The series was pretty darn good up until X-2.
I just think it's become this ridiculous behemoth of flash, shit I don't know
Hey, I liked 'em. People complain about the linearity but I think it's a fair price to pay for the story and battle system. Of course, for XIII-2 it's just the battle system you're playing for cuz the story is assballs.
After the long and obligatory FFXIII tutorial, I did enjoy it. Not 60$ worth of fun, but definitely 20-30$ worth.
Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most awfully designed and mind-numbingly boring games I have played in a long while. The only thing you basically do is following a straight path and battling the same monsters over and over again, occasionally being interrupted by a cutscene advancing a not particularly interesting story.
While the battle system is not that bad in principle, the fact that your HP is restored after each battle and that most places are filled with the same monsters results in you constantly replicating the exact same battles. Furthermore, there is barely any interesting form of variation in the gameplay. At one point, after many hours of wasted time, you end up in a more open field where you have the option of doing missions that also solely consist of battling monsters that are pointed out on the mini-map, which is really just as boring as the rest of the game.
Note that I have nothing against 'linear' games (linear games can be done well if they remain challenging and/or interesting: games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Half-life 2 are pretty linear but still incredibly fun), JRPG's (Sturgeon's law definitely applies to this genre, but there are still some fantastic JRPG's out there: some examples are Tales of Symphonia, Chrono Trigger, Mother 3 and Paper Mario) or the Final Fantasy franchise (I really like parts VI, VII and IX).
Final Fantasy XIII, however, has somehow manage to filter out all the good aspects of the Final Fantasy series and amplify the bad stuff. This results in a plainly awful and especially boring game.
A Smooth Criminal:
But they're not good Final Fantasy games, and it's actually pretty interesting why that's so, considering XIII is basically an amalgam of VII-X.
for a start, X didn't pelt you with AN ENTIRE CAST of stupid, depressing characters. Seriously, having to play as Hope and Lightning, two of the mopiest characters in XIII was so painful. At least in X you only ever played as Tidus and Wakka, or Yuna and Lulu at any point in time. And if there was mopiness? It was kept short and concentrated into one predicament in the game. It wasn't dragged out stupidly long like Hope's hatred for Snow because he couldn't save her from falling off a bridge. Even when Tidus bitched about Jecht it was quickly resolved, hell one section where he complains the game even turns it into a minigame so you can learn the Jecht Shot.
Also, VII-X had combat that involved the player. You were able to switch out party members at will and actually choose what attacks they used. You didn't just sit there and spam quick casting while occasionally changing paradigms.
Also, VII-X actually rewarded you for exploration, there were puzzles and rewards for taking different routes, and it wasn't just reduced to "run from here to here, if you see a little indent on the minimap there's an item there".
Well, see, that's why I said it was an amalgam, and it's interesting why it turned out so badly.
It took the worlds of VII, X, and XII - a game I didn't even initially mention - but straight as an arrow; character archetypes from all of them (Lightning was Cloud, Vanille was Selphie, Sazh was 'the black guy', Hope was Vaan but singularly focused on his past trauma instead of playing it off and being cocky, and Snow was Squall + Balthier); leveling from X but without the choices; story locations/progression/pacing from VII, IX, and XII; and a combat system that tried to mix together VII, IX, and X-2, and managed to fail completely because of the Auto-Battle button.