There are a decent amount of hardcore gamers who believe Final Fantasy XIII was the weakest game SquareEnix made in the lifetime of all Final Fantasy. I don’t follow this logic since I think SquareEnix took a different route in telling and outlining a story in the Final Fantasy realm while creating an enjoyable, albeit linear, game experience. I will agree Final Fantasy XIII is more movie-oriented than all of the older games, however the way the game played and pulled the gamer into the story made up for this flaw – if you can call it a flaw.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a mix between the previous title’s storytelling mode and the open-world quest-based systems of the older games. No, I don’t believe SquareEnix is “trying to fix” Final Fantasy XIII with this sequel, and I also don’t buy the idea that critics played any part of SquareEnix’s decision to change the style in which XIII-2 is presented or played; they listened to the gamer.
I think it’s funny I’m going to say this, but here goes: the sequel is between 20-25 hours for completion and feels more as an add-on or DLC afterthought instead of a direct sequel. Compared to Final Fantasy XIII’s 60-120 hours, with the first 20-25 hours treated as more of a training manual, this sequel is a mere fraction of the original. I’m not saying it isn’t as enjoyable or entertaining as Final Fantasy XIII, I’m saying as I started to get into the game, it was suddenly poof, gone, and over.
The way Final Fantasy XIII-2 plays from the beginning isn’t the linear game play of the first half of Final Fantasy XIII. Instead it’s more like the open-world game play of the second half, like it or not. In all honesty, if I hadn’t finished Final Fantasy XIII mere hours before cracking the seal on Final Fantasy XIII-2, there would be no way I could follow or understand what the story is about or why the player should even care. The story begins hours after the final battle in Final Fantasy XIII where Lightning disappears and her party members believe her to be dead from the boss battle. What happened according to the Beginner’s Primer, a section in XIII-2 for new players to read the story up to the current point in the game, is that Lightning herself was transported in time to a realm known as “Valhalla,” where time itself ceases to exist – for some unknown reason.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts with you (Lightning) getting the living snot beat out of you on Valhalla by a purple-haired dude named Caius. You don’t know why you’re fighting him, all you know is you’re underpowered against him. All of a sudden, a man named Noel blinks into the picture and tells you he comes from the future where humans are close to extinction and he is a time traveler trying to stop this from happening. Lightning tells Noel to go get her sister Serah and the story of Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts to take shape. As I said earlier, playing Final Fantasy XIII helps in understanding what’s going on more than the little cliff-notes in the Beginner’s Prime.
The time paradoxes that Lightning, Serah and Noel visit through a hub called the Historia Crux is the main matrix of the game, tying together all the different locations available until you unlock new times by finishing quests and collecting artifacts found in the areas you’re given. As the game begins to take shape in getting back to Lightning and searching the available time gates for artifacts and memories to unlock more time gates, the exploration becomes more open-world in a similar fashion to Fallout or Amalur: Reckoning instead of the first half of Final Fantasy XIII.
Also similar to Final Fantasy XIII is the party-based group system, where you’ll run into other adventures trying to solve some puzzle who will help out for a period of time. The difference in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a change of only being able to control Serah or Lightning as main characters while the rest of your party members are CPU controlled. Another different addition is pet collecting, similar to Pokemon or a few of the older Final Fantasy games where you can train and collect up to six fighting pets, having three available to fight at any given time.
The Paradigm Shifts introduced in Final Fantasy XIII are still here, as well as small improvements such as not having to manually select “Auto-Attack” each attack sequence and to the speed and involvement of your party. Back in the mix are Chocobo races and gambling, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Add to the fact XIII-2 is in the same world as XIII with gorgeous graphics and amazing animations along with the deep and involving storyline makes this sequel a must-have for not only Final Fantasy fans, but anyone wanting a great game to bury their head in for a few days.
Bottom Line: Few games come out with Final Fantasy in the title which should be ignored, and this is no exception. Any fan of Japanese RPGs will love Final Fantasy XIII-2 and even some who don’t.
Rating System: (0-10 ranking)
|Graphics:||Anime-movie quality with brilliant effects for spells and animations, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is one of the best JRPGs in terms of graphics I’ve played.||10|
|Storyline:||Taking much of the storyline from Final Fantasy XIII and the ability to time jump makes a bit of confusion in the beginning trying to follow what’s going on. Believe it if you can, the story is one of the weaker bits of this game.||8|
|Controls:||Easier to control than the previous game, however the updated Paradigm Shift and character focus on the two main sisters means less confusion while beating up bad guys.||9|
|Replayability:||I can see this being replayed due to the different collection elements in the different time paradoxes, while still being enjoyable enough to create a new game each time you play.||9|
|Value:||In my eyes, 20-25 hours of time spent enjoying a game is worth a good amount of money. If you wait a few months for the game to go down in price – even better.||9|
- Chris Tallant