As I start this, I find myself sitting in a beanbag chair with a sack lunch by my side and a can of Elixir™ in my hand. In front of me is my recently acquired second-hand ceramic-white 80GB Playstation 3. Why am I sitting here? I wonder. Why did I finally bother to upgrade my hardware? Then the game loads, the opening scene starts up, and I'm not wondering anymore.
This is my first new Final Fantasy in a long while. I loved FFIX, was lukewarm over FFX, and completely skipped over the next two numbered entries in the series. This is also my very first PS3 title, so I'm enjoying the pretty graphics immensely.
Among my first thoughts is that we have some interesting parallels to previous games here. There's the sword-wielding ex-military, the knuckle-swinging revolutionary, and the gun-toting be-afro'ed almost-comic relief. They're riding a train into an underground area with the intent of assaulting a government installation. (Sound familiar?) The first arena of combat is a partially collapsed highway. (That sound familiar too?) The target seems to be an ancient, buried semi-deity of unknown agenda. (What about that?)
Fortunately for me, those thoughts all play second fiddle to the hold the game has on my attention. I can recognize them as homages to games past wihout worrying about it too much, because even in the first few minutes it's obvious that Final Fantasy XIII is very much its own experience.
At this point I've played about two hours of the game, and it's been fast and furious in terms of combat. It even clocks how long each battle takes as part of a ranking system, one- to five-star. There's very little wait time in this Active Time Battle system, nor do the enemies stand around while I decide what to do. At the moment I can either choose "Attack" and let my controlled character do whatever they think is best, or choose a specific series of actions for the next turn. The choices are pretty limited for the latter option, but I know they're going to pick up soon.
What takes some getting used to is how I only control the lead character, while the others do as directed by their individual AI. Some of the supporting characters have been good with things like healing, others not. A nice change is that the game borrows from the SaGa series and has the characters start every battle with full hit points. I'm not sure that my limited stock of potions would have lasted all the way through, otherwise. It also helps that potions affect all allies now.
"Oh damn, I think I just destroyed everything within a ten mile radius."
I'm experiencing the action from multiple viewpoints, as five different main characters in three different groups witness the fallout from the attempted raid first-hand. Unlike most games in the series FFXIII doesn't give the vibe of having a central protagonist, and all the scripting seems to have been done with an ensemble cast in mind. The three groups proceed on different paths that ultimately converge at a boss battle, followed by one big BOOM!
Oh damn, I think I just destroyed everything within a ten mile radius.
Unfortunately, I had to leave for work at this point. Fortunately, I hit an entr'acte save point just in time to do so. I'm taking all this down before I have another chance to play, so here's the rest of my thoughts:
Visuals and animation are superb, of course.
The music fits well with every situation so far, though there hasn't been anything that really stands out yet.
The font size used in this game is too small. I have a hard time making words out at times because of this. There's at least one commonly dropped item whose name I have yet to determine because I can't see the symbol clearly.
I have yet to find a way to zoom the camera out a bit, but I hope to do so soon. Panning the thing around has caused me a few annoyances so far.
And that's about all I have to say about the game so far. Now if you all would excuse me, I have a game to play...