Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review
Can the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII live up to the expectations? Or is it also an overhyped game that will fall victim to its predecessor?
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS3/Xbox 360
Genre: Role Playing Game
Modes: Single Player
Final Fantasy has solidified itself in the gaming world as one of the best RPG franchises, but, as of late, Final Fantasy has not been giving the gaming world a reason to hold on to that title. Many fans of the game have been complaining that the series have not been true to its roots and have been weary to try new Final Fantasy games because of that. Final Fantasy XIII has a love or hate relationship with its Final Fantasy fanbase. Fans either love the changes or hate it. As a fan of the game, I will admit that Final Fantasy XIII is nothing like the past games where turnbased battles took place. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the changes made in Final Fantasy XIII despite the story being very lackluster.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 was made with this in mind: add what was missing and make what worked better. The battle system of Final Fantasy XIII received the most praise from its critics, and Square Enix looked to improve that aspect of the game while adding what the fans wanted. The fans asked for a less linear story line, towns, and minigames. Square Enix gave them just that. Was it enough to make the fans happy? I certainly believe so.
Square Enix accomplished their goal with Final Fantasy XIII-2 as I believe that we fans got a lot of what we asked for and keep the things we wanted to stay in Final Fantasy XIII. Although, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is still pretty far from the classic turnbased battles that Final Fantasy fans are used to, it is still a very fun game. Another thing is that this sequel is way better than Square Enix’s previous attempt at a sequel. Oh how we wish we could forget that ever existed (even though I actually liked that game).
The main gripe with most Final Fantasy XIII fans was the story. It just did not make any sense whatsoever. I have played Final Fantasy XIII at least a dozen times and I still do not get the story. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was not made to fill in the gaps of Final Fantasy XIII’s story. Instead, Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes on its own story, a story where we follow Lightning’s younger sibling Serah and Noel, a young boy from the future who has come to the past in order to prevent the extinction of humans. They both set out to find Lightning because everyone but Serah believes she is dead.
While much of the linearity is gone, the story takes a hit from it because it seems to lose a lot of focus. In Final Fantasy XIII, despite having a confusing story, it was very focused and we kind of knew what was going on. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, the only thing we really know is the goal: to find Lightning. After that, we do not really grasp anything else that is going on. What contributes to the confusion is the fact that Serah and Noel are jumping a lot across time and nothing is really explained thoroughly. Instead, we get the typical butterfly effect explanation. Square Enix could have been a lot tighter with the story line especially since we parade around the entire game with only two characters. You would think that two characters mean a more intimate story where we can bond with the characters and know their backstories, but, nope, that is not the case. Do you guys remember the comedic relief provided by the baby chocobo in Sazh’s hair? Well, it does not appear in this game either. However, we get this awesome moogle that I thought was just adorable and funny. It might annoy some others though.
Since Final Fantasy XIII-2 uses the same engine as its predecessor, there really is not any improvement in this category as far as graphics go. The only real changes made graphically is that XIII-2 uses a lot more real time cutscenes instead of the heavy CGI that XIII used. It is a little unfortunate that XIII-2 decided to go that route because the cutscenes were simply gorgeous to watch in XIII.
The soundtrack of XIII-2 is very left field of what most Final Fantasy fans should be used to. The composer of XIII-2, Masashi Hamauzu, took a very different route when it came to the soundtrack. A lot of the songs seem mainstream to me. There are a lot of genres covered in the soundtrack too. As fans, we are used to orchestrated music. Music that was mostly instrumental without any type of lyrics or signing. In XIII-2, there is plenty of singing. In fact, there are a couple of songs in the game that have English verses being played. It is just a little weird hearing a rap verse as I fight my battles in XIII-2. I will be honest and say that I did not enjoy the music when I first began to play XIII-2. However, the soundtrack has grown on me. I find myself nodding my head to a lot of the tunes and even reciting some of the lyrics myself. The only song I have a problem with right now is the heavy metal chocobo song. The combination of heavy metal and chocobos just do not make any sense to me.
The gameplay is where Final Fantasy XIII-2 looked to improve the most. Fans of XIII enjoyed its battle system but felt it could be refined and refine was exactly what Square Enix did. While you do not get the interchangeable main characters in XIII-2 (you mostly play as Serah and Noel), third party members are replaced with your choice of monsters. There are about 150 monsters in all (coincidence or intended?) and each have different abilities and roles. Monsters can be fused in order to combine abilities as well so you can make the best possible monster if you wish. There are also “rare” monsters where you only have one chance to catch them or will have a small chance to encounter them. Square Enix is also planning to have character DLC where you can fight and then use characters like Lightning and Snow as your third party member.
The Paradigm System is very much intact in XIII-2. Nothing has really changed in this matter as the roles are still the same. Square Enix did listen to the fans and take out the unnecessary, long, and annoying transition scenes when you changed Paradigms. It was a much needed tweak because the pace of battle would pretty much come to a halt when you switched Paradigms. Speaking of pace, the battles seem faster in Final Fantasy XIII-2.
On screen enemies are also gone. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, battles happen through the Mog Clock. The Mog Clock is Final Fantasy XIII-2 rendition of the Random Encounter. Enemies appear out of thin air and a timer will appear. Before the timer runs out, you will be given the opportunity to initiate the battle yourself for a bonus at the beginning of the battle or the option to run away from the battle. If you fail to do neither when the timer runs out, then your retry option is stripped away and dying means game over. The Mog Clock is different and will take a little bit of adjustment to get used to, especially with the fact that different monsters act differently. Some remain stagnant and some are aggressive (which means they run to you instead).
In addition to the battle tweaks, Square Enix added some non-battle gameplay as well. You have a ton of options in Final Fantasy XIII-2 when it comes to exploration. Since your “World Map” is basically a timeline, you can select which time period/area you want to go to. Some time periods/areas have alternate realities that you can also explore. Usually, these alternate realities are “because this happened, it caused this to happen here” situations. You can also choose to restart any given time plot from the beginning if you wish to do so. In doing so, you can grow through the story line differently than you did before. This is more or less just to see the different dialogue options that were laid out for you and pick up items that you might have missed however.
Leisure time was also not ignored in Final Fantasy XIII-2. You can visit Serendipity for all your gambling and chocobo racing needs. This is were most of your minigames will be held and these minigames are accessed through the use of Casino Coins. You can either find these through your story progress or exchange for them with Gil. Of course, you can exchange the coins back for some really nice items. Chocobo racing is back but it is not quite the same as its Final Fantasy VII counterpart (although I really wish it was). Chocobos can be captured just like regular monsters during your normal story progress and then either be used in combat or brought here to race. Just like in Final Fantasy VII, a different color chocobo means different racing attributes. It is up to you to find out which one is the best chocobo.
Other than that, you also have your side missions and post game missions to complete. There are tons of them and you can even do some of the side missions as you complete the main story. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is sure to hit the 20 hour mark and could possibly be a 60 hour game if you were to do everything.
What You’ll Like:
- Final Fantasy
- Mog (for me)
- Less Linear than Final Fantasy XIII
- TOWNS AND NPCS!
- Lack of a Good Story
- Less Characters and Character Development
- The Heavy Metal Chocobo Song
- Lack of Traditional Final Fantasy Roots
Honestly, I think the glory days of Final Fantasy may be over by now. Who knows, maybe Square Enix has something up their sleeves but I do not believe that anything that would resemble a traditional Final Fantasy will be coming out any time soon. You can blame that on the gaming trends of today.
Anyway, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is definitely a better sequel than Final Fantasy X-2 was. In fact, I think Square Enix got this one right if you ignore the story aspect of the game. Unfortunately, we cannot ignore that aspect of the game because it is honestly what most people play Final Fantasy for. The lack of characters and character development will be a downer for most people and the convoluted story is not going to help either. However, the gameplay does make up for it.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is tons of fun. I really enjoyed leveling up my characters and doing the puzzles that were laid out for us. There are also nice exploration paths for people to take for those with inquisitive minds. I thought the whole time line thing was pretty cool, especially with the whole “reset button” concept where you can go through a part over.
With all that said, Final Fantasy XIII-2 deserves a C+. While it is a fun, good game, it is not a great game. What could have made it a better game? Well, we will just say that Square Enix can definitely provide us with a better story. I mean, if your focus is on presentation, at least give us something that makes sense and will draw us to keep playing. Instead, I find myself detached from the story and more focused on leveling up my characters and doing other things.
Buy It: Buy this game if you like fun gameplay and great visuals. Also, buy it if you are a diehard Final Fantasy fan. There is enough content to get you about 20 hours of gameplay.
Rent It: Rent this game if you like Final Fantasy but do not like the direction they are going. While you really will not get the most out of this game through a short rent, expect to invest a good amount of time into this game.
Pass It: Pass it if you really have no interest in RPGs or Final Fantasy in general. Nothing to see here really.