I finally gave in last week. After years of ancitipation and hype, I bought Final Fantasy XIII. It ended up running me about $80(CDN no tax) to buy the imported version. For those who don't live here, that's an amazing deal. We pay 69.99 for new games and it costs $110 to import the game from Play Asia...so I'm pretty happy with what I paid. These are my first impressions:
The first thing you notice when playing FFXIII is the incredible presentation. The graphics are the best I have ever seen in a JRPG. When i say this, I don't mean the graphics are just good. I mean they put Lost Odyssey and others to shame. We've all seen CGI and In-game trailers, but those are nothing compared to what the game looks like in its entirety (I'm playing it on 1080p on a 42" LCD). The world is detailed and the characters are lovable. The music is astounding. It fits the sceeveral nario's perfectly and really compliments the theme of the game. I can't even begin to describe how well the composition is. There are many tracks in there that I'm sure will go on to become series anthems. I am currently hooked on the following:
The intro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-3Wap9nzK0
The battles (FREAKING EPIC!!!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfu0XBf8kmk
The title screen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHEoXdTG4K8&feature=related
Lake Blige: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDdv9AyUkNY
The field screen is similar to other Final Fantasy games. You control the party leader and have to get yourself to a particular destination. Just like FFXII and VIII before it, the other members of your party are visible at all times in the field. One thing that I noticed was there there is a considerable amount of jumping (X-2 styles) when you are making your way around. In XIII, your party members feel like they are truly alive. In older FF games, you lead the party to a point untill a story cutscene takes place. The biggest, and in my opinnion most welcome addition here, is the fact that your party is constantly talking to you on the field.They are not always behind you. In fact, sometimes they will run up and reach the destination before you do. Sometimes they will say things when they see an enemy, or make a remark when you pass by a monument. Although these are extremely small details, they really help bring the world to life.
The battle system has been one of the biggest highlights for me so far. It seems like Square loves to re-invent the rules of JRPG's with every Final Fantasy game. At first, I was kindof skeptical about only controlling one party member. But once you see it in action, you realize how well it works. Your character is given 3 action slots. Each action (whether attack, magic, defend) takes 1 or 2 slots to do. What this means is that you are free to mix and match your abilities as long as you only use 3 slots per turn. After the battle, you gain points which can be used towards upgrading your characters. Abilities are gained through the Crystarium system. The Crystarium is very similar to FFX's sphere grid. Weapons and accessories can also be upgraded using save points.
Then we have a thing called paradigm shifts. A paradigm shift instantly changes the job class of all three characters in your party. It can instantly shfit the momentum of a battle. Characters are only allowed to take actions which are permitted by their job class. In other words, a healer can only use white magic, A blaster can only use black magic, and an attacker can only use physical attacks. This makes paradigm shifts crucial to successful battles. Knowing exactly when to change your job classes is key.
Another thing about the battles which I think needs to be mentioned is the breaking system. Enemies and bosses each have a break meter. The meter fills up little by little everytime you attack the monster. It also depletes slowly when you are not attacking. If you let the break meter go back down to zero, you have to start filling it up from the beginning. However, if you manage to chain attacks properly (Blasters are perfect for this), you will break the enemy and start hitting him two or three times as hard. The break system is temporary and brings some serious intensity into battles. For me it's at the point where I am obsessed with manually controlling every attack so I can break every enemy.
The first 10 hours have been AMAZING! The game has completely blown me away in every aspect. The graphics are some of the best I have ever seen. The characters and their backstories are extremely interesting. The battle system is one of a kind. The plot itself is one of the highlights of the series. For now, this is all I can think to type. Have any of you guys played the game? What do you think of it? I will be updating this thread as I progress through the game. Hope my impressions help pass a little time while we all wait for the North American release!