Welcome to the Amazon Curve. We’ve all seen reviews from professional critics. In this feature, we focus, instead, on the "word off the street,” so to speak — specifically, the opinions of everyday Japanese gamers. We’ll be looking at reviews from Amazon.jp and giving you a rough idea what common users who purchased games with their own money have to say about them in the initial “Overview.” For readers that like a little more depth, we’ll translate select reviews that stood out. Hopefully, our readers will find the cultural differences interesting.
Finally, the long-awaited Final Fantasy XIII is upon us, and Western reviewers have pounced on it as eagerly as their Japanese counterparts did earlier three months ago. Famitsu awarded the game a nearly-perfect 10/9/10/10, although reviewers elsewhere were more of a mixed bag.
Almost everything Final Fantasy XIII does seems to appeal to some and disgust others. The exceptionally slow introduction to your full capabilities in the game takes 20 hours (and that is out of approximately 60 hours total completion time), where you can finally escape the extremely linear “battle, movie, battle, movie, rinse, wash, and repeat” structure, and enter Pulse, the “overworld,” which at least appears to be non-linear, as well as unlock the option to form your own party manually. However, some felt this long introduction was necessary because, while the game takes you forward with baby steps, you most definitely will trip and fall if you try to go any faster. One other thing people liked is the scoring at the end of the battles because it provided a motivation to doing better.
The characters and story seem to depend on people’s taste. There are many who like it, and there are many who don’t, stating that it’s too contrived or just isn’t interesting. The characters, too, can be seen as completely stereotypical or not.
Amazon.jp reviews give the game a weighted average of 3.0, with approximately an equal number of reviews for every star. The points made were fairly similar to those made in the Western articles, although there was more of an emphasis in comparing with previous Final Fantasy games. For instance, there were more complaints about the repetitiveness of the mission sidequests (affectionately called “Turtle-Hunting”). But overall, the majority of the comments were directed at the linearity, the story and characters, or the battle system. Whether the comments were positive or negative, however, is another story.
Since all of these reviews are from the Japanese version of the game, they only cover the PS3 version and not the Xbox 360 version of the game.
I Urge You to Play Through Slowly From Year-End to New Year’s! (5 stars)
There has never been a more in-depth battle system waiting for players who can fight battles while thinking things through thoroughly.
The flow of the battle was fixed in FFXII with the Gambit system, but this time, you can also change the flow of the battle by combining the characters’ unique characteristics even more smoothly than with the Dressphere system in FFX-2.
On top of that, to focus more on the cooperation of your allies, it is now possible to choose to fight in real-time on top of using the Gambit + Dressphere systems.
Also, if you can get the Surprise Attack in the Symbolic Encounters right, you can surround the enemies at the beginning of battle and finish the fight with one blow. This also allows you to efficiently gather lots of points needed to raise characters (CP), which is something to consider. In the beginning, while the system is still simple, you continue on while practicing what you’ve learned, and around the time when you’re just getting good at it, a new aspect of the system is unlocked. And because it also takes time to get used to grasp how to use the unique aspects of every character strategically, you can’t customize your party until halfway through, which was good in my opinion.
Thinking about it from another point of view, for those who are bad at battles, with the game being a balance between alternating barrages of battles and Paradigm Shifting for recovery, the battles may become a chore and they may get tired of them quickly. In other words, I think those who don’t play games usually will find it fun, but they’ll get tired in a week, although I feel that’s good enough for people who don’t usually play games… Those people will end up getting thrown out if they’re not interested in the story, I suppose.
All in all, I think it’s up to the person to have fun or not if you give him a soccer ball.
As for the scenario, you can collect articles about the background of the game that wasn’t talked about in the movies, and if you understand them, then it’ll be easier to feel empathy for the characters as you move through the game. Also, in the early-game, people say it’s a straight route through, but if you slow down and return to where you came from, you can see already prepared sub-scenes, so searching for those was also fun, I felt.
If you rush on forward, you’ll only meet trouble, but if you slowly understand the scenario and experiment with the various aspects of the battle system, you should know then that there has never been a game of higher quality.
This is a game I urge you to play from year-end to year-start, nice and slowly.
It’s Getting Really Criticized, but… (5 stars)
This game really was interesting. Seriously. People giving the game ☆1 to ☆5 reviews all compliment the graphics, so they’re probably all right. I think so too. It’s good to the level that you feel like you’re buying movie-quality work.
Next, the battles. This is what I want to look at the most. Changing it this much required a lot of courage, but I think they did a great job. The difficulty level is spot-on perfect. The battles after 7 were too easy, but this time it’s good that they make you use your head every time you fight. I myself have gotten fairly used to it, so for the most part I enter in commands to fight, but beginners can set the commands to “auto” as well.
On the other hand, what happens if people who are used to the system use that too and all they do is bash the ○ button? It’s one thing to worry about. For those who can, I recommend you to set it in the configuration so that you input the initial position of the cursor by command.
I have nothing to say about the music. It’s just what you’d expect from an FF game.
Next is the highly criticized story; however, I liked it. At first, I was like, “What?” but as I played, I grew to enjoy it more and more. It grows on you. It’s great that there’s a summary of what’s happened up to the point in which you’ve played. Well, in other games (like in the Tales series) this has been around for quite a while…
The final topic I want to talk about is the linearity but, well, by the time X came around, it was mostly like that already, and the feeling of being tossed around is far stronger in XII, so I’m already used to FF games like this.
Those like me will enjoy the game greatly. Those returning to the FF series after a long time and still hold the past close to their hearts may have a hard time, I admit. Well, the author here started playing at IV, though. (laughs)
Even though X ended beautifully, they added X-2 for no reason at all, and then XI was an online game, and then XII, in my opinion, sucked so badly that I gave it to a friend right after I beat it, so if this game didn’t do well, I figured I would pretty much be at my limit. But, I can go on without turning my back to the series now.
Was it Because of Motomu Toriyama -san? (3 stars)
The movies, graphics, and music were wonderful.
The loading time wasn’t stressful either, and it’s only too bad that the movies aren’t compatible with the theater. The movie at the beginning of chapter 12 is a must-see. It’s that good. It’s only too bad that every boss battle music other than the Baldanders one was only so-so.
The menu is the very definition of comfortable. The character movies that flow for a moment when you enter the status screen are wonderful.
About the map: Until chapter 11, the game is linear, so you don’t really use it. It’s very convenient that you can just open it with a press of the □ button. It was bad that the markings on the map were similar in shapes and color, so it was hard to understand what was going on at first glance. The minimap on the top right of the screen shows hidden routes and the enemies’ positions so that it’s easy to understand, which is convenient. However it’s a pain to watch it while moving at the same time, so it may be better to use the SELECT button to close it.
About the missions: Moving around really is annoying. Even if you confirm the mission’s contents, you still have to go all the way to the Cie’th Stones to accept the mission, and it’s stupid that you have to run around because there aren’t many teleportation Cie’th Stones. There was a game like Oblivion that came out in 2007, so I wish it could’ve been like that.
About the battles: It’s not surprising if people like the game only because the first thing you get is Odin. In the last half of the game, the enemies’ HP are incredibly high, so if you go in simply with Rush Assault and Phoenix, you’ll become corpses. What’ll save you there is support magic. In this game, Haste, and of course Brave, Faith, Weak and Dull, are all extremely helpful, and if you use them freely, you can even completely crush enemies in the final dungeon.
It’s fun that you have to use your head so much, but on the other hand it’s also tiresome. It’s even more tiresome because you can’t let your guard down even with the small-fries. There are times when there’s just this one enemy that really annoys me and I’ve even just saved the game and quit because I saw a sign of it.
About the story, although I wanted to do this first…: First, the characters. Most of them are as you’d expect based off their appearances, except when Lightning breaks character and stupidly charges headlong forward (when the summoning beast appears); it makes me sad.
There’s a lot of scenes about Rosche and Cid and everyone trying hard to do something about Cocoon, but we see little of the daily lives and work of the people who live in the Cocoon, as well as the blessings of fal’Cie and the other important parts, and there aren’t people in the cities, so you can’t talk to them casually, so you just head for the ending without much empathy. There’s myths and whatnot and a lot of detailed set ups, but none of it is made interesting. I hope the person in charge of the scenario never works on FF again.
Lastly, if a movie is boring, whose fault do you think it is? Most of the time, it’s the director that’s in charge of the script. I think it’s same for games. The director and scenario writer for this game is, hmm…
Maybe I was Over-Anxious About This (2 stars)
I finished the game a while ago.
I waited and waited for this game, anticipating it, and whenever the slightest news was released, I’d buy the magazines in a flash, and in just the same way, I bought the game.
The battle has evolved since the trial version, and personally I like the story. However, as I continued to play the game, the common enemies would have over 100k HP, and before I realized it the battles became something I dreaded… (explode!) After the battle was finished, points would be shown, but it’s not like they’re recorded anywhere, and it’s not like you get any bonuses, so in the end it was a bore because you got nothing beyond self-satisfaction.
When I reached Pulse, I was moved by the sight of the wide plains and the monsters running around, and I thought, “This’ll be interesting!” However, you won’t get much money at all from the basic missions this time, so in order to earn money efficiently to modify your weapons, most of the missions you play will be turtle-hunting, where the small-fry enemies almost all have over 5 million HP (at this point, they’re not small-fries anymore, are they?) (laughs)
If you fight them as you usually would, you’d die instantly, and it takes quite a while to raise your characters, so in the end you rely on Vanille’s Death to beat them. Barrage with Death => Doesn’t die => Restart => Barrage with Death => Obtain the item drop => Sell => Go on another hunt and repeat many times.
Other things I didn’t like was that after clearing the game once, I know usually there are many places where you can’t go anymore usually, but what’s the point of locking up 80% of the places? I was satisfied for 1 week, but I couldn’t bring myself to play for the second week when everything was the same.
Thoughts After Playing While Keeping the Existing Image of an RPG in Mind (2 stars)
In FFX, the main character was one arrived in an unknown world, so he asks things that the player, who has no idea about what’s going on, would need to understand, and it clears up a lot about the world and the language.
In XIII, the characters all understand their world and only say things that you, as the player, don’t know, advancing the story and leaving you behind. As you move forward, it’s gradually explained, but this is the first time I’ve felt neutral as the mysteries were cleared up. The system is interesting, the story is interesting, and I like the characters, so I figured that the game would somehow improve as I went along, but in the end I abandoned the game when I couldn’t get into it no matter how I tried.
I want to go to a new town and check my equipment (and if I’m out of money, go grind some), check my HP and MP before a big boss fight, and keep watch over my allies now.
The skill system, too, there was a time when I had made a huge mistake and set someone to focus on magic, so I was pumped up to avoid it this time. It was all a waste of anxiety, though, since there isn’t much freedom in the way you raise your character this time. On that topic, you can’t wander around the city and I know it’d be difficult to talk to the inhabitants then, but I kept on wondering if there was a way to have conversations like that somehow and implement it to move the plot forward. The movies were exceptionally beautiful.
Off-topic, I feel like I wanted the people to tell the players what they’re feeling through their actions rather than through their words. I was a bit embarrassed that the words seemed a little superficial. Also, I honestly didn’t enjoy that I had to watch a movie before I could understand something. I feel that guiding a player naturally forward is important in a game.
I’m sorry for saying such harsh things. It really is very beautiful and I feel horrible for it, but if you ask me whether I enjoyed the game after spending time on it, I can’t say I did. The battle system was novel, but there are games where there’s more teamwork and your allies help each other in realtime, and I’m not a fan that the tension is continually expressed through the high speed.
It’s much more nerve-wracking to travel back to a town in a state of near-death, wondering whether you’re going to meet a random encounter or not. This game makes me wonder if the world has changed now.
Looking Past the Cinematic Beauty, There’s Nothing Else (1 star)
Many other people have already written about it, so we’ll just leave the issue of linearity alone and just write about where the scenario failed.
- In each dungeon, there was no point to the boss.
It was fine in chapter 1, but after chapter 2, it was just scenarios about “Run!” without any particular destination in mind. I’d think you could come up with many deeper scenarios if you make the pursuers someone with a face, though. Nothing changes when the faceless, silent soldiers come chasing, and in the middle of escape, a random faceless powerful monster appears as a boss. In 60 hours of long scenarios, there are only … 3? …people who talk.
- The objective of the protagonist is unclear.
I couldn’t figure out whether she wanted to protect her little sister or the world, and I couldn’t understand her actions towards the end at all. “Ehh, isn’t it a BAD thing to defeat that person?” And while I’m feeling that, she defeats him, and she doesn’t think about what to do after she beats him. It’s so random and haphazard, so the same lines are repeated over and over again, making the whole thing seem shallow.
- It doesn’t feel like you’re moving forward at all.
It has to do with not having a clear goal, but I didn’t know what they wanted to do, so I couldn’t figure out how much further I had to go until I reach the goal. If felt that way aaaaall through chapters 2-11, and I could only sluggishly move forward.
The things I find interesting in an RPG: · Battle System · Scenario · Characters
…are the main things. The beauty of the graphics are waaaaaaaay down on the bottom of that list, Square Enix-san.