Final Fantasy XIII Is The Most Beautiful Game Ever Made


Never before has there been such a game that is as polarized as Final Fantasy XIII. There are people who despise it and consider it an insult to the franchise while there are others who simply like it or even love it for what it is–a straight forward tactical adventure game. While I may be one of the few that fall in the “between” category, there is one thing I truly did enjoy about the game that few games touch upon: presentation. I can say with confidence that Final Fantasy XIII is the most beautiful game I have ever played, but before I tell you why, I think it’s best to start from the beginning.

It was 2005 and Sony was prepping the world for the reveal of its next gen console–The Playstation 3. Rumours were leaking that the Playstation 3 would be able to produce photo-realistic graphics and a processor that would put even the highest-end PC to shame. It wasn’t until May 16 (E3 2005) when people really got to see what the fuss was about….


The Killzone 2 trailer really dropped a lot jaws that morning. It also quickly became infamous for deceiving viewers into believing it was an actual game running on a PS3, when all long it was a pre-rendered cutscene . Of course, I knew it was fake the moment I laid eyes on it, but try convincing that to my Sony fanboy friends *ahem*–I digress. That wasn’t all that Sony showed us that day. Just before everyone thought the tech demo reel was over, in came the one that lit up the most fires in everyone’s heart.

Cool! When's this coming out? Ohhh…. :(

The Final Fantasy 7: we wanna make a remake, but we won’t, so here’s a trailer instead trailer (AKA tech demo) showed us the possibilities of what a Final Fantasy title could look like on a PS3. And damn son, that shit’s hot! From this moment on, people began setting expectations on how the next big Final Fantasy game will look like on the system. They weren’t thinking about gameplay, music, or anything as much as the graphics. Well, careful what you wish for, I guess?

By next year (E3 2006), Sony began rolling out some previews of games that will appear on their next gen platform. Some quick mentions are: Devil May Cry 4, Resident Evil 5, Final Fantasy 13, Final Fantasy Versus 13…woa, wait! What?! That’s right, two Final Fantasy games, one to take place in  a beautiful world of light while the other in a modern surreal world of darkness.

Cool! So when's Versus coming out? Ohooo :(

While Versus 13 info was absent (sort of still is) 13 was more than ready to show us what it has to offer. A female heroine, trains, guns that transform, and a battle system that took our imagination to a whole new level of confusing.

This brings back memories…

Unfortunately, Square pushed the hype button way to early causing all the fans to stay in “dream mode” which is always a bad thing. Square was actually building this game on a whole new in-house “Light” engine (later dubbed Crystal Tools) that would produce realistic facial animations, create smooth transitions between cutscene and gameplay, and other stuff. Three years later, Square finally realized that they had to get their act together and started going into overdrive mode. They eventually had to take staff members from other projects just to get this game out the door. It seems that after nearly four years of development, the team still had to pull in major crunch time. This game seemed like it was going to be big.

Well, it turned out big alright, a big disappointment. No towns? Linear paths? Half the game is a tutorial? Side quests that only involved monster hunting? What the hell?! These were all the raging comments that kept creeping out all over the internet. Since I was on my last semister of Uni, I couldn’t spare any time to sit and play, so I waited until summer as I  braced myself for some major disappointments. Although I did find many, I still enjoyed the journey and absolutely fell in love with it’s presentation.

I’m usually not a big sucker for graphics. At first glance I go wow and then I start noticing the edges. I don’t typically enjoy playing games that try to be too realistic, and at the end of the day it’s not going to be perfect, so to me it’s a waste of time. Instead, I love seeing things that captivate the human imagination and make them feel convincing – after all, games are meant to be compelling and no better way to show that then by being creative.

Let’s look at Crysis for example, while the game showed tremendous detail, in the end it doesn’t make me feel anything special. That’s because, to me, it’s trying to be real, and only ends up looking good. Eventually, there will be a game that will out match Crysis in its realism, then everyone will forget about Crysis. If devs want people to remember how their game looked, they will need to create a unique or at least interesting atheistic. For example, I would pick Wind Waker’s atheistic over Twilight Princess’s any day. If you still have no idea what I am talking about or what to know more, then watch this.

Final Fantasy XIII is truly a wonderful looking thing. I can’t recall the last time I played a game that made me stare at all the details. Every single location has something different to show you: crystallized fire, a jungle that is wrapped in machines, a beatutiful city built on a landscape, snowy ruins, a giant mechanical airship, a waterfall cave, a beach house, a city in the sky…I can go on and on and these are things that I remember from playing it two years ago! But why do I care so much? I mean these ideas aren’t exactly original. That’s because Final Fantasy XIII does an amazing job of making it look really really convincing.

It wasn’t until I reached the Archylte Steppe when I really suspended my disbelief. That moment of walking in the open field and seeing all the monsters, with Cocoon in the distance and Lightning’s cape flapping about–this is when I felt that I was in a fantasy world. A world that seemed real.

Absolutely breathtaking…

The character models looked stunning and I have to admit, this is Nomura’s best work. All of them show different personality and have a great colour theme (no overuse of belts!). Of course  this is without mentioning the dazzling magic (particle) effects,  and animations (except that horrible jumping one). The facial animation in particular were just stunning. While Square did not have L.A. Noire face capture technology, they certainly did an amazing job giving the characters…character. one scene in particular showed Lightning twitching her face and grunting in a manner that looked believable–something the people at BioWare have yet to master.

Cry more, please…

What compliments the beautiful visuals is the beautiful sound track. This is quite easily my second favourite Final Fantasy OST. It offered a lot of great tunes and mixes of synth, jazz, rock, electronica, and orchestra. Similar to Flower, this is a game that tried to blend visual with audio to give us a real thematic experience. My personal favourite track has to be Dust to Dust, seriously, this is one of those videogame albums that’s worth the price tag.

While the game flourished in it’s beauty department, it certainly lacked in its other places. A huge chunk of the game forced us down narrow paths, the gameplay was repetitive with barely any room to rest. While I enjoyed the combat system, it still needed some heavy fine tuning. The story can be very convoluting, although I liked the idea of making the real villain fate and not some super pope, but I don’t think a lot of people got that.

I believe the developers had one main vision: to create a beautiful world; a world of light. They managed to bring that beauty to life with Final Fantasy XIII, but unfortunately, that beauty came at a price.

Author: The Arab Gamer View all posts by
Gaming from the Arab world, ya aziz!

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