Final Fantasy XIII (ファイナルファンタジーXIII Fainaru Fantajī Sātīn?) is a console role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enixfor the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Released in 2009 in Japan and North America and PAL regions in March 2010, it is the thirteenth major installment in the Final Fantasy series. The game includes fast-paced combat, a new system for the series for determining which abilities are developed for the characters called “Crystarium”, and a customizable “Paradigm” system to control which abilities are used by the characters.Final Fantasy XIII includes elements from the previous games in the series, such as summoned monsters, chocobos, and airships.
The game takes place in the fictional floating world of Cocoon, whose government, the Sanctum, is ordering a purge of civilians who have supposedly come into contact with Pulse, the much-feared world below. The former soldier Lightning begins her fight against the government in order to save her sister who has been branded as an unwilling servant to a god-like being from Pulse, making her an enemy of Cocoon. Lightning is soon joined by a band of allies, and together the group also become marked by the same Pulse creature. They rally against the Sanctum while trying to discover their assigned task and whether they can avoid being turned into monsters or crystals at the completion.
Development began in 2004 and the game was first announced at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2006. Final Fantasy XIII is the flagship title of the Fabula Nova Crystallis collection of Final Fantasy games and is the first game to use Square Enix’s Crystal Tools engine. Final Fantasy XIIIreceived mostly positive reviews from video game publications, which praised the game’s graphics, presentation, and battle system. Reviewers were more mixed in their opinion about the game’s story and linearity compared to previous games in the series. Selling 1.7 million copies in Japan in 2009, Final Fantasy XIII became the fastest-selling title in the history of the series. As of July 2012, the game had sold 6.7 million copies worldwide. A sequel titled Final Fantasy XIII-2 was released in December 2011 in Japan and in 2012 in North America and PAL regions. A second sequel, titled Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which concludes Lightning’s story and the Final Fantasy XIII saga, is currently in development and is set for a release in 2013.
The player directly controls the on-screen character through a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects, and enemies throughout the game. The player can also turn the camera around the characters, which allows for a 360° view of the surroundings. The world of Final Fantasy XIII is rendered to scale relative to the characters in it; instead of a caricature of the character roaming around miniature terrain, as found in the earlier Final Fantasy games, every area is represented proportionally. The player navigates the world by foot or by Chocobo. Players may save their game to a hard disk drive using save stations, where the player can also purchase items from retail networks or upgrade their weapons. An in-game datalog provides a bestiary and incidental information about the world of Final Fantasy XIII. The Final Fantasy XIII Ultimate Hits International version of the game, released in Japan, also contains an “Easy” mode option.
The Final Fantasy XIII battle system, with the “Paradigm Shift” option, the Active Time Battle (ATB) bar filling beneath it with five slots and two actions queued, and the three active characters’ health and roles displayed. The enemy’s name and damage percentage are shown in the upper right corner.
As in Final Fantasy XII, enemies are integrated into the open field and can be approached or avoided by the player. However, unlike Final Fantasy XII, when the player’s character touches an enemy, the screen transitions from the regular map to a separate battle map, similar to those used inFinal Fantasy X. A maximum of three characters may be used in battles, which use a variant on the series’ traditional Active Time Battle (ATB) system designed by Hiroyuki Ito and first featured in Final Fantasy IV. Under this system, the player selects an action from the menus, such as Attack, Magic, and Item. Unlike previous games in the series, the player only controls the lead character while the remaining two characters are controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence (AI). Each action requires a specific number of slots on the ATB bar, which continually refills to a set maximum number of slots. The ATB bar gradually increases in size throughout the game from two slots to six. The player may select less than the maximum number of possible actions or may stop the filling of the ATB bar and perform as many actions as can be done with the current ATB amount. The player may select an autobattle command, which fills the ATB slots with actions chosen automatically. Actions cannot be performed outside of battle, and the characters’ health is fully restored after each battle.
Each enemy has a meter, called a chain counter, consisting of a percentage starting at 100 which increases when the enemy is struck by attacks or spells. Attacks by different roles have different effects; some raise the chain by a larger amount while others give the player longer before the chain counter resets. The amount of damage performed by an attack is multiplied by the chain percentage before it is applied to the enemy. When the chain counter reaches a preset amount, different for each enemy, the enemy is placed into Stagger State. In this mode, the enemy has lowered defense and may be launched into the air. The Paradigm system allows the player to program six different roles which the characters can then assume to perform certain formations in battle in response to the specific conditions. The roles consist of Commando, a warrior-type role; Ravager, a black mage-type role which uses damage-dealing magic; Medic, a White Mage-type role which can heal; Saboteur, which use magic to weaken enemies by inflicting negative statuses; Synergist, which uses magic to strengthen allies by giving positive statuses; and Sentinel, which has protective and defensive abilities. Each of the characters can initially take on only three roles, but the player has access to all of them later in the game (although the other three roles are limited in their abilities for those players which choose them). The player can select which roles the controlled character and the AI characters are using both outside and during battle, which is the only way that the player can control the AI characters during battle. The player can only choose from specific sets of paradigms that the player has set up beforehand outside of battle.
Each character can summon a specific Eidolon into battle. These summoned creatures include series staples Odin, Shiva, Alexander, and Bahamut, and newcomers Hecatoncheir and Brynhildr. When summoned, the Eidolon stays in combat while the characters accompanying the summoner leave the party. While an Eidolon is summoned, the player can trigger a feature called Gestalt Mode, in which the Eidolon transforms into a different form and performs different attacks while the summoning character rides them.
The Crystarium is a leveling system consisting of six crystals and resembles the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Each crystal in the Crystarium represents one of the six Paradigms, and is divided into ten levels. Each level contains various nodes that supply bonuses to health, strength, or magic, or provide new abilities and accessory slots. These nodes are connected by a semi-linear path. The player may advance down the path by acquiring Crystarium Points, which are awarded after defeating enemies. The full Crystarium is not available to the player at the beginning of the game; at specific points in the game’s plot, the player gains access to new crystals or levels.
Final Fantasy XIII is set within the world of Gran Pulse. Central to the story is Cocoon, a massive artificial sphere that floats above Pulse’s surface and is ruled by the Sanctum, a theocraticgovernment. The two worlds are controlled by fal’Cie (pron.: /fælˈsiː/), beings with godlike power. The Cocoon fal’Cie are responsible for keeping Cocoon floating, as well as providing light and water to the people that live inside. Each fal’Cie handles a specific task. The fal’Cie have the capability of marking the humans that live in Pulse and Cocoon as their servants. These servants, called l’Cie, are branded with a symbol representing either Pulse or Cocoon and are given a “Focus”—a task to complete. If the l’Cie complete their task in time, they are transformed to crystal and according to legend gain eternal life; otherwise they become mindless monsters called Cie’th. The l’Cie are not explicitly told their Focus, but are instead given visions that they must interpret.
Several hundred years before the events of the game, a battle known as the War of Transgression took place between Pulse and Cocoon. During the battle, l’Cie from Pulse attacked and ripped a large hole in Cocoon. Eventually, the l’Cie completed their focus and were turned to crystal. The hole was patched with material lifted from Pulse, and Cocoon’s citizens have since lived in fear of another invasion; this fear is used by the Sanctum to remain in power. The Sanctum oversees two military branches: the Guardian Corps, responsible for keeping order on Cocoon, and PSICOM, the special forces in charge of dealing with any threat related to Pulse. The fal’Cie have given the humans advanced technology, including flying airships and mechanical creatures, and a form of magic also exists. This magic is normally only accessible to l’Cie, fal’Cie, and various monsters in Cocoon and Pulse, though distilled chemical forms can be used by normal humans.
The six main playable characters of Final Fantasy XIII are Lightning, the main protagonist of the game, a former soldier and older sister to Serah; Snow Villiers, Serah’s fiancé and leader of NORA, a paramilitary group; Oerba Dia Vanille, the game’s narrator and an exile who is later revealed to be a l’Cie from Pulse; Sazh Katzroy, a civilian pilot and father to a young boy, Dajh; Hope Estheim, a young boy who is struggling within the relationships he shares with his parents; and Oerba Yun Fang, a l’Cie from Pulse who is working with the Sanctum’s Cavalry branch. Other characters include Galenth Dysley, the ruler of the Sanctum and main antagonist; Cid Raines, a Sanctum Brigadier General in the Cavalry who does not trust the government; and Serah Farron, Lightning’s younger sister and Snow’s fiancee.
Final Fantasy XIII begins in Cocoon as the citizens of the town of Bodhum are being evicted, or Purged, from Cocoon after coming in contact with something from Pulse. Over the course of the game, the player is shown flashbacks of the events of the previous 13 days, which began when a fal’Cie from Pulse was discovered near Bodhum. Lightning’s sister Serah had found the fal’Cie from Pulse and been changed into a l’Cie by it. Lightning and Sazh derail a Purge train bound for Pulse in an attempt to save Serah. In the subsequent battle, Snow leads his resistance group, NORA, to rescue the Purge exiles. Several of them, including Hope’s mother, are killed. As Snow heads to the fal’Cie Anima to save Serah, he is joined by two of the exiles: Hope and Vanille. The two groups meet at the fal’Cie, and find Serah just as she turns to crystal. Anima then brands them all as l’Cie and they are cast out into a different part of Cocoon. During this transformation, the newly crested l’Cie all have the same vision: a monster called Ragnarok. The group, arguing over the ambiguous nature of the dreamed Focus, find Serah in her crystallized form; Snow remains with her as the others leave.
Snow meets Cid and Fang after being captured and detained aboard the airship Lindblum. Meanwhile, the others escape from PSICOM, but are separated during an air strike; Hope and Lightning travel to Palumpolum, while Sazh and Vanille travel to Nautilus. In Lightning’s scenario, she unintentionally supports Hope’s goal of killing Snow as revenge for his mother’s death. In Vanille’s scenario, Sazh discusses how his son Dajh was turned into a l’Cie by a Cocoon fal’Cie and was taken by PSICOM to discover his Focus. At Palumpolum, Lightning tries to persuade Hope not to go through with his revenge and meets Snow and Fang. Fang reveals that she and Vanille were l’Cie from Pulse who were turned into crystals; they were turned back into humans 13 days prior to the start of the game, sparking the Purge. Hope attempts to murder Snow, but after Snow saves him from an airstrike, he decides not to go through with it. The party then escapes the city with Cid’s aid. At Nautilus, Vanille reveals herself to Sazh as a l’Cie from Pulse, and indirectly the reason that Dajh was turned into a l’Cie. PSICOM then captures Sazh and Vanille and detains them on board the airship Palamecia.
The other members of the party stage a rescue mission and reunite with Vanille and Sazh before they confront Galenth Dysley, the Sanctum’s Primarch. Dysley reveals himself as the Cocoon fal’Cie ruler Barthandelus. He tells them that their Focus is to transform into the beast Ragnarok and slay the sleeping fal’Cie Orphan, who keeps Cocoon afloat above Pulse. Slaying the fal’Cie Orphan will result in the destruction of Cocoon. The party escapes and learns from Cid that the fal’Cie believe that Cocoon’s destruction will summon the Maker, the creator of the worlds. The fal’Cie cannot harm Orphan themselves. Vanille and Fang reveal to the party that they were involved in the War of Transgression centuries prior, and that their Focus then had been the same: to transform into Ragnarok and attempt to destroy Orphan. The party flies away to Pulse and travels to Oerba, Vanille and Fang’s hometown, where they hope to learn how to remove their l’Cie marks. The town is deserted, and they find no living people on the surface. The group is unsuccessful in removing their marks, and Dysley confronts them again. He tells them that he is forcing Cid, now the head of the Sanctum, to create chaos in Cocoon to force the Cavalry to attack Cid and Orphan in a coup d’état.
The party infiltrates Cocoon with the goal of preventing its destruction. They head towards Orphan only to find that the Cavalry have been turned into Cie’th. The party encounters Dysley and overpowers him, but Orphan awakens and merges with Dysley, then compels Fang to finish her Focus as Ragnarok while the others are seemingly transformed into Cie’th. The group reappears in human form, preventing Fang from transforming. The party engage and defeat Orphan and escape Cocoon, which is now falling towards Pulse. As the rest of the party turns to crystal for completing their Focus, Vanille and Fang remain on Cocoon and transform into Ragnarok together. They prevent a collision between Cocoon and Pulse by turning themselves into a crystal pillar between the two worlds. The rest of the party awaken from their crystallization on Pulse and find their l’Cie brands gone. The game ends with Lightning, Hope, Snow and Sazh reuniting with Serah and Dajh.