Final Fantasy XIII (ファイナルファンタジーXIII, Fainaru Fantajī Sātīn?) is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Released in 2009 in Japan and 2010 in North America and PAL regions, it is the thirteenth instalment in the Final Fantasy series. The game introduced a few innovations to the series: a fast-paced combat mechanic, a new system determining which abilities are developed for the characters called "Crystarium", and a customizable "Paradigm" system to control which abilities are used by the characters. Final Fantasy XIII also includes elements from the previous games, such as summoned monsters, chocobos and airships. The Steam release outside Japan does not include Japanese interface or subtitles support.
The game takes place in the fictional floating world of Cocoon, whose government, the Sanctum, is ordering a purge on civilians who have supposedly come into contact with those from Pulse, the much-feared world below. Lightning, a former soldier from Cocoon, begins her fight against the government in order to save her sister, who has been branded a Pulse l'Cie — unwilling servants to the beings known as the fal'Cie, who maintain order on both Cocoon and Pulse — and thus has become an enemy of Cocoon. Lightning is soon joined by a band of allies, and together the group also become l'Cie after their encounter with a Pulse fal'Cie. Together, they rally against the Sanctum, while also trying to discover their "Focus" as l'Cie — the tasks they must complete before their time comes to an end.
First appearing at E3 2006, Final Fantasy XIII was to be the flagship title of the Fabula Nova Crystallis collection of Final Fantasy games and was the first game to use Square Enix's Crystal Tools engine. Square Enix describes the theme of the game as "those who resist the world". Final Fantasy XIII has received much critical acclaim from several noted video game publications. Selling over 1.6 million copies in Japan, it became the fastest-selling title in the history of the series. As of May 2010, the game has sold 5.75 million copies worldwide.
The player directly controls the on-screen character through a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects and enemies throughout the game. The player can also control the camera with the right analog stick, allowing for a 360° view of the surroundings. The world of Final Fantasy XIII is rendered to scale relative to the characters in it; instead of a caricature of the character roaming around miniature terrain, as found in the earlier Final Fantasy games, every area is represented proportionally. The player navigates the world by foot or by Chocobo. Players may save their game to a hard disk drive using save stations, where the player can also purchase items from retail networks or upgrade their weapons. An in-game datalog provides a bestiary and incidental information about the world of Final Fantasy XIII.
Similar to those found in Final Fantasy XII, enemies are integrated into the open field and the transition to a separate battle screen similar to those used in previous Final Fantasy titles has been restored. A maximum of three characters may be used in battles, which uses the series' traditional Active Time Battle (ATB) system designed by Hiroyuki Ito and was first featured in Final Fantasy IV. Under this system, the player selects a command from the menus, such as Attack, Magic and Item; however, the player only controls the lead character, while the remaining two characters are controlled by the game's AI. Each action takes a specific number of slots, and the ATB bar increases throughout the game from two slots to a maximum of six. The player may also select less than the maximum number of possible actions, or to stop the filling of the ATB bar and perform as many actions as can be done with the current ATB amount. The player may also select an "autobattle" command which fills the ATB slots with actions chosen automatically. Actions cannot be performed outside of battle, and the characters' health is fully restored after each battle.
A new feature in Final Fantasy XIII is the "Paradigm" system, which allows the player to program six different roles for the characters to perform certain formations in battle in response to the specific conditions. The roles consist of Commando, a warrior-type role; Ravager, a black mage-type role involving the use of magic in battle; Medic, a White Mage-type role involving the use of healing in battle; Saboteur, a role which performs magic attacks that weaken enemies; Synergist, which casts magic that strengthens allies; and Sentinel, a role which has increased defense and protective abilities. Each of the characters can initially take on only three roles, but they may assume any of them later in the game. Each character can summon an "Eidolon" into battle from a crystal that sprouts from the character's mark of l'Cie. The Eidolons include series staples Odin, Shiva, Alexander, and Bahamut, and newcomers Hecatoncheir and Brynhildr. When summoned, the Eidolon stays in combat while the characters accompanying the summoner leaves the party. There is also a new feature called "Gestalt Mode", in which the Eidolon transforms into a specific form for each character. The Eidolons play a major role in the game's storyline as well, much like Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII.
The Crystarium is a levelling system consisting of ten stages, and resembles the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. Like the Sphere Grid, all characters may unlock all roles; however, an ability is required before a new role can be used.
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Final Fantasy XIII begins in Cocoon thirteen days after a series of events instigated by l'Cie and a fal'Cie from Gran Pulse lead to "The Purge", a mass-murder by PSICOM special forces disguised as a large-scale deportation of Pulsian threats. Lightning participates in derailing a train destined for this slaughter to save her sister Serah from the fal'Cie Anima, with support from Sazh Kathroy. In the subsequent battle, Snow Villiers leads his resistance group, NORA, to save the exile civilians, with Nora Estheim getting killed in this struggle. As Snow heads to the Pulse fal'Cie to save Serah Farron, his fiancée, he is followed by Nora's son, Hope Estheim, and the mysterious Vanille. The groups meet in the heart of the fal'Cie's lair over a barely-conscious Serah, who urges them to save Cocoon before turning to crystal, to Lightning and Snow's dismay. They find themselves fighting Anima as it brands them with the mark of the l'Cie - ones who are doomed to a fate of completing their Focus, the task appointed by the fal'Cie, or becoming Cie'th, mindless monsters. During this transformation, the newly crested l'Cie all have the same vision of a monster called Ragnarok. The group argues over the ambiguous nature of the vision and Serah's last words, culminating with Snow's decision to remain with the crystallized Serah as the others leave. He is then attacked and captured by the Calvary, a splinter group in Cocoon's military headed by Cid Raines that believes humans, not fal'Cie, should control the Sanctum. During his captivity, he meets another l'Cie, Fang.
Meanwhile, the others manage to escape from PSICOM before crashing in the Vile Peaks. They soon part ways: Hope and Lightning, seeking revenge on the Sanctum for initiating the Purge, make their way to Palumpolum through the Gapra Whitewood as Vanille and Sazh go the opposite direction toward Nautilus, hoping to escape from their troubles once and for all. Lightning learns of Hope's mother and unintentionally supports his desire for revenge by giving him the knife Serah gave her for her birthday. However, once at Palumpolum, Lightning realizes her mistake and instead tries to convince Hope not to carry out his vengeance on Snow. There, they find Snow and Fang, but promptly separate to throw off their PSICOM attackers. Fang, on the way, reveals that she and Vanille are the l'Cie from Pulse who'd awakened from their crystal slumber thirteen days before the Purge and thus were indirectly responsible for the chain of events that lead to the current situation. Meanwhile, Hope nearly takes his revenge against Snow but is knocked unconscious. A seriously injured Snow saves his life and apologizes for Nora's death. Soon after meeting up and taking refuge in the house of Hope's father, Bartholomew, the l'Cie are forced to leave the city with the Calvary's aid to ensure everyone's safety. Meanwhile, Sazh tells Vanille how a Cocoon fal'Cie branded his son, Dajh, in self-defense, and how the boy was consequently taken by PSICOM to find out his Focus. When the l'Cie arrive in Nautilus, they are caught in a PSICOM trap by Jihl Nabaat, who used Dajh's focus and ability to find Cocoon l'Cie against his father. Jihl then reveals that Vanille and Fang are the Pulse l'Cie that caused Dajh's transformation into a l'Cie. Dajh, his focus complete, is crystallized while his father and Vanille are captured and detained on the Palamecia, pending their immediate execution.
With help from the Cavalry, the other l'Cie launch a daring rescue aboard the Palamecia. After reuniting with Vanille and Sazh, the party confronts the Sanctum's primarch, Galenth Dysley, who is actually the human incarnation of the fal'Cie Barthandelus. The fal'Cie reveals their Focus is the destruction of the fal'Cie Orphan, which would cause Cocoon to crash into the surface of Gran Pulse. Vanille and Fang were, in fact, the same l'Cie who had attempted the feat centuries ago, with their actions resulting in Cocoon's shell being cracked and Gran Pulse being devoid of human life. After they learn about the fal'Cie's intentions to bring back the Maker by sacrificing Cocoon from Cid, who is revealed to be a Sanctum l'Cie, the party escapes to Gran Pulse to find clues about removing their l'Cie marks. However, they reach a dead end at Vanille and Fang's hometown, Oerba. The group faces Dysley again, who reveals a back up plan: by manipulating Cid to become the new primarch and bringing Pulse monsters to Eden, he will force the Calvary into action, killing Cid and Orphan in a bloody coup d'état during the chaos.
The party infiltrates Eden after returning to Cocoon, only to find that the Cavalry have been turned into Cie'th. The group confronts Yaag Rosch, the leader of PSICOM, who sacrifices himself to cover the party's advance into Orphan's Cradle. Inside, the party encounters and mortally wounds Dysley. However, Orphan awakens and absorbs him to forge creating a multi-faced shell to cover it while overpowering the group. Orphan, hoping to force Fang and Vanille to become Ragnarok, turns the others into Cie'th as Fang attempts to become Ragnarok to destroy Orphan to Vanille's dismay. However, when the attempt failed, Orphan starts torturing Fang to resume the form as Vanille refuses to stand by. However, the group regain themselves with a new Focus and deliver a powerful attack, rescuing Fang and revealing Orphan's true form. Emboldened by their new Focus, an image of Cocoon's people safe and happy, the l'Cie then team up to slay the fal'Cie. Lightning, Snow, Sazh, and Hope escape Cocoon as Vanille and Fang transform into Ragnarok. Together, the two sacrifice themselves to prevent a collision between Cocoon and Pulse by creating a crystal pillar between the two worlds. Afterward, the others awaken on Gran Pulse and find that their l'Cie brands have vanished. The game ends with the former l'Cie reuniting with Serah and Dajh as Vanille and Fang, once again turned to crystal, oversee a new beginning for Cocoon's people.
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