Final Fantasy XIII Faceplate Accessories
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Final Fantasy XIII Faceplate Product Details
VERTICAL IMAGE OF MAIN CHARACTER LIGHTNING
Relatively speaking, Final Fantasy has had a tough time over the last few years. Having debuted in 1987, the series hit 100 million worldwide sales in 2011. As one of the longest running, best known and most popular gaming series of all time, Japanese creator Square Enix should have been celebrating the milestone, but that wasn't the case...
In 2010, a somewhat mixed reaction to Final Fantasy XIII for PS3 and Xbox 360, and an awful reception for Final Fantasy XIV Online on PC soured its mood, with company CEO Yoichi Wada going as far as to say that the latter had "greatly damaged" the brand. Enter Final Fantasy XIII-2, a direct sequel to FFXIII with a lot riding on it - one that has been designed to show the world that the role playing powerhouse Square Enix is back on top of its game.
Thankfully, we're pleased to report that FFXIII-2 looks set to address a number of the issues critics had with the last console game. In some people's eyes, FFXIII's key flaw was its linearity, which saw players spend the bulk of their time battling from A to B through corridor-like environments alongside an uninspired cast, stifling the drama and pace of proceedings.
In response to fan feedback, FFXIII-2 returns to the series' traditional open, town-based structure. Take a look at the game's map and, while it's clear there's a main route to journey along to reach your ultimate goals, there are plenty of branching paths to explore for hidden treasures and new adventures to uncover in a bid to level up your characters.
The environments are packed with chatty residents, many of whom offer short sound bites as you pass, have floating speech bubbles next to them and can be talked to for information, or offer you side-quests, something that makes the game feel far more alive than FFXIII did.
Set three years after the events of its predecessor, the sequel depicts the story of heroine Serah's journey across time and space alongside main male protagonist Noel. They are on a mission to prevent the end of the world at the hands of bloodthirsty monsters and to locate Serah's missing sister Lightning, the hero of the previous game.
With the world plagued with time rifts causing all manner of unwelcome events, players have to explore each fractured timeline, resolve the paradox and locate the gates to the next broken rift. It's a structure which sees players seeking out giant crystals that act as portals to further levels set in alternative time zones, which can be located in multiple orders, ensuring a different experience for each player.
Freedom of choice
In FFXIII-2, project director Motomu Toriyama has said "every part of the game will develop as a result of the player's choices". Player choice has been a popular design feature over recent years with western role playing game developers like BioWare, Obsidian and Bethesda, and now Square Enix is also attempting to embrace it with FFXIII-2's 'Live Trigger Events'. These allow players to choose their reactions to characters during conversations in moments that influence the course of progression, although it's unclear to what extent they actually impact on gameplay.
One thing that's largely unchanged from the previous game is Final Fantasy XIII-2's battle mechanics. The Paradigm system, which sees players only directly controlling one character during fights, allows users to shift their character's tactics between offensive, defensive and support roles mid-battle, therefore guiding the tactical flow of proceedings as they wield elemental attacks, magic spells, items and summons moves. Battles do however introduce little cinematic cutscenes featuring quick time events, which require players to perform actions shortly after the appearance of on-screen prompts, an addition that makes combat even more engaging.
From what we've seen of the game, Square Enix appears to be travelling along a very promising looking path by reacting to fan feedback and further developing strong existing gameplay systems. Alongside sumptuous visuals and audio work, the developer's decision to grant players more freedom in how they progress appears to be a wise one that could well pay off when the game arrives next month.
The Final Fantasy For Everyone?
The last Final Fantasy game to hit a home console, 2006's FFXII on PS2, was loved by critics for its huge open world, dizzyingly deep customisation options, and MMO-style real-time A.I.-driven combat. Problem was, those were the very reasons that many gamers couldn't get their heads around Final Fantasy XII; it was so complex in places that it verged on frustrating, and so different to what had come before that it simply didn't feel that much like a Final Fantasy game.
Final Fantasy XIII feels very much like a case of its publisher kneejerking from one extreme to the other. This first HD instalment in Square Enix's powerhouse RPG series is incredibly linear, features cut-down customisation, and goes back to the turn-based battles that the series built its success upon, but streamlines them by giving you direct control of just a single character.
As a result, FFXIII seems at first to be a watered-down Final Fantasy made for the masses, rather than your hardcore JRPG player - but persist with it and you'll still find the familiar FF magic is in there; you'll just have to endure the first ten-or-so hours to get to it.
The Adventure Begins
From a story slant, Final Fantasy XIII starts out in fast, frenetic and slightly confusing fashion, introducing players to five of the six key party characters amidst the backdrop of a civil war on the walkways of mini-planet Cocoon's Hanged Edge, which reminded us not a little of Final Fantasy X's first scenes in Zanarkand.
The premise is that Cocoon's government have discovered a fal'Cie from Pulse - a magic-wielding mechanised agent of the feared lowerworld - in a nearby relic, and have instigated a purge of every civilian in the vicinity; something the immediate populace aren't too pleased about.
Into the fray step the Cloud Strife inspired Lightning, Barret-with-an-afro Sazh, hero-wannabe Snow, the irrepressibly peppy Vanille and token Japanese emo Hope, each following their own motivations towards an ill-fated encounter that sees them branded as l'Cie - supposed agents of Pulse - and haunted by a vision which suggests the end of the world. But are they to stop it, or bring it about?
While the plot starts off at a rollicking pace, the gameplay mechanics are more drip-fed through a series of tutorials spread across the entirety of the 360 version's first disc (the first seven chapters for PS3 players); explaining the basics of battle, levelling and equipment in slightly hand-holdy fashion.
Informs And Inspires
Fights in Final Fantasy XIII blend the best of the series old-fashioned Active Time Battle turn-based fare with the fast-paced AI-driven combat of its immediate predecessor. You may only control one character directly, but by enacting a 'Paradigm Shift' you can change the roles of each member of your battle team, and with it the attacks, spells and techniques they are able to employ. It makes things like healing, reviving and casting buffs as simple as pressing a button and seeing the AI do the rest, enabling you to focus instead on landing enough consecutive attacks to 'Stagger' your foes and deal massive damage.
With battles now ranked based on speed, more Paradigm options, abilities and spectacular Eidolon summons opening up as party members develop, and the camera free to pan and swoop around the battlefield as its combatants dart, dodge and slash away, FFXIII's fights become a speedy, strategic interplay between offensive barrages and defensive consolidation which deserve to inform and inspire Japanese RPG development for years to come.
Elsewhere however it's a case of distilling the RPG form down to its basic essence in an effort at bringing the RPG genre to a wider audience. Advancing characters' abilities is done using experience earned in battle through an elaborately designed, but actually rather straightforward screen called the 'Crystarium'. As nice and shiny as it is, though, it's a good 20+ hours before you can start to make meaningful choices between their specialities, and a good few hours more before you get to select who you want in your main battle party.
These constraints are a knock-on effect from final Fantasy XIII's biggest culture shock - almost complete and total linearity. FFXIII is divided into book-style chapters, with no world map, no overworld, no shops, no non-player characters of interest to talk to; and only one single chapter offering roaming exploration and sidequests.
Instead, you're funnelled down a very obvious path in the same way that you would expect to be in a Call of Duty game; 'discovering' some barely-concealed items in contrived floating spheres, buying and upgrading others from generously spaced-out save points. It's the complete polar opposite of Final Fantasy XII, making the gameworld feel too tightly designed, like it isn't a real place, and robbing players of the ability to personalise their party and imprint their own playing style on the 50+ hour quest.
Will Not Let You Go
It's a shame, because not only is the battle system superb and the story (buoyed by a much-needed story Codex which FFXII sorely missed) fantastic, but the visuals are at times astonishing. Final Fantasy XIII is a drop-dead GORGEOUS looking game, with easily the best lighting we've ever seen in a game, and an intricate, colourful and suitably eccentric art style that's easily the pinnacle of the series. Special mention must go to the FMV cutscenes, though, which are up there with any feature-length animation in any medium.
And as for the version comparison? The PS3 version's visuals are moderately more accomplished, but the 360 one is still one of the system's better lookers, and more importantly, there's nothing like slowdown in there that proves gameplay-damaging. Still, it gives the fanboys something to debate.
Some hardcore fans - especially those that adored FFXII - may be slightly miffed by Final Fantasy XIII's turn away from deep intricate RPG gameplay systems and a huge gameworld, but it's still a well-told, lavishly produced adventure which once started, like its themesong says, will not let you go.
- The battle system is the series' best yet.
- Cracking 50+ hour story.
- Absolutely GORGEOUS visuals.
- Overly linear structure makes the gameworld feel too tightly designed.
- Stripped-down character customisation.
- Seemingly endless tutorials hold your hand too much.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 - Preview (17/01/2012)
Enter Final Fantasy XIII-2, a direct sequel to FFXIII with a lot riding on it - one that has been designed to show the world that the role playing powerhouse Square Enix is back on top of its game.…
Final Fantasy XIII - Review (12/03/2010)
As a result, FFXIII seems at first to be a Final Fantasy made for the masses, rather than your hardcore JRPG player - but persist with it and you'll still find the familiar FF magic is in there.…
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