Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is the thirteenth numbered installment of the Final Fantasy franchise, as developed and published by Square Enix - and the odds are Final Fantasy is what youíll know them for. XIII was first unveiled during E3 2006 with a video of Lightning facing off against Sanctum troops, but it wasnít until several years later that the game saw a release; December 2009 in Japan, and March 2010 for the rest of the world. (Itís funny because Final Fantasy XV was announced at the same time and that was released at the end of 2016.) For XIII, you can play it either on PS3 or XBox 360, and as of 2014, you can also pick it up on Steam.

The gameís logo.

Technical advancements were abound at XIIIís release: it was the first (and only) numbered entry to be released on PS3 and 360, and even several years on, XIII is a very impressive looking game and manages to hold its own - itís one of the best that the last generation of consoles has to offer. The battle system was entirely revamped for XIII and introduced Paradigms, which allowed the fine tuning of AI to follow a specific set of instructions, and for commands to be stacked automatically based on known enemy weaknesses or the prioritising of spells. The AI has very sensible instructions, actually - for instance, Synergists will always cast Haste on themselves first, then the rest of the party, and then work through the rest of their arsenal. And they always do this. In practice, paradigms save a great deal of menu scrolling by the player on the fly. The battle system of XIII has earned more than its fair share of criticism, as many feel that you arenít actually in control of the characters - your mileage may vary on this one. Personally, I really like it: itís a different kind of strategy to know what party set-up youíre going to need and the moment you should switch from one paradigm to the next. That and I could, shockingly, trust the AI to do something useful - I never had to worry about what my squad would cast or do next. The game itself is also quite linear, down to clear-cut pathways and cutscenes, but in my experience JRPGs are linear and I play them for the cutscenes and story, so I donít really see the problem here. Again, your mileage may vary.

Lightning is sold as the protagonist of this one. I agree with this to a certain extent because, as a standalone entity, Vanilleís conception as XIIIís protagonist is pretty darn clear. Formally, sheís the gameís narrator - but if you asked me who the protagonist of XIII with the rest of its saga in mind, I would say Lightning. If you asked me as a standalone title, itís Vanille. The more you know.

Our story begins in Bodhum, a city on Cocoon. The discovery of a líCie in their midst (with a brand of the lowerworld of Gran Pulse) leads to the Purge, an evacuation and execution order of all citizens in Bodhum at the time. líCie receive a Focus; should they succeed, they will turn to crystal. Fail, and they become a cieíth, an undead creature doomed to an eternity of torment.

Serah is the cause of this Purge. Her branding as a líCie is what drives Lightning to action, and sparks the chain of events that last long after the opening hours of the game - sheís the reason the party is incidentally in the same place at the same time and are, in turn, branded by Anima. Not everything is how it seems as the game progresses, with the usual twists and turns, and the characters go through a great deal of development and a grieving period for their losses, whether that be family or just the chance to live a normal life and not be involved in something so feared and taboo. Eventually, they make up their minds, and beat their Focus.

Final Fantasy XIII, in its way, is a story of found family and hope, and of the end of the world.