Final Fantasy XIII Review: 100+ Hours And I Still Want The Platinum Trophy

Posted: 01/20/2013 in Video Game Reviews
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By Keith Crandell


I’m going to be upfront about this: Final Fantasy XIII is by no means the best game in the Final Fantasy series. It’s not even close. It’s a solid title, with varying strengths and weaknesses, and is not “garbage” or “an abomination to the greatest series of all time” as I’ve seen a few people put it. Final Fantasy reached the western audience in early 2010, and its main protagonist, a strong woman named Lightning, was intended by director Motomu Toriyama to be reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife. Little did he know that not only was she indeed reminiscent of Cloud, but that Final Fantasy XIII would face a similar degree of controversy from the Final Fantasy fandom.

The cast of Final Fantasy XIII. From left to right: Sazh Katzroy, Snow Villiers, Hope Estheim, Lighting, Fang, and Vanille

Final Fantasy XIII’s world is probably the most futuristic/sci-fi based of any game in the series. Lightning, and her friends Snow, Hope, Vanille, Sazh, and Fang (what the team was thinking when they named this crew, I have no idea) as they fight to save themselves from arguably the cruelest fate in any game in the series. The world of Pulse, a large, wild and dangerous land, and Cocoon, a more civilized and technologically advanced planet of safety has waged war against one another for centuries. No one is fully sure why, but the inhabitants know to fear Pulse, and everything related to it. Great god-like beings known as fal’Cie, which have vast magical powers work together to allow the humans on Cocoon to live peaceful lives, can also turn humans into creatures known as l’Cie. l’Cie are capable of utilizing magic, and are generally feared by everyone, regardless if they are Cocoon l’Cie, or Pulse l’Cie. Needless to say, Lightning and her friends, as well as a few loved ones, end up as l’Cie on either side of the battle, and are hunted by the government which runs Cocoon.

Oh, and here’s the kicker. Every l’Cie has a mission called a Focus. The Focus can be any number of things, but for this bunch of misfits, their Focus is to become strong enough to turn into the creature known as Ragnarok, a being whose sole purpose is to destroy Cocoon. So that means the crew can just not do it right? Wrong, though not dead wrong. If the l’Cie fail to complete their Focus, they turn into Cie’th. Cie’th are cursed beings and deformed monsters that roam endlessly until they are killed in battle. Becoming a Cie’th is a fate worse than death. But is it worth destroying the world in which you were born and love to avoid this fate? Completing a Focus grants the l’Cie everlasting life, or so the legends say, but the l’Cie are crystallized and live forever. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and this is, to me, one of the most tragic situations in the series, and a complex subject to ponder in real life too.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let’s move on to what should be the bread and butter of a video game: the gameplay! As per the norm of the series, the Active Time Battle (ATB) System has been changed again. Instead of waiting around to execute one attack, magic, or item like in previous games, players can throw numerous attacks together at the same time. This time around there are slots on the ATB system, and each action uses a certain amount. Want to do a group attack, a few magical attacks, and then heal using a potion, all in one turn? Go right ahead, and while you’re at it, summon a controllable Eidolon while you’re at it!


One of the toughest opponents in the game. It requires a lot of strategy to go in and kill them, but the effort is well rewarded.

Characters in Final Fantasy XIII level up using the Crystarium, a leveling system similar to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. There are six crystals, one for each Paradigm (more on this later), and each crystal has ten levels in it. Each level can provide stat boosts to health, strength or magic, and some can unlock new abilities as well. Level grinding is not necessary in Final Fantasy XIII (at least until you hit the brick wall that is the difficulty spike in Chapter 11) because the levels in the Crystarium open up as the story is progressed through. This system does not provide as much freedom as Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid, but then again, neither does this game as a whole.

Instead of the regular class system of old, Final Fantasy XIII features Paradigms. There are six in total, and resemble old classes. The Commando Paradigm resembles the Warrior class, Ravager, similar to a Black Mage, and the Medic Paradigm represents White Mages, to name a few. The player must balance these classes not only to survive battles, but to build up a foe’s chain counter. Each starts at 100%, and each attack makes that meter to go up, until it hits a Stagger State, in which the foe has trouble fighting back and the player can deal incredible amounts of damage. Each Paradigm affects the chain counter differently; the Commando makes it go up in tiny percentages, but the chain depletes much more slowly than if the enemy were attacked by the Ravager, which can string together attacks to quickly increase the chain counter, but it goes back down very quickly. This system is one of the more interesting battle systems in the series, and takes some time getting used to. The main drawback of it is that the player can only control one character in battle, and the other two are controlled by the game’s AI, which isn’t always a good thing.

The game is also extremely linear. It’s best described as a corridor for the first ten chapters, but then it massively opens up in the eleventh, and the difficult spike is reminiscent of getting kicked in the nuts. Repeatedly. For hours. Until you finally decide to buy a cup. Why did it take you this long? Idiot. But all kidding and childhood nightmares aside, the difficulty spike is absurd. But once the game opens up in Chapter 11, you can finally do sidequests! But by sidequests, I mean you can only kill stuff for better items and equipment! Final Fantasy XIII does a horrible job of giving the player freedom, but on the plus side, it’s the most visually stunning game in the entire series, second to none. The voice acting and dialogue are hit or miss and none of the characters particularly stand out among the rest, and the music isn’t particularly fantastic due to the departure of Nobuo Uematsu from Square Enix, but it isn’t bad by any means.

Final Fantasy XIII looks visually fantastic overall, but there are some scenes that are simply jaw dropping.

Wrap Up

Final Fantasy XIII is a solid game, and can be played on either the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, but runs better, looks prettier, and only has one disc on the Playstation 3.

+ An awesome premise

+ Visually stunning

+ Interesting new battle system

– Lack of freedom

– Many interesting ideas didn’t pan out in the end

– Hope

– Vanille

Score: 8/10

Keith Crandell Jr. is a Political Science major at Slippery Rock University, and believes that comedy can be found in just about anything. His favorite Playstation 3 game is Flower, and he has 30 Platinum Trophies (much to the disappointment of his mother). Follow his insanity on Twitter @kmcrandelljr and continue to read his reviews at so he can do more awesome things like this!

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