One of the oldest series in videogaming is back, and it's shinier, slicker and more nonsensical than ever. Eschewing series staples such as towns and party micro-management for an altogether more streamlined, action-oriented approach, Final Fantasy XIII reveals itself to be one of the most striking, and divisive, games of the series to date.
Xbox 360 owners, although having to make do with slightly less impressive graphics and multiple discs, will be pleased to know that ShopTo are currently offering the Microsoft-friendly version of the game for £32.85, saving a you at least £2 on everybody else.
I was achingly disappointed by the first 15 hours or so of this game. Sure, it's pretty and yes, the combat is pretty damn nifty - a smooth meld between the favoured ATB system and the gambit system of FFXII - but you can essentially push 'Up' and mash 'A' for 15 hours and you'd pretty much get all the way through.
The second half of the game - when you eventually reach Chapter 11 and Gran Pulse stretches out before you like a field of dreams - is much more of the sort of open affair you might expect from a game following the expansive FFXII. Here the game opens up and you can take on side-quests and start swapping round your troupe of fighters and mixing and matching to your heart's content.
I gave Final Fantasy XIII a 7 in my review (check it out here), and I stick by it, but many might not make it to the second half of the game which would be a shame. The overbearing tutorial hides a gem of a game, full of surprisingly rich characters, an entertaining narrative woven from pure nonsense and a combat system that will delight strategists. It's a hard game, one that starts off deceptively easy but then spikes massively at various intervals, but one that's well worth the opening slog. You might not come back for a second playthrough, mind.
Thanks to Alena at HUKD