Let’s begin this article by addressing the elephant in the room; a lot of Final Fantasy fans passionately hate Final Fantasy XIII. To those people, may I briefly break formality to personally say that “I’m sorry, but this article will probably get on your nerves, because I really like not only Final Fantasy XIII, but the entire Final Fantasy XIII trilogy”.
Despite many positive critical reviews, a significant quantity of the Final Fantasy fanbase dislikes Final Fantasy XIII. Many of that same community of ‘anti XIII-ers’ adore earlier entries within the franchise, such as 2001’s Final Fantasy X (an entry which serves as an appropriate example of the classic Final Fantasy gameplay formula upon the franchise’s switch into 3D). So, what would be discovered if the often adored Final Fantasy X were to be compared to the sometimes frowned upon Final Fantasy XIII? Well, the fact of the matter is this; no matter how much the most devoted lover of Tidus’s adventure may want to deny it, it is objectively true that many of the criticisms fired at Final Fantasy XIII also apply to Final Fantasy X! This begs the question, “Do certain Final Fantasy fans favour entries within the franchise based on their own personal nostalgia and choose to refrain from un-biased critical analysis towards non-nostalgic games within the franchise?”
Before anybody takes offense, Final Fantasy X is not a bad game (especially for its time of release). Rather, Final Fantasy XIII is disliked by certain fans simply due to it being ‘newer’ and ‘non-nostalgic’. What follows below are comparisons and differences of certain gameplay mechanics that should serve to highlight that Final Fantasy XIII isn’t quite as bad as some people may think!
This was arguably the biggest criticism of Final Fantasy XIII. During the first two thirds of the game you follow a set path with little room to break off and explore. The game becomes extremely combat and story focused as a result. Eventually, however, upon reaching the final third of the game, you enter a sprawling open world filled with missions to complete and secrets to discover. Since the enemy encounter system is ‘non-random encounter’, you can control when you enter into battle. This allows you to explore your environment without mandatory combat breaking the game’s pace and taking control away from you. By comparison, the world of Final Fantasy X is, much like the first two thirds of Final Fantasy XIII, a linear path designed specifically to advance the story. This fault of linearity exists within both games, and to an arguably worser extent in Final Fantasy X, due to the fact that on the rare occasions that it does allow you to explore, you are not allowed to travel for more than approximately five seconds before mandatory combat is forced upon you, breaking any sense of ‘fun’ within the exploration the game may have tried to attempt. Whilst Final Fantasy X does eventually allow you to re-visit previous locations, it still pails in comparison to Final Fantasy XIII‘s sprawling (though admittedly sparse) Gran Pulse.
2. The Combat System
Final Fantasy X utilizes traditional turn based combat (which is to be expected due to its time of release). It is (for the most part) enjoyable, as any tried and tested gameplay type should be. Final Fantasy XIII on the other hand flirts with a similar combat style, but focuses more on introducing fresh ideas. It borrows the active time battle combat from many other Final Fantasy games (such as Final Fantasy VII), whilst also implementing class types that can be changed mid battle via ‘paradigm shifts’. Whilst Final Fantasy X makes use of tried and tested turn based combat, Final Fantasy XIII combines a perfect balance of traditional JRPG combat with new gameplay mechanics to make it feel unique!
The upgrading mechanics of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII differ significantly, with the latter being more streamlined and user friendly, and the former being (whilst a little more daunting at first) more unique. Final Fantasy XIII rewards all characters an equal amount of experience points upon battle completion, regardless of whether or not they have participated in the battle itself. This results in characters growing at a similar pace to one another, and it makes level grinding feel more rewarding as a result. By comparison, Final Fantasy X will only reward experience points to the characters that have participated in a battle, omitting the reserve characters from any kind of reward upon battle completion. Although characters can be added and removed during battle, allowing you to utilize every character in a fight and reward experience points to all of them, this inevitably feels tediously time consuming. A one minute battle will instead take five minutes simply because you wanted to allow every character the chance to participate in the interest of rewarding experience points to all of them. Final Fantasy XIII grants you more time to play as your favourite three characters, and bypasses a mechanic that does nothing other than contributing a significant element of tediousness to Final Fantasy X‘s otherwise intelligent upgrade system.
4. The Characters and Story
It would be difficult for someone to defend the characters and story of Final Fantasy XIII, because it objectively has its fair share of cringe-inducing dialogue and poorly explained plot points. With that being said, it would also be difficult for someone to defend the characters and story of Final Fantasy X. Whilst Final Fantasy XIII is rife with poor storytelling, there is some genuine fascination to be found in Lightning and her friends becoming branded as L’Cie. The response of the surrounding population toward the heroes was one of fierce discrimination born out of fear and a lack of understanding. This draws parallels with homophobia, racism, and other forms of discrimination within our own society, and subtly combines a fantasy themed story with real world issues. Final Fantasy X‘s story, whilst serviceable, doesn’t hold the same level of enjoyment. This is in part due to the wooden voice acting and stereotypical personalities of the characters. Whilst Final Fantasy XIII‘s characters have their faults, they are significantly more tolerable, relatable and well-voiced than the cast of Final Fantasy X. Even its most passionate fans will agree that Tidus and Yuna’s “HA HA HA HA HA” scene has become a joke within the community due to it being an atrocity in storytelling and character development. Hope’s frequent complaining within Final Fantasy XIII seems like a joy by comparison.
As mentioned previously, Final Fantasy X is not a bad game. Rather, it is as bad as Final Fantasy XIII, which is actually a compliment to Final Fantasy X. Whatever your opinion may be on the infamous first outing of Lightning and her friends, at least everyone can agree that it was far from a Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric level of disaster! Even if only for this reason, Final Fantasy XIII sometimes doesn’t quite deserve the relentlessly negative reception it receives.