Review: Final Fantasy XIII-2

Feb 17, 2012

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Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes place in the same universe as 13 and is Square’s 2nd direct sequel in their long list of Final Fantasy titles.

Serah begins her journey with illusory images dancing around her village and ghost like memories haunting her thoughts. A huge battle is taking place right outside her house but up until that point she remained in a deep sleep. It is here that she meets Noel, a time traveling Guardian in training.

Throughout their struggle they fight off monsters, help those in need, meet new and old friends and are forced to make a few choices along the way to determine their fate as well as the world itself. Both Heroes travel bravely to the frontier of the unknown and in and out of time.

Developers brought Final Fantasy 13 full circle in this sequel and closed alot of chapters as well as opening a few new ones. Old elements from games found their way back into 13-2, which was a welcome surprise. The game feels just like 13 does, with subtle nuanced changes to combat and play control. The graphics are a few steps better and the music was good but parts were a little difficult for me to listen to, especially at the beginning.

I was scared how they would implement characters like Lightning, Snow and the rest of the original team and I was extremely pleased with the results. The God of War effect did not take place here and as a result none of the old heroes mysteriously lost their power only to regain them a mere three years after the events of Final 13 transpired. Lightning is fighting an epic battle against Chaos itself, whom you get a glimpse of as soon as you pop the disc in and the rest of the team have their own rightful place by Serah in respectable quantities that make sense with the circumstance and the story of both games. Alot of attention went into that and I really enjoyed the integrity of the characters being maintained.

This is heavily a story driven game that the player controls by visiting different times and locales. It is an investigative, exploratory and quest fest across many areas spanning city scapes, to fallen ruins, forgotten times, forests, villages and everything in between. Navigating some of these areas required me to check my map a few times but outside of that and the burden of impending combat, navigation is a breeze.

Treasure and items are identical to Final Fantasy 13, which I was fine with. I would have liked to see a more clear and player friendly crafting system but instead got a condensed version that was a little difficult to understand. Also, the inventory is “lite” and there just aren’t that many items. Limited accessory options also were a bit of a pain as they took away unlockable-slots and replaced it with a point pool and assigned items with values. Long story short, you end up with about 2 per character, lacking in a completed feel for the character and taking customization down a notch. Developers introduced a new monster system, to capture monster crystals and summon them in as party members by leveling them in the Crystarium and placing up to three different monsters into your paradigm configurations. Surprisingly it was alot of fun. Not only do they get stronger, but they all have different strengths and weaknesses, are upgradeable to varying degrees, can consume other monsters for further customization and provide a nice boost in combat. It does feel that they have more customization than Noel and Serah, which is a bummer. I do miss the 3rd party member to.

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Summons have gone out the window, which I’m sure was a debate among the development team. As I can recall, only a few games have had no summon beasts in them and most of those are the really old ones. But I think that was the best move here, because they were linked to the mark of the L’Cie, a cursed brand introduced in 13 that enabled them to cast magic and summon one of many eidolons. Now, those brands have been lifted through divine intervention and will be explained during the story so it makes sense not to have summon monsters.

The time warping was fun but I got tired of the loading screens and miss the open world feel. This game is far from linear in the sense of the word and as compared to Final 13 but it is driven towards the same goal using a broader lens. Players often will hit a “wall” and get stuck searching for keys to open time gates. This is the only noticeable flaw I saw in the main part of gameplay. For an insurmountable amount of gil, you can help yourself to one of the keys at the casino, but it will cost you pretty much all your gil and that is if you have been fortunate enough to find most of your gear and save money. It was also hard to keep track of all of these items in the menu, there was way too much stuff in the game menu that really didn’t matter, it felt like “padding” for the game.

I almost forgot, questing is back.. well kinda. I did not approve of the questing in this game, it is difficult to find a quest, tracking a quest is near impossible and you may or may not be able to complete it at the time you pick it up, of which you are not made aware. In addition they are all fetch oriented, which by today’s standards, is below the bar in my opinion. They also are stretched across different areas and times, so you pretty much stumble on them, stumble through and hope to be in the right place at the right time and of course you need to use the action button to turn in. This was a disappointment. They should have tied these into the storyline and given the player more reason and ability to hunt these down. Also, the “mission” style quests were taken out completely which is a bummer.

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The casino sadly, even though it is a tribute to the gold saucer is under-developed. It’s bare, small, a little boring to navigate and should have been left out of the original version or made stronger. I had little to no drive to even go in there save for the fact of getting Fragment Skills. (passive bonuses through fragment acquisition). <- similar to the stellazio coins in Final Fantasy 9 but with different rewards.

All in all the game was awesome and I look forward to the conclusion of the story, although I have beaten the game.. the story isn’t over 🙁 But pick up a copy and see for yourself what happens. This was a twister for me, I just sat there in disbelief and amazement, one of the best stories I’ve seen in Final Fantasy, even if condensed and hard to understand in parts.

There are two small DLC packages for this on the PSN but really aren’t worth looking into from a gameplay standpoint. The first is a costume pack for the main character and the 2nd is the ability to fight Lightning and Amodar in the Coliseum and be able to summon them in battle. I get it, but why would you be fighting them in the first place. This is a lame attempt to make money. Both should have been unlockable and available to everyone as they are just vanity items. More DLC is coming, but I have not seen any details yet.

In closing, this was a controversial game. Alot of people had their eyes on it, being a sequel for one and 2nd, because the last Final Fantasy game in many fans eyes wasn’t a good display of the franchise. In fact it got alot of negative criticisms while still managing to sell well and be a good game. Playing it as a standalone will be fine to new players but if you are a loyal fan, you will see the “thin” parts in this game. Alot of the content was re-used and was given the paint treatment. They get around this atrocity by bringing the “time travel” coin to the table. With that being said, it is a good game and they did a good job given the circumstances and amount of development time. As of now this is going to be the first console Final Fantasy with content DLC. I like the idea but would have liked more closure in this circumstance and want some information about when the next “episode” is being released.

Value : Purchase @ $50 - this is a good game at full price but there were obvious setbacks and having played Final Fantasy 13 recently, made this seem to have a Collector’s Edition feel, padding in some spots, lack of freshness, despite being a good game! If you are new or a veteran to the series, save a few bucks, wait for it to drop a little and then pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.

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