Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

Posted: February 27, 2012 by Tony Polanco in REVIEWS

Even though it sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide, Final Fantasy XIII is generally regarded by most fans and critics as one of the weakest entries in the much beloved Japanese role playing game series.  I personally never felt this way but the game was accused by many of being too linear and not as expansive as western rpgs or even previous Final Fantasy games.  Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the story to the follow up game, Final Fantasy XIII-2 would be centered around travelling through time and fixing mistakes of the past.  For the most part, Final Fantasy XIII-2 succeeds in giving gamers the kind of Final Fantasy game that they want while still evolving the series with some western inspired gameplay mechanics.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes place 3 years after FFXIII.  The world is once again under threat and it’s up to Serah (sister of FFXIII star, Lightning) and Noel, a mystery man from the future, to save it.  In order to do this, the pair must travel forwards and backwards through time in order to fix the paradoxes that are tearing reality apart.  While a story about time travel can easily become an incomprehensible mess, FFXIII-2 manages to keep the train on the tracks plot wise and does a very good job of following the unique time travel rules it sets up.  In this game, changing the future will also change the past, which to anyone who is a sci-fi fan will sound completely insane but within the context of the story this manages to work.

The main cast are all fleshed out nicely and go through satisfying character growth as the story unfolds.  Everyone is likable but the real stand out is the villain, Caius.  He’s the kind of bad guy that’s the most compelling; an antagonist whose actions, while monstrous are understandable.  The great voice acting by the cast also help give the ludicrous premise credibility and it’s good that the cast is made up of seasoned voice actors who know how to get the job done. Some of the dialogue may come off as a bit goofy and melodramatic due to its Japanese origin but overall, the scripting and acting is top notch.

The Paradigm battle system from FFXIII makes a return with no big significant changes.  Your characters can take on six roles that range from combat, to black magic to healer ect.  Mixing up different roles and swapping between them on the fly is the key to winning battles and is part of what makes the battle system so engaging.  It’s no surprise that it hasn’t been altered. The battle system is turn based but it feels immediate and it gives you great flexibility when dealing with a monster’s ever changing attack patterns.  Speaking of monsters, you can actually recruit some of them and have them in your party but we’ll cover that in a bit.  Needless to say, the combat is still the best feature of both XIII games.

The Crystarium upgrade system is back as well but it’s been heavily simplified.  It’s interesting that in a game that’s more open ended that the way you level up your characters has been made so narrow.  Basically you have a constellation as the upgrade tree and each star on that constellation is a slot that you can use to level up whatever attribute you want.  You can make your character specialize in any of the six roles (they are better suited to some roles than others) but you’ll want to level up all roles anyway to get more points towards attributes.  It’s streamlined but it would have been nice if the Crystarium gave you more options.

The first thing that is immediately noticeably different from FFXIII is that the game is broken up into several chapters. As you finish off chapters, you can then go back and replay them to get a higher score against bosses or to find treasure or items that were previously inaccessible.  Finding hidden goodies is made easier thanks to your floating Moogle buddy who acts as a living treasure detector.  His voice over stuff can get a little annoying but you’ll put up with it since he’s very efficient at finding hidden stuff in the environment.  You’ll find many NPCs to talk to and get missions from. The side missions for the most part are either fetch or monster killing quests but considering that FFXIII had next to no side quests, the rather mundane objectives are acceptable.  Each stage is fairly large and has several divergent paths to take. Explorers should be very pleased with the amount of things you can do and find in every level.

As I said before, you can have monsters fight alongside you.  After you win a battle, you’ll sometimes randomly get a monster that you can then have in your party.  Having a monster in your party sounds silly but it’s actually an important aspect of combat since the monster is your third team member.  You can level up your monsters through the Crystarium by feeding them specific items or other monsters that you own.  It’s a bit shameful to like this very Pokemon-esque feature but it’s a lot of fun to level up your monsters and have them fight at your side.  I dare anyone to tell me that having a Chocobo destroying your enemies isn’t awesome.  You can also customize (i.e pimp out) your monster pals with things like jewelry, tattoos and clothing.  Having a Behemoth with a bow tie or newspaper boy hat on is too hilarious for words.

Western design is most apparent with the game’s “Live trigger” events.  This is basically Final Fantasy’s version of the conversations from Bioware games but of course done in a very Japanese manner.  While talking to certain NPCs, the game will pause and ask you a question and you have four options with which to answer it.  It’s a bit awkward and the choices don’t really affect much of the actual story but I can appreciate the effort made to modernize the standard Japanese way of having rpg conversations.

Like all other games in the series, Final Fantasy XIII-2 looks absolutely amazing.  Square-Enix have been the masters of CG cinematics for years and they’re in no danger of losing that distinction.  The high CG quality also translates over into the actual in game graphics and cinematics, which look only slightly lesser than the CG ones.  This game is running off the same engine as FFXIII (which already looked incredible) but the graphics have definitely gotten a noticeable upgrade.  From lush mountain valleys, ancient ruins and gigantic futuristic cities, the locales will blow you away.

Even though legendary series composer Nobuo Oematsu had nothing to do with this game’s music, the soundtrack is still pretty amazing.  The soundtrack contains a lot of new songs in addition to some from FFXIII.  There may be a lot more J-pop in these last two FF games than fans are used to but to me, every track fit nicely and the diversity of the songs made the soundscape that much richer.  Unlike most other modern game soundtracks, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has songs in it that have recurring themes and because of that are very memorable and catchy.

Other notable additions include mini games (chocobo racing, gambling) and some mind bending puzzles that you need to solve to advance some of the main and side stories.  The game doesn’t lack for content. With 160 fragments to collect, characters and monsters to level up, and hidden items and weapons to find, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a meaty experience that should last a minimum of 60 hours if you plan on doing every single thing available.  If you rush through the story and do some minimal level grinding you’re still looking at a 40 hour game. Unlike FFXIII, getting all of the achievements/trophies won’t make you want to commit suicide over how frustrating they are to get.  It will take some time and patience but if you keep at it you’ll get 100% of them eventually.

At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Square-Enix succeeded in addressing and fixing the issues that Final Fantasy XIII had.  While some of the additions may not be as well implemented as they could have been, overall the game is very solid.  Final Fantasy XIII-2 redeems not only its predecessor but the franchise as a whole.

Liked

  • Paradigm battle system
  • Presentation (music and art style) is incredible
  • Variety of things to do

Disliked

  • Cliffhanger ending that will probably be finished via dlc
  • No “active missions” list
  • Crystarium system is too rigid

Final Fantasy XIII-2 was developed and published by Square-Enix.  It was released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and is available now for $59.99.  A new, retail copy of the Playstation 3 version was played for this review.

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