Review by Meowster34
"The Battle Within Makes a Striking Finish"
Going to start off by saying this is a dynamically different game from XIII - another game that seems so distant yet connected to this title. Like it's predecessor, this game is divisive, but in different ways and less polarizing.
The Music: This is probably the most polarizing of any category in reviews. I've yet to see people that felt just 'meh' about the soundtrack, it is usually an enthusiastic and eager yes or a revolted no. All I can say is that I think the composers did a great job of experimenting and creating a unique feel for this game. Lots of effort was put into this soundtrack and you can really hear it shine.. whether you like it or not. This is less thematic than XIIIs and a little more eclectic. 10/10
Voice Acting: Square Enix has been known lately to have quite a good localization team. Sure, there are a few slip-ups here and there, but they usually give strong performances that hold their own to the Japanese originals. Laura Bailey and Jason Marsden steal the show with their characters (Serah and Noel, respectively) by adding a sense of warmth and realism amongst the few cheesy one-liners. Liam O'Brien also does a fantastic job with Caius giving the right kind of sinister tone but still giving three-dimensional acting that fleshes out of his character. 10/10
Story: The story of this game holds it's own to unleash an epic twist to the Final Fantasy saga. It is rather short (only 25 hours long) but it is very well told and the way that it is well-written, you really feel for main characters Noel and Serah. Even the antagonist, who was especially well-written. Those looking for their favorites from the original may be in for a bit of a disappointment, as most only star as bit cameos. The use of time travel can be a bit jarring but overall it works to a fun and interesting product. 8/10
Graphics: It gets a little interesting here.. gone are the beautiful pre-rendered scenes from it's predecessor, XIII-2 works to be seamless and most of it's cutscenes are shown in real-time. There is occasionally less detail in the characters faces due to using their low-poly field models. But the environments are exquisitely done and while re-skinning can be 'cheating', the way the creators made different zones and weather really brought depth and beauty to these places. It should be mentioned that there is a bit more jaggies this time around.. and very rarely a small frame-drop. This is only really noticeable in places with large crowds. 8.5/10
Battle System: The paradigm shift system is back and is it better than ever. However, there is a bit of a twist - the third character slot and replacing it is the new paradigm pack which allows you to control monsters. This new system is actually very fun and rewarding, something I wasn't expecting before playing the game. You get to mix and match abilities with your other monsters and really get to create them the way you want. And even your main characters, Noel and Serah, can be developed in any way of your choice. The crystarium is much more relenting.. still following a set path but the way that path grows and the way you choose for your stats to develop is all on you. 9/10
Gameplay: The biggest jump in enjoyment from the original to sequel. Gameplay this time around is rich and rewarding. Gone is the long tube you were forced to trek in XIII - replacing it is a wonderfully crafted timeline which, while linear, has many twists and turns that are filled with massive original areas teeming with life. NPCs and towns have filled up the barren world of Gran Pulse and with it comes sidequests and a new game plus. Also of worth noting is that you can now jump with a simple push of a button. This is used to add an element of platforming in some levels of the game. 8/10
Replayability: Something that the original lacked and was my major gripe with that game. This game? Not so! You can technically replay the game anytime you want, working as an effective new game+ with the possibility of new endings. And upon beating the game, there is still so much to do that isn't mindless grinding turtles. You go hunting for lore, get new abilities (longer jump, controllable-camera cutscenes, etc.), and discover new elements of lore. 10/10
Time: This isn't a long game. That isn't to say it is a short game or an unworthy game. It is worth the precious hours that you give it and really it all depends on how you play the game. You could probably beat the game in 16/17 hours. Myself, it took 25 hours to beat the main boss. For those that like epic and long storylines, this one might be a bit of a disappointment. 5/10
But for those that love collecting every single little thing in a game, this is one that will last a long time and is one of the most involved Final Fantasy titles. 10/10
Overall this was a fantastic game, surpassing it's original and other Final Fantasy titles at the same time. Fans of the original might be a bit offended as it has little do with XIII other than the basic mythology and ignores fan-favorite characters. However, I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun-time: relatively grind-free, little hand-holding, and a complex adventure with a dynamic cast await those that join in this journey.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/13/12
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (US, 01/31/12)
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