Review by ethan3210
"Final Fantasy XIII-2 raises the bar for every JRPG to come, in a different way."
Final Fantasy XIII-2 raises the bar for every JRPG to come, in a different way.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the highly controversial sequel to the equally dividing Final Fantasy XIII-2. Set three years after the end of the original, it presents a new story, that is flawed yet still enjoyable. Taking the criticism from fans, the new non-linear exploration and storytelling presents a very different experience from XIII.
In XIII, the majority of the game consisted of a single curved line, that would, after numerous battles, lead you to the next cutscene. And then that continued, until the boss, then the end of the chapter. This proved to be very disappointing for some fans, as it was the polar opposite of Final Fantasy XII, which was nearly completely open-ended in exploration. The change angered a lot of fans, and these questionable design choices ended up splitting the fanbase, where half liked XIII, and the other half wanted nothing to do with that.
XIII-2 was supposed to reunite the fanbase. But does it do that?
Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes place 3 years after the end of XIII. I can't really spoil much, but much of Cocoon has decided to relocate and populate Pulse. However, Lightning, one of the main characters from XIII has disappeared, and been chosen to rule over Valhalla, protecting Etro's throne from Caius, the game's antagonist. Caius believes that the world should be destroyed, however some of his motives are much deeper than that. I can't go into that, because it spoils much of the later half of the game.
Anyway, after the opening scenes, you awaken as Serah, Lightning's younger sister, on her new hometown of New Bodhum. A meteorite falls, and strange creatures begin appearing from rifts in time, attacking the citizens. Just as Serah is about to be killed, she is saved by Lebreau, one of the members of NORA, a group who played a minor role in Final Fantasy XIII. Soon after Lebreau gets attacked by another monster, Noel, the other main character, sent from Valhalla by Lightning, saves Serah yet again, and from there the game truly begins.
The story as a whole can be basically summed up in one sentence: Good until you start to think about it. This is largely due to the dialogue, which while cheesy, is captivating, and has you not worrying about the contradictions or 'paradoxes' (not in the games sense, in your brain) until you either finish the game or put it down for a few hours, whichever happens first. Though some parts of the story itself make little to no sense (this paradox exists because it went back in time and caused an event that caused it to exist, it's essentially the same as a person being born because they told you they wanted to be born), and those are the few moments where you'll put down the controller and say, "What the hell are they talking about?"
There are quite a few main characters, which I'll split into minor and major main characters. We'll start with major.
The main major characters are Serah, Noel, Caius, Yuel, and Lightning. Lightning acts as a narrator of sorts, though we don't get to play as her after the opening, and don't see her much either, until near the ending. Serah is much like Lightning's sister, though more passive and less intruding. She also comes off as a bit of a ditz, but that's mainly because of Live Triggers. Noel is a newcomer. Coming from a future where he is the last surviving human, the way he acts is very strange, considering he's been around to watch everyone he cared about die one by one. When he shows it, he does it in a typical whiny way. Other times, he's quite likeable, especially with some of the choices you can make as him.
Yeul is another main character. However, she isn't a single entity. She is a reincarnation of the previous Yeul from each generation. Yeul has the ability to see the future, though she is unable to change it. This is where one of Caius's motives comes in. Caius is essentially Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds (see TvTropes page), though his reasons are less centered around himself, and more around Yeul.
Minor characters include Hope, Alyssa, NORA, Snow, and Mog. For the most part, they're all great, true to their personalities from the earlier games, or if they're new, convincing enough that you wouldn't think they're a rip off of someone else. However, Mog is... well... annoying. Some of the things he says are totally unfitting for what he's supposed to come off as: cute.
The graphics in this game are amazing, though it varies greatly depending on which aspect. Character models are slightly lower quality than in XIII, however, it's barely noticeable with all the movement they do. The worst offender is Alyssa, though it's more a design choice rather than the graphics themselves. Enemies look nearly the same as in XIII, though there are a lot of palette-swapped versions of them (over 5 different versions of Munchkins, and Mud Frogs, etc).
The areas themselves are very visually appealing, from the peaceful New Bodhum to the snow-covered Bresha Ruins, to technically advanced Academia & Augusta Tower, the variety helps show off the engine and push the console to it's limits, as well as express how much technology has advanced during the ages. They do tend to get reused a lot though, as you'll return to the same places during multiple eras.
The frame rate stays mostly consistent, on Xbox sinking to it's lowest at around 23-26 fps, while PS3 has hardly any hiccups, and when it does, it's only down to 28 fps at worst.
The games CGI cutscenes are possibly the best part, though there aren't very many of them. They look wonderful, but end too quickly, other than the opening.
The music in XIII-2 ranges from catchy J-Pop to ear-torturing death metal. Songs like New Bodhum, Dash, and the Archlyte Steppe theme are very appealing to the ears, and I could go days without getting bored of them (especially Dash). The battle themes are pretty good, with some nice instrumental parts, including the violin, which really adds to the impact from them. Then there's... less desirable tracks, like Crazy Chocobo, and Limit Break. While they are strangely fitting, they don't really go good with the rest of the game's tracks.
Voice acting is spot on, though it wasn't expected that it wouldn't be. All the people from XIII have their original voice actors, and the new characters have voices that fit their role very well. My only gripe is that Liam O'Brian could have voiced Caius more like he did Grimoire Weiss in Nier, however, it would make him out of character.
Sound effects are well done, there isn't much else to say about that.
This is the worst aspect, though it isn't really bad as much as it is incredibly easy. The battle system is largely the same from XIII, with a few minor changes like Blood Damage, which is damage that you can't heal normally. To heal this, you need a special Wound Potion, which is incredibly easy to find and cheap to buy, which nearly eliminates the purpose of it.
Monsters have much lower HP than in XIII, and your characters do even more damage too, which leads to quick victories in battles, and a near-neglect of the Paradigm System, unless you're in a boss battle, or a rare encounter. For most battles, a COM/COM/COM and a MED/MED/MED paradigm are enough to win anything in well below the target time.
A new system in XIII-2 is the ability to add monsters to your party, and this works somewhat well. There are much too many monsters, and the betters ones are much too easy to get and raise to a point where they destroy everything they see.
The Crystarium is changed, though it effectively became more linear in the way you traverse it. There is more freedom in how you build your character's HP, Strength, and Magic, though, through Large nodes and Small nodes. There are also several bonuses you can choose from each time you circle each character's Crystarium.
The encounter system is the main reason for the difficulty drop. Monsters now appear in front of the player at random intervals, and if you strike them before a certain time, you get a preemptive strike. Because of this inability to see monsters, there isn't time to plan out paradigms before engaging (which was important in XIII), so the solution was to make encounters easier, to the point where paradigms are barely needed unless you're at a boss of other tough battle.
During conversation, you can sometimes get prompted with a Live Trigger, a chance to choose what a character will say. Usually, these things don't affect the story, but they change what a characters says, sometimes sparking a funny conversation, or revealing a minor plot point that wouldn't be revealed otherwise. It's a fun system, and adds a lot of replay value.
The other distraction from the main quest is Fragments, a group of sidequests that have you running through areas, usually in different eras, to find a person, item, or defeat a certain monster. They're time consuming, and don't really serve much purpose until after you've completed the game and want 100%. Though at that point,they're captivating, having you fight superbosses that are many times stronger than the final boss.
There's also a casino that's incredibly rigged, and should rarely be used other than getting a few Fragments.
This game has a ton of replay value, and a game mechanic built around it. Through Time Reversal, if there was a certain area in the game you liked playing, you can go back there and redo the story for that area, with your powered-up characters. Through this, you can obtain up to 8 different endings, fight more powerful versions of bosses, and get fragments or monsters you missed when you were there last.
Since the difficulty is so much lower, you can also restart the game and do a challenge run, usually barring Crystarium usage, monsters, or items.
As DLC gets added, people who have already completed the game can return and get new monsters, characters, or even play an entirely new section of the game.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 sets the bar for JRPGs, in terms of graphics (once again), replay value, and optional content. If you're looking for a deep, emotional story however, this game will leave you wanting a lot more. Great gameplay, graphics, and mostly good music can't save the bad story from bringing this down from an 8 or 9. Overall, this is worth the buy, as there's a lot to do to keep you busy, but if you don't care for optional stuff, maybe a 1-week rental would let you get through it.
Story - 5/10
Characters - 7/10
Graphics - 9/10
Audio - 7/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Replay Value - 10/10
Average - 7.5/10
Weighted Average - 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 02/07/12
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (US, 01/31/12)
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