Final Fantasy XIII-2 (2011) Review

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,
Rating:
EU Release Date: Feb 3, 2012 (for Xbox 360)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Total play time: 55:52:00 (story mode)

Cover ArtAfter the disappointment that was Final Fantasy XIII, I did not have high hopes for XIII-2, especially given the negative reviews I’ve heard from other fans. While the story in XIII was good, the gameplay was dull: no problem solving, barely any free roam and battles that even the worst tactician could manage. It was a good game, but it wasn’t a Final Fantasy.

So, we join up again with Lightning and watch her battle with some purple-haired guy named Caius who seems to turn into Bahamut. Then we have a go at fighting him too before we meet Noel Kreiss. She sends him to look for Serah. And that’s pretty much all we see of her for the next fifty hours. Aside from the odd encounter with the characters from XIII, the story doesn’t follow on at all. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not a good story – it’s just not a good sequel.

Instead, we’re now following Lightning’s sister Serah and the mysterious Noel, who falls out of the sky and into New Bodhum where they meet three years after the fall of Cocoon (3AF). Even stranger is the fact that apparently, in this world, Lightning is dead – a part of the crystal pillar holding up Cocoon. Only Serah remembers Lightning surviving and she sets out to bring her sister home with Noel’s help. Noel, meanwhile, has demons of his own to contend with in the form of Caius and Yeul. Together, Noel and Serah save the world by jumping through time to a number of familiar (and some unfamiliar) places.

The advantage of having a time travel aspect to the game is that it makes the gameplay non-linear. Unlike XIII, where even most of the maps were more or less straight lines, there is no strict order in which you must visit certain places and the time-travel gates (known as the Historia Crux) functions as a world map. You can jump back and forward as you like and almost nothing is off-limits – in XIII, once you were done in an area in Cocoon, you never saw it again.

One of the places you can visit is a casino called Serendipity. Casino = minigames. Unfortunately, there are only two games – chocobo racing and slot machines. Chocobo racing is quite good fun, but the slot machine is dull. However, one of the criteria for obtaining all fragments is winning 7,777 coins on the slots, so if you want to beat the game at 100%, you’re going to be there a while. With the optional downloadable content, there is a chance to add two more games to the casino along with an episode of gameplay featuring Sazh – but that’ll cost you. There are also puzzles to solves before you can progress with the game in the Temporal Rift. It’s these small things that make XIII-2 feel like a proper Final Fantasy game.

Which brings me to the battle system. XIII’s ATB (Active Time Battle) is still the dish of the day, making most battles winnable even with your eyes closed (hell, in the later levels, they were winnable without needing my input) since the computer does virtually everything for you. Is a creature weak against fire? Why do I care? The auto-battle will pick out weaknesses for me. There’s still the time-consuming battle intro/results transition screens. And random encounters are back, which make the game a little annoying at times. It’s the only positive aspect of XIII and they’ve got rid of it.

Paradigms

The Paradigm Pack: Pick monsters based on their roles to fight alongside you.

Despite this, there are a lot of great changes in XIII-2, such as the ability to recruit monsters to your team. It’s almost like Pokemon – gotta catch ’em all. Each time you battle a monster, there is a chance to capture it. Any captured monster can fight alongside you as your third party member. However, unlike Noel and Serah, the monsters have only one fixed role and cannot switch. Once they’ve learnt all their moves, you’re limited in ways to improve them. However, the vast number of monsters you can catch means you’re almost guaranteed to find a monster that fits your style.

The music in this game is fantastic. Like XIII, there are a lot of vocal pieces but there is also a greater variety of musical styles, from the beautiful and haunting “Noel’s Theme” to the heavy metal rendition of the Chocobo Theme “Crazy Chocobo“. Even if you don’t play the game, I’d still recommend the soundtrack, because it is fantastic.

Overall, this is a great Final Fantasy game, let down by the fact that it is part of the unpredictable XIII chapter. It’s also painfully short with only just half the gameplay time of any other Final Fantasy game I’ve played, including XIII, although you can probably squeeze another twenty hours out of it by completing all the missions. Even if you were disappointed by XIII, this game might still be for you. Just ignore the first game and it’ll be fine!

See also: Initial Thoughts – FFXIII-2

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