Gut Reactions -- Final Fantasy XIII

GameSpot editors give their early thoughts on the retail Japanese version of Final Fantasy XIII.

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The PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII has already been released in Japan (North America has to wait for its version to hit the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March). As such, a few of the GameSpot editors dove right into the import and played a little over an hour to get a quick taste of what the latest in the long-running role-playing game series has to offer.

Ricardo Torres | Editor in Chief

After having seen the game teased for what feels like the past 20 years, I almost started to take the cinematics for granted. In some ways, it's easy to expect the CG visuals in a Final Fantasy to be shiny and slick. Square Enix's certainly been setting the standard for in-game cinematics since Final Fantasy VII first stunned everybody with its--at the time--amazing visuals on the original PlayStation. FFXIII feels like a new high benchmark for Square Enix; combining art direction with HD resolution is a really good fit and shows how far the FF team has come. The new secret sauce I'm a big fan of is the smooth transitioning between cinematics and gameplay.

That particular bit of pacing has always been a challenge in the FF series because cinematics have figured more prominently in the gameplay experience. While the cinematics have always been gorgeous, there have certainly been times when the balance has been off enough to affect pacing. From what I've seen, XIII seems to be finding the right mix of dazzling cinematics that segue into gameplay smoothly. The only wish I have right now is a bit more variety in the storytelling because I'm starting to lose track of how many FF's start in progress with trains involved. I could also do with a touch less eccentricity. I know it's a hallmark, but I've always thought the FF mix of high drama and goofiness to be an awkward fit--really? A dude with a chocobo in his 'fro? But these are just minor gripes. It looks pretty cool to roam around in FFXIII's world.

Brian Ekberg | Senior Editor

I'll leave matters of gameplay, story context, and character development to my esteemed fellow editors, who probably know much more about Final Fantasy XIII than me. Instead, let me focus on something else I have absolutely zero expertise in: the characters' hairstyles. We've all seen the crazy coifs of previous FF games--many of which have inspired cosplayers the world over--and it's clear that the character designers have pushed the follicular boundaries with FFXIII. Here are some highlights:

Lighting--First of all, I love the pink--nothing says ex-military like long, pink strands. Take that Cocoon appearance regulations! Plus, she might be all business once she busts out her blaze edge, but that asymmetrical mix of half-up, half-down suggests a playful minx once the bad guys are down.

Snow Villiers--With that black bandana pulled down low covering most of his long, blonde hair, Snow is a sharp departure from the typical Final Fantasy protagonists and their legendary need of hairspray. Looking at him, it's tough not to get a Triple H vibe off of Snow, as he smirks at the thought of another fight. The fact that he chooses to fight huge mechanical robo-monsters with only his gloved fists might also have something to do with it.

Sazh Katzroy--This dude has a chocobo chick living in his hair. Get your ass to Supercuts!

Hope Estheim--You could forgive Hope for being a sour little brat. After all, his mom dies in the first hour of the game, he's got that big lug Snow bossing him around, and the world around him has been plunged in chaos. But it's that oh-so-1997-Cloud Strife 'do that's the real crime here. If this little punk is heading down the road to manhood, here's hoping the first step is a buzz cut and some push-ups.

Yes, I suppose there's more to Final Fantasy XIII than the hairstyles, but right now, I'm still wondering if Sazh has a special comb for putting up with all the chocobo crap.

Giancarlo Varanini | Editor-at-Large

The one thing that immediately strikes me about Final Fantasy XIII is how the battle system--or just combat in general--is a mixture of old and new. First, it's nice that there don't appear to be any random battles in the traditional sense--all battles start when you run toward the enemies in front of you or if they spot and run toward you. When a battle does start, it transitions into a separate battle sequence not unlike the Final Fantasy games pre-Final Fantasy XII, which is a little jarring at first, but it's worth mentioning that the transition into the actual battle sequence is pretty short. Once in the battle, you see some familiar elements of previous games in the series. Namely, you'll see the active time battle system that blends real-time and turn-based elements together. In the first few battles, this doesn't seem like a particularly huge departure from older games in the series, but as you go further into the game, you start to see some of the more strategic elements involved, particularly the method of stacking attacks and using various combinations to take out a single enemy quickly. I'll be interested to see how much further it develops later on in the game and how the support roles of other characters in your party can change.

As a side note, battles in FFXIII look excellent and the game does a really good job of making even the most mundane things seem lively. In fact, if you didn't know any better, you might assume that the battle portions of Final Fantasy XIII are from an action game as opposed to a turn-based role-playing game. This is due in large part to the tighter camera shots--there's always so much going on and so many little details.

Sophia Tong | Associate Editor

It's finally out in Japan, and there's only three months left before I get a chance to play it from start to finish in English. After playing and watching the demo multiple times, it's nice to see the first hour (again in Japanese) but with fewer glitches, as well as more seamless transitions between combat and cutscenes. The demo was essentially the first part of the game, allowing you to play as Lightning and then Snow. Some tweaks have been made, such as easier combat this time around, and even characters have been added to further flush out the story. Everything looks fantastic so far, and even though I'm not entirely sure what's really going on yet, I'm excited to see what happens, as well as what kind of skills, combos, and summons you can use later in the game. It didn't seem like we could do much except attack and toss grenades at this point, but at least the characters looked good doing it.

Discussion

452 comments
Kori-san
Kori-san

Well...if you loved Hope's hair your gonna love the hair style Prince Noctis sports in FF13 Versus. THE SAME THIIIIIING!!!!

toasty1979
toasty1979

I've seen a PS3 magazine gave FF13 only 70%? concerning...

capncool
capncool

I AM ASKING THIS IN HOPES THAT THE FANBOYS DONT TEAR THIS APART! I was just wondering if anyone knows how the 360 version is supposed to compare to the PS3 in terms of quality? I heard from a friend that the gameplay and what you will be doing in the game are exactly the same but that there will be noticable differences in the videos, voice-overs, etc..... Does anyone have any UNBIASED info on this?? I do not yet own a PS3, but will be getting one soon. I own a 360, Wii, Ps2, DS and just about every other game system EVER made with the exception of TTI machines back in the early 90's AND LOVE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM PERIOD!!!!!! So Im not trying to bash the 360 at all! Just interested in opinions about what anyone else thinks on the subject! Is there really going to be that big of a difference? Or perhaps my friend is full of @(&* and he doesn't know what he's talking about! Just curious!

michel6
michel6

#Dorian20063 physics in a Final Fantasy game? Go play Crysis, dude.

bksras17
bksras17

Brian Ekberg: THANKS FOR THE SPOILER!!! THANKS FOR THE ADVANCE WARNING!!!!!!!!!!! CHECK YOUR SH*T NEXT TIME BEFORE POSTING...YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE A SENIOR "EDITOR"

Dorian20063
Dorian20063

FF XIII Looks awesome, and I really DO want to play it, but I guess I'll need to be the one to create THE best Action/RPG of all time. It needs to have the 3rd person viewpoint, physics, and fighting style from Legend of Zelda OoT, and throw in some timed button-pushing elements from Legend of DRAGOON, FINALLY some hand to hand combat (karate?) as well as a pet dragon (or griffon?) to train, raise, and ride on every once in a while during some battles.

TruthBeHeard
TruthBeHeard

No other Final Fantasy to this day can class Final Fantasy 8. So what, you got Cloud, some materia, and a really played out story line? Who cares. I've got Odin, Junction, draw points, and let's not forget about the Gunblade and Triple Triad Card game. Yeah Final Fantasy 9 was cool, Final Fantasy 10 was not bad, Final Fantasy 12 was something new, kept its cool. Now I look at Final Fantasy 13 and they take out some things we Final Fantasy fans enjoy the most. I feel robbed, neglected, and disgusted that I had to wait so long for this. Nonetheless, I'll give it a whack. "Can't touch this.." M.C. Hammer

Whistle_Pig
Whistle_Pig

@Rinoa_Bunansa Preach it! FF8 was the bomb.

Rinoa_Bunansa
Rinoa_Bunansa

Well lalegend102, as far as I know the first FF game produced by Enix was Final Fantasy 9, maybe that's why it's such an odd game- okay storyline though- will never beat FF8!

Joolsy
Joolsy

I was always gonna buy this from the moment it was anounced (same for versus/agito & XIV I guess) but I'm a little disappointed to hear just how linear XIII is and I'm still not entirely sure about the return to the ATB either. I don't know about you but it seems to me that all those lush battle animations are mostly wasted as your eye needs to be constantly on the combat menus???

FateAwa1t5
FateAwa1t5

I'm probably gonna buy this coz I still live in hope that SquareEnix actually might make a decent FF game, but after IX they've all been camp colourful full of nonsense crap. I'm actually looking more forward to Versus XIII.

krytorii
krytorii

Of course square want your money, and yes the series has changed, but you cant argue that square isnt producing a high quality. If they wanted, they could have produced maybe 3 main FFs in the time it took them to do this if they had done something similar to CoD and released several games running on the same game engine with the same basic mechanics.

solidine
solidine

@mack10 I would suggest checking out Chrono Trigger and Xenogears if you haven't. They're two of my personal favorite JRPG's, and are all around great games. Anyway, see you around.

mack10
mack10

@solidine: Maybe you just outgrew them? lost interest? not to say anything is wrong with that. With me its kind of weird really...first of all I lost my virginity of the FF series to FFX, so I came in late, but I've played almost every FF game made since my initiation. Ask me to play another JRPG or RPG in general and apart from a very select few, I would have to say, "no." I don't know what it is -- i love FF, and i pretty much have RPGs or cannot stand anything that isn't FF and i'm sure its a mental thing but i don't know what it is. Anyway my point is people can have different tastes (in my case a little weird), change their opinion of a game/series, and so on. I hated FPS games at one point because I thought they keep pumping out these mediocre FPS games and none even grab hold of me for very long, if at all...but lately many good FPS games are being released and I have a few preferences. Anyway great talking with you and the other guys that joined in on the convo. Hope to see you guys around more often.

solidine
solidine

@mack10 I didn't play much of 12, so I have to omit any opinions of it. Anyway the stories, as I said, were what kept me coming back, not the gameplay. I always enjoyed the old JRPG formula, but it's the setting, story and characters that determine wether or not I will like a game. There are exceptions, but that's usually the case. FF used to be a leader for well crafted worlds. I loved the Medieval/Fantasy/ Sci Fi/ Steampunk elements of the older games, and I loved the stories Square crafted within them. This started to change at 7 though. The focus was switched from making unique, quality plots to being epic blockbusters. I do love FF7. It was a great game, but after that things got weird. The story in 8 was all over the place and the gameplay took a hit by being needlessly complicated. 9 was a throwback and I loved it. 10 was the end result of what was started with 7. The devs seemed to have a "bigger is better" mentality and tried so hard to make blockbuster that it missed the point. It wasn't all bad, but the game just felt like a bunch of makshift pieces glued into a rickity whole. This is to me what the entire series has become. The standard anime look, the generic characters, the giant, great looking, but soulfully lacking worlds, and stories that don't have focus. Some will always be loyal to the series, but I have to see a game that will blow me away the same way classics like FF6, Chrono Trigger or Xenogears did.

kremo5le
kremo5le

Excellent videos guys! This game will definitely be a must have. Moreover, I bet your Japanese is pretty good to be able to play for so long!

ToRNiO
ToRNiO

Regardless, every FF fan will be buying this game. Personally i can't wait. It's been a long time for me... And i'm hoping this one can top the best in the series... VII... Can't wait.

GuJinglei
GuJinglei

Ive played the game of Japanese version from start to Chapter 11. What I have to say frankly dont overestimate it too much. If u like splendid CGs, It does well. Except that ull only get a fair game.

Megafuana
Megafuana

Lame JRPGS, wish they would just die...

Blood_Diamond
Blood_Diamond

lost intrest with final fantasy after IX oh well... let's hope we are lucky enough for a remake of VII *fingers crossed*

ferrustaurus
ferrustaurus

@ chooca you said quicky . . . heh heh . . . heh . . . heh . . . heh heh. Sorry that was childish :-(

chooca
chooca

Gamespot might wish to hire someone who actually could finish import games from start to finish, instead of doing these shallow quickies.

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

@mack10 i actually liked FF12 and FF9. LoL. it still puzzles me why people dont like them. i know they wasn't as could as the others, but they were good nonetheless. imho. despite SE starting to make more multi-games, exclusives for 360, and bringing FF series to 360(which i personally was heartbroken by..) i'm still a faithful fan of their work and look forward to future games they may make for PS3. =D

mack10
mack10

@solidine: I'm not arguing with you there; my initial argument with the other person was how he concluded and "was worried" that FFXIII would turn out as it did when FFXII is everything the series is known for. FFXII has all those elements you mentioned -- albeit tweaked, but again, this is due to technological advances. Sure you don't get to control the airship but you cannot argue with me on the scale of FFXII which was huge and provided great settings to explore. The game had the quests, the vintage experience points system, the massive world, the summons, the airships, the great story (this may be subject to argument but lets get real a lot of the pre-FFVII FF games didn't have very impressive stories, they were pretty good but nothing great, FFXII ventured outside the typical story arch we expect from FF games and into a political setting and i think it did a pretty damn good job). So my point was that FFXII shouldn't have given anyone any worry on FFXIII turning out linear and more streamlined because it entailed neither of those qualities. This said, its unfortunate that FFXIII is linear but what i love most about the FF series is that a manages to bring me back with each installment no matter what. Not because i'm blind and i don't see how certain games can be better but because i can take the best of each title and honestly say i loved it because the best is truly the best.

ebookerd1
ebookerd1

Flame War! Flame War! Flame War!

solidine
solidine

@mack10 Yes money is the bottom line everywhere, but some developers are still willing to do things that may not sell well. Heavy Rain is an example of a developer making his vision rather than the "latest greatest." Anyway, while the most basic FF elements are still there in some form, this isn't just a new coat of paint. This is replacing the engine, the interior and the design of the game. It's like Pimp my game. The end result is almost unrecognisable from the older titles, even with shared similarities. You mentioned the lack of a world map and airships before and trivialized it. The world map and the various means of travering it always gave the games a sense of scale. There was a feeling of adventure when finding the next town or dungeon. That's simply not there when you remove those elements. The game feels much more streamlined, as it is. The settings and stories were what really kept me coming back to the series. Now they feel like they're trying to be epic, rather than be good or original. Think mainstream movie versus art house flick. The series is now the former. The generic stock attitudes for the characters are a good example of what I mean. It's another attempt to be epic yet simple for an audience that thinks epic means good. Are there similarities, sure. But there are enough differences to warrent saying the series has changed. You imply I'm wrong to think that, but I honestly feel the same way about you.

rpgisforme
rpgisforme

OMG seems like a millenia since I first saw the teaser for this game and I have been positively drooling ever since. The wait is killing me, but it definately looks like it will be well worth it. The game looks absolutely gorgeous. We all know the story is gonna be great. All FF's have amazing epic storylines .... this is gonna be amazing

mack10
mack10

@0rbytel: unfortunately, as much as i love 2K, everything they do is called marketing. There is nothing done by a company out of the "goodness of their heart". There is one guy, he calls the shots, and he's a businessman (or businesswoman) and businessmen are worse than politicians (almost)...they care about nothing and no one but themselves.

0rbytel
0rbytel

@Mack10 2K is a pretty good example of a company that does things for it's fans out of the goodness of it's heart without the intention of seeing an instant return in money. Through their viral marketing and the somethinginthesea.com website, people who sent in letters were rewarded with everything from records to top quality splicer masks in the mail- all free of charge. Sure, it helps with their marketing, but they have held several events and get-to-gethers just for fans with freebees for all. 2k have the right idea, and Bioshock 2 is going to be a hit not only because its a great game, but because they take care of their fans.

mack10
mack10

@solidine: I'm all for a debate bud and i guess my use of the word arrogant was kind of provocative but my intention wasn't a fight and i apologize on that regard. In response to your latest response, name me one company that does anything for its fans through the goodness of its heart; in other words, name me one company that isn't a "money-making machine". Truth me told, everyone and their mother is in love with making money and nothing else -- SE is dead center in the middle of it all as well -- but just because they're a "money-making machine" does not mean they don't put out good products. The only thing that has changed here is your taste but Final Fantasy has stayed true to itself with its signature highlights (I'm sure i don't need to name the cids, chocobos, etc.) and everything else in between. The only thing SE has done is change with the times; with newer technology and more power under their fingers they evolved a series into something much more technologically impressive keeping the roots the same -- if you can't see that, I can't say much to change your mind but please explain to me (and everyone) what is so different in FFXII compared to previous FF titles? maybe i'm missing something here.

solidine
solidine

@mack10 There's nothing arrogent about that statement. Just because the most basic structures of the game are the same, doesn't mean they, or everything else about it, hasn't changed enough to warrent calling it a different entity. I'm not going to get into an argument with you. You response made it seem like you were looking to be right rather than looking for a debate, but I will say this: Like many games nowadays, the FF series has become a money-making machine. As a result, it tends to lean towards being a less unique and more for the masses game. The anime look and stock anime characters are a good example of that. FF is a big name, and is well supported, so it can change with sequels and still sell. Normally I'd say this is good, but it's appealing to a different demoghraphic now than it used to. Some fans have gone with it, some have left. I've left. Taste changing is part of it, but I'd still come back if they made something that didn't look like it was made as a "dollars first" product, wether that was the intention or not.

Sampawende
Sampawende

I guess, Final Fantasy series is changing. This Final Fantasy is gorgeous and very well done, but I would lie if i say that i don't miss the old fashioned gameplay with a worldmap, sidequests and all those stuffs. To me, it's a whole new spirit and the old one which IMHO charaterize the most my image of an RPG can't be found in FF anymore because (and it's absolutely normal) the FF series has now the duty to please everyone. Just like someone said : When you don't like it, do it....

Vodoo
Vodoo

The Xbox has the option to install the game to the hdd. I wonder if we'll be able to install the whole thing so we don't have to switch disks? Forza 3 did that, letting you install everything at once.

Mofo502
Mofo502

Looking forward to this. It's been a long wait and both console owners should be happy!can we stop with the console bashing for gad sakes!?!?!?!

0rbytel
0rbytel

Apologies if there is no install, my speculation was merely derived from previous interviews etc I had read such as Yoshinori Kitase's statement http://www.tomsguide.com/us/playstation-ps3-final-fantasy-13,news-3730.html According to Square Enix, there will be little if any difference between the two versions, stating : "that the audio and video on the Xbox 360 version will be compressed to fit on DVD, while the PS3 version will remain uncompressed and ship on a dual-layer Blu-Ray disc." (From Japanese magazine Famitsu) So, basically what I stated below, minus the PS3 install which I assumed may happen due to the producer stating so. All in all, I doubt there will be any noticable difference at all, at least not in content.

gunshin82
gunshin82

I've been playing this game for the last week or so (on and off) and it's well worth the import cost!!! Graphics are magnificent... normal, it's Square!!! Can't wait for the EU version so that I can finally understand the details of the story/plot. This baby is a sure bet for any RPG fan.

shatteredhaze
shatteredhaze

@Koi-Neon-X: You're right mate! I have done the Jap version on my PS3, its awesome. (Don't get me wrong, I also owned a 360). And it really doesn't matter if its a 360 or PS3 or what so ever, this is FFXIII, everybody should be bloody damn happy that players can enjoy it on both consoles now. Isn't it?

Koi-Neon-X
Koi-Neon-X

Can't we all just be happy that both PS3 and XBOX360 owners get to play an awesome game?! isn't that what it's all about?!

Plus1Attack
Plus1Attack

@DaMachinator: Yes, I was obviously trying to focus on a plot of PS3 fanboys to destroy the 360 owners and deprive us of a good time. That's why I focused on talking about wanting to have fun with this game and how everyone else should not be pissed that I am. In fact, that is also why I think that the 360 is the ultimate console because I obviously stated that in my comments. Good job DaMachinator, you have seen through my disguise and proved me to be just a fanboy doing the exact and complete opposite of what my entire post was about. If you didn't catch it, that was all sarcasm.

mack10
mack10

@solidine: if you're too arrogant to see that with improving technology things would stay the same then i cannot help you but from a general point of view, FFXII is as much Final Fantasy as FF1 to FF9 are, and yes I've played all of them. What is so different? the exploration is there, the quests, the experience levelling up system, the good storytelling (sure this is subject to preference), etc. etc. etc. Just because you think there should be an overworld map (which is really just a by product of how much a console can handle, which wasn't much at the time compared to now) and controllable airships doesn't mean the new FF games aren't as good or even better than previous ones.

DaMachinator
DaMachinator

@Plus1Attack Where are you coming from? I see 2 pages worth of relevant Final Fantasy speculation and you think we're busy conniving a conspiracy to destroy 360 owners. Honestly, who is the one thinking their console is the god-given console of the world? Maybe YOU should be doing some research into the people before YOU start commenting on this page. In response and more on topic, given it's not your fault for your discs only capable of holding 7.8 gigs per disk, requiring 4 disks along with extra time spent cutting out several audio/video features and compression whereas the Blu-ray disk can hold up to 100 individually. That's what PS3 players griped (past tense) about.

solidine
solidine

@mack10 Go play any FF game from one to 9, then play 12, and tell me they have anything but the name and the fact that Japanese developers made them in common.

Plus1Attack
Plus1Attack

@ALL PLAYSTATION 3 PLAYERS: So I understand and comprehend that the Playstation is a more powerful system than the Xbox 360. I am also aware the how much of a difference there will be graphically when the game comes out state side. If you would stop thinking the Playstation 3 is the god-given console of the world, maybe you'd realize the only difference the 360 version will have at release is a graphical difference and frame rate issues at most! I'm sick and tired of everyone flaming on 360 owners who would enjoy the game just as much as you. Please for the sake of all that is holy, realize that the 360 market doesn't have the luxery of JRPG's like the PS3 market does. We have mistwalker studios which is making some great titles but that's it - all Square Enix 360 exclusives suck. Final Fantasy is a terrific franchise which should be available to all audiences not subjugated to a single fanboy group. Please just realize that, so maybe the industry could move further in the right direction.

mack10
mack10

@BoredGames: oh really? lol, this is the 13th numbered game in the series and if i remember correctly the 12th game in the series had everything you just mentioned so somehow you concluded (or "thought") that this is exactly what would happen? may I ask, based on what exactly have you come to your conclusion that "FF ain't FF anymore"? This said, FFXII was my favorite in the series, so it would be disappointing if there wasn't that exploration aspect and if the game is indeed linear -- but -- since I've loved something about every FF game, i will most likely overlook any minuscule annoyances people may have with this game (such as linearity) and will most likely love it (FFX-2 was awesome despite its linearity and bad story, FFX touche minus the bad story).

BoredGames
BoredGames

No world map to give the impression of a er WORLD, no towns to explore, pixie-teen characters... oh brother exactly what I was expecting. Time to move on to something else, FF ain't FF anymore.

AcidBlood83
AcidBlood83

@ 0rbytel: "and the PS3 version requiring a hefty install". Actually, no, there is no install, not even an option for one, and it doesn't really need one either as there is only a 7-10 sec load screen at the start and the rest is all surprisingly smooth, taking 1-2 secs for large transitions (CG to in game, or between major areas) and the rest is pretty much seamless (there is a half second or so of loading, but it's covered pretty well by a fade effect). @UnknownRandom: "I liked it in FF12 when you could see ALL the enemies before taking them on.". It's kind of a mix of both, as in, yes, you enter a 'battle screen' like most other FF games, but you can also see ALL enemies in the world like FF12, and thus you can avoid them (provided they aren't blocking your path), and sneak up on them for a pre-emptive strike (puts all enemies break meters at breaking point and you start with a full action bar), the only things you can't do is run through enemies and pull individual mobs (they're in pre-set groups).