[note: This retrospect is not entirely spoiler-free. Considering the game is almost two years old at the time of writing, I don't think it's much of a problem, though.]
I had mentioned in an earlier post I'd make it a goal to at least finish the storyline in Final Fantasy XIII before I had the cast off, and I did! Sunday marked the end of my triumphant adventures with Lightning and the gang as Pulse l'Cie fighting for the salvation of Cocoon (their world).
Needless to say, I do actually have a lot of "parting thoughts" on the game. I'm nowhere near finished, since it isn't possible to get 100% completion (anywhere near it) during the course of the main storyline, but now that I'm "endgame" I could raise a few questions/issues more confidently.
The fact that I needed to read an entry in the "extras" section of the game's guidebook just to understand what exactly the different entities in the game are, including l'Cie, the name given to the kind of being the heroes became in the beginning of the story, means the dialogue and explanations could have been better. It wasn't until towards the end of the story that I really had a grasp on some of it, and it was also not until almost the end cutscene when someone finally explained how the relationship between fal'Cie (the powerful beings that run the show, provide for the denizens of Cocoon, etc.) and l'Cie (chosen folk who are assigned a "Focus" by fal'Cie) worked.
Poor storytelling aside, it also irks me that there even is endgame in Final Fantasy XIII. It took me a while to realize that because all the main characters are impossibly available for play after the end of the storyline, "endgame" is actually some point before the last section of the game rather than continuing adventures beyond the final boss fight. I have no other explanation for it that would keep the game in continuity, so I have decided our heroes are apparently time travelers.
I didn't really have any other problems with the game in terms of story or mechanics. It took me a while to warm up to the battle style, but the beginning of the story mode prepares the player for that better than any quickie tutorial can. Now I can say I appreciate and understand it, though it's not the best system SquareEnix has ever come up with. I prefer the Gambit system from Final Fantasy XII as well as the ability to switch players in and out of battle, and full control of any character's behavior in battle at any time.
A lot of folks like to complain that FFXIII is "too linear." I would argue that all games with a beginning and an end are "linear," but I could see that it irritated some to have no choice but to press on in one direction throughout most of the main chunk. There were a few opportunities to deviate to side missions, but at the point they became available they were still a little too tough to bother. It isn't until after 42-50 hours of game play (when you've defeated the final boss) that it becomes an open world that you could survive in. In this, I agree with some criticism, but I also don't think it's as big a deal as was made of it. A lot of Final Fantasy games follow this same format, so there's nothing groundbreaking in the criticism.
I'm not going to mention the graphics and environments because it goes without saying that they're all gorgeous. Instead, my last points are on the characters themselves. When I first started playing (both times I started the game), the only character that seemed cool was Sahz. Lightning seemed way too deadpan and I was annoyed by Vanille, Hope and Snow. Once I got far enough to see some character development, I came to really love Lightning (Light for short) as a character. I loved Fang (such a badass!) and even grew to enjoy Vanille. The crew had a great dynamic together, and it made things more worthwhile.
The ending of the story impressed me, and I was also surprised to see the logo for FFXIII was actually a reference to the scene after the final boss. That's pretty wild, even though it's such a tragic (yet heartwarming) conclusion. As an end, it's strong and definitive in and of itself, so I'll be interested in playing the demo for FFXIII-2 next and checking that out.
Parting shot: Pluto plays games, too!:
[2012 game completions: 1]