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When the announcement was made that Final Fantasy XIII – once exclusive to the PS3 – was going to make its way to the rival X360 platform, the gaming world was put in to a state of shock.

Now that the first Final Fantasy for this generation of consoles is finally available, lets see if the game itself manages the same effect – or if 13 is indeed an unlucky number.

The game begins on the floating world of Cocoon, governed by the totalitarian regime of the Sanctum – and its military faction, Psicom. Gripped by fear of attack from Pulse, the world below, an assortment of characters are brought together together to save the world they know from seemingly inevitable destruction.

Since the game’s release in Japan 3 months ago, much has been said of the game’s unwavering linearity. This is mostly true. For the first 20 hours you’ll be strung along, trudging through corridor after corridor, without as much as a deviating path to be seen.

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It’s quite a long time to spend with the game holding your hand, moving along a linear path, where there’s not much to do other than move from battle to battle to battle, interrupted by regular – but beautifully rendered cutscenes. It’s almost like a 3D Double Dragon with turn-based combat, which I admittedly began to rather enjoy.

There are no towns to explore, shops are reduced to simple menus, can’t select who you want in your party, instead having party members selected for you as it guides you through the story – in fact there’s very little of the RP in RPG. It’s a rather dramatic departure from the traditional JRPG. These aren’t the only genre stalwart that Square-Enix has dispensed with though, and its divisive in that it may be alienating for fans of JRPG’s – and just not action-packed enough to bring in new fans.

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Thankfully after the 2nd hour – 2 of the most boring hours I’ve spent gaming in recent memory – the game picks up a little, and starts to show off it’s impressive combat system. It employs an ATB – Active Time Battle – system that features a gauge that continuously fills up over time. Commands are queued up, each with an ATB cost, that are performed when the segmented gauge is full. Each character has a limited number of segments – limiting the number of commands that can be queued to be unleashed. As you progress through the story this limit increases.

The evolution of the ATB battle system – and its focus this time round is the “Paradigm shift”. In battle each of your three active party members can be assigned a single role at any given time, one of six different different classes – Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Synergist, Saboteur and Medic. Commandos focus on direct attacks, Ravagers do distanced elemental damagers, medics can only heal. These roles can be switched on the fly in created sets called “Paradigm Shifts.” Diversity, a Paradigm Shift featuring a combination of these three classes would have your controlled character doing direct weapon attacks, with supporting a supporting character to deal long-rage damage and the last character providing healing effects.

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You’ll have to constantly change between Paradigm Shifts to overcome many of the games enemies, and its this frantic juggle, trying to find just the right combination that makes combat so much fun. It introduces a surprising amount of strategy and depth to combat, considering you can only ever control one character at a time, with the rest being controlled quite capably by the AI.

Last Updated: March 9, 2010

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Final Fantasy XIII
Summary
7.9

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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