This article contains PLOT SPOILERS for Final Fantasy XIII.
You have been warned!
Final Fantasy XIII is something of a mixed bag. On one hand, it has a fast-paced and innovative combat system that keeps me coming back for more. Coupled with its tough difficulty curve, the game provides a generous challenge to even veteran players. And have I mentioned it is a drop-dead gorgeous game?
Oh, yes it is.
On the other hand, there’s the plot and the characters and, well, just about everything else. Now, for as much as I may complain about this game, I’ve played through it repeatedly, so it’s not all bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, the weak characterizations, cringe-inducing dialogue, and general limpness of the plot drag it down from what could have been a truly stellar entry into this august series.
And honestly, it didn’t have to be this way. The background Square Enix weaves is full of rich opportunities for epic conflicts and powerful storytelling. The tale of Cocoon and Pulse is interesting and engaging as the layers of lies are slowly lifted, one by one. But at no point does the writing really capitalize on this.
Allow me to illustrate with an example.
Throughout the story, the player keeps hearing about the terrors that reside on the world Pulse, which Cocoon hovers over. It’s a Bad, Bad Place that you don’t want to go to and its armies may invade at any moment. It’s the Cocoon equivalent of the boogey man.
And it’s ALL A LIE!
When the player finally reaches Pulse, he or she finds majestic plains teeming with overgrown life, the very opposite of Cocoon’s overt mechanization. It’s a serene place in some ways, but it’s also unnerving. All along, I expected to find cities and armies or at least something in the way of civilization on Pulse, but in the end, there’s NOTHING!
The world of Pulse is totally, utterly devoid of human life.
It is a chilling moment, given even more punch by the fact two ladies from Pulse are traveling with the player’s merry band, Fang and Vanille. The entire world they once called home is gone. The terrifying boogey man of Cocoon is nothing but empty plains and desolate ruins.
“So, uhh, ladies? Got anything to say about this?”
Fang and Vanille have no reaction.
No, serious. They don’t react at all. The game even takes the player straight through their hometown! It’s a decrepit rust bucket filled with crystalline zombies that might have been people Fang and Vanille knew!
And they have nothing to say about this?
Wow. Simply wow.
This is what I mean by missed opportunities. For once in the 60 hour slog that is this game, I was starting to feel connected. But instead of seizing on this emotion, the game subjected me to more angst from Hope.
But, for all my complaining about Final Fantasy XIII, its plot could have been much worse.
It could have been as bad as XIII-2.