The Final Fantasy XIII Buyer's Guide

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Final Fantasy XIII

Is anyone discounting the game?

Yes. Well, sort of. Wal-mart's knocked the usual pennies off the game, selling it for $59.96 with a "Bonus $10 Walmart.com eGift Card" (limited time offer, while supplies last, etc.). Everyone else, e.g. GameStop, Best Buy, Toys R Us--even Amazon--has it for $59.99.

(Update - 9:11pm PT) It sounds like Best Buy is in fact offering a $10 gift card with a purchase of the game, same as Wal-mart.

Which version should I buy? Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3?

Short answer: Which system do you own? That's the version you want, full stop. The visual differences, which we'll cover in a moment, aren't significant enough to justify an expensive platform switch.

If you already own both systems, your choice gets harder. Critical consensus suggests the PS3 has the edge, visually speaking, over the Xbox 360. The game's cutscenes suffer from compression issues on the Xbox 360, while the in-game engine renders at a lower resolution (1024x576 as opposed to 1280x720, i.e. native 720p). Put another way, the Xbox 360's video sequences aren't as sharp or colorful and suffer from artifacting, while the in-game environments aren't as crisp or clear.

Eurogamer's pixel-nitpicking sub-site Digital Foundry published a detailed comparison last Friday. While the article's claims are often speculative (and sourcing a message board post is begging trouble) the visual evidence assembled in the article itself seems pretty solid. I've had both versions of the game running side-by-side myself over the weekend, and the differences do in fact exist, more or less as stated in the DF piece.

That said, they both look great, but since waffling's disingenuous, I'd recommend dual-system owners buy for PS3.

Final Fantasy XIII

Can I buy a strategy guide?

Yes, designed by Piggyback Ineractive and available in two versions: A 260-page standard edition for $25, or a 276-page limited and numbered collector's edition for $35 (210,000 copies total, and I believe that's internationally).

The standard edition is softcover on average-quality paper, while the collector's edition comes in a hardcover binding and printed on "superior quality art paper." The latter's 16 extra pages include a recap of Final Fantasy XIII's story illustrated with concept artwork, plus an "analysis and speculation" section exploring the game's characters and themes.

Anything else Final Fantasy XIII-related for sale?

If you're really into the whole Final Fantasy thing, Square Enix has an official online merchandize store, where you can buy everything from action figures modeled after the game's protagonists to the game's official soundtrack to a pair of $90 silver earrings similar to those worn by one of the game's love interests.

Final Fantasy XIII

How's it playing with critics?

Pretty well so far, with a few low-scorers. That sounds about right, given the notable shifts in gameplay pedigree. I reviewed the PS3 version for GameSpy and gave it high marks. You can see the broader critical spread here (PS3) or here (Xbox 360).

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