Final Fantasy XIII Log: Part 1

There will be no spoilers here, so fear not. I was going to try to do a live-ish collection of thoughts and notes, but it didn’t take long for me to find myself too busy with it to keep stopping to type things. Instead, I’m just going to do a little summary of my experience thus far. I’m currently at a save point shortly after unlocking the “Crystarium” ability system.

I wasn’t really impressed with the opening scenes of the game. The first FMV was really over-the-top, with crazy suave fighting, explosions, and all kinds of weird sci-fi stuff flying everywhere. It was like a giant bag of anime cliches in HD. So I figured, “Welp, new things suck,” and assumed I would hate the game. It didn’t help when I got to the first battle and discovered that I could only control one party member. But funny thing about that battle. I mostly ignored the ATB tutorial because I considered myself an expert on the ATB system. Turns out this one was a little different, and I had to stick my nose in the manual to get an understanding of it. And I wasn’t really impressed with the differences, since, at that point in the game, there wasn’t much way to take advantage of it.

People have been saying this game is fairly linear, but I didn’t realize just how literally they meant it. The first area is made up entirely of very narrow roads with no room to wander off and explore. That’s both a good and a bad thing for me, since I tend to waste a lot of time wandering off to explore big areas in games. But it’s because I love to do that exploring, so I can find treasures and secrets and stuff. It’s one of the biggest appeals of RPGs for me, so it was a little disappointing that they didn’t give me much to explore. But speaking of treasure, the item tutorial made me think, “Wow, this game is for babies,” since potions affect everyone, and are independent of the ATB gauge. Plus you start off with 20 of them, and you get fully healed after every battle anyway. But then I died in the very next battle because I didn’t use any. Doop.

I found myself a little more intrigued when I got to the first part where you can use Snow, and not just because I found it hilarious that he blatantly stole Seifer’s clothes. (His female companion, Rebro or whatever, practically stole Garnet’s clothes, too.) I think it was because the story picked up at that point, or at least started to make more sense. There was a specific scene that was pretty effective at drawing me into the story.

I think I started getting a little more into the gameplay when I got to what could be considered the first dungeon. It was still almost as linear as the first area, but having a few extras corners to run over and check was really satisfying. The story also picked up in there, but the frequent cutscenes and party shifts were a little annoying, because I kept worrying that I’d walk into another scene and get cut off from an area before I got to explore everything. I also liked that the final boss of said area was relatively challenging, in that it made me actually pay attention to what I was doing. Got to keep me on my toes.

After that was like twenty minutes of FMVs. Including the one with the song, which was definitely Japanese. The song scene was pretty touching, but it also made me go, “Uh, hmm…” Some of the plot points in that FMV string were pretty predictable, but others were just, “holy crap where’d that come from.” Shortly after all that is when I unlocked the Optima and Crystarium systems, which was a very big “YES!” because they involve character customization, and oh hell do I love character customization. The actual customization process seems a little limited, at least for now, but the way you can swap Roles mid-battle is pretty awesome. It’s almost better than being able to directly control the other party members, and now there are a lot more options to use with the new ATB system. The battling just got about ten times more interesting for me.

So I guess new things don’t suck after all. I think I’m definitely going to enjoy this game. But before I get back to actually playing it, I have to mention the acting. It’s been pretty good, but Mushroom Head’s voice particularly stood out. I couldn’t figure out where I knew it from until I looked up who it was: Masashi Ebara, who I know best as Andy from Cowboy Bebop. Yes, that Andy.

Oh, and I did earn a few trophies. They’re the three unaccounted ones if you look at my PSN profile. The trophies display on my console just fine (with English names and terms), so I wonder if it just won’t show up on US PSN properly until the game comes out here?

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Categories: Log, Video Games

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