Now I'm a huge Final Fantasy fan. I buy anything with it in the title even if is the extremely average Crystal Chronicals and Fables series. Square really haven't made a decent FF (I didn't get along with XII) in a long long time but I was pleasantly surprised about FFXIII.
Putting it shortly, I found the battle system to be the best in the series. As a bit of background, it's a very quick ATB system and each character has a different role which you can switch on the fly. Medics can only heal, commandos attack, ravengers use magic, I think you get the idea. You do sadly only control one character but to keep the fierce pace of the battles it would be impossible to use more than one. For the first 20 hours of the game you are forced to use certain characters which I can understand people would have a problem with. I personally liked this because I was forced to use someone who I otherwise would never have touched.
Now I know people are majorly hating this game because of no towns or map travel. Well there are a one or two towns during the first 20 hours of the game but it isn't really appropriate for them to visit more. If you played the game you'd see that say, for example chapter # you played through a forest. Then the next chapter you'd play through a canyon. Then after that they would reach the town. It makes sense to me. Alright there is no world map but the characters are taking time to go places and don't suddenly end up there instantly. Another point I should make, sure the beginning of the game is linear (what beginning of FF game isn't?) but once you reach chapter 11 you have a huge Calm Lands-like area to explore, except it's waaaay bigger. There are also several places off of this which yes you CAN go back to explore post game and there a loads of difficult challenges plus 80ish missions to complete. I've been playing 75 hours so far and I'm not even halfway through this stuff.
Epic... Simply epic... Square do not fail with their stories and this was, for me, the best in the series. It had everything and each character had a key role in the story. You felt like there was no lead in game which was really nice. I do like Lightning but don't you just hate it when you play through an RPG and you get some random character who has no real meaning or participation in the plot?
Anyway the plot gets pretty complicated nearer the end but I like that. Also the game impliments a lot of flashbacks and I felt like I had a WOW moment in almost every chapter. I was just completely absorbed. I know some people complain that you get thrown into the game without any background. Fair enough. This wasn't a problem for me. I felt it was better you learned about the characters past slowly as you played rather than straight away.
I brought the Japanese soundtrack a few months before release of the game in Europe and at first I thought it ws kind of average except for the Blinded By Light battle theme. Anyway after a listening to it a few times I completely fell in love with it and playing the game has certainly strengthened that love. I will confess, the music doesn't seem to have the diversity of older titles but it is still of a very high standard. Oh and for all of you who are hating Leona Lewes right now, the song really fitted in well when it was played in game. I was pleasantly surprised how emotional it was. I've listened to the Japanese alternative and to be honest I found it a rather weak J-Pop song compared to the quality Square usually put in their games.
I could have gone on longer but I'm got no more room. For me, this game was perfect. Graphics were of course exceptional and just in general this was an amazing experience.