Final Fantasy XIII
Release (JP): 12/17/2009
Released Worldwide: 3/9/2010
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer/Publisher: Square Enix
March 25, 2010: The game starts with a train full of exiles from prosperous Cocoon to the lower world of Pulse.
But one woman is determined to make sure that it doesn’t arrive.
The mysterious assailant is Lightning, formerly of Cocoon’s Sanctum Guardians.
A clumsy man named Sazh gets caught up in the mess, but he still helps Light along with his gunslinging.
Light is also looking for Pulse’s fal’Cie. The fal’Cie entity cursed her as one of its chose few – a “l’Cie”. The l’Cie are feared by the Sanctum, and will go to any lengths to oppress them.
On another side of the conflict lies NORA, a small organization that opposes the PSICOM, the Sanctum’s “peacekeeping” force. NORA’s leader, a big guy called Snow, picked up some civilians and a few joined the battle.
Among them was a brave, middle-aged woman. Her young teenage son protested, and did not join her. She probably wouldn’t have wanted him to.
Snow questioned her resolve. Her response was, “Moms are tough.”
She had his back, until an exploding enemy vehicle annihilated the freeway, causing it to bend at such a steep angle, people slid of it into the abyss below.
Snow precariously hung to a piece of the shattered freeway while keeping a hold on the boy’s mother in his other hand.
“Take care of him,” asked the mother, before she let go of Snow’s hand.
In a brief aside, Light told Sazh that the Sanctum never intended for the exiles to actually reach Pulse. They would have “disposed” of them one way or another. The fight that broke out was just a convenient excuse for the Sanctum to use, if they so chose.
Snow managed to reunite with the rest of NORA, while a young redheaded woman comforted the son of the woman who fell. Thankfully, Gadot, Lebreau, and other NORA members were able to save some of the people caught up in the massacre.
Snow took one of PSICOM’s vehicles to go find his fiancé. But the boy, Hope Estheim, wanted to talk to Snow, and was urged along by the redheaded woman, Vanille.
The game is constantly switching between all of these characters. Right now, we’re playing as Hope with Vanille.
The battle system seemed too automated at first, until I got to play with Snow and his party. I have an issue with the field camera being too zoomed-in, and the character momentum felt too slow.
I have no reservations about the graphics. Everything is beautifully lit and detailed. The character expressions in cutscenes are seamless.
March 26, 2010: When Snow found Hope and Vanille and went with them to find his fiancé, Lightning’s sister Serah, everyone came together for the first time.
Serah was turned into a l’Cie. When Light found her and the others arrived, Serah implored them to save Cocoon, the world that would purge her and others like her. Light and Snow promised to “make it right”.
This fulfilled Serah’s Focus, the mission given to her by the fal’Cie. And the, she started to turn into crystal. Her lone tear crystallized as well.
PSICOM started to attack the Pule fal’Cie Anima after they beat NORA back, but Snow wanted to see Anima first.
Snow pleaded with Anima for Serah to emerge from her crystal sleep. Snow even offered to become Anima’s l’Cie.
“Fine,” said Light. “You go on begging. Like this thing gives a damn about what we want!”
She attacked Anima, and it went into defensive mode. Hope and Vanille tried to flee, but were barred by a force field.
To challenge a god. Sazh was doubtful, but for the sake of someone named Dajh, he fought alongside Light and Snow.
The fight with Anima is another one of those Final Fantasy battles with “helpers”. You have to kill the Manipulators to defeat Anima more safely.
Anima relented and the trio was spirited off to a black void. Anima branded Snow as a l’Cie, and he had a vision of something thrashing around in the water.
The fal’Cie suspended above the freeway fell into the water below…
The other were branded l’Cie as well.
Vanille’s narration said that when things got unfair, she tried to remember happier days.
And the game took us back to “Day 11”, the day that Snow proposed to Serah, and she said yes. Instead of a ring, he gave her a beautiful and ornate silver necklace. He was thrilled that she accepted. Then, they flew around a dome full of fireworks on an aerobike. It was clearly a day of celebration in Bodhum, the coastal city.
Serah worried about how Light would take the news. At this point, Light did not even know that she was a l’Cie.
Serah and Snow kissed. She shed a tear.
Back to the present. After the battle, the group realized that they fell through Anima’s Throne in the Vestige to Lake Bresha – but every drop of water had been crystallized. Snow thought that was because of Serah, but he doubted that she survived the fall. I know he isn’t really thinking that, but that better be some tough crystal that she turned into.
Some Ghouls – fallen l’Cie – attacked us and the Paradigm Shift and Crystarium systems were unlocked. The fights are actually gonna be good now!
Primer: The, Crystarium, the Paradigm Shift System, and Staggering
The Crystarium was XIII‘s equivalent to the Sphere Grid or License Board, though it was far more linear than the latter. You had to use Crystal Points to unlock new levels of the Crystarium and improve each characters’ stats. One of the issues is how stats for Paradigms outside of the characters’ three default Paradigms are far more expensive than their default paths, but you’ll unlock them eventually.
The Paradigm Shift system let you set up six different Paradigm compositions to switch to in the middle of battle, in real time. The six Paradigms consisted of:
Commando (COM): Physical attacks. Their attacks do extra damage to enemies who have been staggered.
Ravager (RAV): Magical attacks. Their attacks fill the stagger gauges of most enemies, and they can hit elemental weaknesses.
Medic (MED): Healing and status recovery.
Synergist (SYN): Provides buffs for the party (Haste, Protect, Shell, etc.).
Saboteur (SAB): Provides debuffs for the enemy party (Poison, Deprotect, Deshell, Slow, etc.).
Sentinel (SEN): Protects allies from enemy attacks. SENs can also attract enemy attention, counterattack, and heal themselves as they guard.
All enemies have a stagger gauge. Hitting enemies with magic fills the gauge; when their defense has been broken, the enemy takes more damage, especially from COMs.
Having a balanced party is key to success in XIII.
Hope was very upset over being turned into a l’Cie. He blamed Snow for all of the bad things that happened not only to him, but to Serah as well. But Snow and Light stood up to him. By that, I mean they basically ignored him.
The l’Cies all had the same vision, and the same difficulty interpreting it.
Snow suggested that they do what Serah said and save Cocoon. That was our mission directive for now. First, we need to look for Serah and a way of leaving Lake Bresha.
The l’Cie gain magical powers. That’s where the classic FF magic comes in.
I was curious about the Crystarium system because it was supposed to be like the legendary and beautiful Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. The Crystarium uses Crystogen Points obtained after battle to advance the characters’ Paradigm tracks and gain skills and status bonuses.
And how does it look? Each Paradigm track is unique, and looks like a constellation of crystal.
How is the beginning of this game more resonant now than when it first came out?