Final Fantasy XIII, the first installment of the series on PlayStation 3, boasts intuitive controls and seamless transitions between real-time gameplay and in-game cinematics. However, it has faced criticism and controversy for its linearity. The game's progression resembles a straight path for the first 20 hours, briefly opens up, then returns to linearity. While not terrible, it feels like a step back compared to the open-world exploration of FFXII, making it more of an annoyance than a major flaw.
The soundtrack, composed by Masashi Hamauzu, features a blend of elevator music and epic orchestral and choral pieces. The in-game music is simple and often forgettable, but during cutscenes, it enhances the story significantly. The battle themes, from standard to boss battles, are consistently well-done and enjoyable.
However, the game is lacking in sidequests and mini-games, with monster hunting being the only significant side activity. In comparison, FFXII had more variety, including fishing, and FFX also offered more sidequests. Players could spend over 150 hours in FFXII, while FFXIII's side content can be completed in under 80 hours.
The story, usually a standout aspect of Final Fantasy games, falls short in FFXIII. The game begins abruptly, bombarding players with unexplained terms like Fal'Cie, L'Cie, Cieth, and Cocoon. Although the narrative improves with each chapter, it only reaches its full potential in chapters 8 and 9. Unfortunately, starting from chapter 10, the story takes a nosedive, losing its grip on the player's interest and feeling detached from the rest of the game.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy XIII provides an average gaming experience enjoyable for hardcore fans but potentially disappointing for casual players. The game's linearity, lack of sidequests, and inconsistent story prevent it from being a truly exceptional entry in the main series.