I'm about ten hours into Final Fantasy XIII and a few things have struck me about the game so far. Some mild spoilers ahead:
Would You Like to Know More?
Could FFXIII have the longest tutorial in gaming history? Considering I was still getting tutorial menus at around the eight-hour mark, I can't come up with a longer one off the top of my head. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--combat, which starts out as a prettily animated excuse to press the X button--quickly amps things up once you start exploring the paradigm system. Combat came alive for me at around the 10-hour mark, in the boss battle with the Aster Protoflorian--it took me longer to defeat that mutant flower/snail thing than it probably should have but it was the first real glimpse of the power and flexibility of paradigm combat.
The game's unyielding linearity continues to surprise me. That linearity serves the game's mega-extended tutorial well and, from what I understand, it continues well into the game's narrative, only opening up near the end. That's a far cry from the Final Fantasy entries of old; and it precluded me from engaging in the ritual I've engaged in with every FF game up to now: buying the strategy guide along with the game and then proceeding to unlock every item of the game while flipping through the guide page-by-page. Without a guide this time around, there might be the occasional FFXIII nook and cranny I'm missing, but I can't imagine it being that important.
Where There's Hope...
Unlike in previous Final Fantasy games, I don't have strong feelings for any of the characters in XIII. Unlike in FFX, for example, where I liked Yuna and Tidus the moment I saw them; or FFIX, where Vivi's unrelenting cutesiness rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go, I'm not sure I've formed an opinion about anyone in XIII yet. Even Hope and Vanille--two characters who seem to inspire most of the fan ire--haven't gotten on my nerves yet. Vanille can be irritatingly upbeat, of course, but, in the early goings, I think the pairing of her with Sazh makes for some nice moments. And Hope, a character I was sure I would loathe, has had a pretty interesting arc so far, as he tries to cope with his personal loss and what his desire for revenge means to him.
All of that said, I'm still no fan of Hope's haircut, as I've discussed elsewhere. Earlier today I figured out why Hope's 'do is so excruciating to me: it's the exact same cut every woman in the civilized world was wearing circa 2001. Consider:
TLC's Paige Davis
Then again, Hope wasn't the first to rock this style:
Halle Berry, circa 2001:
I will now get on my knees and pray that Final Fantasy's developers never gets wind of Kate Gosselin, else your next Final Fantasy hero might look like this: