The Birth (And Death) Of The Fabula Nova Crystallis - Let's Play FF XIII

Final Fantasy XIII was the hotly anticipated thirteenth release in the world famous Final Fantasy franchise. The title was going to be a lot of “firsts” for the series. It was the first mainline title to be a multiplatform release. While previous titles were ported to other consoles, FFXIII was the first to launch on multiple consoles at once. It was the first title to ever grace an Xbox console. FF was originally exclusive to Nintendo, and later Sony. It was also the first mainline title to be released on then-current gen hardware. The last major FF game was released on the PS2. For the sake of argument, it’s worth noting that I am not counting FFXI as it was an MMO, not a JRPG.

Upon release, FFXIII met a cold fan reception. Fans did not take kindly to the new entry. The game was panned by fans for its level-based linear gameplay, autobattle feature, the ability to start off from the beginning of a fight upon death instead of going back to a save point, and other features unique to this entry in the series. Fans felt, at the time, that the title was too much of a departure from the series’ norms and lacked elements considered essential for a “Final Fantasy” game. There were claims the title was a “dumbing down” for mass market and wasn’t for “real JRPG gamers.” Fans felt the game took too long to get going. There were players saying that the game didn’t get good until Chapter 11, which is 20 hours into the game and near the end of the experience. People also disliked the cast and story. The story was panned for being too hard to follow and relying too heavily on the “datalog” to understand. The characters were considered annoying and flat. Even the music received criticism due to the departure of Nobuo Uematsu, who had left in 2004. While this wasn’t the first Final Fantasy without him at the helm, and despite the fact the composer for FFXIII Masahi Hamauzu had worked on previous entries, there seemed to be some who felt the soundtrack didn’t live up to previous entries in the franchise and cited Nobuo Uematsu departure as why.

Despite this reception, FFXIII reviewed well and sold well. Sales were bolstered by the multiplatform release, which helped draw in sales from corners of the market that Final Fantasy normally couldn’t access. Overall, however, the cold fan reception severely damaged the “FFXIII” part of the brand. Before its release, FFXIII Was set to launch a line of games based around similar elements, the Fabula Nova Crystallis. This lineup was set to include Final Fantasy XIII, the original Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Final Fantasy Type-0. After the cold fan reception, the Final Fantasy XIII brand was considered tainted. Square Enix, makers of the Final Fantasy franchise, tried to save the brand by releasing additional games in the FFXIII series, FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns, to try to respond to fan criticism. But, the cold reception of FFXIII (and the absolute failure of the original FFXIV, which forced a full reboot of the new MMO) led to cancellation of Fabula Nova Crystallis. Final Fantasy Type-0 was rewritten and reworked to remove as many ties to Final Fantasy XIII as possible. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was renamed Final Fantasy XV and received similar treatment. The Fabula Nova Crystallis was essentially dead, with the last entry in the planned mini-franchise, Lightning Returns, releasing to cold reception and relatively low sales for the series (however, the title was made on such a small budget it that it actually made a profit, according to Square Enix).

I played Final Fantasy XIII at launch back on my PS3. I have also played Final Fantasy XIII-2. I played a bit of Lightning Returns, but I never finished the entry. In all honestly, I feel a lot of the hate is…disproportionate. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a good game. A lot of the hate stemmed from the series trying new things that didn’t resonate well with older fans of the franchise. However, I thought the mechanics worked well for what they were and made for a fun experience. There is no denying that the title did simplify mechanics and include quality of life improvements, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I also feel that not everything was considered when evaluating this title. The combat system actually has some good depth once the Paradigm System (a form of Final Fantasy’s Job System) is introduced in Chapter 3. The autobattle feature seems like it makes the game play itself, until you realize that it exists because the real strategy of FFXIII is keeping the right paradigms on your party for the situation with an emphasis on constant and quick changes of party composition as the situation evolves. The plot actually isn’t hard to follow if you pay attention and accept that the point is that you aren’t supposed to understand everything at first, with the datalog included for people who can’t wait for the game to fill in those details. Also, the music is based and it honestly shocked me to find that some people even complained about the soundtrack.

I plan to Let’s Play this title with my old college friend, Lady Mapi, as a chance to discuss the better parts of this game and show it really isn’t as bad as people say it is. This is going to be an “apologist” run, to a degree. I do plan on being honest about things that suck, but I feel enough videos exist bitching about the title and wish for this video to be a more positive experience.

I have, as I mentioned, beat the game before, but Lady Mapi has not. Back in college, a friend once forced them to listen to them ramble about the entire plot, but they don’t remember the main points of the story. As such, they will be our “innocent eye.” I plan to intentionally hold back from spoiling things so they can show us how easily (or how difficult) the plot really is to follow from just playing the game.

I don’t plan for this to be a 100% run. I will try to show off as much of the game as I can, but don’t expect me to fully show off everything. Chapter 11 is full of sidequests and superbosses and I don’t plan to fully complete that, even when we are allowed to return to it before the final boss at the very end. Take this video more as a mixture between “two friends hanging out” and a “book club” where we will casually chat about the game while also taking time to really dissect it at points.

I am hoping to get everything recorded by next week and launch videos every week. Why? These videos take up mondo memory on my computer and I need to clear out data.

It’s worth noting that I am running this title on the Steam Release of Final Fantasy XIII. This release is notoriously scuffed and I am running it unmoded. Issues may arise due to this decision, but I do not have the means to record console games.

Lastly, Lady Mapi is having some computer troubles so, at least for now, there is a mild echo in the videos that we cannot fix. I am sorry about that issue.

Without further ado, enjoy!

Update 01: The Purge
Update 02: The Vestige
Update 03: Lake Bresha

Update 01: The Purge

We start the adventure in medias res. The Sanctum has authorized a Purge of the people of Bodhum after a Pulse Fal’Cie is discovered in an abandoned facility near the town. Out of an abundance of caution, all residents are being sent to Pulse to avoid contaminating the rest of Cocoon. Aboard the train, two passengers plot an escape attempt. Both them have more on their mind than just survival.

Chapter 1: The Hanging Edge

Datalog Entries For Chapter 1

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For thread participation, I am considering encouraging people to submit their thoughts on the game and we may respond to it in our after video “bookclub” section for some open discussion on FFXIII. Feel free to discuss the characters, plot, and setting and such, but do not put spoilers past the last posted video as this is a blind run for Lady Mapi.

Update 02: The Vestige

Finding themselves within the Pulse Vestige, the heroes of Cocoon must face down the phantoms of the past and the specters of their dark future. All in the hopes of saving love, getting revenge, and defying a god.

The Pulse Fal’Cie

Datalog for Chapter 2

Character Datalogs

Update 3: Lake Bresha

After the Pulse Fal’Cie turns the lake to crystal, the newly branded warriors of cocoon find themselves stranded and without direction. Confused on where to go and what to believe, the fractures of their uneasy alliance begins to show.

Chapter 3 - The Quantum Werewolf Of FFXIII or How We Learned To Stop Worrying And Not Record For Three Hours

Since this episode was so long, we forgoed responding to the thread comments this time. We’ll make up for it next time.