Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Final Fantasy XIII: First Impressions, The Characters (Part I)

When it comes to the Final Fantasy franchise one of the main aspects that keeps people coming back for are it's memorable Characters such as Cloud Strife (FFVII) , Cecil Harvey (FFIV) , Squall Leonhart (FFVIII) and Balthier the Sky Pirate (FFXII). It's important for the player to control and be presented to interesting characters whilst playing games with time spans such as any Final Fantasy as it can lead to the player losing interest in the game and story if the characters arn't polished enough. Since 1997's Final Fantasy VII, main character design has rested solely upon the shoulders of Tetsuya Nomura (with the exceptions of XI, XI and XII) whom is also famous for establishing the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Five hours in is a point where you should know you characters well and want to keep playing but does Final Fantasy XIII have interesting characters with enough depth to keep a player involved in their world for 60+ hours?

Lightning is the first character that is introduced to us, presented as a stern but strong individual. It's clear she is meant to be considered as the main character but so far the story has suggested that the group is equal in importance. An ex-soldier who is trying to rescue her sister from the Fal'cie, as the game progresses a little more is shown of her past presenting a more kind hearted person than the one we first meet. It's clear she has been written to be similar to Cloud from FFVII but to be slightly more talk active but the point of reference is still there. Lightning's design again is reminiscent of Cloud's from the hair style to the shoulder pad, whilst she is a female character it's quite good to see that wasn't exploited as with her personality and image there seems to be little thought in trying to present as a sexy and attractive woman, this works to the characters benefit, making her fit right in with other Final Fantasy heroes. Her weapon is clearly a reference to the gunblade, featured in FFVIII but with a more butterfly knife asthetic, it is quite cool to watch the weapon unfold as Lightning prepares for battle.

Introduced to us along with Lightning, Sazh is a more down to earth character who seems to have gotten mixed up in all the calamity just by sticking around, having had plenty of times to walk away he stuck by Lightning. Clearly meant to be a side kick and comic relief Sazh actually comes of as one of the most rational and likeable characters, whilst not much is known about his past so far he definetly plays a kind of wisdom role in the group (being the oldest). With was based of Lionel Richie and a fairly sensible dress sense in comparison to other characters for a western audience Sazh hits the demographic and then some. Again clearly another reference to FFVII with the secondary character being of African origin in design but Sazh comes more interesting than his VII counter part Barret (who was in essence B.A. Baracus). It's also good to see more various races in a Final Fantasy game as oddly for a Japanese game almost all the characters have been presented as Caucasian. Sazh's weapons are dual pistols, and when he uses them in battles he pulls of some impressive poses which makes it a delight to have him in your team, oh and he has a baby Chocobo in his Afro!

When we're first presented Snow he's fighting in the resistance against Cocoon, clearly a strong individual who is strong headed and possibly overconfident (always refering to himself as a hero) but this is also his weakness as it's clear he's not much of a thinker and is a bit of a daydreamer. Before getting caught up in the calamity Snow was set on rescuing his bride to be from the Fal'cie, in the group Snow plays the part of the kind hearted protector. With his long white trench coat and blonde hair his design is very similar to that of Seifer from FFVIII but it differs enough to not be a kind of cookie cut of him. Snow's weapon is acctually just his fists but gains additional power from seals on the back of his coat, a nice little touch is that when you change the type of seal Snow was equipped when you're next in battle you'll see that the design has changed. It's clear Snow was designed to fill the parts of a hero that Lightning doesn't fill, kind of making the player choose between two characters for their main hero, this sin't a bad thing mind you as you can't have one all encompassing character.

Find Part II here

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