A Fresh Look at the Classic Final Fantasy XIII

I recently relocated to America’s Dairyland (Wisconsin), and all I was able to pack was what I could shove in my Hyundai Kona. One of the things I managed to fit in there was my old Xbox 360. But when I went to boot the system up, I found out the optical drive needed to be replaced. So, after lugging it all that way, it didn’t work.

But then I was able to get it fixed, and I just now got it back. Happy that I could relive some of the Xbox 360 glory days, I dug into my trunk of old games and quickly located the title that had earned so much of my admiration and gaming time back in the day – Final Fantasy XIII.  I figured I would take a Fresh Look for my column at this aging classic.

I know the game was sometimes lampooned by people, including some fellow columnists here at GiN at the time, but I have only good memories. But what if I was wrong? Sometimes going back and playing something a second time several years later is a not-so-great experience. I had a little time now that I was settled into cow country, so I wanted to find out.

So, this column will be part one of my revisit of this polarizing title.

The game starts out with a brilliant cut scene, and Lightning (my favorite character) is awesome as always. The tutorial was nice as it has been a while since I dealt with the unique paradigm system, which was a bit of an oddity. Every RPG fan from my high school days threw a tantrum about the linear levels of Final Fantasy XIII. Sure, I wasn’t able to explore large open worlds in it, but that doesn’t mean the story telling is bad. For example, for the most part Tales of Arise is linear and people love that game.

Over the course of the first two disks, I thoroughly enjoyed the general story and lore. I feel as though Final Fantasy XIII’s lore is underappreciated. It holds up much better than Final Fantasy VIII’s convoluted time travel mess and Final Fantasy XII’s poorly developed geopolitical drama. Sure, some of the characters (Hope Estheim) are a little annoying at times, but all in all I love the dynamics. The lore around the Fal’cie, L’cie, and the Maker provides really interesting world building. Overall, if you go into Final Fantasy XIII trying to enjoy it, I think you will find a great story.

The gameplay was pretty tight, and you can see how it would lead to the Final Fantasy XII Remake and the XV game. There are a few things that did annoy me, however, such as when the party leader goes down, it’s game over even though you have a medic with raise and numerous phoenix downs. Plus, only the active character can use their eidolons. So even though I could have Alexander or Bahamut on my team, since Lightning is my leader I can only use Odin.

I will also say the damage curve is a little wonky. The most recent story boss I fought was supposed to be a ten-minute fight, but I got through it in four. Then I went on a little cie’th hunt and got obliterated. I’m kind of just nitpicking at this point to be honest. I feel like I enjoyed this title more now than when I was younger. Would some design changes need to be made if there was a remake? Sure. But it’s still definitely worth a remaster.

While there is more to write, I want to save that for part two because I want to absorb everything in the game (and get to the end) before I give my final thoughts. I also want to experiment with things like the weapon upgrade system. While this is a short column this week, there will be much more to discuss next time.

And after I finish Final Fantasy XIII, I plan to move on to Final Fantasy XIII-2. So, we will see if it’s just nostalgia making me think this was a great part of the series, or if both of these Final Fantasy titles were actually really good. I am, of course, hoping that my memory was correct and that these are really good. So far, that seems to be the case, and I could not be happier.

Also, please remember to listen to the GiN Lounge podcast as Vincent Mahoney and I discuss different topics in gaming. On the most recent show, we talked about RPGs mostly, which actually got me thinking about going back and replaying Final Fantasy XIII again after several years. And if there are any classic RPGs that you all have replayed, feel free to share that experience.

Until next time, may all your hits be critical, and all your random loot drops be epic.

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