Final Fantasy XIII: Resolutions (In Which Nothing is Resolved)

In The Gaming Community on March 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

If you’ve read Penny Arcade‘s March 10th newspost or have in general kept up with the massive PS3 vs 360 icon that is Final Fantasy XIII, you’re likely aware that there is a difference in the quality of video output between the two versions.  I’d like to discuss that.  I’m in no way saying you should care about what I say; this isn’t designed to make you buy one version over the other, as I’ve always stated that personal preference should trump potential differences when regarding multiplatform titles.  This is, probably, a criticism against those that overly scrutinize something like video resolution when there’s so much more of the game out there that matters.

To begin with specificity, the PS3 version natively has video at 1080p with gameplay at 720p.  This difference matters, as due to the way televisions handle switching outputs, these two sets will be merged, either upscaling gameplay or downscaling video to match.  And while there have been some criticisms of the PS3’s scaling capabilities, that isn’t the topic of this discussion.  Contrast the 360 version, which comes in at 576p for both, also known by its indian names, “Enhanced Definition,” and “Not Technically HD,” though the latter depends on whether you’re in Australia where it is considered HD.  Where does this come from?  Note that the PS3 version isn’t really 1080p, not completely, and the 360 is capable of native 720p.  Bear in mind both systems are capable of upscaling as far as 1080p as well. 

It’s more than worth mentioning that FFXIII was natively produced for the PS3 for most of its development cycle, thus officially granting the 360 version ‘port’ status.  This still doesn’t explain the difference in quality unless we factor in that Squeenix did a less-than-capable job in porting it over.  Yes, loss of the luxurious Blu-Ray storage space may be a factor, but that didn’t quite stop Mass Effect 2, multiple discs not withstanding, and knowledge that Square-Enix didn’t take advantage of the 360’s in-house or licensed video compression algorithms is widely-available knowledge. 

Does this mean that, given the option, basing your decision solely on a technical comparison, you should opt for the PS3 version, lacking personal preference or incentive to do otherwise?  Probably.  Does it really, truly matter?  That depends.

Certainly, we all hope Enix^2 will iron out these inconsistencies for the onslaught of games utilizing their proprietary Crystal Tools, but for today how much this is going to bother you depends greatly on whether you like the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Or, on how much that last comparison irritated you.

Googling around for comparison shots and videos and you’re liable to see gigantic screenshots of paused action-shots demarking minute difference in texture appearance and quality; this isn’t how you play the game, side-by-side with the same game in a different resolution, pausing to notice possible differences.  If you didn’t read this or other articles and avoided counting pixels you might not even be aware there was a difference, much less that it was being presented at sub-HD resolutions.

Of course, these differences might come to a head if you’re playing on a 55+ inch 1080p television, where the upscaling will really be apparent, but on anything less, especially if you’ve decided to stick with 720p until relevant games actually support it — and you’re part of a small population that gives a tin shit — you, again, won’t notice the difference.  Sony runs 1080p around like a million-dollar tart but CNET, gamers and the games themselves seem to be just fine with its 720p cousin, virtually identical in all noticeable respects.

Final Fantasy XIII was supposed to be a big Sony killer app, a long-held franchise that’s always moved units off shelves for whichever iteration of Playstation hardware on which it’s parked.  The loss of such exclusivity, especially with the published intent to milk the setting and franchise of XIII especially must have hurt gamers who based their initial Sony investment on such exclusivity more than Sony; or maybe not and they’re really into statistics and the idea of HD everything.  All the same, this grandstanding only seems to highlight the divisive nature of the 360 vs PS3 crowd, rather than celebrating the latest installment of gaming’s most loved franchise.

When so much malarkey has been raised for this, it’s hard to stand for any kind of argument that gamers enjoy games for story or character, or that gaming may evolve into an art form if it hasn’t already.  Artists may discuss the ramifications of not using the best materials available, but that really doesn’t change the quality of their interpretation, now does it?

  1. I bought the 360 version myself, knowing in terrible advance about the video quality problems. I’ve actually got the kind of 50+ inch TV you spoke up, so I fall into your reviled demographic of tech people!

    On this though, my reasons were a few, most of them silly: I miss multi-discs RPGs, ’cause I loved the days when gauging progress meant asking what disc someone was on. Achievements are more gratifying to me than trophies. And lastly, I want to encourage Square to be more open to multi-platform development.

    Yes, the game could’ve and should’ve looked better than it does, but it still looks pretty damned good. My spouse, who played the PS3 Japanese version is noticing the ugly patches, artifacting and the like a bit more, but I’ve not really found it detracting from what I’ve played.

    Of course, I probably won’t play much more for a while… midterms still loom, followed closely by God of War 3 and the RPG I’m more interested in, Resonance of Fate.

  2. Being that FF has devolved into something that less resembles a enjoyable game and more a product marketed on how pretty it is I’d say the PS3 graphics on this one matters. I’d say that, if I actually cared about the game.

  3. Well, just from what I’ve seen there have been efforts made to improve it, and it’s by no means a terrible game.

    It’s just that if you want more involved RPG gameplay, Resonance of Fate is easily where the money is, coming out just a week later. If you want a more classic time tested story, the PSP port of Lunar works just fine and that came out about a week earlier.

    FF may sell better, but it was sandwiched between things that ARE better.

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