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Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

By Greg McDougal

In 2010, when "Final Fantasy XIII" was released, the hype for the game was massive. Especially for those who are JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Games) fans, like myself.  Not only was it the next "numbered" installment in the illustrious franchise, but it was the first to be made specifically for the "next gen" consoles.  I happened to be one of those people who came across as enthused for the game.  However, once it finally arrived and entered my Playstation, there was something amiss.  Not only was the game linear, but it literally felt like it was holding your hand the entire journey in order to advance the story, which by the way was a good narrative.

I would understand the logic for involving linearity in the beginning (maybe 3 hours worth) to get players familiar with how the game works, but 25-30 hours worth.......COME ON SQUARE!!!!  The problem Square-Enix apparently didn't understand at the time when producing this title was that the RPG has evolved in between the time of Final Fantasy XII and XIII (honestly even before that).  With games like "Mass Effect," "Elder Scrolls" and "Fable;" there is no excuse for this style of RPG.  Even previous installments gave you freedom. The saving grace was the awesome battle system, involving story and the detailed leveling up system.

Square-Enix has heard the complaints and took them to heart by releasing "Final Fantasy XIII-2."  Does the game correct everything wrong with the previous installment, or is history repeating itself?  The game does enough right to make it an overall better experience than it's predecessor, but while fixing the past mistakes, Square forgot keep the elements that made XIII shine.

Since I am the type of person who likes to deliver the bad news first lets start with what is hands down the weakest part of "XIII-2"......the story.  That's sacrilege considering story is suppose to be genre's highlight.  It takes place three years after the events in the original. Cocoon has fallen and everyone believes that Lightning (the protagonist from XIII) is dead. All except her sister Serah (game protagonist number one), who remembers exactly what happened and knows she is alive somewhere.  She is actually, in a place called Valhalla. Here she guards the throne of the goddess Etro from the likes of Caius Ballad, the time traveling antagonist of our tale.

Lightning Warning Sister Serah of the convoluted journey that awaits her.


Enter Noel Kreiss, the second protagonist of the game.  A time traveler who enters Valhalla and is told by Lightning to go to the past and meet up with Serah and deliver a message to her in order for the two to be reunited.  Once Noel comes into contact with Serah, the two begin time traveling to different eras in order to fix the dimensional rifts within them while the end result will reunite the siblings together.  Time travel is usually never handled well when it is the main focus within the story.  Especially video games.  With different eras comes different scenarios and what the game calls "paradox endings."  There are 11 in all. This game is a prime example of a "choose your own adventure."  Doing something five years in the future of one world will change the outcome of that world 10-20 years later. You know, usual time travel stuff.  The problem is the main plot looses it's cohesiveness the further along you get and you may ask yourself "is it really worth it?"  I didn't hate the plot by any means. I just wished more time was taken into making a consistent story. Honestly I like Serah and Noel, but the game doesn't develop their characters enough to feel invested in them, as time seems to be the true protagonist here.  A story is here folks. You just have to time travel to find the thing.

Okay, now for the good news........EVERYTHING ELSE.  "XIII-2" offers you more freedom than you can shake a moogle at.  Within the first hour of the game you are offered quests to take on aside from the main mission (which is 25-30 hours), giving you more options and variety.  Not only can they be fun, but also provide a bit of back story pertaining to the Serah, Noel and other characters from the "XIII" universe.  Shops are back as well as Chocobos.  Riding around on a chocobo was something sorely missed from the previous game as it's not a Final Fantasy game without them.

The in depth battle system from "XIII" is back.  Paradigm shifts and all.  The Crystarium is also back, albeit a watered down version from the original.  Still a good system nonetheless.  For those who do not know, the Crystarium is used to level up your characters with higher HP, new moves, better defense, etc.  The game only has two playable human characters. Who would be the third party member?  Monsters. That's right, in "XIII-2" once you defeat monsters, you can capture them and place them in your party. You also can level them up via Crystarium as well as fuse them with weaker monsters you don't want to keep in order to inherit their abilities.

Oh and I guess this should go without saying, but will do it anyway.  The graphics are some of the best I have seen in a video game.  CG or otherwise.  Then again it's Square-Enix so no one should really be surprised.  If there is the one thing you can always count on from a Square-Enix title it's presentation.

Technically, "XIII-2" is a better game.  However, if the story were as fluid as that of the original it could have been a much better experience.  While correcting the mistakes of the past, Square forgot to keep and maintain the elements that made the original shine. In the end, if you enjoyed "Final Fantasy XIII," you owe it to yourself to check out the sequel as well as those who enjoyed the more traditional titles in the franchise.  Crazy narrative aside, it is definitely a journey worth taking.  However, I would advise you play this before you get into Mass Effect 3.

Final Reaction:  8.1/10

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