Review: Final Fantasy XIII-2
Is Final Fantasy XIII-2 enough of an improvement to justify itself and in fact the love of gamers who rejected the series for past offenses?
- Worth The Time?Definitely
- Things LovedAesthetics, story, new time and paradox mechanics, battle system and more extra content that should be able to fit in a disc (must've used a steam roller)
- Things HatedNew audio track isn't as good as previous games but by no means bad
- RecommendationFinal Fantasy XIII-2 makes up for what its previous iteration left out and more. It's Final Fantasy coming back to what made it good and makes sure to remember the fans rather than its developer's pocket.
- Name: Final Fantasy XIII-2
- Genre: JRPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: Square Enix
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Price: R515
- Reviewed On: PS3
Watching the opening scene for Final Fantasy XIII-2 made me rethink my approach to this review. Rather than give you plenty of detail any Wikipedia page can do, or tie you down with every aspect of the game, something every other review has already done; I’m going to tell you why you should play Final Fantasy XIII-2. I realise that’s spoiled any chance of the game getting a bad rating but Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game of special circumstance. Final Fantasy XIII has as many fans as it has haters and Final Fantasy XIII-2 is supposed to amend the things the previous iteration did wrong, as well improve on every aspect of its bigger brother. That’s quite a claim, though having played through a large majority of the game I can happily say Final Fantasy XIII-2 has done more than enough to win back the love of its audience. Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about and through pure fanboyism have fooled myself into thinking that. So I’m going to lay out the game on the table and let you decide whether you think I’m right or just plain fanboy crazy; though the foam around my mouth as I type this doesn’t exactly bode well for my cause.
So what’s first? Well the first major issue Final Fantasy XIII had to contend with was the linearity of the game. Final Fantasy XIII-2 blows its original out of the park by introducing a paradox and time component. The just of the game is you, as Noel and Serah, need to travel back and forward in time solving paradoxes (or conflictions in time). The result of which is a massively improved scope for adventure and exploration. Not only are you free to travel to multiple times and locations at any point, as you unlock more and more, but are able to reset them and explore different endings. This isn’t forced upon you and there is almost no back tracking at all. It’s all very well done and encourages exploration as well as travelling to areas you might not be expected to go yet; to challenge your characters against higher levelled monsters, similar to a world map of the older Final Fantasy’s if you think about it. At the end of the day there is a huge scope to play with and you may do it all or skip it all, it’s your choice; just the way we like it.
What’s better than plenty of exploration and an encouragement to adventure beyond the confines of the story? Well side missions and bonus content like a Casino (in Serendipity) and an Arena (called the Coliseum). There are chocobo races, quizzes, secret bosses and all you’d expect from a Final Fantasy game. It’s executed well and despite the occasional cheesy mission or fetch quest, I thoroughly enjoyed the variety. The only real downer to an otherwise well executed time travelling mechanic is the initial load times between time points; it’s not Deus Ex long but it’s long enough to be noticeable.
Combat is another improved aspect, the paradigm system remains but with a few tweaks. You’re now able to tweak your paradigms to a couple of different ways and of course there’s the monster mechanic. The monster mechanic, as many of you must know by now, replaces the loss of most of the characters from Final Fantasy XIII; though it’s done relatively well. Each monster has an assigned paradigm and levelling them up through a slightly different crystarium system to your characters allows you to improve their usefulness in combat. That, plus the ability to transfer and infuse passive abilities to each monster allows for quite a diverse combat system. You can also customise the look of your monsters through the use of aesthetic items but they’re just that, purely aesthetic and completely up to the player. Each monster also posses a feral link ability, a sort of monster limit break, that can be used once their feral link gauges are full. They all offer unique strengths, some good, some meh, and in concert with the new systems of Final fantasy XIII-2, it’s a much improved and more enjoyable system. More than that, it means a new joy to grinding because being able to accommodate rare and unique monsters to your party through training and side quest makes grinding more than worth it again; Final Fantasy XIII-2 is making good on the staples that it lost in Final Fantasy XIII don’t you think?
Before I continue, I should make note that the levelling-up crystarium system of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is much simpler than its previous iteration, despite looking strategically complex. Moreover, and I suppose I should introduce what some will consider the elephant in the room, quick time events. Quick time events are part of each monster’s feral link ability, most boss battles and a large majority of the more intense cinematic. I know some will sigh at the mention of quick timing events but worry not, they’re done surprisingly well; though I’m sure you think I’m saying that out of some fanboy love. In fact, they allow for a couple options at some points, so press either ‘X’ or ‘Square’ to initiate slightly different sequences that give a nice little difference to an otherwise tired mechanic. Of course there are paradox puzzle events, something shown in most of the gameplay trailers prior to the game’s release; they’re basically a variety of puzzles used to interconnect certain story elements and side quests. These paradox puzzle events are interesting enough to break up the pace and challenge the mind but never quite enough to justify some of the puzzles that seem to be there just for the sake of doing so. The final feature, do you see how much has been added, is the fragment feature that allows for learning more of the game’s lore, unlocking awesome quirky abilities for your character as well as Mog. Mog is a fantastical creature, inspired by the moogles of past games, who not only acts as Serah’s weapon but allows for you to search for hidden and hard to get items, adding more to that exploration value I was raving on about.
Story wise Final Fantasy XIII-2 is much the same as it previous iteration, one potential sore point for some of the (ahem) ‘haters’. Its style can be quite convoluted at times and is of course of anime descent; if you’re not into that sort of thing then I would say the rest of the game more than makes up for itself. Personally I enjoyed the story and characters such as Snow who kept me emotionally connected to the game, except for the odd occasion, and there is a lot of potential in it. Remember, Final Fantasy is not a western RPG and its story is designed for a certain audience. Any fan of previous final fantasy games may really enjoy this story, or not, you decide.
There are a lot of other little changes made to the game that make it easier to pick up and play as well as enjoy. Tutorials aren’t forced upon you and you can skip any at any time, as well as many of the features and mechanics of the game are introduced fairly quickly. It’s all done well enough not to need the first 6 hours to introduce mechanics like the last game did. Moreover, and after you start up a loaded game, Final Fantasy XIII-2 will tell you the story so far and catch you up with anything you might have forgotten. It’s done quite well and shows effort and care put back into the game. There is the occasional rough spot and places were less some areas seem slightly inferior to others but nothing is especially bad or frustrating.
I saved this last point because it was the one aspect of Final Fantasy XIII that people didn’t complain about, the aesthetics of the game. The visuals are just as good as the previous game, even better at some points and I suppose a little worse at others. Overall the game can suffer very infrequent slowdowns but it’s not surprising considering the extra detail crammed into the game. The only aspect that seems to have suffered is the audio where there are some songs that seem more suited to the heavy rock of Devil May Cry and a couple other electro pop songs with. While seemingly appropriate, it made me miss the songs of the previous game. The audio track has its moments but at other times let me down.
All in all, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an improvement over Final Fantasy XIII in every way, audio track aside, and I can’t see nearly as many people hating on it. It really is a vast improvement over the previous game and the addition of DLC promises to add extra challenging battles, side missions and content to extend your play time into the hundred hour category. Final Fantasy Versus XIII will probably be a superior game but it’s going to have to work extremely hard to win me over from Final Fantasy XIII-2