While the North American version of Final Fantasy XIII from Square Enix is not scheduled for release until March next year, the game has just come out for the PS3 in Japan to much fanfare. Most English publications are waiting for a localized version to be completed before publishing their own reviews of this highly title. GamerBlahhhg.com is lucky enough not to be constrained by such editorial limitations. Please enjoy our patented Blind Review of FFXIII.
Final Fantasy XIII: Fashion Dolls in Space City
As the first new Final Fantasy of the current generation, expectations are running very high for FFXIII. Square has long been known for their technological prowess and CGI artistry. They have also been known for incredible world building and their subtle, effective animation. XIII does not disappoint in any of these areas. But Final Fantasy XIII makes some very strange choices in story and gameplay.
You, as in any jrpg, play teenagers trying to save the world. The method you use is what’s so strange. The game begins on the floating sky shard island city, Cocoon. Snow, one of the main characters, is in class being teased by a bully about his wardrobe. Determined to show them up, he heads to the local mall after school to find more fashionable attire. This mall functions as a tutorial, introducing the main combat and character advancement systems.
For you see, the economy in this world is in shambles. Despite the glistening, futuristic exterior of Cocoon, the shopping centers are festering cesspools of monsters and villainy. Snow, along with the companions he collects along the way, are both warriors and economic stimulus. They go from mall to mall reinvigorating local trade with their spending, starting new fashion trends and clearing out the local riffraff.
This theme carries into the level progression system. Character skills and abilities are advanced as you upgrade your clothes and accessories. Enemies are also intimidated by fashionable dress and expensive designer labels. Square has seemingly employed an army of fashion designers to create exclusive lines of virtual clothing, jewelry, shoes, cell phones. You will spend hours browsing in clothing stores for your next outfit. The possibilities are virtually endless and the game world reacts to your dress and success. You will even begin to see NPCs dressing like your more powerful party members.
In a first for the series, XIII also features an alarming amount of product placement. As previously reported here, instead of traditional summons like Odin or Shiva, your party is able to call on Transformers from the Michael Bay movies for help in battle. There is an entire subplot involving the Transformers having their own agenda to recover a Cybertronian artifact and produce Energon. The quest line ends with an unskippable teaser for Transformers 3 literally playing in the middle of your game, followed by a 13 minute behind the scenes featurette (also unskippable). In addition, the malls/dungeons in the game all feature Hot Topics, Cinnabuns and Gamestops. The characters also use Verizon as their wireless carrier and eat at Applebee’s. It’s pretty strange to see in a universe emphatically not our own.
Despite my concerns over the crash commercialization of the franchise, the game still has many charms. The graphics are wonderful and the fast paced combat is incredibly engaging. I found myself laughing at Snow, crying with Lightning and wasting hours and hours on the Chochocobo Roundup minigame. The music and cutscenes are, as always, unmatched in the medium. I would not hesitate to recommend the game to fans of the series. It will be very interesting to see the reaction when the game comes state-side next year.