|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 9, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Unfortunately, the lack of flexibility within the level design affects more than just your ability to level up quickly. Because of the almost rail-like quality of the levels, Final Fantasy XIII lacks some of the special content that made its predecessors so memorable. Instead of exploring towns and talking to NPCs, you'll just wander down vast, tunnel-like areas, fighting enemies as they come. Although later levels do give you a bit more freedom, the majority of the game is spent just going forwards or backwards and exploring large rooms as they appear.
The linear structure of the game also limits the amount of side quests your character can take on. Getting 100% completion in previous Final Fantasy games was quite a tall order, but in Final Fantasy XIII, this feat will require little more than a few spare hours. This not only limits the value of the initial playthrough, but also any subsequent playthroughs.
Technically speaking, Final Fantasy XIII is quite sound. However, the Xbox 360 version is the lesser of the two. For starters, a game this big simply can't fit on one disc, so disc swapping is an issue. Second, the game was obviously made for PS3 and then retro-fitted for Xbox 360. Nearly every game listed on Xbox.com details the native resolution, but, conspicuously, the resolution entry is missing on the official site. We think it's because rather than supporting the 720p in-engine resolution and 1080p cutscene resolution of the PS3, the Xbox 360 version sports a lower res.
Still, most will be hard-pressed to find a substantial visual difference between the games; I would say the game is still a visual masterpiece despite the resolution foibles. Cinema scenes are beautifully rendered, with plenty of detail. The in-engine graphics don't have as much detail as the cutscenes, but they still look amazing.
The audio in the game is also of top quality. The soundtrack is composed by Masashi Hamauzu, who is best known for scoring the Chocobo's Dungeon series. Although the style is much more varied than series favorite Nobuo Uematsu, the same orchestral feel is there, and the game's main theme "My Hands" is expertly used throughout the game to much dramatic effect.
Final Fantasy XIII is an amazing game. With an engrossing story and a thrilling new battle system, this is one title you can't afford to miss as an RPG fan. However, though it succeeds on the most important fronts, there are some notable areas where the game could have been better. The linear level design is a fairly large stumbling block, and if you are used to open-world games, it can make the entire experience feel a little claustrophobic. In addition, the lack of side quests can make this title fall short of any 100+ hour expectations. Still, if you can get past these issues, you are in for a sumptuous, exhilarating adventure that is unlike anything else you've ever seen.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor