by Josh Jensen
reviewed on PS3
Since the Final Fantasy franchise's inception in 1987, a time when I had only just learned the ability to walk about 12 months prior, one thing has held true: great things have come in threes. The NES saw Final Fantasy I, II, III, whereas the SNES gave way to IV (widely regarded as one of the series' best), V, and VI. The PS One was catalyst to the graphical turning point in the franchise, going from 2D to a then earth-shattering 3D presentation, giving us VII, VIII, and IX. The Playstation 2 presented us with the first Final Fantasy to include voice-acting in X, which is considered by many to be one of the best games to ever be released on its console (it was definitely my favorite; far and away). This was followed by XI, which featured the series' first attempt at online play, and then XII. Count 'em up - that's three for every generation thus far, not to mention a plethora of spin-offs and a sequel sprinkled within.
But the Playstation 3 has been out for almost 3 ½ years, now. The public hasn't been subject to so long of a wait for its first fix of Final Fantasy goodness! But finally the game most of us have been frothing at the mouth for, probably since the announcement of the PS3 itself, has arrived. Make way for Square-Enix's latest installment in the series: Final Fantasy XIII.
Many of those reading have already seen trailers, but few had the privilege of taking the reins and actually giving this new release a whirl, up until March 9th. Considering that Final Fantasy VII and X have sold a combined 17+ million units worldwide, and are both considered favorites among their respective platforms, to say, "Final Fantasy XIII has a lot to live up to" is quite possibly the understatement of the millennium thus far. Did XIII live up to its expectations as the first release of its generation? Let's take a look.
Welcome to Cocoon
The game places you in the world of Pulse, on the city of Cocoon, which floats high above its surface. You begin by following Lightning and Snow, as they search for Serah, Lightning's sister and Snow's fiancé. Serah has been turned l'Cie by a fal'Cie -- a supernatural, mechanical being -- named Anima, thereby cursing her in the eyes of humans. The fal'Cie marks a person of its choosing to do its bidding by placing a somewhat animated mark on their body, which grows over time. The task, known as one's "Focus", is never clearly given, but is transmitted through mental visions, and expected to be interpreted by the l'Cie. If the task has not been carried out by the time the mark has completed its growth, the wearer is transformed into a vile, tortured monster, known as a Cie'th. However, completing your focus grants you the prize of being eternally crystallized, much like the victims of Medusa's gaze, except with crystal instead of stone. These being your only two available outcomes explains why it is viewed as a curse. It is believed that whenever a human comes in contact with l'Cie - or any being from outside of Cocoon - that the curse has been passed onto them, earning them immediate exile by Cocoon's military branch, PSICOM.
Lightning and Snow meet up eventually, joined by others with goals of their own, and confront the fal'Cie, only to be marked by Anima himself. The game revolves around two main goals; saving Serah, and discovering and completing their Focus.
As with every Final Fantasy game, particularly since VII, the graphics are top notch. Final Fantasy XIII, however, especially takes the cake. The graphics are the most beautiful I have seen to date. There were times when it took me a few seconds to tell if a cut-scene was made up of gameplay visuals or not - that's how good the game looks. Everything - and I mean everything - is detailed to an extent which astounds me. From the amazingly drawn characters and enemies to the most unimportant staircase in the game, every inch seems to have received hours of tender, loving care, as if it were a delicate canvas. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I would just stop where I was and pan the camera in different directions.
The battle animations are also done excellently. From the chilling visualization of the spell "Death", to the heavily damaging area effect of "Ruinga", each spell looks as deadly, methodical, or soothing as the effect it has on your characters and enemies.
Jaw-dropping graphics and music, amazing story
Too much moaning!