Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it – Final Fantasy XIII has a LOT of problems with it. It’s far too linear for an RPG until it finally opens up near the end (before going back to linear paths for the last hour or two). It has exactly two characters who aren’t White/Asian, one of them is a black stereotype and the other is his son who gets fridged. The character who pushes the whole plot forward is a damsel in the fridge pretty much from the word go. The combat system basically holds your hand 95% of the time. There’s more to say, but I will say that FF13 has some good stuff going for it.
For one, the overarching theme of the game is one that is very opposed to numerous -isms in the world, particularly imperialism/nationalism/racism. For more specifics, think of it as saying that the kind of Islamophobia that follows in the wake of a terrorist attack here in the west is a bad thing. Early on in the game, the party members become l’Cie, a sort of half breed between humans and Fal’Cie (the “gods” that rule the world of Cocoon). Specifically, they become l’Cie of a Fal’Cie from the opposing world of Australia, I mean Pulse. Yeah, Cocoon is the US and Pulse (formerly Gran Pulse) is Australia. Pulse is a natural world where everything is trying to kill you and survival of the fittest is the law of the land. Meanwhile, Cocoon is an artificially constructed world where the populace is kept in fear of all who are not of Cocoon, including those from Cocoon who are tainted by the Other.
This is found out via the backstory to the opening sequence, in which a large section of Cocoon’s population is being Purged (being evicted from Cocoon to the populace, while in reality being evicted from life). This is later shown to be something that the vast majority of the populace (85% if I remember right) support, and which a majority (65% this time) would support happening again in the future. That’s right, the population is kept in fear by the powers that be so much that they support the deportation/execution of anyone who has even been touched by the presence of Pulse, even going so far as to hearing people nearby say that anyone nearby was “tainted.” In fact, let’s just say that the Fal’Cie (who are orchestrating all of this) are essentially Fox News and Conservative talking heads, in this regard.
However, they also become another side of extreme conservative values as their true plot is revealed. Specifically, they want to kill a great deal of people as a sacrifice to bring back their god. Now, Final Fantasy is traditionally anti-religion, but this can be seen as specifically taking a shot at extremely religious folks, like the people who use religion to justify murder, think that those they think are opposed to their views (e.g. the gays, Muslims) should be rounded up and either sent away or killed, etc. And it’s up to our courageous band that is a union of Americans and Australians, with a token black guy to say racism is bad, to stop them. This little team even has a pair of queer characters within it, though they’re the two Australians and both female, with potential for the third female to be queer of some sort (it’s never made clear with her).
If I sound a little cynical about it, I am. As I said before, the game has a lot of flaws, and the execution of the message of peace and unity falls fairly flat, especially when it involves killing and the potential destruction of an entire world to bring it about. However, for all its flaws, the game does have some excellent feminist messages behind it. Worth a play, though I can’t speak for the sequels.