Just today I went over to a friend's house. He owns an Xbox 360 and recently bought Final Fantasy 13. I had to come over and try it out for myself. I ended up staying there from 3:00-10:30 doing almost nothing but playing it.
I got a good glimpse into disk 1 and saw my friend play through disk 2 some as well. Here are my first impressions of the game:
The game looks stunning. Cut-scene graphics and normal game-play graphics are almost exactly the same, both look amazing. This is, however, yet another case where game-play and graphics overshadow storyline and freedom.
I'm rather amazed. SquareEnix must see the multitude of complaints saying that they focus too much on how the game looks these days, yet they do nothing about it and continue along their same path. They need to think about why Final Fantasy 6 and 7 were so popular regardless of how they looked (one being 2D and one looking like complete crap). It's the story and the amazing worlds and situations you get sucked into. They also aren't nearly as linear as Final Fantasy 13 turns out to be. (I think we also need to mention that those two games had very serious stories and situations in them, however there was plenty of comic relief.) Sure, all Final Fantasy games have some amount of linear game-play in them, that's what a storyline in a game is supposed to be like. However, Final Fantasy 13 plays more like a shooter with Final Fantasy-like game-play than a Final Fantasy game. That's how linear it feels. You go 'chapter' to 'chapter' doing basically the same thing, fighting your way to the end to proceed through the storyline. There's hardly anything at all to do in between.
The game-play is where FF13 seems to shine. It's very fast-paced and like nothing you've seen in a Final Fantasy game before. It gets more and more complicated as you progress through the story. This only serves to give you more strategy and offer many different ways for you to fight through the various enemies and situations that come your way. I find this to be the most fun part about the game.
As I hinted to before in the ()s, this game's storyline is almost too serious. It's like you're watching a movie. This is something I find very annoying about the game. Everybody is so serious about everything, and the ones that don't seem serious are either idiots or have some kind of problem festering inside of them that will come out later. There's no comic relief at all, nothing to change the mood. It's just a serious, linear storyline. This serves to not allow you to connect in any way with the characters in the story, due to there really being no memorable events in the game. Example of how this might work: In Final Fantasy 6 we all remember Kefka's laugh. Due to its comical and memorable nature, we remember Kefka. In fact, every time we see him, as annoying as he may be, we can't help but laugh and form memories of him as a character. This is a serious hole in Final Fantasy 13, especially when you include the fact that the storyline is nearly impossible to follow without any prior knowledge. You're basically thrown into this new world with people stating terms you've never heard of, talking about things you have no idea of what it's about, etc. A lot like Final Fantasy 12, only 12 was a little easier to understand. SquareEnix has succeeded in making a storyline and the world it's based in ten times more complicated than it needs to be.
Well, there are my thoughts on Final Fantasy 13. I like it, and it's a lot of fun, but a lot's missing and I don't like it one bit. SquareEnix needs to really think over the next one if they decide to make it, and maybe keep in mind past successes when they are thinking.