A Fresh Look at the Classic Final Fantasy XIII Part Two

Previously on my Fresh Look column, I wrote about how I had started playing the much-maligned Final Fantasy XIII all over again. Well, here are my new thoughts on it as I have finally reached the final boss…and have started grinding because I always feel I am too under-leveled in every JRPG that I play. So, technically I am not quite finished with the title, but right on the cusp.

So, in Final Fantasy XIII I am back on Gran Pulse doing the Cie’th missions so I can get some of that sweet special gear. While roaming the land on a giant Chocobo, I had an interesting thought. If this game was not a Final Fantasy title people probably would have loved it, and it would not have been controversial at all. Save State columnist Vincent Mahoney and I talked about how this was from the era where some people were claiming that JRPGs were bad. There were few mainstream success stories and mostly just cult classics, and there wasn’t a JRPG that really stuck with or made it big with large numbers of players.

After playing Tales of Arise to completion (almost), I find myself enjoying the Final Fantasy XIII story a lot more than when I originally tried it several years ago. Tales really just faceplanted on the ending and the big reveal completely made the story’s original tone irrelevant, but it was good overall. Sure, in Final Fantasy XIII, I’m having an issue with the difficulty curve where I can beat an A rank hunt but get steamrolled on a B rank hunt, but I don’t feel frustrated. One interesting feature I enjoy is that no matter what party I want to use, I can still win.

Once you get down to Gran Pulse, which is the planet in Final Fantasy XIII if you don’t remember, then there is a lot of content that is easy to miss. And there are even entire areas that are unlocked through hunts. Even the Chocobos are not guaranteed. It is a slight tonal shift because it felt like the rest of the game made sure you didn’t miss anything. I think Final Fantasy XIII was created about the time when RPGs wanted to be more about the spectacle and the cinematic effects than overly involved gameplay. Look at every subsequent mainline Final Fantasy title after XIII, and you will see this as well although perhaps to a lesser degree.

I do find it funny when people at that time (myself included) said that Final Fantasy XIII played itself. It literally followed Final Fantasy XII where you could win boss battles without touching the controller and was nothing like that. I think when it comes to titles like Final Fantasy XIII, it fell into the “it’s not” trap.

What is this trap you ask? Well, there are different variations. From old frumpy people like me you hear “it’s not like the Final Fantasy games I grew up with, so I don’t like it.” These are the same people (again, including me) that complain we want a turn based mainline title again. Sometimes when you have been with a hobby for a long time, especially in anything involving a form of art, there comes a point where your tastes stagnate. I feel this is more prevalent in video games because the media keeps evolving so drastically.

The other variation is “it’s not like the (insert generation defining game) so I don’t like it.” For Final Fantasy, that game is Final Fantasy X. Sure, it was good and made great strides in the JRPG genre, and it was also a watershed moment for gaming. For many people, however, that was their first Final Fantasy title. When your first exposure to a series is at a generation-defining level, everything else that comes afterward feels substandard by comparison.

Then there are people who will make both statements at the same time, but we are not getting into that this time. It’s too much to unpack.

So, where was I going with this long rant about gaming culture? Well, Final Fantasy XIII is better than people treated it. Having gone back and played it again after several years had passed, it seemed unique and new again. I can say that I really enjoyed it. In fact, I would love to see Final Fantasy XIII get a remaster or even a remake.

That’s it for now. Have no fear, I will eventually get around to beating that last boss, but until then I’m just enjoying my time with this classic but often maligned title. If you are looking for something entertaining to do in your free time, I might suggest trying some classic titles. For me, I’m really glad that I went back and played Final Fantasy XIII and didn’t let a lot of the naysayers continue to influence my choice of it.

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