I’m a bit of an obsessive and a perfectionist when it comes to video games. For some reason I find it necessary to always have the best version of a title, whether it’s the Bioshock 2 ‘Special Edition’, Kingdom Hearts 2 ‘Final Mix’ or Sonic Adventure ‘Director’s Cut’. This is especially true when it comes to multi-format titles, as i’ll often scour the internet to discover which version is better. It could be something utterly miniscule such as some slightly improved cutscenes or an additional texture, but it’s always enough to win my allegiance and jump ship. In the back of mind is the niggling preconception that if i don’t experience a game at its very best and exactly as the designer intended, I will regret it until the end of my days. Now, allow Final Fantasy XIII, Square Enix’s latest JRPG to step into the ring.
What now feels like many years ago, the PR monkeys at Squeenix announced that Final Fantasy XIII would be a PS3 exclusive. I was (and still am) a proud owner of the Xbox 360 and had accepted at the time that I would have to pay up for Sony’s equally fantastic machine in order experience Lightning and the gang. No problems there, because in all honesty I had always been looking for an excuse to purchase the console anyway.
Sony initially struggled to get the PlayStation 3 off the shelves and into customer’s homes. This was due to the lethal combination of expensive hardware pricing and lack of exclusive software. Square Enix quickly noticed that they were beginning to guarantee their own failure; launching a stunning game that only a minority of their fans could play was economic suicide. The news that Final Fantasy XIII would now also be released on Xbox 360 was met with bipolar praise and outcry. Former Final Fantasy fans that had crossed over to the Microsoft camp (such as myself) were delighted to hear that they could play the high definition epic on their preferred system. On the other side of the fence, PlayStation 3 owners were furious that one of their core reasons for splashing out extra cash had just been stripped away from them. I was admittedly curious of how the game would be ported across. The PlayStation 3 is undeniably a more powerful system than the Xbox 360. Would the PlayStation 3 version be brought down in quality to match the restrictions of the Xbox 360? Or would the Microsoft version be inferior? Perhaps not surprisingly, Square Enix officials assured gamers globally that the two versions would be the same. They were wrong.
As demos and review copies leaked into the media, my growing fears were confirmed. The Xbox 360 copy had taken a hit during the three disc compression process. Not a huge one, but apparently nearly 20GBs worth that mainly affected cutscenes, sound and a little bit of visual polish. Every in depth comparison that I’ve read has stressed that the changes are not a game breaker. Players can still enjoy the core experience, story and gameplay – you would only notice the difference if you had the two running side by side. Now try as I might, I just can’t shake the feeling that buying the Xbox 360 version will be a monumental mistake. I know it shouldn’t, but the paranoid mind that I described earlier in this post will certainly feel that way.
So here lies my question. Should I tell myself to ‘man up’ and purchase the Xbox 360 version, thereby eradicating my fears of inferiority and just enjoy the game for what it is? Or should I make the monumental leap to the PlayStation 3, heavily investing in the hardware for the perfect Final Fantasy experience? There have always been plenty of other Sony exclusives that I have wanted to try over the years. And I do love Final Fantasy. Or I could actually act like a student for once and save myself some vital money. Decisions.