by Josh Jensen
reviewed on PS3
As a musician, music in a game is extremely important to me. The music can't just be good; it has to perfectly match the mood of the current point in the game, or it can potentially ruin the entire experience. This is why it excites me to say that this game has the best music I have heard thus far in a game. No matter the mood of the characters, the importance of the battle, or the scenery around you, composer Masashi Hamauzu continuously nails it directly on the head. There is an endless array of music within Final Fantasy XIII, and while it plays in a loop, like other games, one thing set it apart: it did not get on my nerves after 20 minutes. About half of the games I've played have had really good scores playing in the background, but I would usually find myself turning down the sound and double-clicking iTunes after a certain amount of time. If a loop plays back about 15 times throughout a half-hour span, I usually begin to hate it. But, for the first time since I can remember, I found myself cranking the volume in this one.
The voice acting is as much of a roller coaster as I've experienced in a video game. I've played games with superb voice-acting, such as any game made by Bioware or Bethesda, and games that are not as well-rounded in this aspect, like insert Japanese-to-English translated import here. There are characters in this game with outstanding believability, Sazh being my favorite, and another being Fang. However, Vanille's voice kind of grated my cheese, as well as Hope's, though they did end up growing on me once they were fully established as characters.
There were a couple of things that annoyed me, though. One was the JRPG staple of the moan and the grunt. I can't express how annoying it is when a character's response to something surprising or unexpected is, "Ungh!", "Uhh?!" or "Ohhh!" No one whom I have ever met talks that way. During battles, however, it gets completely ridiculous. I remember a handful of times during battles, while using Vanille, that I actually had to turn the volume down, so as to not make passers by think I was watching late night cable. During a fight, she sounds about as bad as a female tennis player. You get the idea.
The other annoying aspect was that some of the accents were a bit off. At times, I couldn't tell whether Vanille was British, South African, or Australian in dialect. I still couldn't tell you to be sure, but I can tell you that not knowing became frustrating to me over time. While doing some fact finding I discovered that the main heroine, Lightning, is voiced by Ali Hillis, who also voices the recurring Mass Effect role of Dr. Liara T'Soni.
All-in-all, the casting was solid. There were very few times when I palmed my own face, due to cheesy dialogue. Such times do occur, mind you, but they are few and far between.
The battle system consists of a mixture of active-time and turn-based attacking. While Square-Enix refers to it as the "ATB" (Active Time Battle) system, it is still only active to an extent. You still have to wait until your attack gauge fills up, much like the circle timer from WKC.
The main difference, and most addictive part about this system, is the roles. There are six available roles in Final Fantasy XIII, made up of different builds: Commando for physical damage; Ravager for elemental damage; Sentinel for defensive, tank-like, damage absorption, command enemy attention; Synergist for buff magic, to scale-up resistances, attack power, attack speed, etc.; Saboteur for de-buff magic, to scale-down enemies' resistances, attack power, attack speed, etc., and Medic for healing, resurrection, status-effect spell removal.
Jaw-dropping graphics and music, amazing story
Too much moaning!