Final Fantasy XIII-2 Reviewed
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 console.
Welcome back to the world of Gran Pulse. A world full of rich landscapes, monsters in abundance, and a floating city called Cocoon. Three years have passed since an unlikely group of l’Cie banded together and prevented death and destruction from reigning down on the planet. Oddly enough, things are not exactly as the players remember it. Lightning, the leader of their group, is assumed by everyone to have turned to crystal with Vanille and Fang to prevent Cocoon’s fall to the earth. Only Serah, her sister, seems to remember events differently (and the same as the rest of us). What has Square Enix done to the story of Final Fantasy XIII? Is it worth the headache to untangling the time-lines (I suppose it depends on what has happened to everyone’s least favourite character Hope, eh)?
The game begins with a giant battle between Lightning and an unknown opponent named Caius in a city called Valhalla. Players are introduced to a familiar combat system which has had a few tweaks. First and foremost, the developers have introduced cinematic triggers in boss battles. These allow the player to greatly damage their opponent (and finish them off) but also provide different combat options in some cases (using physical attacks vs. magic, etc). The other major change (which won’t become available until later in the game) is the inclusion of monsters in your party. During the battle, a new character arrives on the scene by the name of Noel Kreiss, a human from the last civilization on earth, hundreds of years in the future. Lightning somehow recognizes him and tasks him with passing through a time gate to bring her sister Serah to Valhalla.
In another time and place, Serah is wracked with visions of Lightning’s fight with Caius. When she wakes up, she finds herself wearing new cloths that she’s never seen before (a moment of panic ensued for myself, remembering dress spheres from FFX-2) and surrounded by another battle going on just outside her home. Monsters have overrun the village of New Bodhum, people fight desperately, and Serah finds herself rescued by a mysterious newcomer, Noel Kreiss. Noel claims to have met Lightning and offers to take Serah to her. Together, they end up on a journey passing through different locations at various points in history. Each place they visit has been twisted from how Noel remembers history and is suffering from paradoxes (alterations in space and time which have bridged events, items, or monsters from different periods into the same spot). Solving all these issues will sort out the time-lines. What makes this different from other games that play with altering history is that you have the ability to visit both alternate versions of future events.
Throughout time, you’ll have the chance to meet familiar and new faces. Early on, you’ll meet Hope as a young adult in charge of a research team. He’s definitely matured… but still not fully rid himself of his mommy issues. Players will also run into Snow, who had left the year prior in search of Lightning on Serah’s behalf. He can be found trying to singlehandedly fight a flan larger than most apartment buildings. Go figure.
In order to travel to new locations, players will have to discover artifacts strewn across zones, sometimes hidden by mini game puzzles. Each object opens a different gate which unlocks a new node in the Historia Crux, the place between times and the method with which players can choose where to visit. What’s nice about this system is that oftentimes you’ll have multiple gates to pick from, allowing players to select the order of which worlds to visit. Getting off the rails early in the game is something that was sorely missed in the original title.
Besides the ability to choose your own paths, other appreciated improvements have been added to the game. Unlike Dwarf tossing, Moogle tossing is an acceptable sport. Serah’s weapon/good luck charm is a Moogle which can be thrown to reach item spheres and used to reveal hidden treasures on the map. Also, Chocobos can be located on maps, usually after having cleared enough of the current story arc. Feeding these birds Gysahl Greens will let the player ride them, providing faster, monster-free travel.
When players do come across monsters, they are in the form of random encounters. Enemies spawn around you, giving enough time to make a run for it (by not walking into an enemy) or the opportunity to make a first strike attack, providing an extra hit on the monsters before being taken into combat. Occasionally, in combat, some of the monsters will be turned into crystals upon defeat. These monsters then become usable in combat.
To keep things a bit more interesting, the third slot is reserved for monsters, but you’re only allowed to have three at a time for your paradigm shifts. That means, since monsters only have one paradigm available to them, you have to pick and choose wisely which combinations you want to set up, and which roles to research for Noel and Serah first.
The Crystarium is slightly different from the original. Each spot on the grid can be used to level up a different role. Once a level of the Crystarium has been filled, players pick a bonus to assign to the character. Bonuses include unlocking different roles (both Serah and Noel start off with Ravager and Commando), boosting job bonuses, increasing the number of slots in the ATB, or increasing the number of wearable accessories. This is a nice way to allow customization of the gaming experience, but it also requires some strategy in which roles should be upgraded and in what order to do so. For example, having the Saboteur role early is quite handy, especially against certain bosses.
As mentioned earlier, boss battles now have cinematic events, which require pressing specific button combinations to bring these bad boys down faster. And in some cases you want to, if for no other reason to get rid of the screaming voice of the boss battle music. I’m not sure whose idea it was to include a death metal singer for that track, but I felt on edge and wanting to mute his voice…as well as a decent number of NPCs.
Sadly, one thing that seems hard to come by in a lot of games is a selection of people to read dialog and not make it sound like the steps on the back of the macaroni and cheese box. Please, fix the lady sitting by the water in New Bodhum, and the screeching voice of the Chocolina store sales person who can somehow travel in time as well. I mean, if everyone and their grandmother are capable of time travel for no other reason than capitalism, no wonder the timelines are in such a state of disrepair!
I had a lot of misgivings starting the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. For starters, the last time there was a direct sequel in this series, I felt it completely butchered a perfectly good story and its characters. This wasn’t felt by all people, but I’m definitely not alone in this. For another, the opening sequence was chock full of one liner combat dialog which was either confusing or just plain tacky (but admittedly, absolutely stunning visually). Once past these initial reservations, the solid gameplay and overall story kept me playing and even enjoying myself quite a bit. If you’re looking to experience more of the world from Final Fantasy XIII, check this game out.
Wanderson75 gives this 4.25/5.0
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