I can't be the only one who finds it odd that one of the longest running game series of all time is named Final Fantasy. I mean how could there be thirteen of something that is the final one? And could someone please explain to me how direct sequels like FFX-2 work? "Maybe, almost, but not quite actually the final fantasy” would be a better title for the series. Philosophical irony aside, Final Fantasy XIII is gearing up to take the series in an entirely new direction.
[image1]In this iteration, you'll venture to the world of Pulse and the city of Cocoon. It's run by these creatures who call themselves “fal'Cie”. When something drastic needs to be done, they put a magic mark on someone of greater purpose, turning that person into a l'Cie. Each l'Cie has a Focus, which is this game's version of a summon, which are called Eidolons. If the l'cie fails at their given task, they're turned into a monster called a Cie'th, but if they succeed, they're turned into a giant crystal. Caught (Square-ly) between a rock and a hard place, really.
You take on the role of Lightning, a girl whose sister has been turned into one of these flavor crystals. As she seeks to find a way to save her sibling, she becomes a fal'Cie herself and that sets her off on a journey around the magical world of Pulse. Along the way, she'll join up with more characters who have been forced into the worst sounding job ever, people like the John Shaft-looking Sazh who carries a baby Chocobo in his afro and the optimistic, pig-tailed Vanille.
The gameplay has changed a lot. First off, there are no more towns or dungeon-crawling. With XIII, they're delivering a more frantic, fast-paced experience. Unlike in XII, fights will take place on a battlefield separate from the more open-world environments. Everything has been streamlined in a sense, opting for a sense of speed and intensity in battles that's not quite as meticulous as those in the last two Final Fantasy titles, though they still require some serious thinking on your feet. If you take too long to contemplate moves, you're just gonna get your ass handed to you. You gotta lay that giant turtle-brontosaurus thing on its back before he turns you into lunch.
The battle system is a bit complex and hard to describe on paper. But the basic principle goes something like this: There are basic archetypes called “Roles”, which are like the job roles from Tactics. You and your party members can be assigned different Roles - medic, commando, ravager, sentinel, synergist, and sabotuer. As a shortcut, you can set your party's Roles as one of the “Paradigms” and switch freely between different Paradigms in battle to fight against specific kinds of enemies effectively .
[image2]You control only one member of your party in combat while the other two are controlled by A.I. and whatever command trees you've set up for them. Your own attacks are controlled through slots - a basic attack could cost you one slot while a fancy-pants spell might cost you two or three. As you play, you'll earn more slots and open up the ability to string more actions together in combat.
Leveling up is also not what it used to be. Instead of experience points, you'll earn crystal points, which you can then spend at the Crystarium. It should look familiar to anyone who played through FFX as it's very similar to the sphere grid, only this time it is the only form in which leveling up takes place and goes along with the idea of streamlining all the gameplay.
And of course it goes without saying that the game looks as gorgeous as ever. I mean, you can't change everything after all. It's all there, from the meticulously rendered cut-scenes, to the overly dramatic summons. Even if it's not going to play like the same old FF, it at least looks the part.
Final Fantasy XIII is taking some bold moves and making some serious changes in the way that folks view the series. Fortunately, you won't have to wait too long as it comes out for the PS3 and 360 on March 9th.