May contain violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
US: March 9, 2010
Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII: Everything We Know
The must-read resource on Square Enix's ravenously anticipated RPG.
by John Tanaka
December 16, 2009 -
It's been three and a half years since Final Fantasy XIII first made its surprise appearance at E3 2006. The trailers, teaser websites, and teaser websites teasing trailers are at long last coming to an end. Final Fantasy XIII hits Japanese PS3s tomorrow, and we've got all the information Final Fantasy fans need that just can't wait for the March U.S. release date.
Story | Characters | World | Combat | Game Systems | Marketing
In Japan, the latest numerical Final Fantasy remains a PlayStation-only title. We in the United States, of course, will get the game on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, like so:
Japan gets it like this:
You can have the wallet, just don't shoot.
To the left is the standard version of the game, priced at 9,240 yen (that's pretty standard pricing for major releases like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest). To the right is the Final Fantasy XIII Lighting Edition hardware bundle, which bundles the game with a special white, 250 gigabyte PS3. This is priced at 41,600 yen and is so incredibly rare that auctions are inching towards the thousands of dollars per unit.
Regardless of which version you get, the dual-layer 50 gigabyte disc containing Final Fantasy XIII will be the same. And what exactly is on that disc? That's why we're here.
Square Enix has been providing updates on Final Fantasy XIII to Japanese gamers through frequent appearances in such publications as Weekly Shounen Jump and Weekly Famitsu. More recently, the game was featured in a series of guide books detailing the story, characters, world, and basic gameplay systems.
We've gathered these key points together for this extensive pre-release preview. Read this to get the basics on Final Fantasy XIII so that you'll know your l'Cie from your fal'Cie when people around you are discussing XIII following tomorrow's launch.
First, turn the page for story and character details. Don't worry: everything that we write has been shared by Square Enix itself, so there shouldn't be any material that will spoil the story for you (of course, if you do want your experience to be totally fresh, skip to the third page for a look at the various areas of play).
Final Fantasy XIII's story centers on four key terms: Cocoon, Pulse, l'Cie and fal'Cie.
Cocoon is a floating world that appears like a giant moon in the skies of Pulse. The people of Cocoon consider the world to be a utopia, in contrast to the feared and detested lower world of Pulse.
fal'Cie are protectors of mankind. They oversee the Cocoon government, which otherwise consists of elected officials.
The central event in the Final Fantasy XIII "pre-story" involves a fal'Cie from the Pulse world being discovered in the underground of Boudam, the city that's home to the game's protagonists. Cocoon's peace comes to an end as the Cocoon government attempts to remove those having taken influence from Pulse.
The term l'Cie describes people that have been turned to servants by the fal'Cie. Branded with a special marking, they are cursed to fulfill a particular "Focus" (or objective) given to them by the fal'Cie, or become zombie-like Cie Corpses.
Final Fantasy XIII has six primary playable characters. Each primary character is a l'Cie, chosen by a fal'Cie for some task, and has the marking or tattoo somewhere on their body to show for it. They're each paired with an Eidolon -- a connection that plays a part in the story.
Serah is listed here as well. As far as we know, she's not a playable character, but she is one of the central figures -- if not the central figure -- in the Final Fantasy XIII story.
We've added a few additional details to Square Enix's official English language descriptions of the characters, below.
"This solitary young woman speaks little of herself -- even her true name is a mystery. She is known to others simply as 'Lightning.' "
Lightning was the first character introduced for Final Fantasy XIII and, if there has to be a "main" character for the game, she'd probably qualify (she is on the box, after all). She's formerly a member of a security force in Boudam, operating under the Cocoon government.
Her last name is Farron, but Lightning is not her real first name. When she was young, her parents passed away. Wanting to become strong and care for Serah, her younger sister, she decided to rid herself of the name given to her by her parents.
Lightning's Eidolon is Odin, who transforms into a horse. Her default weapon is "Blaze Edge," a prototype army weapon that combines a gun and a sword.
"An irrepressible, fiery young man, Snow dives headfirst into danger using nothing but his powerful physique as a weapon. Easily swayed by emotion, he is prone to rash words and actions. Nonetheless, many are won over by his outgoing and optimistic nature."
Snow was first introduced to Final Fantasy XIII through a trailer in which he appeared in the scene on a motorcycle. He's head of a group of ragtag rebels called Nora. He's also engaged to Serah, having proposed to her even after learning that she was chosen to be a l'Cie.
Snow's Eidolon is Shiva, a pairing of two sisters Nix and Stella, who merge into a motorcycle form. He fights with direct punches and kicks, although his weapon is actually his coat, which assumes various patterns depending on the current effect. By default, the coat is in "Wild Bear" form.
Oerba Dia Vanille
"Vanille is an endearing young woman with a relentlessly sunny disposition. Her bright personality gives no hint of the dark resolve that lies within."
Vanille appeared in XIII trailers long before we knew her name, shown looking out upon the world of Pulse (her pigtails made people refer to her as "pigtail girl" for some time). She appears to be close to Hope, whom, as depicted in the Advent Children demo, she meets in Hanged Edge. Like Hope, she was selected by the Cocoon government to be purged to Pulse.
Vanille's Eidolon, the last one revealed for the game, is Hecatoncheir, who transforms into a mech. Her default weapon is the "Bind Rod," an original Final Fantasy XIII creation that attacks enemies with wires and hooks.
"Sazh is a friendly, cheerful man who is never without his curious companions -- a Chocobo chick and a pair of pistols. He is quick to banter, but also keeps a mature perspective on matters. Uncontrollable events have set him on his current path, but another purpose compels him to walk it."
Sazh is a private pilot who ends up moving alongside Lightning following Boudam's purge. He has a son, Dahj, whom he raised alone following the death of Dadjh's mom (Square Enix hasn't referred to Dahj's mom as Sazh's wife yet, so we're not going to assume anything). The Chocobo chick was a present from Sazh to Dahj when the two were visiting a resort colony.
Sazh's summon is newcomer Brynhildr, who transforms into a hotrod-like vehicle. As his weapon, he makes use of guns which he holds in holsters attached to both legs. His initial weapon is Vega, a pair of guns that can be combined into a rifle.
"Hope has enjoyed a markedly uneventful youth on humankind's haven of Cocoon. His life is turned upside down at the hands of the Sactum's Purge."
14-year-old Hope and his mom were visiting Boudam when the purge took place. As depicted in the Advent Children demo, Snow was unable to keep Hope's mom safe after she volunteered to assist Nora in their rebellion. As a result, Hope resents Snow.
Hope has the biggest summon of them all, the massive Alexander.
His weapon is a boomerang, initially the Air Wing. Boomerangs are apparently a big thing now in Cocoon extreme sports (we're not sure if this means there'll be a boomerang mini-game or not). Hope's pockets also have a bit of technology in them. They serve as a transport mechanism, which carries the boomerang when he enters battle.
Oerba Yun Fang
"Fang is a mysterious woman who is working with the Sanctum military, despite bearing the mark of the detested l'Cie. She has a strong-minded personality and is unconcerned with trivialities."
Fang was the last major character introduced for Final Fantasy XIII. It's unknown why she supports Cocoon despite bearing the l'Cie mark. Square Enix's official character profiles also point out that she and Vanille both have "Oerba Yun" in their names. Perhaps there's some connection between the two characters?
Fang's summon is Bahamut, who transforms between bipedal and flying dragon forms. Her default weapon is the Blade Lance, a dual-bladed lance.
"Serah is Lightning's younger sister and Snow's fiancée. Always showing concern for Lightning, she has an inner fortitude that allows her to make her own decisions without relying on her older sister."
Serah, three years Lightning's junior, is the first person to be selected by the Pulse fal'Cie. She fulfills her duty and is converted into crystal form before Snow and Lightning's eyes.
The side characters Square Enix has introduced for Final Fantasy XIII can be split into two groups, Nora and Sanctum.
Led by Snow, this group took it upon themselves to keep the people of Boudam safe from monster attacks and the like. They didn't particularly like being controlled by the Cocoon government in the first place, but the purge caused them to take up arms in revolt.
In addition to Snow, the group consists of at least four members:
Maqui: A young boy who admires Snow and heads up maintenance and modifications on weapons and vehicles.
Gadot: A childhood friend of Snow, Gadot makes use of a machine gun as his weapon.
Lebreau: Another childhood friend of Snow, Lebreau makes use of large guns during combat.
Yuju: Little is known about this young fifth member of Nora.
"Sanctum" is the name of the powerful army run by the Cocoon government. It consists of regional security forces (including the one in which Lightning was stationed) and the PSICOM -- an elite group which focuses on Pulse's security.
Fang is technically considered a part of Sanctum, but aside from her, Square Enix has detailed five characters:
Yaag Rosch: Heads up his own group of PSICOM soldiers. He has a strong sense of justice and thinks first and foremost about Cocoon's safety. He was placed in charge of the Hanged Edge/Boudam purge which was depicted in the Advent Children demo.
Jihl Nabaat: A military elite who heads up her own group of PSICOM soldiers. She believes the purges should become policy.
Galenth Dysley: The elderly head of the Cocoon government, Dysley is trusted by the Cocoon residents as a lover of peace. He was the one who issued the purge directives following the discovery of the Pulse fal'Cie. It should be noted that Dysley isn't a dictator. The Cocoon government consists of elected representatives, overseen by the fal'Cie. Dysley is one of these representatives. He stands between the fal'Cie and the other representatives.
Cid Raines: Every Final Fantasy game has a character named "Cid." Final Fantasy XIII Cid appears to side with the bad guys! Cid heads up an air patrol that is so important it has its own large class airship that can speed to trouble spots. Previously, Square Enix has said that Cid has some doubts about the government. Incidentally, Cid outranks Jihl and Yaag.
Lightning uses her in-built taser tech to fend off unwanted attention.
Rygdea: Cid's right-hand-man. He also appears to have some reservations about the government. In fact, it seems that he's earned Lightning's favor because of his opposition to other army higher-ups.
Turn the page for a look at some of the locales that you'll be visiting in Final Fantasy XIII.
The world of Final Fantasy XIII is largely split into two areas: Pulse and Cocoon. You'll be traveling between these two areas, although just how you'll get from one to the other is something you'll have to find out by playing the game for yourself.
We've listed just a sampling of the areas that Square Enix has introduced.
A utopia floating in the sky. The Japanese kanji for Cocoon is literally "Utopia." Much of this part of the Final Fantasy XIII world consists of high-tech cities, but there are a few natural areas, including the forest environment that was depicted in early trailers.
Hanged Edge: This is the city setting that was depicted in the Advent Children demo and is the first area that you'll encounter in the game proper. It's been sealed off by the government -- being the closest part of Cocoon to Pulse, it has taken the most influence from the lower world.
The Sunleth Waterscape: A rare natural preserve in Cocoon. The weather of this area is controlled by a fal'Cie. What this means in terms of gameplay is that you can modify the weather by accessing special terminals. You'll encounter different monsters depending on the weather.
Palum Polum: A major city in Cocoon and one of the rare places where people actually shop for things (online shopping is big in Cocoon). The city is now packed with guards protecting from invading l'Cie -- that is to say, you! Below Palum Polum, you'll encounter a fal'Cie who supports the city's food supply and acts as an artificial sun.
Nautilus: An amusement area with a government-run theme park. Nautilus Park is the setting for the fireworks display that, in past trailers, has featured a romantic scene between Snow and Serah. In addition to engaging in RPG-like banter with visitors of this area, you'll find farms with Chocobos and other animals. Monitors lining the park play back videos showing a war from hundreds of years back between Pulse and Cocoon.
Fun Fact: Snow wears a beanie to hide the dandruff problem that gave him his nickname.
The massive "lower world" (that's the literal translation for Pulse's kanji) which spreads out below Cocoon. While Cocoon is considered a paradise for people, the natural Pulse world could be thought of as a paradise for monsters, which is why the beasts of Pulse are so big. Pulse's proper name is actually "Gran Pulse."
Mount Yaschas: This mountainous area appears to house the ruins of an ancient Pulse civilization. Now all it houses are zombie-like Cie Corposes (the remnants of l'Cie who fail to fulfill their focus) and a variety of monsters. Mount Yaschas doesn't have a direct role in the game's story, but you'll find rare large beasts here along with exclusive missions.
Now turn the page for some basics on Final Fantasy XIII's battle system.
Final Fantasy XIII uses an encounter-based battle system. You can see your enemies in advance and avoid them if you choose.
Get into combat and you'll find yourself in control of just one character in a party of three. The other characters are controlled by the AI.
As with past Final Fantasy games, XIII uses some variation of the "Active Time Battle" or "ATB" system. This basically means that the action doesn't while you're selecting a command to input (those who are stressed out by such things will be pleased to know that Final Fantasy XIII lets you select a "slow" speed from the options menu to calm things down).
Final Fantasy XIII's ATB system puts a large multi-unit gauge above your character's command menu. Moves that you select from the menu are placed on this gauge based off their cost. Weaker attacks take up just one unit on the gauge, while others take up multiple units or even the full gauge. You're free to execute moves individually, but let the gauge fill up and all your selected moves will execute in one go.
To the upper right of the screen, you'll see a gauge with some percentages. The percentages represent a "Chain Bonus." String together attacks and you'll build this figure up. Cross the "Break" amount listed next to it and you'll end up in a Break state. You'll be able to beat up on your foes with greater force until the gauge above the percentages depletes itself.
The moves that you have access to on your command menu depend on your character's Role. Consider these "Roles" to be the XIII equivalent of the "Jobs" in other Final Fantasy games. Each role gives your character unique abilities along with status boosters for such areas as attack and defensive power.
The game includes a total of six roles, although each character only starts with three and acquires access to the other three as the game progresses.
The six roles are as follows:
An offensive role. In fact, it can only perform attacks, so you'll need to have a different role set up for healing purposes. Attackers have access to such abilities as "Area Blast," and they receive bonuses for physical and magic-based attacks. Square Enix suggests combining Attackers with a Blaster for damage-heavy chain attacks.
Characters assigned to this role get boosts in physical and magic defense. In addition to absorbing enemy attacks in order to protect allies, Defenders can perform counter attacks.
Blasters have access to abilities such as Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder, and are good with elemental-based attacks. They can combine attacks using different elements to improve the power of the technique.
Healers have access to healing abilities like Cure and are given role bonuses such as increased effectiveness for recovery abilities and items. Healers can also heal allies who have died in battle. However, they are unable to actually attack enemies.
Enhancers have access to status-changing abilities such as "Haste." They can also be used to increase the strength, defense, and other abilities of allies and can also give elemental properties to their ally's abilities.
This role can reduce enemy attack and defense strength and can also cast status-inflicting spells on its opponents.
If you're big on RPGs, you can probably see some similarities between these roles and classic Final Fantasy jobs like Warrior and Mage. So why did the development team refrain from using the name "Job" and go with unique names? Director Motomu Toriyama and producer Yoshinori Kitase explained in past interviews that the borders between Final Fantasy XIII's roles differ when compared to the jobs of past Final Fantasy games. An Attacker, for instance, can use both sword-based and magic-based attacks, making it different from what one might consider the obvious analogy to the Warrior job.
Paradigms / Optimas
You don't directly assign a role to a character. Instead, you set up Paradigms: groupings of roles to be applied to each character in your party. In Japan, Paradigms are known as "Optimas."
During battle, you can change the capabilities of your entire party by switching between Paradigms. Pressing L1 brings up a menu that lets you select from some Paradigms that you've set up in advance. You'll want to plan ahead to make sure you have a good set of Paradigms at your disposal, then switch between them depending on the current battle situation.
The various Paradigm combinations have proper names like Rush Assault, Assault & Cure, and Delta Attack (these can't be customized). Not all role groupings form a useful Paradigm, though. In an interview, Kitase explained that players wouldn't want to use a Paradigm consisting of three Attackers. You might, however, use one that consists of three Blasters.
The availability of just six roles may seem a bit low, but when considering all the Paradigm combinations, Toriyama has said that he believes Final Fantasy XIII's battle system will be more varied than past franchise games.
You'll find yourself gaining access to additional Paradigms as the game progresses. These are added because your characters gain access to new roles, leading to the availability of additional combinations for your entire party.
Eidolons and Gestalt Mode
Roles and Paradigms represent a marked difference from past Final Fantasy games. But the change is nothing compared to the game's handling of summons.
As detailed on the character page, each character has a personal Eidolon. You can call the Eidolon out into battle when you need some extra power. The other two members of your party disappear and the summon takes their place, fighting under the control of the CPU.
Odds are she doesn't even know what that wacky gadget she's holding is used for.
You can take direct control of the summon using Gestalt Mode. This is known as "Driving Mode" in the Japanese version of the game because the summons transform into vehicles and you ride them. Here, you have direct control over the attacks the summon makes, selecting from five different attacks. The attacks have different costs, some bringing an end to Gestalt Mode after just one use.
The game's Tokyo Game Show build allowed players to call summons and switch to Driving Mode without end. There are limitations in the final game. In an interview, Toriyama said that most players will probably be able to call a summon once every 10 battles, although this of course will differ depending on play style.
Keep reading to see how you'll customize your Final Fantasy XIII play experience, as well as learn some more gameplay systems that could suck up your time.
Final Fantasy games suck players in with more than just dramatic storylines and frantic battles. Complex gameplay systems offer endless customization options and sell thousands of strategy guides.
The main customization systems in Final Fantasy XIII are known as "Crystarium" and "Equipment Reform" (It looks like they ran out of fancy system names for the latter!). Square Enix has also filled out the game with such side offerings as monster hunting quests and Chocobo treasure hunts.
Final Fantasy XIII is missing one of the key concepts of other RPGs: levels. Your characters don't level-up following battle.
Instead, you use the Crystarium System to build up your characters in certain roles. Crystal Points (CP) that you've earned in battle can be used to move your character through a tree-like chart, unlocking new skills and parameter modifiers along the way.
While your characters don't directly have "levels," there is the concept of a "level" included in the game. Your roles have levels. Once you've reached a central point in a role's Crystarium chart, the role will level up and you'll be given a higher level chart.
Your characters also have a "level" of sorts defined through their overall Cyrstarium level. This level is tied into the story and serves as a cap on the maximum level that your roles can reach.
This system lets you make weapon upgrades and modifications by "feeding" your items with special materials that you acquire while on your quest. As you add materials to weapons, the weapons gain experience, eventually reaching a maximum level and evolving into a new form.
The game includes over 100 materials. These can be found in treasure chests, earned by defeating enemies, purchased in shops, and acquired on missions (see below).
The materials have different effects depending on type. Some simply increase the weapon's experience value. Others interact with subsequently applied materials. For instance, one item adds a 1.25 experience multiplier to the next added material. It's a good idea to use this with a material that adds a large amount of experience to the weapon.
Using the Equipment Reform system, it's possible to build up your very first weapon throughout the course of the game and use it to defeat the final boss.
The l'Cie turn to zombie-like Cie Corpses when they fail to fulfill their focus. Eventually, they turn into obelisks which are found here and there in the Pulse overworld and serve the noble task of feeding players with optional side missions.
Final Fantasy XIII's mission system involves finding and defeating particular monsters, some of whom are said to be tougher than the final boss. By clearing missions, you'll get materials which can be used in the item reform system. Some materials will be accessible exclusively through this system.
The missions also have a ranking dynamic. You earn ranks as you clear missions.
Mission Mode does partially fit into the game's story. The mission briefing screen includes a profile detailing the obelisk's memories of its time as a l'Cie. The mission that you're performing is actually the Focus of the obelisk's l'Cie form.
The obelisks are the final form for the l'Cie. They're stuck like that forever, although on a positive note, this means that you can take on missions over and over again if you like.
Trophies and Achievements
Final Fantasy XIII embraces that modern gaming concept of the Trophy (or Achievements, if you're playing on Xbox 360). For the most part, you'll get Bronze Trophies as you work through the story. Gold Trophies will require a bit of effort. Some Trophies will give you actual prizes, including XMB themes.
While not directly in the game itself, Final Fantasy XIII will be seeing some major Home support. Square Enix will be providing avatar costumes for Snow, Sazh and Lightning, along with items based around enemies and weapons. As somewhat of a promotion in celebration both of Christmas and Home's one year anniversary, Sony and Square Enix will be giving away a FFXIII-themed Personal Space to interested parties.
Chocobo Treasure Hunts
In XIII, you'll find two types of Chocobos. The familiar cute type can be found in Cocoon, in an amusement area known as Nautilus Park. In Pulse, you'll find wild Chocobos. These are large enough to ride and sure enough that's just what you'll do.
You can use the Pulse Chocobos to race across the vast expanses of the Pulse world. You'll need to take care when driving, through, as the Chocobos incur damage when struck by an enemy and will flee when its life bar (just a bunch of feathers) reaches zero.
Chocobos have the ability to scan for treasure. They're also excellent diggers. This will apparently result in some sort of treasure hunting system.
As for the other type of Chocobo, it's unclear at this point if they do anything expect look cute. Incidentally, the baby Chocobo that Sazh carries around with him is of the Cocoon variety.
All of this should combine to make Final Fantasy XIII a substantial time investment for any serious RPG gamer. Expect the game's Ultimania guides to deforest entire continents.
Turn the page for a look at how Square Enix is marketing XIII to Japanese players.
Square Enix, presumably with full backing from Sony, has kicked off a huge promotional campaign for Final Fantasy XIII. Included in the campaign are commercials, television specials, and banner ads around Tokyo.
Retailers are giving the game the expected pre-release push. Pre-orders started in September right after the release date was announced. Many retailers have covered their game floors in Final Fantasy XIII materials.
And all this effort will come full circle when XIII hits Japanese retail on Thursday morning. Square Enix has some big launch events planned, including a star-studded early morning (As in 6:00AM!) countdown event at the famous Tsutaya retailer in Shibuya.
We hope to see as much fervor when Final Fantasy XIII hits the PS3 and the 360 internationally in March.
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