Final Fantasy XIII (Japanese) Review

As I finished FFXIII recently, I thought I would share my thoughts with you from the perspective of "using FF to learn Japanese."

Final Fantasy XIII is among the most gorgeous games I have ever played. The art direction is superb; with the power of the PS3, the in-game graphics are close to the sophistication of the cutscenes in the PS2's Final Fantasy 12.

Unfortunately, the story is not all that great. That isn't to say there isn't useful Japanese to learn, but it's standard anime fare- you'll learn about as much Japanese playing Final Fantasy as you would watching anime, though perhaps even a little less, as a large part of your time will be spent fighting battles where no language is used.

I don't want to reveal any spoilers, so I'll just say that other than the ho-hum story, I resented being tied to a track for the majority of the game. The battle system also seemed primitive and overly simplistic; you can only control one character (the party leader), and there is no way to, for example, order a supporting character to cast haste at the start of every battle. Instead, you have to leave everything up to the AI.

As far as the Japanese component, though, it isn't all bad. There are a tremendous number of cutscenes in the game, and all of these have full voice and subtitles. Unfortunately, there is no way to replay cutscenes one has already watched, though they can be paused at any time. To keep the story straight, one can access text-based summaries of the cutscenes from the party menu, but unless you are already fluent in Japanese, these will probably not be very helpful.

Aside from the cutscenes, there is very little dialog in this game. All of the NPC dialog is voiced, but you only have the opportunity to talk to NPCs at a handful of spots during the course of the entire game.

While I'm on the subject, this game makes some dramatic departures from previous FFs:

  • There are no towns. (Hence the low number of NPCs.)
  • Shops are accessed at save points.
  • After each battle, everyone is automatically reset to full HP. (Even if they died.)
  • If you die, you simply restart right before the battle you lost as if you had never fought it.
  • There is no MP.
  • You don't earn gil from battles; you must find it in treasure chests. (There is little gil in the game.)

If this still sounds like FF to you, you'll probably enjoy it. Even though at times it can feel more like a movie than a game, I played it for fifty hours and enjoyed 95% of that time. It's certainly on the easier side of things, but that's not always a bad thing.