Final Fantasy XIII became a controversial game when it was launched in 2010. It was a new take on the JRPG genre, which was odd for a direct entry Final Fantasy title. This caused many to debate about it being a step backwards due to the various issues such as the linearity in gameplay. With this in mind, Square Enix introduced Final Fantasy XIII-2, a re-take at the fresh, although imperfect new formula for the venerable series.
Does Final Fantasy XIII-2 get it right this time? Or is this an addition that’s going to be long forgotten? Let’s check out what’s the HOTs and NOTs in our Final Fantasy XIII-2 review.
Presentation Still Looks Phenomenal
One of the big changes that Square Enix did for Final Fantasy XIII-2 is taking out a huge chunk of pre-rendered cutscenes. While those one of the are few things that makes the predecessor look pretty and well designed, the in-game cutscenes found within the game still looks great even though there are some rough spots on the character models. Fans of its predecessor can look forward into seeing some of the original characters like Snow and Hope. The voice actors that made the characters alive will have a come back and as always, the voice acting is one of the great assets of the Final Fantasy series – even though there’s a minority of characters that have poor voice acting.
In terms of the locales and the beautiful scenery of the game, players can expect to revisit some of the familiar places in the first game. This time, there are a couple of towns that players can go and explore. NPCs are there to interact with the player and if you’re lucky, there will be a sidequest waiting for you.
A Sequel to a Final Fantasy game
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the sequel to the first game and this wasn’t the first that Square Enix did for the series as they released a sequel to Final Fantasy X nearly a decade ago. Taking place three years after the events of the first game, Lightning is missing and the only clue that leads to her whereabouts is the dream of Serah in which she sees her sister and a man she’s fighting named Caius in a world named Valhalla. With only her dreams that acts as her clue and with the help of a new character named Noel, and the return of Mog the Moogle, they will venture together and travel through time as they figure out the sudden disappearance of Lighting.
Time Traveling / Paradox Ending
Time traveling is one of the key elements in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Through the time portal called Historia Crux, players will be able to travel through different time periods. Players will venture through familiar locations such as the Yaschas Massif, Oerba, Lightning’s hometown, the New Bodhum and other beautiful new locales within the game. With time traveling, players will be able to change some of the events at a certain time period and face the consequences of what we call the butterfly effect. What makes time traveling fun in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the ability to repeat the events multiple times and based on the actions that the players does, new stuff gets unlocked. However, one wrong decision at a certain time period will trigger an unfortunate ending that’s called Paradox Ending, in which there are several in the game.
Improved Battle System
The battle system of the first game is addictive. If that’s the case and the players just love the new battle system for Final Fantasy XIII, they can expect to get even more addicted in this sequel. Taking the good parts about the Paradigm Battle System and improving it further, the formula works for the better. The way the players can fight is now even more faster and more strategy is required. Instead of having multiple characters to choose from in the party, players will only have two main characters and that is Serah and Noel. To complete the party of three, players will now have to seek help on the monsters found in the wild to aid them in battle.
While it may sound like Pokemon or other games like Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World, using monsters in battle ain’t that bad. The only problem is at first, there will be a confusion going on. After reaching the second episode of the game, players will have the ability to recruit monsters. Recruiting is easy as players all need is to defeat them in battle and if lucky, they will join you. With so many monsters in the game, some of the good ones players should look forward to is Gigantuar and Tonberry. Even though they’re still monsters, players will still have to level them up by giving them items as they have their own Crystarium.
Leveling up in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is somewhat similar to its predecessor except both characters can learn every role. Using only one Crystarium Chart, players will have to pick wisely on what role they would level up. As for the monsters, it’s the same as well. Depending on where the players are in the Crystarium chart, skills will be learned if CP Points are spent.
Other noteworthy changes in the battle system of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is how the characters are handled in battle. In the first game, whenever the leader of the party dies in battle, it’s game over. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, that’s no longer the case as the only way to see the Retry or Game Over screen is when both Serah and Noel dies. Let’s say Serah dies and she’s the leader, the leader status will just simply shift to Noel and then he can do the necessary reviving or healing.
One of the reasons everyone hated, or disliked Final Fantasy XIII is the linearity of the game. The ability to not have the freedom is one of the things RPG gamers like us hated. Thank god for the feedback, Square Enix listened and made the sequel not-so-linear anymore.
To make the sequel a little bit more fun, Square Enix pretty much made the gameplay somewhat diverse. Instead of having the missions that simply asks the player to slay a monster, there are now missions that will require them to scout the area for items, or go to a different time period. These little things help ease out the linearity of the game. Also, for those who are seeking for towns, there are a couple of big ones in the game where there are NPCs that players can interact with can give them quests. For gamers who are completionists, they can expect to do some fragment hunting as it will be required if they wish to see the real ending. Yes, there are several endings in the game and that really increases the replay value.
Another way to take a break from the main storyline of the game is by going to Serependity, which is a Casino in the game. There are two mini-games so far that players can play and they’re pretty much should be familiar to fans of Final Fantasy games. The casino and Chocobo racing will be making a come back in XIII-2 and playing those constantly can give you the ability to unlock the game’s powerful weapons. While two mini-games maybe little, Square Enix promised that they will release a couple more via DLC.
Aside from the Casino, a battle arena like area will also be available. In the Coliseum, players can go up against other monsters in the game that can join the party. Some of the monsters found in the Coliseum are rare and for those who wish to have the best monster ally in the game, playing through the Coliseum is a must. Just like the mini-games in Serependity, Square Enix will also release downloadable contents for the Coliseum. The first monster to appear on the Coliseum via DLC is the fan favorite, Omega Weapon.
Soundtrack Is Way Off
One of the things that fans love in the Final Fantasy series is the soundtrack. The OST of the predecessor is a memorable one and now that the sequel is here, I am disappointed. In place of having a tune or a track that pretty much match the character situation in the game, players will notice it’s way off. An example of this is while riding a red Chocobo, instead of having a track that uses the remix of a Chocobo tune, players can expect to hear a hardcore rock music. Another example is a very dramatic cutscene that has a track that will pretty much ruin the emotion. These little things is very important to the RPG genre as it helps define the feelings of the player while playing it. While most of the tracks are a nightmare, there are decent ones out there as well like Charice’s New World.
Story is Wishy Washy
Going through the first couple of episodes and time periods, the story of Final Fantasy XIII-2 may seem to be interesting. After a while and learning more of the game’s plot, that’s where the game meets its tragic downfall. Instead of having a consistent story that pretty much fleshes it out from the beginning to the end, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has these filler moments where it’s implemented to prolong the story. From the serious tone of the story where Serah is determined to find Lightning, it will then shift to somewhat of a joke plot where they have to help a certain character find a way to fight a giant red flan. Also, the middle of the game will give the players a plot that seems useless and going through time to fix it may get tedious at times. Between the predecessor and this, I would say that Final Fantasy XIII-2’s is weaker than the first.
Loading Times can be Long
Another issue that I found in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are the loading times. Whenever you jump from one time period to another, players can expect to wait for long load times. Since we’ve reviewed the PlayStation 3 version of the game, we’re not sure how it would differ when the Xbox 360 version of the game is installed onto the hard drive.
Cinematic Action is Weak
On certain boss fights, there will be a segment that is somewhat similar to what we call “Quick Time Events”. The so-called Cinematic Action will allow players to see the characters in the game perform devastating blows to the enemies by pressing a series of buttons at the right time. While it may look cool on the first few bosses that have this, it grows old pretty quickly. The button sequence is not that hard to follow and even though you miss a single button, there will be no change at all to the outcome of the battle. Pretty much, the Cinematic Action are just there for show and does nothing significant.
In the end, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a huge improvement over to its predecessor, while it still has some flaws that hurt the game. Its non-linear gameplay makes playing it a little less dull. However, what makes the game fall short are the story and the placement of tunes at unexpected moments. The time traveling in Final Fantasy XIII-2 works well as it offers a lot of possible outcomes to the overall plot, thus giving everyone a reason to play certain events multiple times. For those who are disappointed with the game’s predecessor, they can expect Final Fantasy XIII-2 to be a much better game and players who avoided the first game should pick this one up.
[Editor’s Note: Final Fantasy XIII-2 was reviewed on the PS3 hardware. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review,