Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review
Okay, so a few days ago, I beat Final Fantasy XIII-2
. Now, I'm a veteran Final Fantasy
player, so I was expecting a lot out of this game. Seriously, my expectations were high. Personally, I wasn't all too disappointed in FFXIII, but I could see the legitimate complaints that many others had about the game, and I wanted to see how much Square Enix was going to change for the sequel. Did Square Enix listen to fans? Read on.
Despite FFXIII protagonist Lightning being plastered all over the promotion for this game, she actually has very little screen time. This may disappoint some, and it certainly did for me, even though I know the only time we would be able to control her was in the opening sequence before I even pre-ordered the game. However, Lightning is the key motivation for this game, so even though she is rarely around, the influence she leaves is quite heavy on the story itself. That, and the lore in this game connected now with her is implimented so much better than in FFXIII.
The game focuses on Lightning's sister Serah, and this new kid from the future known as Noel. The two embark on a time traveling quest to go find Lightning in a timeless place known as Valhalla, and hopefully set her free from a seemingly endless battle against Caius, the games antagonist. Not too long after the quest starts, more problems arise as Cocoon faces the inevitable collapse of the crystal pillar holding it up, and from that point on, Serah and Noel juggle the two issues of saving Cocoon and finding Lightning, only to find them both intricately connected by Caius, and the quiet, rather expressionless girl, Yuel.
If it's one thing I have to give the story credit for, it's the quick yet effective development of the characters. Unlike FFXIII, Caius is introduced right away as a villain, and his motivations become clear after the first few hours of gameplay. Yuel has her own secrets too that are excellently revealed at key moments and really set the example for the overall darker theme of the game in comparison to FFXIII. Serah and Noel themselves have excellent chemistry together as a team, and to be completely honest, they're very enjoyable to be around as you play. Noel's character development, while mostly late in the game, is wonderful, and Serah is a lot more competent and practical than you would expect. Previous main characters Hope, Sazh, Snow, Fang, and Vanille all have their own role in the game as well, and some more than others. Hope is by far the most important of them, followed by Snow, and while the others do play some part, it's a bit of a let down that we couldn't have more screen time from the previous cast.
The story itself, however, is very well paced and quite enjoyable, arguably even more so than FFXIII's. The one issue with the story however, is the concept of time travel in the game itself. There are some points where it just doesn't make sense, and while they're easily overlooked, most of the problems in space-time are simply explained away by a paradox. Despite the convoluted nature of the concept, overlooking it really grants a great story that succeeds in every other regard.
This is where FFXIII-2 shines. If FFXIII was all about streamlining, FFXIII-2 is all about the opposite. You're free to return to every area you've been to before, and sidequests are abundant. Unlike FFXIII's somewhat stale missions, FFXIII-2 takes a bit of a more traditional approach. NPCs now hand out the quests just like they should, and upon the completion of each gets you a fragment. There are 160 fragments in the game, and while I'm nowhere near collecting them all myself, it's a fun experience and definitely feels more immersive. The maps themselves are expanded quite a lot, featuring new areas and revisits to older ones, now with more to explore.
The famous Archylte Steppe from FFXIII even makes a reapperance, however it seems to be an entirely different region of the grassland. It's also much smaller. That being said, the steppe itself is much more interesting to explore, with changing scenery and much greater farming opportunities than presented in the original game.
The battle system is on the outside, mostly the same. Underneath all the identical fluff, however, are [i]many[/i] changes to the mechanics. In FFXIII, nearly every enemy had to be staggered to be killed. That is not the case here - some enemies can be swiftly taken out with a clean Cerberus paradigm. Also, certain buffs and debuffs have either increased or decreased in usefulness, and the star rating system has been significantly altered. To get 5 stars, it's now necessary to utilize an oponent's weakness [i]and[/i] finish the battle fast. Also, getting 5 stars adds a 200% increase to drop and rare drop chances, so it's become much more valuble.
The monster-catching system in this game is quite simple, however. There is a chance you can obtain a monster when you kill it, and if you do, it can join your party as the third party member. Unlike Serah and Noel, they have only one job role, so you need to have three different monsters each with their own stats and levels. You can use monster materials to level them up, and assign them to your paradigms just as you would any job class. Some monsters can only be caught once, while others are plentiful, but the sheer number of critters that can join you offers tons of hours of play and messing around.
Overall, FFXIII-2 provides a much more satisfying experience than its predecessor when it comes to the gameplay. The game emphasizes freedom, which shows in the open-ended time travel system that allows you to get from place to place. There are many optional areas the main story never touches, but not only are you able, but encouraged to go check them out for more immersion and lore and exploration.
As always, Final Fantasy games never fail to impress in their graphical capabilites. This game is no exception. The opening sequence is the coolest FMV I've seen in years, and overall, the graphics are just as good as they were in FFXIII.
There is a bit of a snag though. The frame rate ocasionally suffers some really bad drops, especially in comparison to FFXIII. This is more during optional scenes and exploration rather than in battle, but it is noticeable. In its defence, a few frame rate drops are absolutely fine if the gameplay is so expanded upon. It's not too much of a problem most of the time.
The music is the most diverse soundtrack I've ever heard. Some tracks are mystical and orchestral, others being heavy metal, of all things. Before the game's release, I had doubts, but hearing all of the music in-game is quite nice, actually, and I'm pleasantly surprised to hear some of the previous game's soundtrack included in the game as well.
Overall, FFXIII-2 is a much better experience than FFXIII, and this is coming from somebody who thought FFXIII was pretty good in its own right. The series looks like its back on the right track, in any case, and I can only hope that some of its other fans give Square Enix the benefit of the doubt. I definitely recommend you try it out.
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Overall - 9/10
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