Final Fantasy XIII Review: Flawed, but one of my absolute favorite FFs

Final Fantasy XIII Review: Flawed, but one of my absolute favorite FFs

In the realm of Final Fantasy, opinions often diverge like branching paths in an intricate narrative. Amidst the spectrum of praise and critique, Final Fantasy XIII stands as a contested gem, its virtues celebrated by some while others dismiss its merits. Embarking on this journey, we delve into the heart of Cocoon and Gran Pulse, where the clash of fal'Cie and l'Cie shapes destinies and defies fate. As we traverse the linear corridors and expansive landscapes, we unravel the tapestry of characters, each bearing their own burdens and forging bonds amidst turmoil. With a blend of nostalgia and fresh perspective, let us embark on a retrospective journey through Final Fantasy XIII, exploring its narrative depths, character complexities, and the symphonic tapestry of its world. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Final Fantasy XIII Review: Flawed, but one of my absolute favorite FFs.

Story - 9

Final Fantasy XIII story | Final Fantasy Wiki | Fandom

While many do find Final Fantasy XIII to be one of the weakest narratives in the series, I'd have to disagree and, honestly, claim that it was one of the series' best. While many say it makes no sense and requires excessive reading of the in-game Datalog, I followed along just fine without it, only using the Datalog for some of the more obscure Pulsian lore. Speaking of lore, this game definitely has some of my favorite parts of the series. The juxtaposition between Cocoon and Gran Pulse was fascinating, the fal'Cie and l'Cie and Cie'th are very intriguing concepts that fit perfectly with the story of defying fate, and the character melodrama was the definitive best of the series. The linear gameplay allows for a story that never meanders and has an unrelenting pace throughout, setting it apart from a series with otherwise medium-paced storytelling (or incredibly slow-paced, in terms of the MMOs, at least before their expansions). Ultimately, this is a standout Final Fantasy story, and if you haven't played in a while and are actually willing to pay attention to the crucial story cutscenes, I'm sure you'll find something to love here.

Characters - 9.5

Final Fantasy XIII story | Final Fantasy Wiki | Fandom

This game has one of the absolute best character casts of the Final Fantasy series! While many find many of the characters annoying or unlikable, I believe the more realistic and human characters are a breath of fresh air for a series full of epic role models. While I understand the argument that Lightning is just a female Cloud, that's not a bad thing because, frankly, Cloud is awesome. Snow may be my least favorite character of the game, but his black-and-white, unrelenting hero complex with a brawn-over-brains approach slowly becomes more endearing as the game progresses. Hope is typically billed as super annoying, but honestly, for a child in an RPG, he's actually a lot deeper and less grating character than most of the genre. His raw antagonism toward Snow makes him frustrating, but his arc, where he grows out of it and sees Snow as a pseudo-guardian, makes for some of my favorite character development of the series. Vanille was always endearing, in my opinion, and her complex friendships with Sazh and Fang are very intriguing, making her one of my favorite characters in the game. Fang may not be the best character on her own, but her friendship with Vanille makes her pretty solid. And Sazh? He's easily one of the best, most hilarious, most relatable, and most well-developed characters in the series. His love for his son Dahj is one of the most adorable kids to ever grace the world of gaming. While the casts of Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy X are unbeatable for me, this game comfortably places at third best for me.

Music - 7

FINAL FANTASY XIII Original Soundtrack - Album by SQUARE ENIX MUSIC |  Spotify

While many say the music is the only good aspect of this game, I'd say it's one of the game's weaker links. Outside of the absolute bangers that are Lightning's Theme, Blinded by Light, The Promise, and Sazh's Theme, this soundtrack is below average for the series. Like Final Fantasy XII before it, this soundtrack features a plethora of more atmospheric, movie-soundtrack-like songs, except with a style more reminiscent of a bassa nova style, contrary to the previous entry's orchestral, classical style. I like this game's soundtrack, but it's definitely not my favorite Final Fantasy soundtrack. I'd argue that's more of a me preference, though, not a lack of quality in the soundtrack.

Art & Graphics - 10

Final Fantasy XIII: 10 Things You Didn't Know About The Game

Outside of the UI, this is somehow still my favorite-looking Final Fantasy game of all time (Final Fantasy XII has my favorite UI). Every single dungeon is not exactly good, but the sheer beauty and phenomenal scenery artwork make the entire game unique. I could sit and take in the beautiful art of Eden, the Hanging Edge, Oerba, and more. It's a great blend of modern realism and PS3-esque anime graphics, and while it's objectively less impressive than Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy XVI, I find this game the prettiest of the bunch, and it is so much older, making it absurdly memorable in my eyes.

Locations - 7

Final Fantasy XIII story | Final Fantasy Wiki | Fandom

As I just mentioned, the scenery carries the dungeons and towns of Final Fantasy XIII, making each setpiece memorable and gorgeous. And, on top of that, Gran Pulse is tons of fun to explore (especially on a Chocobo)! I'm not going to claim this game isn't a hallway simulator, but this game made a hallway that I can remember, which is frankly impressive. The locations aren't the best, but this game certainly has my favorite hallway of all time. And, hey, the hallway helps the story pacing, so I can't exactly be mad at it.

Sidequests - 6

Missions (Final Fantasy XIII) | Final Fantasy Wiki | Fandom

When a game doesn't have a single motivation to do anything but the main story until Chapter 11 of 13, it's hard to give the sidequests anywhere above a 5. Yet I had to, as the sheer quantity and relative quality of the quests make for a great time. Sixty-four hunts testing how well I can perform within my second favorite Final Fantasy battle system? Absolutely count me in! While I wish the hunt makes weren't so tediously far from their respective Cie'th Stones. Otherwise, this game's quests were quite fun. However, their lack of variety and late-game status secured an alright score of six out of ten.

Customization System - 8

I actually kind of liked the Crystarium! While it is slow to progress, I like that you allocate your points to the different Paradigm Roles and can genuinely customize your roles. Want to entirely specialize Sazh as a Synergist but make Lightning super balanced? Want to hoard your points for a future Cystraium expansion? Go right on ahead. Now, like many of the game's significant aspects (and like Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid), this game really opens up at the end with its customization, allowing each character to unlock all roles (while still having unique identities). This game also has a pretty cool equipment upgrading system as well! But my favorite part by far had to be the customization of Paradigm sets. While vastly inferior to Gambits from the previous entry, the Paradigm System made an incredible way to strategize and overcome the game's more demanding combat challenges. While this isn't top-tier Final Fantasy customization, it is still quite remarkable.

Battle System - 10

Review: Beautiful, Boring Final Fantasy XIII Loses RPG Magic | WIRED

While Final Fantasy XIII has my favorite battle system of the series (and of all time), Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels are not too far behind it. With Paradigm Shifting, staggering, and an extremely fast ATB gauge, this makes for a quick and brilliant battle system that shows that turn-based combat can be just as epic and fast-paced as action-oriented combat. The battle results were also a great touch, as I always strived to obtain five stars in every single battle. This game's combat would be a great inspiration for whatever new and excellent battle system they are going to cook up for the eventual and inevitable Final Fantasy XVII.

Quality of Life - 9

Final Fantasy XIII retrospective: 10 years later and I'm still in love |  Laptop Mag

Outside of the monotonous trekking required for some missions and the absurd lack of Gil, this game is practically perfectly polished. The latter is only an actual criticism of the achievement set; however, in reality, I only truly have one gripe in this category.

The Verdict

Why The Final Fantasy XIII Trilogy Has Some of The Best Music In The Series  — GameGrooves

Fun Factor - 9.5
Overall Score - 85%
Letter Rating - S

While I wholeheartedly understand many of this game's flaws and criticisms, I still absolutely enjoyed my time with Final Fantasy XIII. The art direction, characters, story, and combat are peak Final Fantasy for me, and, frankly, a linear structure does little to sway me from loving every part of the ride. I can get behind a great linear game from time to time, and Final Fantasy XIII is certainly one of my favorite on-rail games, just behind Final Fantasy X and Tales of Xillia. What a game, and my current fourth favorite mainline Final Fantasy.

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