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Friday, April 30, 2010

First Impressions: Final Fantasy XIII

My copy of Final Fantasy XIII arrived last night. Unfortunately, Thursday night is a big night for television at my place. I held out until about 11:30 before firing up the newest addition to the hallowed Final Fantasy series.

Starting Final Fantasy XIII so late at night meant that I didn't have much of a chance to play. I was already tired and I was very worried about getting too caught up in the game. But I did play just long enough to give some brief first impressions of the game.

First and foremost, Final Fantasy XIII looks amazing. There is not a single game out there that can beat these graphics. I would say that Uncharted 2 is on par with what you're apt to see in Final Fantasy XIII. However, FFXIII's colour palette is much more vibrant and alive. The game's art direction and living world are astounding - and I'm locked inside a dark and dirty war zone within the interior of Cocoon! I can't imagine how great things will look once I find a planet side. Screenshots and online videos do not do this game justice!

And though I've only played the first 20 minutes of the game (coupled with 25 minutes of reading the FFXIII's comprehensive datalog), I strongly believe that I'll really enjoy this game. I like the fact that the game is really easy at the beginning. Combat appears fast and frenetic on-screen but I'm given very few options for controlling the action. A simple choice between attacking, using an ability, or using an item is all I can do at this point in time. And you know what? I love it! I don't need a steep learning curve to enjoy the game. Ease me into tougher combat strategy while giving me great graphics and an epic story to savour along the way.

I love the stream-lining of gameplay that I'm noticing in Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning and Sazh both fully heal between battles. I can pause and skip cutscenes. Save points show up at rather frequent intervals. During my short session last night, I came across four save points! Finally, any single battle can be reset and started again from the beginning. This incredible feature will give me the opportunity to try out various strategies in combat and restart the battle from scratch if things don't go my way. I look forward to discovering Final Fantasy XIII's other UI and gameplay enhancements over the coming weeks.

In terms of characters and story, I've met three of Final Fantasy XIII's starring cast: Lighnting, Sazh, and Snow. Lightning is suitably gruff and cool under pressure. Sazh is the comic relief. And Snow is still an unknown at this time. I only just met Snow in a short cutscene before directing him towards the nearest save point and ending my game for the night. As for the game's epic storyline, I can't really comment at this time: I haven't spent enough time with FFXIII to discuss story.

Overall, I'm very impressed with Final Fantasy XIII. I love the feel of J-RPGs. There something a little more light-hearted and sincere about them when compared to the dark and gritty nature of Western-developed RPGs. Mass Effect and Fallout are great franchises but they are a different breed than the Final Fantasy series of games. And right now, I feel like playing a little Final Fantasy.

I'm going to try and put in a good deal of time with Final Fantasy XIII over the weekend. I'll be back next week to further expand upon these first impressions of the game.