxious stereotypical anime characters. The most annoying were Vanille and her orgasm sounds, ridiculous get up and how ultra feminine she was. Snow was just the typical headstrong and cocky hero type with the rare instance of showing any signs of an interesting character. Lightning was a frigid b****. Hope was the only character I found myself somewhat rooting for but he’s honestly just a very flat Tidus. The rest were forgettable.

The plot was terrible and made 0 sense and was ultra contrived. So contrived, Vanille caused it by accident. The storytelling was pathetic. Convoluted word salad and repeating information over and over isn’t storytelling. Neither is making players read information in the menu. The attempts at drama are lame and fall flat. To give an example, there’s a scene where Lightning turns her sister away because she’s a L’Cie, which is a person being controlled by the Gods, and she criticizes Snow for “popping the question knowing this". She says “Worst birthday ever” after her sister bursts out in tears and runs off. Are we supposed to like this woman Lightning?

The Bottom Line
An absolutely despicable game that has only gotten worse with age aside from certain things like its looks and should be avoided at all costs. It shouldn’t even be played in a so bad it’s good way. Unless you’re willing to flush 50 hours + of your time down the toilet and get practically nothing in exchange for your investment.

PlayStation 3 · by Nick Kulstad (4) · 2022

Japanese rail-playing game

The Good
As it has always been the case with Final Fantasy games, graphic designers did their job in Final Fantasy XIII. Visually, the game is splendid. There is of course no real interaction with the world and the visuals are all pure eye candy; but it's a lot of eye candy, and it is very impressive. Most of the effort went into designing the characters; indeed, they look great in that specific Japanese way (style over substance).

The gameplay system has a few nice ideas. The "breaking" of enemies (taken straight from Xenosaga) can be satisfying; the speed of the battles allows for relentless, almost visceral chains of attacks, which feel good for the first few times. Otherwise, many familiar Final Fantasy elements are back, sometimes in a disguised form - a few jobs, typical spells, Eidolon summons, etc. The "Crystarium" system - a somewhat simplified version of what we've seen in Final Fantasy X - is not bad, allowing some nice combinations, though it all gets broken by the inability to directly control the characters in combat.

The narrative has potential. In fact, if I had to point out one thing I liked in Final Fantasy XIII, that would be the premise of the story. The sci-fi elements, the dark setting, and the original presentation of the world could have become a stage for a strong plot. I wonder what BioWare would have done with such a world. Square refused to populate it with people other than our party and their enemies, which made it clearly artificial, intangible, and lifeless. But the premise is there, and it is good. As in most Final Fantasy games, you are thrown right into the midst of events; characters with conflicting agendas meet each other, etc. The presentation is typically dramatic, and the occasional successfully realized emotional moment sustains interest and urges to play forward.

Same goes for the character cast: much could have been done with it if the writers didn't insist on building the story like a TV soap opera, repeating and over-explaining things at every corner. The strong-willed Lightning is one of the more interesting lead characters the series has seen. Snow and especially Sazh come across as genuinely likable. I actually wish the game would just concentrate on those three, because the others are annoying cliches that seem completely out of place after the initial tone of the story has been set. But of course, a Final Fantasy game must have irrelevant anime-esque characters no matter what its story is about.

I must stress that whatever its flaws are, the story is still by far more appealing than the gameplay in this installment. So if you play Final Fantasy games only for their stories, you will probably not find Final Fantasy XIII too terribly disappointing.

The Bad
When Final Fantasy X came out, many fans (including myself) frowned upon its linear gameplay. Well, playing Final Fantasy XIII certainly sweetens that pill, because the tenth installment looks like a sandbox game compared to this one.

Final Fantasy XIII is probably the most dreadfully linear RPG I have ever seen. It breaks all records in this category; without exaggeration, over 50% of the game are spent walking in a straight line. For more than half of its duration, the game allows no exploration whatsoever and no freedom of choice; you don't go where you want to go, you go only where the game sends you to.

Maybe you'd say that the previous games in the series weren't exactly epitomes of non-linearity and free-form exploration either. To this I can only say: play Final Fantasy XIII and you'll see the difference. The tenth game was the most linear one in the series. But at least it had towns! At least you could choose whether you wanted to explore a town, go to the next hostile area, return to the previous one, and so on. Final Fantasy XIII has no towns at all. It is entirely composed of hostile areas. It is basically an excruciatingly long dungeon crawl, but without the excitement of exploring and mapping; the dungeons are lines that connect between A and B.

Some reviewers of this game stated that it had "streamlined" gameplay, that it got rid of "unnecessary fat". But if exploring the world, talking to characters (you can't talk to anyone in Final Fantasy XIII. Seriously. There are simply no people you can talk to), visiting populated places, deciding where to go, etc. are all "fat", then I don't think I need a diet. Final Fantasy XIII takes away what makes playing an RPG fun in the first place, without replacing it with any other substantial gameplay concept. Why didn't they just go further and got rid of all the other "fat"? Why does the player need to waste his time moving a character from place to place, or pressing the attack button in a battle? Let's just get rid of all this "fat", too, and make a movie. Because that's what Final Fantasy XIII wants to be, though it lacks the means for that as well.

People complained that Final Fantasy X had too many cutscenes. But wait till you see number thirteen in action. Cutscenes are everywhere. You literally can't make a few steps without triggering a cutscene. A cutscene should serve as a reward, a poignant, dramatic moment that moves the narrative forward. In Final Fantasy XIII, the cutscenes don't move the narrative; they chew it like cud. Cinematic treatment? No, more like "TV soap opera" treatment. That's what the game would have achieved if we removed the gameplay remnants from it.

Aggravating linearity is not the only issue here. The previous game gracefully brought exploration back to the series. It also made a step further: it made battles part of the exploration process, the way they should have been in the first place (what Western RPG understood aeons ago). What does Final Fantasy XIII do? Nullifies the achievement of its predecessor. We are back to stone-age "battle screens", with the player's input again reduced to menus. The twelfth game tried to reach the Western RPG world; the thirteenth throws us back to the outdated Japanese system.

The designers of the game probably thought that automated exploration would go well with automated combat. You see, in this game we can only control one character. The other two are controlled by the AI. In the twelfth game, you could pause at any time and manually input commands for all party members as much as you wanted to. Here, all you can do is use the so-called "paradigms". They only allow assigning basic roles (for example, a Medic who cures or a Synergizer who casts buffs). It means that you can switch jobs (like in several earlier Final Fantasy games), but you still can't tell the characters what to do in combat. You can't, for example, tell a Medic to cast Cure if somebody has less than 20% HP. You can only make that character a Medic, and then he/she will always cast Cure. So in order to stop that character from idiotically casting Cure on healed characters, you'll have to switch a paradigm - which means that all the characters will have to perform a switch to another combination of jobs during battle. In another game, this whole process would have been reduced to choosing one command, but apparently the creators of Final Fantasy XIII thought they needed to compensate for the lack of the proverbial "fat" with a tumor.

It doesn't end there. During its first half, the game splits your party and forces you to play short stretches with different combinations of two characters. This maddening decision takes away the last illusion of freedom - you can't even manage your own party. You must trudge through linear corridors with characters who were just paired up with each other, unable to form any sort of gameplay attachment to them, unable to plan anything, because you never know when the game wants to take you away from them and force you play as others. As I said, this mockery lasts for the whole half (!) of the game. When you finally leave Cocoon, you are thrown into somewhat wider areas; you can finally manage and develop your own party; you can even take side-quests (all hunting, though). But it's much too late, much too little.

The narrative can't really save the game. I already referred to the soap-opera style of the storytelling, which is taken to the extreme here, beyond anything you've seen even in a Final Fantasy game before. The story is always delivered with melodramatic overtones that make the narrative of Final Fantasy VIII feel like clever, sophisticated prose (and that despite the noticeably improved translation). The problem is that this story could have been much better were it not constantly undermining itself with needless cutscenes. The interesting premise gets quickly dissolved, and we are left with the usual tale about a bunch of nobodies who must, of course, get involved in pseudo-metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, kill the big bad guy and save the world. Even the "cute/annoying young girl with mysterious powers" cliche plays a prominent role. Much like the gameplay, the story turns out to be very bare-bones in the end, even compared to other Final Fantasy narratives.

The Bottom Line
Final Fantasy XIII mirrors the worst prejudices against Japanese RPGs. It is a dragging string of cutscenes with depressing on-rail gameplay thrown in between. All the negative aspects of the series made a reunion in this installment, with some new ones invented specifically for it. I'm a long-time fan of the series, but this installment makes me say: if this is the direction the series has taken, let this fantasy truly be final.

PlayStation 3 · by Unicorn Lynx (180491) · 2016

A meandering and boring waste of everyone's time

The Good
I'm almost not sure it's worth talking about Final Fantasy XIII's positives. Yes, the graphics are good. Honestly, though, they're not that much better than Final Fantasy XII's. Maybe this isn't even SQEX's fault. Maybe people have an expectation of what a Final Fantasy game must look like, with its improbable clothing and frills on everything, that they have no choice but to just iterate with a new graphics engine. They certainly attempted to make their FMV look impressive, or expensive at least. XIII's FMV could compete with Michael Bay's Transformers 2 for biggest most confusing waste of millions of dollars on special effects not designed for the human eye to process.

I will say this in the game's favor though: Final Fantasy XIII has the most impressive real-time rendered facial hair I have ever seen in a video game. Never thought I'd be saying that about a Japanese-developed game, but there it is.

The Bad
XIII's troubled development is a matter of public record these days. Until the Advent Children demo forced the team to make their game playable they had no idea what the battle system would even be like; their E3 trailer from 2006 was invented out of whole cloth. This sense of aimlessness pervades every aspect of the game, from the non-existent plot, to the vaguely functional battle system, to the cutscenes that, were it not for three people being credited for writing, I would have sworn were improvised.

Above everything else Final Fantasy XIII is in love with itself. This was the game that was supposed to kick off a new franchise within a franchise; a herald of four quasi-sequels (two of which were cancelled before any information was revealed about them) that began development before their progenitor was even released. The developers have said in interviews that they cut enough out of XIII to make a complete other game, and I believe them, but they shouldn't have stopped there. The amount of time dedicated to characters repeating things that have already happened or things they/others have already said numbers in the hours; hours not spent doing anything of merit. I'm quite sure that more happens in the four hours spent in Midgard in the opening of Final Fantasy VII than in the 20 hours spent on Cocoon in XIII's first act. XIII has been described as a "character piece" by cowards who can't admit that it's a game where nothing happens.

When I was first playing Final Fantasy XIII I wondered if perhaps the writer of the game was autistic, or if the intended audience was autistic, because of the game's total lack of subtlety or subtext, and how every character loudly announces at any possible opportunity how they feel at that time. Later, however, I discovered what I was actually witnessing: Final Fantasy XIII is written and paced like a serial television drama. Suddenly the constant repetition of key terms (Sarah wants us to save Cocoon but we're Pulse lycee and Pulse is the enemy of Cocoon but we don't know our Focus and if we don't complete our Focus we'll die but if we do complete our focus we'll turn to crystal. Cut that sentence up, mix it up in a hat, spill it on a meeting-room table, and you have 80% of the conversations in XIII), the summaries of every cutscene recorded to an on-line database, and the constant flashbacks to the week leading up to the start of the game (which reminded me a whole lot of all the weakest episodes of LOST) made complete sense. XIII was written to accommodate for the person who starts a show mid-season because their friends keep talking about it. The problem, of course, is that you're not allowed to start XIII mid-season or skip past the filler to the good parts, were there even good parts to be found.

I guess this television style of writing also accounts for the game's small cast and very small rogues gallery. There are only four antagonists in the game: two of which properly fill the reluctant-villain and greater-evil roles, one of which is killed off in their second scene for no good reason, and the last which is killed off in his introductory scene only to be revived twice when the developers realised there was literally no one in the game they could summon to harass the party but him. In fact several of the plot elements late in the game retcon earlier parts of the game when the developers realised they actually had to make an ending for the thing, much like what will happen with long-running serial television shows approaching their finale.

Along with the "character piece" lie another common claim of XIII is that it "opens up" and "gets better" when the party reaches Pulse. This is a result of a certain kind of Stockholm Syndrome that sets in when someone tries to find something, anything, positive about the game. Does it "get better"? Perhaps, only insomuch as you no longer have to listen to the characters constantly repeat plot keywords at you. It certainly doesn't become good. Does it "open up"? Only as much as the Calm Lands were "open" in regards to previous areas in Final Fantasy X. The opening area of Pulse is a large disc connected to a series of tubes. When you feel like continuing the story you'll find yourself back in the same one-way tube that the entire rest of the game takes place in.

As befitting a battle system derived from a video, the "Paradigm Shift" system is all flash. Once an enemy's stats have been determined (by casting a determine stats spell on them) every battle will play out one of three ways: kill weak enemies quickly with high damage scrappers, build up the break bar on a moderate enemies with low-damage scrappers before switching to high damage scrappers to make use of the damage multiplier, or, for the really dangerous enemies, cast buffs and debuffs first then use the second outlined strategy. The speed of the battles makes actually choosing what abilities to use a liability, and in almost every situation the only way to stay on top of the fight is to hit the Auto-Battle button and let the game take control of your character, just like it takes control over your two allies who you can not control at all aside from setting their job.

I'm amazed and frankly a bit insulted that, despite the battle system mostly running itself and therefore not having to account for the player's whims, it still has some serious mechanical problems. The least of which is the AI, which, as expected when it's left to do everything on its own, will do some absolutely boneheaded mistakes a player would never make. This is uncommon, though, and were XIII a good game I'd give it a pass on that. Something I would not give anything a pass on is the extra-long animations while switching jobs (or Paradigm Shifting). The first time in any battle switching jobs will show every character on your team, in order, do their job-switch animation. Every subsequent time they all do the animation at the same time and it takes 1/3rd as much time. This is not an insignificant amount of time, as it is more than enough time for the enemies (who are still moving freely) to kill the lead character, which will lose the fight. Thus for difficult fights it is advantageous to start with a set of jobs you don't intend to use and swap first thing, thus giving yourself a faster swap time if something should go wrong and the party has to be cured in a hurry. Additionally, while the battle speed can be slowed down in the options menu, it is not in the player's best interest to do so. After an enemy has been "broken" it can then be launched into the air by some moves and juggled there, preventing it from acting. Slowing the battle speed, however, does not reduce the speed of gravity, and the only way to consistently juggle an enemy is to play on the high battle speed. These are both things that any QA team would have noted in just hours of testing, and yet here they are in a final product anyways.

As for that aforementioned quirk of the battle system where the game ends should the lead character, and only the lead character, fall in battle, this too I am willing to give the game a pass on. Not because it is a good idea (it isn't) but because it's necessary to keep the game from being completely broken. If the player was allowed to take control of the other two party members then the speed and ease of healing would make it impossible to lose any fight in the game. They built a battle system that didn't account for challenge, so they had to hack it in in the most obvious way possible.

The Bottom Line
As of this writing I have not completed Final Fantasy XIII. According to the trophies I am either on the last or second to last chapter, but I reached a point in the game where I just could not force myself to continue. If I'd been more honest with myself that point should have happened after the first two hours, during which the game thought it acceptable to give my characters only the "Attack" command in battle. It should have also happened before 17 hours into the game, which is the first time that the game trusted me to pick the members of my party myself. For everything I disliked about Final Fantasy X and X-2, and for the mismatched mess that XII ended up being, I still found something enjoyable in all of them. If that enjoyable part of Final Fantasy XIII is to take place after the credits roll when my party of whining almost-heroes gets shuttled back to the grass filled bathtub that is Pulse, 34 hours after their non-adventure started, then the game can fuck itself off a cliff. It takes a lot of effort to burn through all the goodwill that Square Enix generated in the past, but Final Fantasy XIII manages to do that with flying colors.

PlayStation 3 · by Lain Crowley (6594) · 2011

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Thoughts from followers of the series? BurningStickMan (17916) Apr 9th, 2010

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  • 4Players
    • 2010 – #2 Biggest Disappointment of the Year

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Game added by Caelestis.

Windows added by GTramp. PlayStation Now added by Sciere. Windows Apps added by Koterminus.

Additional contributors: Fred VT, Patrick Bregger.

Game added December 17th, 2009. Last modified July 15th, 2023.