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Why Final Fantasy 13 was a success (part 2): Heightening the emotional drama

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

In an age where the dramatic tension in video games is reaching its peak, Final Fantasy 13 immerses players in one of the most emotionally intense stories ever to grace an RPG.

At first glance, the title seems like a mindless journey down a single path that's filled with enemies. But the 13th installment tries something different. It gives players the opportunity to interact with the visual components of a blockbuster action movie.

The player is free to control the camera and look at everything around the characters. He or she can watch all the explosive fireworks, such as the chaotic spaceships shooting over people’s heads in the introductory area.

The rotatable camera isn't new to Final Fantasy, but the designers use it in a much more compelling manner than previous entries into the series. Unlike Final Fantasy 10, the camera sits lower, giving a better representation of the characters' perspective, so that the player can see just how humongous the environment really is. This sense of scale really adds to the scope of the story.

 

Snow looks at the new l'Cie tattoo on his armLong-time fans complained that the experience was more like a series of cut-scenes. They argued that it didn’t players the freedom to explore their environment, and in some ways, their argument holds up pretty well for the first half of the game.

Unfortunately, no one elaborated on the dense storyline, which is persistent throughout the whole journey. The story is a remarkable trial of emotional agony. A giant monster, known as a Fal’Cie, ends up branding a rebellious group of humans with a mysterious mark. The tattoo turns them into l’Cie, humans with fearsome magical powers.

The l’Cie must complete a specific mission, called a focus. Otherwise, they will turn into deformed monsters, robbed of mind and purpose. Even if they complete their focus, they end up turning into crystal statues for all eternity. To make matters worse, l'Cie are considered a threat to humanity, and their planet’s army is hunting them down.

Although the game tends to ramble through long exchanges of existential dialogue, the cut-scenes come across in a completely different manner. Instead of playing out the dialogue with stilted animations and awkward voices in the fashion of Final Fantasy 10 and 12, the developers synchronized realistic motion-capture animation with professional voice acting. From the jerky, handheld cinematography to the lifelike character animations, everything looks much more substantial and modern.

The storyline is also carries greater emotion weight. This time, the characters aren’t merely spiritual diviners or English swordsmen. Their spiritual eidolons and their magical powers are powerful visual representations of their damaged psychological states. The massive, epic conclusion of Final Fantasy 13 marvelously depicts how a group of hopeless individuals can overcome the doubts and fears and learn to believe in a brighter future.

Vanille hugs Hope to try and comfort him

It is also one of the most unbelievably beautiful ending sequences I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’m not even sure if really made that much sense, but it sure looked incredible. It’s a mysterious cliffhanger that will leave people wondering what will happen next.

In my next article, I will discuss the part of the game that reviewers criticized most: the (supposedly) linear nature of the game and its lack of exploration. Although it restrains people to a single path in the former portion, I hope to prove that the second half of the game opens up the environment in a manner that's unique to Final Fantasy 13.


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