The following entails the contents of the main menu in Final Fantasy XIII. The menu has a blue-gray color-scheme and black-and-white images from the game are often imposed on the menu background depending on the submenu being viewed.
In the Paradigms menu the player can set the party's paradigms to be used in battle. The player can preset up to a maximum of six paradigms. With six roles and three maximum playable party members, there are 83 different paradigms in total. Each playable character has different roles unlocked, and different Crystarium path in their roles, meaning that choosing different characters for the party affects the usefulness of the set paradigms in different battle situations. It is possible to set the same paradigm multiple times on the table. In battle the party can then shift between the paradigms freely.
Paradigms can only be set in the menu, not during battle, but if the player uses the Retry option for boss battles, the Paradigms menu comes up before the battle commences, allowing the player to make changes. For battles that ensue without the player getting a chance to set the paradigms in the menu beforehand, such as the battle against Hecatoncheir with Vanille and Fang, the paradigms are set automatically at random. The paradigm menu becomes available after the Crystarium has been unlocked, in chapter 3.
The Status menu displays the playable character's status, their stats, their equipment and passive abilities, their role levels and elemental resistance. From the Status menu the player can also view the character's Eidolon's stats after the character has obtained one; thus the Status menu doubles as an Eidolons menu, as Final Fantasy XIII has no separate menu section for viewing Eidolon stats. Unlike previous Final Fantasy games where the menu shows a character's menu portrait, the entire menu background in Final Fantasy XIII changes to display the character who is being viewed.
In the Crystarium menu the player can advance the player characters via the Crystarium system, getting stat boosts and learning new abilities. Each role has its own path in the Crystarium and each role levels up separately. Even if player characters have access to the same six roles, the Crystarium paths are different and each character learns different abilities and gets different stat boosts for the same roles, and the Crystarium paths also differ in length, meaning some characters master their roles faster than others.
A character's Crystarium expands by expending Crystogen Points obtained from battles. After choosing a character to advance and a role they have available from the menu, the player must press the confirm button to activate crystals in the Crystarium. The player can browse the Crystarium in the menu with the directional buttons to see what stat boosts and abilities are coming up next. The Development section at the bottom of the screen shows the Crystarium stage, the basic attribute of the crystal being highlighted and the CP cost the crystal requires to be activated. The character's stats are displayed over their menu portrait on the right, so the player can see the effect of activating crystals in the system first hand.
The Crystarium menu is unlocked at the start of chapter 3.
The Abilities menu displays the abilities the character has learned from the Crystarium. The player can either view all abilities at once, or in sections. The role abilities are bundled under the role that can use them, Techniques are their own section, and Eidolon abilities are displayed here as Final Fantasy XIII has no separate menu for Eidolons. The menu shows the ATB cost of abilities and the abilities marked Auto are passive.
In the Equipment menu the player can equip the character with weapons and accessories. The Optimize option selects the strongest equipment to wear. The section on the right shows the character's stats and passive abilities, and pressing the button in this menu gives a break-down on what the passive abilities do.
The inventory shows the items in the player's possession. Unlike in previous Final Fantasy games, it is not possible to use items from the menu; they are for display only. The only way to use items outside of battle is to use shrouds in the shroud menu on the field. The Help section at the top of the screen gives additional information on an item when an item is pointed at with the cursor.
The inventory is made out of Items section, that is for normal battle items like Potion and Antidote, Weapons and Accessories cover the equipment, Components is a list of equipment upgrade items, and key items shows all other items, such as storyline items, the characters' eidoliths and what Retail Network shops the player has obtained.
The Datalog is the digital journal for the game and is frequently updated as the story progresses with information on events, enemies, characters, and gameplay. A prompt blinks on the upper left-hand side of the screen whenever the datalog is updated.
The Datalog in Final Fantasy XIII has thirteen submenus: Events chronicles the game's events chronologically listing them by chapter; People contains character profiles and updates with new revelations about them; The Thirteen Days is full of recordings all the events that happened thirteen days up to the prologue of Final Fantasy XIII; History and Myth expands on the history and mythology of the game world; Locales records profiles of the game's locations; Cocoon Society provides information on Cocoon and its denizens; the Fal'Cie section keeps track of information of the fal'Cie mentioned within the game; Analects are stories and myths recorded by the Gran Pulse civilization.
The Primers are about gameplay: Gameplay Basics explains the basic game navigation and controls; Battle explains the Command Synergy Battle system; Exploration explains the game's navigational systems; the Main Menu explains on the menu and its submenus' purpose and function; and Enemy Intel is a bestiary.
The Settings is the game configuration menu. The player can set the camera and screen brightness controls, whether the game displays subtitles or not, and whether the speaker's name is displayed when the subtitles are enabled. The battle speed can be adjusted from here as well as cursor position, target selection method and help messages during battle.