OK, it’s “how the sausage is made”/dirty little secret time here on GameWit. I’ve got a confession to make: I didn’t finish “Final Fantasy XIII” before reviewing it.

Now before you get out your pitchforks, torches, tar and feathers and, erm, rail, hear me out. I almost finished “Final Fantasy XIII.” I ground through the game’s 13 chapters, but I got tripped up by the final boss. After smashing my head against the wall four or five times and going down in spectacular defeat, I decided that what I really need to do was backtrack and spend three or four hours leveling up my characters and upgrading their weapons and accessories. The problem? I had a deadline to meet and a review to write.

So I wrote my review on a Wednesday morning and finished the game that Friday. When I wrote my review, I was pretty confident “Final Fantasy XIII’s” endgame boss and closing cinematic weren’t going to radically alter the impressions of the game I’d built up by the more than 50 hours I spent playing it, and I was right. But in reviewing the game unfinished, I deviated from my general practice of seeing the end credits to their completion before posting my review. (And let’s be realistic about this. I’d be run out of town on the aforementioned rail for discussing an end boss or closing cinematic in a review, anyway.)

But my failing to finish “FFXIII” in time stuck with me, and got me thinking about what a jarring disconnect the game’s final boss was from nearly all of what came before it. For the most part, “Final Fantasy XIII,” with its lack of exploration, helpful maps and waypoints, and automatic generation of battle commands, goes out of its way to welcome n00bs to the series. With the exception of the freewheelin’ “Final Fantasy” throwback that is Chapter 11, I didn’t once wander into a fight woefully underprepared, like I did in previous “Final Fantasy” games. Consequently, I didn’t find myself once thinking, “I need to go run around in that field out there for an hour, fight off some beasts and level up before I tackle that boss.” At least, I didn’t think that until the game’s final fight.

It doesn’t seem right that a game generally free of grinding should encourage it sometime around its 50th hour. That’s not to say I’m some weakling gamer who doesn’t like challenge, or wants everything handed to me on a platter. I love a good, old-fashioned grind. Just don’t throw it at me after 50 hours of gameplay when you can easily save it for those postgame, nonessential missions in Gran Pulse.

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