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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

Game review: Nearly great Final Fantasy XIII

Some persistent problems keep this sequel from entering the pantheon of great role-playing games, but that should not stop you from thoroughly enjoying Final Fantasy XIII.

Lightning, a free-willed heroine, enters the franchise's stable of characters as the focal point.

Final Fantasy has always boasted some of the most memorable gaming characters and you will grow to appreciate Lightning and almost everyone in your party. Aside from Lightning, you'll soon meet Snow, Sazh, Hope, Vanille, and others who will aid in your battle against foes small and large. And when you encounter the large and dangerous bosses, you'll be thankful how dynamic each of those characters is and the skills each brings to battle.

The turn-based combat returns but has a little tweak that gives it the feel of being played out in real time. It's smooth, and when all your characters are in harmony with their talents, you get quite the feeling of teamwork. You'll earn “crystogen” points and move your character along, but the new-level progression system is stilted and doesn't allow for much innovation.

Of course, no Final Fantasy game is worth its salt unless it features stunning visuals, and FFXIII is no exception. Naturally, all the cut scenes and cinematography are top-notch, and no one tells a story quite like the Square Enix team. The worlds and levels you'll play through are equally striking, though like character progression they sometimes come off as linear and constricted.

But make no mistake: This franchise is one of gaming's strongest. With a bold cast of characters and an always-forward-looking story and striking visuals, Square Enix's bedrock franchise never disappoints. FFXIII may not be perfect, but it's still excellent.

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