Reviews - Multi Platform
Written by Brandon Cowen Saturday, April 28 2012 00:00
Ahoy loyal readers! Final Fantasy XIII-2 has been out for some time now, and I have risked my time playing through the main story and most of the side quests. Yes... you read that right! Side quests have made their return!
Could it be...? An interesting story, too!? In order to find out all the good and bad points of this direct sequel, (the fourth for the franchise if you count FFIV: After Years, FFX-2, and FFXII: Revenant Wings), press forward and read to your hearts' content!
Platform: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360
Release Date: January 31st, 2012
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a rollercoaster ride of an RPG. You can immediately tell that the development team had plenty of time to refine the game due to having most of the areas already available to them. The introduction of the game has you playing as FFXIII's protagonist Lightning... although that does not last for long. It acts as the tutorial for some of the new tweaks in the battle system. You are Serah; Lightning's younger sister who was frozen in crystal throughout the entire first game. You meet a strange man named Noel who says he arrived from a place called Valhalla (Nordic reference...anyone?) where Lightning gave him a moogle, named aptly, Mog, to bring to Serah. She also told Noel to convince Serah to help him save Valhalla. Throughout the game, the story twists and turns and while none of it is unpredictable, it is good to see they did not let it fall by the wayside.
You will encounter old friends and enemies throughout your 40+ hour adventure. Serah and Noel, along with Mog traverse through the timeline via Gates that need to be opened through "Artefacts". These artefacts are found or acquired through means of completing certain objectives. The overworld exploration is much more fun than in XIII. You will have an opportunity to travel through towns, meet interesting NPC's, and even help them out via sidequests. These quests usually consist of typical "fetch this item" or "kill x number of enemies". However, it shows a progression towards what I would consider to be a real RPG over an on-rails game with a battle system. There are plenty of areas to explore, and one quest even rewards you for completing the maps.
That is another thing XIII-2 does right....it rewards you. The more time you put into the game, the more you get out of it. I spent roughly forty-five hours playing the game and had a blast. It rewarded me with some special abilities and a new game plus mode. I know XIII had a similar mode but it was so meager in comparison to this. If I had more time to play it, I would spend another forty hours just finding all the secrets and completing all the quests.
The battle system is similar to XIII. You have paradigms (aka macros, auto-commands) for each of your characters. Depending upon the paradigm, which vary from archetypical RPG tropes, your characters are able to perform certain actions. A Sentinel for instance, acts as a tank and forces the enemies to focus on that character. The tutorial is very thorough so no one would have any difficulty understanding it. What XIII-2 introduces is a kind of collection game by allowing you to capture monsters you fight in battle. In turn, you "raise" these monsters much like you build up your characters. They allow you the comfort of having a third team member who can aid Noel and Serah in combat.
The monsters were the only real gripe I had with the game, because it does not really point you in the right direction on how to use them. It took me a lot of trial and error to learn which ones to level up and which ones to ignore. The combat does get a bit monotonous during certain parts of the game, too. This is due to the simple palette swap of monsters and the single-character control method. I also played the game one way and was able to beat almost every boss I encountered in the journey. Very few times did I have to struggle and rethink my Paradigms, though the game does offer difficulty settings for combat. I probably should have tried the harder one, heh. Lastly, the loading times are horrendous. I found myself getting up for a bathroom break every time I went to a new area.
The graphics in this game are nothing less than stellar. The in-game engine pulls off most of the work. This in turn allows for a more flowing type of gameplay that Square-Enix has been shooting for since Final Fantasy VII. The only problem is that when the CG scenes start....you can tell the difference. Hopefully one day they will be able to make games that look as good as that while you play them....but alas, XIII-2 is no slouch with it's engine either.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIII-2 gave me some hope (no pun intended...) for the franchise. It was able to make me feel like I was playing something better than I imagined. XIII was a real disappointment to me. This sequel made up for it by fleshing out the characters, as well as opening the world of Gran Pulse for more exploration. I can forgive the lack of innovation on the battle system side for everything else the game had. The character interactions and animations were awesome. The little details always stick out to me, and that is definitely what FFXIII-2 did right. If you are a fan of the series this is a no-brainer. If you have not ever played a Final Fantasy game, or just want to try something that gives great credit to the RPG genre, check out the demo on Xbox Live or PSN. It is worth the time, and money if you can afford it. As Mog would say... "Kupo!"
80 out of 100