A student with a passion for game development and all things Japan.
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So, I got this game in December 2017. It was the first game I ever bought and owned off Steam. I grew up watching a lot more about this game before I played it. I have heard both good and bad about this game. But what do I think?
1.Spoilers are abounding, and depending on the game, can spoil the experience. This one in particular is very story heavy, so be warned going into the review.
2. I will not put aside any bias, but will try to be fair for games I do not like. This is my personal opinion. If you want to send your opinion, please do so in the comments below.
3.I am covering the PC version.
That being said, how does the part one of the Lightning Farron saga stack up as my first entry into this franchise? This is my review of Final Fantasy XIII.
This game's story is long, so I will try to be as quick I can, but this is a LOT. A young women named Lightning Farron has broken out of a train that is mass executing people, in something known as The Purge, along with Sazh Kastory, in order to find Lightning's sister Serah. At the same time, a young man named Snow Villers, recruits a women, who says that "Moms are tough" into his resistance group NORA. However, she dies and her son Hope Estheim sees this and swears revenge.
I won't do full character breakdowns for everyone, as you would be reading for an hour, but Hope is a little too whiny at the start for me. Always complain that things are not going his way, being very scared, he honestly is a bit too depressing at the start for me, and I get that's the point, but he does this every cutscene up to chapter 4. However, after Lightning kicks him in the teeth(figuratively), and he attempts to get revenge on Snow, he changes in to a quite likeable chap.
However, he along with a cute little girl named Vanille, head to the fal'Cie Anima to find and confront Snow, who has gone there to save Serah. Lightning and Sazh go to also save Serah, but all parties are too late as Serah has fulfilled her focus as a I'Cie. I will explain this more in a bit. Lightning and co fight the fal'Cie Anima, with Snow begging for Serah to be saved. This pisses Lightning off, as she didn't believe her sister at first, and this news came to Lightning on her birthday, the day before she got on that train. Life comes at you fast.
Anyway, they defeat Anima, but this comes a cost, as they are all branded I'Cie, and have a vision of the monster Ragnarok. I'Cie are basically are humans who have a limited time to carry out a focus, a set goal given to them. If the don't they become fal'cie, AKA monsters. If they do, they are turned to crystal, become Cie'th, and are given eternal life. Before they can do that, they have to get through a load of ice. They find Serah encased in crystal, but Lightning, regretful of her mistake, decides to leave her be, but Snow vows to save her and stays behind while the rest go on.
Speaking of, Snow is... not that interesting. He only appears in a handful of cutscenes in the first half, which only really exist to introduce Fang and explain why Serah's fate is a kick in the balls for Snow. Beside that I do like his hero act, and he is voiced by Troy Baker in English. Does this man have money capped paychecks?
I should say this now before anything else. I played this game with Japanese VA, since I wanted that experience, and I have watched a cutscenes of this game in English, and I hate Sazh's English voice. Still, the English VA is good. I really like Vincent Martellte as Hope and Laura Bailey as Serah. And I know this is leading into the obvious, Ali Hllis can serenade me as Lightning any time, her voice is so sexy to me! OK, I'm jumping the gun a bit. Back to the story.
Anyways, as the 4 head on, Lightning delivers a beautiful speech about her motivations to destroy the Sanctum, and Hope decides to follow her and the 2 head to Palpoum. Lightning warms up to Hope(easier said than done for her, trust me), and while giving Hope a pep talk, inadvertently helps strengthen Hope's resolve to kill Snow...Oops. As they head in towards the city, they meet up with Snow and Oerba Yun Fang.
Fang I love design-wise. Martial Arts get-up with a Dragon Tattoo to show she's a badass. Her story revolves around Vanille, and the fact that they are going through the motions again. Well without baggage for Fang, she is not infected by Anima after all(her I'Cie brand is even faded), but I at least find her interesting.
Anyways, After the attack on the 4 in the City, Hope ends up with Snow, and Lightning with Fang, Fang explains the connection between her and Vanille, and Lightning slaps her. Is it wrong that I like this scene?
Either way, Hope tries his hand at revenge and fails, but an attack on both of them leaves Snow injured. The 2 parties re-unity and Lightning cries over what she nearly made Hope do. F**k people that say she doesn't have a heart. Either way, we head to Hope's house, and going a bit more into Hope's Daddy issues, which I won't go into for the Sake of time. While there, the 4 are confronted by Yaag Roach, PSICOM Commander, who explains The Purge(which is also killing innocent humans) is a way PSICOM can stop the l'Cie out break, but is attacked by their own Ranks, and help with a Rogue Solider to sneak into the upper ranks of PSICOM, and all of this is just from Lightning's half, as Sazh and Vanille's half is overshadowed by something more sinister.
Sazh's story revolves around his son, Dajh, and the fact that he has lost him to The Purge. Over the chapters with her and Vanille, it is revealed that Vanille and Fang were the ones that turned him into an I'Cel. When Sazh finds this out, he attempts to SHOOT HIMSELF.And GOD DAMN, THE REVEAL THIS RIPPED MY HEART OUT OF MY CHEST, and my heart was already torn out thanks to Lightning's crying scene and Hope's Dad scene. Of Course he doesn't and the two end up captured by Jihi Nabaat.
With Sazh and Vanille in prison, Lightning and Crew go to save them, and take out Dysley, the leader behind this whole Purge. However, he turns out to be a Fal'cle call Bartandlus, and let me say this, he is a great villain, very menacing and haunting. Also I love his theme, it's so majestic. Though Nabaat ends up dead for some reason.
Anyways, he explains that they had of Ragnarok was one of them. One of them will turn into Ragnarok. One of them will destroy Cocoon. So because of this as they try to go to Cocoon, Yaag Roach shoots them into a Fal'cle training ground. Here they are confronted by Cid Raines, who helped Snow escape his captive state when he was found by Sanctum, as he always wants to save Coccoon, but he feel he has to eliminate the I'Cle to do that, but after his defeat he turns to crystal.
While in the camp, everyone agrees they have to fight their focus, barring Fang, who has second thoughts on the whole thing, and has to fight her Eidolon, more on this gameplay. After the training camp, they all head down to Gran Pulse, and after re-grouping for the night, they head out to find out more about this world, and Fang gets her memory back, remembering she became Ragnarok. After Lightning has an emotional talk with Snow, knowing that they have to get Serah back, the group climb the Tajien tower, and afterwards, meet with Serah, who turns out to be Bartandlus(you can tell when the bird is around him), who wants to use The Calvary to take out Coccoon, along with a revived Cid Raines, who is now Primarch. After another fight with Barthandlus, the group head to Coccoon.
All hell has broken loose on Cocoon, and Cid Raines has been shot down thanks to that Solder who helped use a while back. I will say Raines himself is interesting, he wants to do things by his own accord, but still wants to save Cocoon, which is why he goes after the a Fal'cle gang himself, but was their any point in bring him back besides shock value? He only appears in 2 cutscene after he is revived.
Either way, the gang head into Eden, and after one last fight with Yaag Roach, they make their way into Eden, and at the centre of it all, where Barthandlus and Orphan awaits. After the battle with Orphan, things get hectic for the gang. Fang agrees to become Ragnarok. again, in order to save everyone, however the rest, besides Vanille, turn into fal'cie After Fang tries to destroy Orphan as Ragnarok, the rest break out of the fal'cie state, and after Lightning gives one last amazing speech, and a really anti-climatic final boss battle, Orphan is defeated. However, the inhabitants of Grand Pulse become Ragnarok...including Vanille and Fang.
Coccon's inhabitants is saved and Lightning, Snow, Hope and Sazh are left to start life on Grand Pulse, alongside a revived Serah and Dajh.
Overall, what else can say? The story was amazing, and it made care for all of the main characters.
Vanille's character arc is focused on how many lies she has told, and her dealing with the guilt what what she did to Dajh, and I have to say my heart hurt for her, watching her go through all this pain. I remember this quote from her:
I've told so many lies, it's all a blur.
Damn. That line puts everything in perspective for me. It feels likes she is learning all negative emotions at a young age, something which emotionally f**ks with her, and it is portrayed very well, and makes Vanille a very strong character.
But this game has such a strong lead in Lightning(real first name Clare)Farron.
She is the reason why most people hate this game. I can't say I don't see why, she is a bit of a bitch, and really hates Snow in the early going. However, she is the leader of the gang, and she just has so much confidence in herself to achieve her goal, something that I needed while dealing the real world(TL:DR ver: Sixth Form is a struggle). When she made that first big speech, I couldn't help but be inspired.
I know I sound stupid for saying this(and this also applies to Kairi from KH), but when I see her picture, I can't but smile. I honestly believe she is the reason why I have gained so much confidence in myself over the past year and a bit. She is my confidence booster. Plus I have a soft spot for badass women, and Lightning is no exception. Also, I don't get the she doesn't have a heart complaint, she felt guilt for not believing Serah(I think that was her emotion speaking), and she cries over Hope nearly taking revenge, something that was inadvertently her fault.
Speaking of, this game also has an underlying theme of family. One thing that I love is the bonds between Hope and Lightning(brother and sister like qualities) and Sazh and Vanille(Father-daughter like qualities).
I also don't think I would have met Ellen if it wasn't for Lightning, and if you want a very personal look into this games, go check out her review of the Final Fantasy XIII saga. She does all 3 games justice much better than I could.
Welp, that was long. Again, this game's story was a LOT, but it's really heart warming, and I loved every moment of it.
So now on the game it'self. The game has a habit of unlocking things as you go, for example the Paradigm system(Optima if your in Japan) isn't introduced until chapter 3. This is annoying at time, especially since they don't provide a in story reason for most of this, but I honestly don't mind, it makes games character feel they are getting progressive stronger, even it they are going the wrong way around it here.
Each character has 3 Paradigm to use in total. For example Lightning has the Commando, Ravager and Medic Paradigms. These names are different in Japanese for some reason, as the names are English, and it's not like they don't make sense. For example, Commando is Attacker and Medic is Healer. Localisation is weird.
Anyways, between you and your 2 other party members, you can use up to different Paradigm Formations. I used Relentless Assault and Diversity the most, because being honest, most of the game's common enemies can be taken down easily due to the stagger system.
Instead of having a turn based system, you have an ATB bar, this starts out with 2 segments, but you have up to 5 by the end. I would have liked to see a way to decrease the time that it takes to charge without using Haste, but the regular time is fine. You stock up you commands and when the bar is full, you attack you chosen enemy, and I LOVE, LOVE THIS. The combat is so fast paced because of it, and it feels like I'm playing an action game at times. Some of the abilities are awesome, like Lightning's Army of One which can be a pain to get(more on that in a bit), Hope's strong Magic Spells and Vanille who's curing is broken when going against common fodder.
The stagger system is pretty simple in how it works, you hit an enemy enough time, he staggers. Though some attacks such Fang's HighWind attack(Her ScreenNuke, which is OP, even for the late game) can stop staggers, so careful what attacks you use. After the stagger, enemies are weaker, and bosses in turn can change from being immune to certain elements to taking Damage. These weaknesses can also be modified with the Saboteur class, and you can fight with said weakness if you have the right spells in the Synergist class.
While being able to switch Paradigms is nice, I mostly stuck with one class for each character I played(Which after I got the ability to switch the Leader out was Lightning, Hope and Vanille). Lightning was the hard hitter, Hope was the magic power house and Vanille was White Mage b***h. Sorry.
Still, in the later chapters of the game, I found myself using the using the Paradigm Shift quite a bit to deal with tougher enemies and bosses, who were annoying in the first half of the game(they have unavoidable attacks), but after chapter 9, they become fun, barring the Last encounter of Yaag Roach and his Grasshopper mech.
One common complaint I hear it that there is not real exploration in this game, which I can agree with but I don't think it's bad, because trains you to keep the pace fast. In fact the Open World is sort of odd to me. I felt I was playing a different game, because once a game trains you to think in a certain way, you don't feel comfortable changing, and it's very apparent here.
You can level up you characters in the Crystarium, which is expensive as hell to manage, but with enough grinding and persistence, it becomes easier... in the second half. The first half of the game is not grind friendly to me, which makes no sense with the how expensive the some upgrades are.
This is Sazh's Summon, Brynhildr. Remember when I mentioned Eidolons? You fight these as bosses, and once you defeat them, they become your summons. Honestly, I only used Odin a lot, because I had Lightning as my playable character for most of the run. These are not very interesting to use and they don't really do much besides get you out of tight spots. Not worth the 3 Technical Points to use, though the other skills such as Libra, which reads the stat effects of enemies, are usually VERY useful. The shop is also a waste, as Gil is impossible to get via battles, only treasure chests. Not that I mind it(Medic and Synergist cover for this), but from a design standpoint, this makes the a bit bloated.
The rest of the summons I only used once for the sake of demo, and I LOVE THE STYLE AND FLARE IN THESE SEQUENCES. As a game dev, it's something I aspire to do someday. Here's Vanille, Sazh and Hope as examples:
Speaking of flare...
Looks, Sound and Final Thoughts
This game goes a realistic look, which has aged a little bit, but this game does still look amazing today, the visuals look on point, and despite the dark setting, the game doesn't feel dank. The soundtrack is the cherry on top of this game, as the componation of fast paced battle music like Blinded By Light, haunting yet majestic tunes like Barntandus theme, and upbeat Jaunty music like Sazh's theme makes this a wonderful soundtrack to lisen to. The vocal themes in particular are just a pleasure to lisen to, ESPECIALLY Kimi ga Iru Kaka(Because You Are Here)
The animation can be rushed at times(you can tell when they also cheap out with camera angles), but the rest of the time this game is animated well, and CG cutscenes are in a league of their own! One of my favourite cutscenes in this game is the beginning Chapter 12, where Lightning and the Gang are just blowing things up, and using all their summons on the race track, it looks amazing!
Considering this game was in a development hell of it's own(alongside Final Fantasy XV, known back then as Versus XIII), it really makes me happy that Square managed to pull of a masterpiece of a game. While this game may be hated till the end of time by Final Fantasy Fans, and there is no sign of a remaster soon for any of the games(though all of the games are Xbox One X backwards compatible as of today), I have a lot to thank this game for as well. It helped me meet so many people, it engaged me it's story and gameplay, and it's lead character gave me confidence. I can't recommend this game enough. You can get it on the PS3, Xbox 360 or Steam.
...Goodness. This has to be the longest post I have ever done. Next RPG I do will probably be a Neptunia game, but I do want to play Final Fantasy XIII-2 and ESPECIALLY Lightning Returns. I also want to play the other Final Fantasies, despite VI starting slow as balls.
Either way, this has been my passion project for a good chunk of the second half of the year. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much I enjoyed writing it.
As always, thanks for reading, have a great day/night, share if you enjoyed it and take care.
Written By Nana Marfo
For Ellen, Hussain and all the people I have met because of this game.
Final Fantasy XIII(C)Square Enix