Final Fantasy XIII review

  • Focused, streamlined action; no BS filler
  • Prettiest console graphics OF ALL TIME
  • Lots to explore on Pulse
  • Summons are kind of weak
  • Lightning is a boring character
  • First half may be too linear for some

It's hard to talk about Final Fantasy XIII without getting into a debate about what an RPG should or shouldn't be. With a series as beloved and long-running as Final Fantasy, combined with its history of reinventing itself (or at the very least, changing things up) with every major entry, it's understandable that a lot of nervous hopes ride on the first FF of the current gen. We all have our favorite game in the series (which we'd practically go to the death defending), so it makes sense that fan expectations for FFXIII vary widely too.

So it follows then, that since the Japanese release, fan reaction to certain aspects of FFXIII has been mixed. If you're reading this, you've probably already skimmed through many a kneejerk reaction forum post of rage that made you anxious to see the reality of the final product for yourself. So let's get right to it.

Yes, the first 25 hours of the game are totally linear

This is the main point that causing some otherwise sane people to lose their freaking gourds.

At the very beginning (the first few hours), we're talking 2D side-scroller levels of linearity. Walk forward, fight some dudes. Walk forward a few more steps and fight some more dudes. The path might curve a bit from time to time and have little offshoots that contain treasure chests, but that's the extent of it.

But listen, it's awesome – really! There's no need to fall into a pit of despair and fanboy rage just yet (unless you're an utterly unreasonable person, then by all means go ahead).

The Final Fantasy series has never truly given the player freedom in a role-playing sense, and every major plot point in each Final Fantasy story (FFXI excepted, obviously) has been 100% fixed. FFXIII simply takes it a step further, streamlining the formula into a more controlled, more focused experience (and in the end it's not wildly different than the structure of Final Fantasy X).

The upside to this structure is that the pacing is fantastic – from the first moments of the opening sequence, you really feel swept up in the story and action in a way that's completely unprecedented in a JRPG. There's no lengthy, tedious, expository opening cutscene where you watch the characters from afar and wait for the actual game to start. Instead, you're right there with Lightning and Sazh in the thick of the action as they throw themselves desperately into an us-against-world fight to survive.

The downside is that any pretense of freedom (i.e. the ability to diddle around exchanging pleasantries with NPCs and walking into strangers' houses) is completely gone. But considering that our protagonists are outlaws fighting for their lives against an all-powerful corrupt government, it makes perfect sense that they'd make a beeline for safety rather than leisurely exploring.

And other thing – FFXIII's controlled structure makes it such that no suspension of disbelief is needed for the sake of the gameplay. As in, absolutely everything you do makes sense in the context of the story. It makes sense that the first half of the game would be fairly linear – after all, you're inside a relatively tiny, hollowed-out moon-like satellite called Cocoon, which like its name suggests, fairly cozily houses its inhabitants. Wide-open spaces simply wouldn't fit.

Above: Cocoon hangs low in the sky, almost always visible on Pulse (also check out that huge Adamantoise)

Furthermore, Cocoon's cramped interior makes it all the more impactful when you do venture down to Gran Pulse, the lush green planet below. Where Cocoon was claustrophobic and linear, Pulse's Archylte Steppe is wide open, with more than enough area to explore.

Above: Don't worry, Chocobos are plentiful

So where are the towns?!

It's not so much that FFXIII doesn't have towns, but rather it doesn't have the usual JRPG structure of town-dungeon-town-dungeon-boss repeat. Oh, there are towns in FFXIII, the beautiful beach town of Bodhum and the abandoned, overgrown Oerba for example, but they're not RPG towns as such.

Not entirely dissimilar to real life, RPG towns have a threefold purpose: to provide respite from the dangerous outer world, to hide the NPC that will help progress your quest, and to provide various retail establishments for your shopping needs. The first two functions are made obsolete by the structure of the game.

Above: There are no random encounters, so you can avoid enemies whenever you'd like to avoid battle fatigue

FFXIII takes care of the last necessity by providing a wide selection of virtual shops available at every save point (which are mercifully plentiful, by the way). Virtual shops were a welcome change in Crisis Core, and again in FFXIII provide a streamlined, functional, time-saving solution.

And it's not like the shops are bland despite being reduced to menus – far from it. The shop menus (like all of FFXIII's menus) are lovely. Each shop has its own sounds, logos, and even punchy, consumerism-celebratory flavor text to describe each retailer ("At Unicorn Mart, your health is our business. Our expert pharmacists are standing by, day and night, to send you whatever you need, wherever you need it…")

Still miss those towns?

More Info

Release date: Mar 09 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Mar 09 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Franchise: Final Fantasy
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Suggestive Themes, Violence, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:


  • evelien-van-raaij - October 27, 2013 11:55 a.m.

    I'm currently playing FF13, but honestly, it's tough to get through... The story is so big, I don't even have time to read all the story stuff in the menu. I'd rather see all of that back in the game.. The characters at this moment are quiet boring, and because the characters themselves do not know which side to choose, it's boring to follow them. Everything looks nice, i agree, but I really miss it to play with all my characters as a normal RPG (like FF8 or 7 or even 10), now it's only the leader of the pack that you're able to act with. Currently i'm also really missing towns and other people to talk to. But hey, I'm going to continue the game and finish it ;) who knows, maybe i'll start to like it in the end.
  • kuntzee - May 19, 2013 2:28 p.m.

    i personally LOVE THIS GAME! amazing graphics. great storyline. great review. and seriously people need to start looking at it in general.people see literally 2 things wrong with a game and they just go ahead and say it sucks. if you are not one of these people god bless you :)
  • Xell1987 - May 19, 2013 4:41 a.m.

    pathetic liar. There is no Pulse. 5 stars for this game? Are you f****ing serious? This dude got paid by SE or he wouldnt see i good RPG if it hits him in the face. I feel malicious joy that FF13-2 did not sold as good as FF13 because many FF fans realised that a piece of shit FF13 was
  • Izzy_Fin - July 24, 2013 2:24 p.m.

    dumbass!! Pulse is the world underneath Cocoon!! the one with the huge map and the stone quests!! Ur F***in` stupid and dont call the reviewer a lier cause you don`t know the game cause U can`t get past chaepter fuckin` 7!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Uve got fuckin` no grammar fatass! U probably live with Ur fat mother all alone cause Ur pathetic!!
  • furankenshutain - February 2, 2011 11:53 p.m.

    2 b honest i like the review but i disagree bout lightning cuz i like her personality. i c myself in her so. other than that great review for a great game
  • kuntzee - May 19, 2013 2:23 p.m.

    i like people like you. other people bullshit around and look at little things that dont even matter.
  • itachithe7th - December 2, 2010 11:40 p.m.

    Its awesome i have completed it if your considering it GET IT
  • SCRubS77 - May 4, 2010 12:33 a.m.

    Just rented it, played the first 10 or so hours, and I love it! I need to buy it.
  • 1Bit - March 25, 2010 3:24 p.m.

    This game is fun. I love farming, maxing all my stats and then ripping a boss a new hole. The hunts are very challenging. I would have thrown this game out of the window if I was unable to start at the point of failure. Died so so many times. The battle system is as smooth as silk and very challenging. After 23 years of gaming this is my baby. Just a pity that the Chocobos did better voice acting than the Female voice behind Vanille.
  • ajknaack - March 16, 2010 10:29 p.m.

    what an incredibly biased review. seriously? a perfect score? squenix must have paid this guy or he got a different version than me. as i play it i feel like squenix's ego has taken on godlike proportions. Nice enough of them to let me ALMOST play their game though. If you'll excuse me now i have to go watch some cutscenes and push a single button repeatedly while this "perfect GAME" does everything for me.
  • linkganon - March 15, 2010 10:39 p.m.

    xbox 360 owners, ouch, 3 disks. ps3 owners only need one. well, you have to get off that couch twice to switch the disk while the ps3 owners sit back and play through the whole game on the same disk. i'd rather get the ps3 version because of that. multi disks are not what i like in my games, unless the extras are on another disk and the actual story mode is on a separate disk.
  • Fata1Stryke - March 9, 2010 3:36 a.m.

    I'm with powerpc, turn-based battles bother me. But the game looks so cool...I'll probably end up having to try it eventually...
  • Thanatos0013 - March 5, 2010 8:42 p.m.

    anyone wanna try doing a no crystarium use playthrough when this comes out? From what i've seen on the jp version it might be possible with some grinding. this guy did a pretty good job without grinding though.
  • Espir - March 5, 2010 8:28 p.m.

    i reserved this game and im dying for it to come out x_x
  • Spybreak8 - March 5, 2010 10:18 a.m.

    I was excited when they announced that FF would be coming to the 360, finally I can play the damn series. Eh I'm not a huge JRPG fan from the start though and all the design choices they've chosen here just make me glad I spent my hard earned money on Mass Effect 2. Great read though.
  • lewis42025 - March 5, 2010 9:18 a.m.

    wow! I definitely didn't expect a 10 outta gamesradar, but it sure is nice to be surprised. Argh, I still don't know if i should pick it up though! I mean I've always wanted to get into final fantasy, but...ah hell, I've got no reason to not get it, I'm just being skeptical despite this glowing review. I'll probably pick it up reCaptcha: chimeras development. That's a little creepy
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - March 5, 2010 4:06 a.m.

    so much text
  • GoldenMe - March 5, 2010 12:26 a.m.

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute. You think the characters in FFX were good? Tidus and Yuna was the biggist cliche I've ever seen in a FF game. But a great review, truly.
  • garnsr - March 4, 2010 10:04 p.m.

    Why are there so many more comments on the PS3 version than here? I don't remember ever seeing that happen on multi-platform games.
  • drako691 - March 4, 2010 10:03 p.m.

    @ powerpc127 i think FFXII had real time battle systems (it may have been XI though, not sure) XIII looks like a pretty great game, but i think im gonna pick up dissidia and crisis core first

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000