Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the direct sequel of the 2010 Final Fantasy XIII and one of many from the Final Fantasy franchise. Square Enix released this console based role-playing game on the XBOX 360 and PS3 with the pure intent to exceed its predecessor in every aspect. Having played various titles of the franchise including the previous title and completed a quick run through of the game I decided to give a review of this game. I will update this as I tried all the aspects of the game as well as the various DLC that is offered in the near future.
This is one of the first trailers shown via IGN.
The story continues 3 years after Final Fantasy XIII, where the previous main character Lightning disappears and is presumed dead. Her sister Serah is the only person that believes Lightning is still alive. When she meets a mysterious boy named Noel who claims to be from 700 years in the future, and that he was sent by Lightning to bring them back together. The duo then journey together through time and learn of what happened to Lightning, and more of the new mysterious enemy Caius who threatens to unleash chaos onto the world.
The storyline for this game is nearly the opposite of its predecessor. For those who didn’t play, XIII is the one of the most linear Final Fantasy games made to date, with a very straightforward storyline. XIII-2 however, has no linearity, and is often messy. This is mainly due to the time travel aspect introduced in the sequel. With the various time gates laid out the various timelines and locations there are numerous time fluxes causing trouble for the people. Because of this, Serah and Noel are traveling through time, trying to fix all the time fluxes, find Lightning, and save the world in one go.
The impact of this new design is that players can now travel to which ever location/ time they choose and replay the story to change the ending. The decisions made in previous locations will affect the ending of the future locations. This whole time travel and butterfly effect aspect (Chrono Trigger anyone?) weakens the main storyline. It is hard to follow through with the main character’s ambitions and motive aside the “I must find Lightning theme”. Also side plots that were introduced in various locations can often disappear, usually without a clear explanation.
This leads to the end where there can be multiple endings, however none of these endings actually wrap up the storyline because none of them is actually a real ending. When the game is completed you are left without a resolution. This could be due to the fact that Square Enix is now releasing DLC side stories for this game and that the “true” ending can be a possible DLC download. Or it could be that they decide to create a part 3 of the story, seeing as how they registered a domain name for it as a precaution.
Overall, the story for this game is by far the biggest weak spot for the game and that it really makes the game less enjoyable.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 offers graphics that are really similar to XIII with some minor improvements that gave the game a smoother look. The various locations have a decent amount of detail and that made the game more realistic. The animations for the battle system look gorgeous with its various spell effects and character details, while the graphics are still eye pleasing it has a much smaller impact as when XIII’s graphics were first introduced. Some speculated that they didn’t improve game’s graphics more is due to the memory capacity for the 360 but that is only speculation.
Though the graphics and animations were basically the same as XIII’s the pre-rendered cinematic cut scenes still look amazing. Some of the more intensive sequences are literally jaw-dropping. I personally felt that there were too few of these cut scenes, but I still enjoyed watching them again.
The soundtrack on the other hand I felt was a bit out of place for this game, the many orchestral efforts that defined the post battle sequences directed by Nobuo Uematsu have all but disappeared. Instead they are replaced by jazz and heavy metal that often mismatches the tone and feel of the scenes that they are playing behind. Though there are some tracks that are enjoyable and fits well with the game, overall the music just doesn’t work well for me.
The game play for Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a definite improvement over XIII. Though the paradigm battle system is used again, there are various differences. First the removal of delays whenever the player switches paradigms allows much quicker control and reaction time to correspond to the enemy. Players can now also save up to three paradigm decks, which save them a lot of trouble of changing the line-ups for boss battles in comparison to the setup for regular enemies. Another huge change that improves the game play is the ability to switch party leaders between Noel and Serah mid-battle. By allowing the switching of party leaders it allows the player to have more control over both characters, since if the AI wasn’t using the proper spells for the situation one simple switch will fix that. Cinematic actions are also added to many major boss fights, these actions usually gave the player an edge in the battle. This makes many boss fights a lot easier than needed. The one benefit of these cinematic sequences is that they are very pretty.
Another change is the removal of roaming monsters on the map; instead random encounters have been added where the player is given a short amount of time to escape battle to attempt to initiate a pre-emptive strike on the enemy. This new system is more engaging, but at time when you are unlucky the random chain of monsters can be a big nuisance.
The biggest change in the battle system is that players can now tame the majority of monsters in the game. Each monster has a set role, and that it can be levelled up to learn new abilities just like Serah and Noel. A maximum of three monsters is allowed to be assigned to a party at any given time and can be switched in and out during combat based on the paradigm. These new system allows the player to experiment more with the many monsters laid out in Final Fantasy XIII-2, it makes combat much more interesting.
The levelling system for characters and items has also been simplified. The majority of the items can be found in shops. While character levelling up still uses the crystarium system, it now allows each role to have a linear progression. This allows very little options for customizing Serah and Noel, but with the large variety of monsters, it balances out.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a large variety of things to do, there are frequent puzzles laid throughout the maps that offer a decent challenge and change of pace. There are also much more explorations allowed in the sequel, exploring often leads to discovery of new things such as monsters and side quests. Each location on the time line has its own story, with each choice ultimately affecting the outcome of the game. There is even a casino where players can race their pet chocobos.
After finishing all the content that comes with the game, the DLC content might prove to be interesting as well. Square Enix promises that it will release new DLC content every so often that is fair priced and worthwhile. They offer various costume changes for Serah and Noel as well as some special weapons. There are two things that you might consider buying is the side stories that they will add in the future. First is the side stories provided, these side stories are supposed to complement the story already present and add a more in depth look into Final Fantasy XIII’s world. Another addition is that players can purchase the option to fight previous character or bosses in the Coliseum, by defeating them they player has the chance to recruit them to join their party.
The price ranges for the DLC is around $2.99 for costumes, $4.99 for boss fights in the Coliseum, and $0.99 for weapons.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game that deserves your time, though there are some flaws here and there it is a really good game overall. If you are a fan of RPGS, I would definitely suggest you try it. However in order to fully appreciate this game, you must of either played XIII or at the bare minimum read through a decent summary of the storyline, as the game jumps right into it without much intro for newcomers.