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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Final Fantasy XIII.

Transcript Edit

Being a highly respected and successful professional game critic--shut up, I am!--I'm often asked for advice on how to pursue a similar career. So here's today's hot tip for budding critics: if you're resigned to playing through an extremely long game that you have good reason to think you will despise, don't attempt to do so in the week before you open a small licenced venue in the city's busiest entertainment district. I was only able to play Final Fantasy XIII for about five hours, partly because I was being called out most afternoons to buy more napkins and partly because any more than two hours of this fucking game at a time was even more draining than the hangover from V.I.P. media nights.

I suppose I could have held off another week to play it some more, but the thing is... I don't fucking want to! Subjecting myself to any more of it could probably be classified as self-flagellation. So for what's it's worth, here's a review of the first five hours. You might call that "unprofessional." I call it "efficiency."

Hour 1

Final Fantasy XIII: The Empire Strikes Back opens with the main protagonist, a former soldier, riding a train with their astonishingly stereotypical black sidekick to go fight an evil authority of some description. Wait a girlfriend-impaling second, haven't we been here before? Well, yes, twelve extremely final times, but the seventh outing more than any other. Of course, Final Fantasy VII didn't fill every cinematic with more shaky camera than a Paul Greengrass film being projected onto a fat jogger's tits.

Anyway, after a brief fight--which being in control of would have been nice--the gameplay begins. And the game starts as it means to go on by making you run down a linear corridor. This may be a weird thing to pick up on, but the main character's footstep noises are very, very loud. It's like someone's running along just out of shot banging coconuts together. I wonder if I'll stop noticing it over time.

Hour 2

Nnnnnnope!

So far, I've established that the two lead-ish characters are named Lightning and Snow, which are both things that could ruin a picnic. There's also another guy called Hope, as in, "I Hope we can get these sandwiches back in the car before any Snow or Lightning happens." It seems we're already assembling the usual Final Fantasy character archetype pick-and-mix. There's Angsty Spice, Serious Spice, Manly Spice, Ethnic Spice, and, of course, the inevitable Kooky Spice, who deserves special mention, because the kookiness of the prerequisite kooky character has now reached some kind of singularity. Her actions don't seem to have any connection to sentient thought or social context. It's like she's got Alzheimer's or something.

Anyway, the characters have been introduced but by no means established. I know Final Fantasy has always been big on in medias res, but even the most basic questions about the plot remain unanswered. Who the fuck are these people? What is going on? Why should I care? Can I stop playing now, please?

Hour 3

I know what you're gonna say: "Yahtzee, please take your dick out of my eye socket! And why are you even reviewing this game when you're on record as a hater of JRPGs and turn-based combat?" Well, bitch, prepare to have your mind blown a second time by the fact that I once enjoyed Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VI to be precise. I liked how the overarching story could be summarized in less space than a pamphlet. And I liked how the turned-based battles would always come and go very rapidly, as if the game was ashamed to be around them.

I fell out with JRPGs when they became more about spectacle than substance, always about skinny 15-year-olds dressed up in outfits that look like they were designed with an Etch-A-Sketch and then fed through a threshing machine. Endless gaudy cinematics. Retarded angsty drama. Bloated, unwieldy, menu-driven combat: select ability, select attack, select target, wait 5 seconds for the character's brain to start working, repeat. How about we just walk up to the enemy and press one button that bonks him on the head? Or am I missing the point? Instead we have to work around this badly designed interface with long cool-down times between each action like every warrior and monster on the planet suffers from asthma attacks.

Hour 4

Actually, let's harp on the combat some more. It's the massive disconnect between story and gameplay that always gets to me. There's a flashy transition before each fight, so the combat might as well be taking place in some delusional fantasy world brought on by tight hotpants cutting off the flow of blood to the brain. This Hope guy has been established from the start as a whiny, weak, inept, cowardly, socially retarded mummy's boy, so presumably he's the character most of the audience are meant to project onto. But then combat starts and he literally pulls a boomerang out of his arse and joins the fray. Consistency is nice.

Also, Final Fantasy has generally made an effort to mix the combats up with each game, and this time it makes it very clear that it would prefer to involve the player as little as possible. You only control the party leader directly, and even then I just pick auto-attack every time because it's quicker than stacking abilities and I usually just pick the same ones anyway. Later on, there's a paradigm system that lets you change the AI behavior in battle, but I still feel my grip on events is rather loose, and it all feels about as involving as Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.

Hour 5

You know why this game is on three discs? Not because it's a complex roller coaster of an epic. It's because it's padded like a menstruating firehose. I've spent the entirety of the last five hours running down three different linear corridors. if this were Modern Warfare, I'd have curb-checked every terrorist in the free world by now. The central plot element has only just been introduced! I only vaguely know what the story's about because I made myself read all that ancillary textlog bullshit. This is not good storytelling! You're supposed to weave exposition into the narrative, not hand the audience a fucking glossary as they walk into the theatre!

Some people have told me that FFXIII gets good about 20 hours in. You know that's not really a point in its favor, right? Put your hand on a stove for 20 hours and yeah, you'll probably stop feeling the pain, but you'll have done serious damage to yourself. The story is paced like an ant pushing a brick across a desert, the characters are either completely unlikeable or act like they're from space, and the art design is like a painting of a fireworks display: lots of garish color and flash, but take one step to the side and you'll see it's completely two-dimensional.

I played Final Fantasy XIII because I am an unbiased critic--shut up, I am!--and I must give everything a chance to surprise me. After five hours, the only thing that surprised me was how I managed that much without chewing off my own face.

AddendaEdit

He of the 12 picosecond boredom threshold: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

I checked and yep, there's already erotic fanart of the FF13 characters

Still, the bar's doing well not that you asked

ScreenshotsEdit

Final Fantasy XIII 1

Here's today's hot tip

Final Fantasy XIII 2

Let's harp on the combat some more

Final Fantasy XIII 3

My grip on events is rather loose

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
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2008
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2009
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2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
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2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
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2012
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2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
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2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
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Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata

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