At Last: Final Fantasy XIII

March 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Today we witness the release of one of the most highly anticipated games of the decade; Final Fantasy XIII. This title was actually first teased at way back in 2006, so the long road to release has been staggering. Well, that wait is finally over and we can all sit down to what will surely be the gaming event of the year.

Released in December over in Japan, Final Fantasy XIII has actually amassed a little controversy since its unveling, and the reviews received for the game haven't quite been the straight aces developers Square Enix were hoping for. The main reason for this is that Final Fantasy XIII has quite drastically revised the fundamental gameplay associated with the franchise, and indeed the RPG genre as a whole. Gone are NPCs, interactive towns and an instantly open world.

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Instead, Final Fantasy XIII is a lot more linear and story driven. Players follow quite a tightly set path for the first 25 hours or so of play. Following this, the gameplay opens up and players are free to follow their own choices a little more. This has been a major gripe amongst some, whereas others welcome the more focussed and cinematic approach. It really does depend on your preference.

One element which has been universally applauded is the combat system, which is made up of an innovative mesh of X and XII. Players are now able to 'stack' actions, and the more you can stack increases as you level up. Furthermore, in Final Fantasy XIII there are various different roles your characters can play, such as healer and tank, and gamers are free to shift these roles during fights.

It goes without saying that the graphics in this title are breathtaking. Presentation has always been Square Enix's strongpoint, and the franchise has always offered top range visuals. Being the first of the franchise to hit the next gen consoles, Final Fantasy XIII is, without a doubt, the best looking videogame ever. The cut scenes are so detailed and beautiful you'll want to stare at them all day, and the in-game graphics are good enough to rival the FMVs of lesser games.

Throw in an undoubtedly epic storyline, and you have the biggest game of the year. It may be a little different to what you're used to, but overall Final Fantasy XIII is just what everyone's been waiting for. Masterful combat, achingly beautiful visuals and a guartenteed 60+ hours of gameplay mean Final Fantasy is back with a vengeance. Let the adventure begin.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope

March 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Star Ocean is a long-lived and enduring franchise which first appeared all those years ago on the Super Famicom. A sequel followed,Star Ocean: The Second Story, on the 3D Playstation in the late nineties. Over the years, numerous more Star Ocean games have been released, all of which expand on and refine the original action-oriented role-playing game formula. Square Enix have now developed a next gen entry into the pantheon; Star Ocean: The Last Hope, which they promise will take the much loved franchise on a new and fresh direction.

Combat is dealt with in real time, with your enemies actually visible upon the field on vision, with the player able to dip in and control the various characters at their disposal. The Last Hope expands upon the usual formula by allowing use of up to four characters at a time instead of three. Switching between characters is done with the left and right bumpers.

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Another new aspect to the game is BEAT, a function utilized to affect the general posture of your character. This can be manipulated to give your character a more passive or agressive stance for example. A completely new feature to the series is this: when an enemy locks onto you and charges you, holding down the B button allows you to use the analog to slip around behind him as he reaches your position, allowing you a chance for a critical strike.

Visually this game is beautiful, as you would expect from a Square Enix title.The special cutscenes have been handled by Visual Works, the studio that helped the create the notoriously detailed and gorgeous cutscenes from the Final Fantasy series. In The Last Hope, vibrant worlds and gorgeous characters form to create a typically engrossing RPG. Gameplay is polished and works well, keeping the flow just right whilst retaining many of the traditional RPG elements you wouldn't want to lose.

Perhaps the best thing about Star Ocean; The Last Hope is that it is intended as a prequel, and so is the perfect place for newcomers to the series to enter into the world of Star Ocean. For veterans of the franchise, there will no doubt be the noltalgia of the earlier games flowing through this title. Star Ocean; The Last Hope could well be the best RPG released thus far for the Xbox 360.

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