By Adam B. Vary
Updated March 10, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Courtesy of Square Enix

PS3, XBOX 360
(Rated T for Teen)

Like molecular gastronomy and the music of Tom Waits, the Final Fantasy role-playing-game franchise inspires a rabid following and yet remains bewildering to everyone else. The newest epic iteration clearly hopes to win some new converts. It sure is all kinds of purty, from the lushly rendered warring worlds of Cocoon and Pulse to the ornately designed enemies (think Pandora by way of Japanese manga). The turn-by-turn combat has been streamlined, keeping battles from unfolding at the usual you-go-okay-now-you-go pace of most RPGs. Which is helpful considering the first half of the game — all 25 hours of it — is pretty much one long chain of battles. There are no towns to explore or silly citizens to chat up. You are, however, still interrupted with cut scene after awkwardly acted cut scene, glacially forwarding a story that’s needlessly convoluted. The Final Fantasy faithful will likely feel sated, but it remains one strange meal for anyone new to the table. B