Review by yeah_93

"Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a good game which took many wrong steps."

Introduction

First, I'd like to begin with an apology. I promised that my next review would be Skyrim. However I'll only have Final Fantasy XIII-2 for a short while, and I'd been better if I wrote the review being still fresh from when I played it. The other factor is that I gave Skyrim to a friend a while ago, and I need to check some things again before I can finish the review. Sorry all. Now let's begin.

It's incredible, given the fact that I liked Final Fantasy XIII, that I cared so little for Final Fantasy XIII-2 when it was released. I didn't even buy the game, a friend lend it to me 2 weeks ago. But I'm not going to divagate about why I didn't care for Final Fantasy XIII-2, or why Square Enix made it in the first place. I did want to play it of course, to see how the new storyline was. So why don't you go and check the review out?

Story

I liked Final Fantasy XIII. I thought of course, that its greatest undoing was the fact that it's so linear, so tunnel like. But the rest of the game was great, in my opinion. The story, while very complicated at first, was greatly explained deeper in the game, huge character developments polished the cast if it felt dislikeable at first. I disliked the fact that it didn't have a prominent villain, but at least the story had an excuse for that. The combat system was great and its potential was unveiled deeper in the game, with more difficult enemies. But the fact that its linear, restrictive nature was overwhelmingly criticized, led Square Enix to make a sequel for said game.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 continues the story from Final Fantasy XIII. As a tradition of Square, the game begins with one of the most gorgeous videos ever seen; and not only for PS3. In an imposing world by the name of Valhalla, a battle ensues between the protagonist of the previous game, Lightning (who is featured in the cover of the game) and the apparent and obvious villain of this game: Caius Ballad: a guy who looks like the member of a glam band that carries a giant sword instead of a guitar. The scene is moderately interactive, as there are numerous QTEs and some player controller battles, but they are just to show the player how will the battles be during the rest of the game. During their battle, a young boy by the name of Noel Kreiss falls from the sky; and Lightning rescues him. She gives him a moogle as a present for her sister Serah, and sends the Noel through a time gate to search for Serah, while she keeps fighting Caius in Valhalla. That's Final Fantasy XIII-2's opening, in my opinion, the strongest I've seen since the last Uncharted game.

Picking up 3 years later after the original game, the game no longer follows Lightning as the protagonist, at least after the 20 minute intro. Instead the game focuses solely in two protagonists: Lightning's sister, Serah; and newcomer Noel Kreiss, a young man hailing from a destroyed future, and who resembles perhaps too much Kingdom Hearts protagonist, Sora. Serah didn't get much personality in the original Final Fantasy XIII, seeing as she was practically a storyline device, and here we have a deeper look inside her. It's sad that Serah didn't have a stronger, more independent personality, because she becomes more of a typical RPG heroine. Noel does have a strong personality, however, his stereotype, the one of the heroic and brave young man, is one that the average RPG player has seen a lot. It doesn't help that Noel is very secretive and mysterious during the first hours of the game. He practically keeps all his secrets until the end, and that doesn't help if you are the protagonist and not the villain. It's also worth noticing that Noel is a pretty unconvincing last man alive from a destroyed future, considering how well made his clothes seem to be and his overall appearance.

Seeing as there are only two characters the lead the whole story, they really need to be very strong characters to support the whole story on their shoulders. And while their personalities are not the strongest ones the franchise has seen, their chemistry and backstory makes them if not likeable, at least serviceable protagonists; and it's quite surprising the fact that they can handle pretty well the story. The only thing sad about them is that character development is practically nonexistent. Noel and Serah remain who they are for most of the game, and while Noel reveals his secrets near the end of the game, that doesn't count as character development. It's sad for a franchise so widely recognized for the development of its characters to throw away that completely. It's like all character development was placed for Hope Estheim between the games, and left our protagonists with nothing.

A moogle by the name of Mog accompanies Serah and Noel. Mog is a little creature with a fairly annoying voice, which will probably get on the nerves of some. Not to the level of Vanille though. But seriously, I wish I could mute all those thousands of kupos he says in the game. It's also worth noticing that supporting characters make appearances quite often in the game, both new and returning from the previous game.

The most prominent of all is Hope Estheim, pretty much considered an annoying character of the first game. However, the Hope that appears here is completely changed. Older, and more mature, the kid that used to whine or say bad speeches to the party is long gone; in favor of a much stronger character this time that it's actually likeable. Same thing can't be said for the returning Snow Villiers, who is pretty much the same as the previous game, if not actually more hotheaded. Snow isn't a bad character; however, he is pretty hotheaded and stupid from a certain POV, so it's likely that some people would want to punch him, like Noel.

But the character that in the end steals the show is the mysterious antagonist, Caius Ballad. While his motives may seem bland through most of the games, and his appearance may look like a Sephiroth rip off, make no mistake: Once he truly reveals hi true motives, you can't help but to sympathize with the character. So from a certain point of view, it doesn't make him a stronger villain, but rather a strong character that you can truly empathize with. I would say that in my opinion, he's one of the best villains from the franchise, and it's a great godsend since Final Fantasy XIII had ambiguous villains who practically weren't important to the game.

All the characters have really good voice acting. Jason Marsden is incredibly fitting for Noel, and Laura Bailey makes Serah sound stronger than she looks. While Liam O' Brien is a perfect choice for Caius, the fact that I've (and I'm pretty sure many RPG players and Anime Otakus have) already heard him in an awful lot of places, so the voice is instantly recognizable, and not as striking as it should be. Meanwhile Troy Baker, who is now making his name as widely recognizable as Nolan North, voices Snow, and Vincent Martella makes Hope sound much more mature and not a whiny.

However it's extremely disappointing that such strong voice acting faces such a terrible script. If the Dissidia ones were bad, this is awful. It's painful to see such talent wasted in empty lines and monologues that say a lot but don't truly mean anything. This gets worse however, with the new Live Trigger sequences, a seemingly poor attempt made by the developers to be on par with the player driven Western RPGs. When said Live Trigger sequences pop up, a choice appears to the player: Whether it is to ask a question to a character, or to decide what you should do next. That's when the script's weakness are revealed, when seemingly stupid options appear in the screen. So the game makes you wonder: Is Serah that stupid to ask such a question? Did the writers truly mean this line? Options like “The cat is my family!”, or “Good morning, kupo” (Said from a human character), make you wonder if the writers were actually serious with those lines. I even got an option to tell a male character if he wanted to wear Serah's clothes! The worst part begins where you get to ask a character and you get multiple choices, and you want to try all, but sadly, most Live Triggers offer only one chance for no apparent reason. If maybe they were plot changing decisions it would be okay, but they are plain dialogs, I want to ask as many questions as possible, and if I see multiple choices, I don't see why the game has to limit the player to one. So in an attempt to make the game more in line with Western RPGs, Square doesn't make a full step forward, and it leaves a terrible impression.

Now for the story, that's where things get bad. Final Fantasy XIII-2 deals with time travel completely, even more than the widely popular Chrono Trigger. Noel and Serah have to travel through time to find Lightning and later develops more into stopping Caius from performing and evil plan. The quest may seem generic, and somewhat clichéd, but I assure you, once all the character motivations are revealed, it doesn't feel generic anymore; unless you've failed to understand everything. See, the risky part of time travel is that it's a double-edged sword. It can be handled simply, much like Chrono Trigger did back in 1995, with time travel serving only to practically set new scenarios and plot twists.

However, Final Fantasy XIII-2 messes with the complicated part: Paradoxes, multiple timelines, future and past changing; while messing with that kind of stuff is where Final Fantasy XIII-2 becomes a complete mess. The storyline revolves in practically finding Lightning, who mysteriously went missing after the events of Final Fantasy XIII and only Serah remembers her presence. The game heavily deals with time travel, with Noel himself being from the future. To find Lightning, Serah and Noel must visit several timelines through the Historia Crux system. The Historia Crux is a hub where they can travel through time; go to different eras and areas while searching for clues where to find Lightning. However, when they travel to different areas they find that something is causing anomalies in all of them. And that something is called a Paradox.

The Paradoxes simply are one of the worst excuses and storyline devices I've seen in a long time. When a monster or certain objects that doesn't belong to the area appear, it's “because of a Paradox”. After the second time you've heard that a Paradox is causing trouble in an area, it becomes repetitive, but after you've seen several ones, it becomes tiresome. Is it that the writers couldn't have added other explanations? It's also terrible the fact that characters are also used as storyline devices. Hope Estheim and his assistant, newcomer Alyssa, conveniently travel through time to meet the protagonists in several different eras. It sadly doesn't feel good that many characters are actually used as plot devices and character development is virtually nonexistent.

But it's after you've traveled through several timelines, that the story begins to crumble in its own weight. Nonsensical explanations for several paradoxes are the worst of the bunch. There's a whole chapter in particular which feels absolutely unnecessary, and doesn't even have to do with the plot. It's like the developers wanted to put more gameplay hours in exchange for a part of the story that makes sense. Things also tend to get messy once you begin to change the timeline. “If you change the future, you change the past” says a character. Is that so? Why? It's never explained, it's just that, for the convenience of the storyline, the past has to change too. You'll also begin to question the events of the storyline too. You see, a lot happens just for the sake of the story, but the events leading up to them doesn't even make sense. Of course, that's when “A paradox did it” enters the scene.

Worse is however, when you have played through most of the game and it becomes clearer that there are too many questions about the story unanswered. The in game Datalog (a part of the menu which explains most of the game setting) doesn't seem to explain any of them; and you'll discover sooner or later that many of these answers are enclosed in items called Fragments. The Fragments provide information of the storyline when you find you find them and click them in your inventory. This is similar to what was done with the ‘Reports' of Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, only that here, it's done with worse results. While the Dissidia Reports provided only backstories, and not relevant info to understand the game, the results were good, as you could find them if you want. However, Final Fantasy XIII-2's Fragments provide vital info of many of the storyline events that happen and about characters, not only backstory, so if you want to fully understand the story, you can't rely on the (poorly written) storyline events, but you also have to read the Fragments so you can't understand better what's happening. It's one of the worst storyline handling I've ever seen. What's worse though, is that there are 160 fragments through the game, and you'll probably have less than 50 when you finish the game, so why was this broken technique introduced I have no idea.

I have to praise however, the final chapter of the game. It truly manages to get the characters motivations and storyline quite well; and this comes almost surprisingly, since the rest of the story is messy and the characters motivations are as clear as mud. It led me to remember the past Final Fantasy games, where the final part was used to fully finish the characters and story development. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is at its peak in the final chapter, very impressive indeed. And after you finish the emotional ending fight, it's where the ending begins. And everything is going quite well, it was going to be one of the best endings I'd ever seen. And then, something happened. Square Enix managed to ruin the ending is less than a minute. It was pretty shocking, but the worst part wasn't when the ending was ruined by certain events, it's the fact that it offers no closure, ends with several loose ends, and finishes with a “To be continued…” screen. The ending is a slap to the player's face, like saying “You just lost 25 hours of your life!” It's with great disappointment, that the ending of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is one of the worst endings I've ever seen in my life. I think it's also safe to say it's probably the worst ending of this generation. Square Enix truly managed to screw everything in the end.

It's also interesting to note that there are several other alternative endings called “Paradox Endings”. While Square Enix announced them as ‘Multiple Endings', they are actually what it scenarios. They require several conditions, like defeating bosses without solving paradoxes, and said endings feel very out of place. Not only many of them practically don't have anything to do with the requirements you had to do to unlock them, but they're also scenarios that are irrelevant, pout of place, and don't seem to hold well with the storyline. In other words, they are just unnecessary, inopportune additions just to add gameplay hours, and the result is shallow.

Gameplay

The combat system is pretty much the same as Final Fantasy XIII save for a minor number of tweaks. It's quite disappointing, considering the possibilities that lie within the combat system. Unlike the previous game, Final Fantasy XIII-2 features random appearance of battles, meaning the monsters are not visible on the field. This may disappoint, annoy, or please some depending on their point of view. I've always disliked random battles, but for some reason, I think the change here is welcome. While wandering in the field, monsters can randomly appear out of nowhere, but that won't instantly initiate the fight. Instead, a feature called “Mog Clock” is introduced. Once the monsters appear, a sort of clock appears in the screen, and will begin a countdown. If the player is fast enough, he can't attack the monster and begin the battle with a preempting attack, damaging the monsters at the beginning of the battle. If the monsters attack the player, however, the battle will begin normally.

There is however, a huge change in the gameplay. I've already said that Serah and Noel are the only playable characters. However, they can capture monsters during their quest, and add them in their party to fight with them. Early in the game, they are given said ability to capture most of the monsters they encounter. To be honest, personally, this was the feature I was least confident about. I never liked the idea of monsters replacing human cast members, and I still don't like it. However, I must admit that the monster feature came out extremely well, and in fact the only letdown is that you can only hold 3 monsters in your current party. When you capture a monster, you can only hold one of each type of monsters. Different types of monsters come with different roles, so management of said monsters is important. You can level them up by using certain items, and the monsters can acquire abilities with different levels. Their looks are also customizable, with certain items you can pick up in your quest. For example, you can make your Behemoth wear a little crown. It's just an aesthetic feature, but a nice one, even if I don't use it myself.

The combat system also continues to deliver the same premise of the past game. You control only the leader in the battle while the AI attacks on its own. Unlike the previous game, you can change the leader (In this case, either Noel or Serah) whenever you want, and the battle won't automatically end if your leader dies. This comes with a great pleasure, considering how rather annoying was to lose battles in Final Fantasy XIII just because the leader was defeated. It's a disappointment however, that you still can't move the characters in battle, as they'll move the battlefield as they please. This is rather underwhelming, considering you could easily move your character out of the danger zone when an enemy does an area attack that could easily be avoided if you controlled your character.

The attacks are handled via a menu. Much like older Final Fantasies, this game uses a variation of the Active Time Battle combat system. You'll have to wait for a bar that charges fairly quickly to fill, then the character will do the actions you've already selected. Early in the game, the characters will begin with just 3 slots for the bar, meaning that they can only do three actions per turn. However, as they level up, they can unlock up to 6 slots, meaning much more attacks per turn. The options for the player to perform in battle are: Auto-battle, Abilities, Change Leader, and Items. Auto Battle does what its name implies: The game decides, based on the current situation, which ability is better for the next turn, and then the character performs said abilities. The Abilities section lets the player select the ability he wants if he feels more comfortable with it. After all, Auto Battle isn't perfect, and sometimes it's better for the player to decide. The player can also use several Items to recover, though I found myself using only two of them during my whole gameplay time.

The game, like its predecessor, makes use of several Roles for the characters. There are six of them and they act like gameplay styles for your characters. You've got Commando (Mostly a brawler type style, which does heavy damage), Ravager (Heavily uses magic to raise the chain gauge and stagger faster an enemy), Sentinel (Heavy Defense), Synergist (Boosts your characters stats), Saboteur (Damages the enemies' stats), and Medic (Heals your party). They are pretty much the same as the last game, with the exception that some roles don't have some abilities they had in the predecessor, most likely for balance issues. It's sad that new roles weren't added because that would have expanded much more the gameplay system, and made a meaty improvement over its predecessor.

The roles can be changed in battle using “Paradigm Shifts” which are basically formations of several Roles, each one with its own name. For example, you can have a formation made by 3 Medics, or one with two Ravagers and one Commando, and so on. The downside to this is that the player is now more limited to the types of Paradigms because they can only hold up to 3 monsters in their party, and each monster only has one role. Worse, though, is the fact that the game is still limited to 6 paradigm formations. It would be much better if one or two more were added; because there are many times when I feel I could use more formations. And the fact that you can only three monsters in your party is a letdown, and limits your gameplay style.

Quick Time Events were introduced in this game. Many of the monsters have a Feral Link ability (which functions as a Limit Break from older games of the franchise), which require input from a Quick Time events. While these are sometimes easy to miss, the ones that are actually used in Boss Battles, implemented much like in God of War games, are much easier to hit, and in fact I never failed to hit a Quick Time event in my whole gameplay time. These introduce several flashy moves for characters, and doesn't add anything substantial, though they are flashy and don't seem out of place. They are never too intrusive or annoying, and the game actually warns you if it's going to pull Quick Time events in a cutscene, as the letters “Cinematic Action” appear on the screen.

The game continues to make use of the ‘Chain System' in battles. The enemies have a Chain Gauge, which can be filled up quickly by attacking with Ravagers. Once it's completely filled, the enemy gets staggered, and it's much more susceptible to attacks. The system is quite simple: Ravagers fill the gauge quickly, but it will deplete fairly quickly. If a Commando attacks, then the bar will deplete much more slowly, making easier for the Ravagers to stagger the enemy. The chain gauge has a percentage number in it. The higher the number is, the stronger the attacks of your Commandos become. So basically, the objective is to raise the bar as much as possible with the Ravagers, and then hit the enemy with all you got with Commandos. Meanwhile, the other roles do their work according to the situation.
It may be hard to explain, and even harder to understand, however, I can tell you that once you get a grasp on it, it becomes really simple. Yet, at the same time, the system is complex, and you'd need to use strategies in order to win though battles. And this happened quite a lot with Final Fantasy XIII, pulling out strategies to beat enemies in the best way. However it's a different tale with Final Fantasy XIII-2. The difficulty in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is very low, quite possibly the easiest Final Fantasy I've played yet, including Crisis Core. There are some though bosses, but I can count them with the fingers of just one hand.

The difficulty is so low that you can play the game easily like a breeze. This game's Crystarium, which is the system used to progress trough levels, is more linear, yet it also helps to unbalance a lot your characters. If the player progresses a lot through the principal roles, which are the Commando and Ravager roles, the player can rapidly enhance the characters and gain a lot of abilities, making the battles far easier. There are spots where you'll probably find hard bosses, but after 15-20 minutes of grinding, they became easily beatable. Also, probably the only reason I didn't beat the game earlier is because it threw a huge difficulty spike in the final section of the game. Then I realized that the monsters I was using were weak, and it was the reason I kept dying. So I used new, much more powerful monsters, and the battles became easy again, save for the Final Boss. I mean, if I was using a relatively weak party, and still made my way through the game easily, how would it have been if I used the more powerful monsters? Many of the battles don't even require you to use Paradigm Shifts, and it'd be okay if there weren't a lot of them. But they were too many to ignore. Even some bosses were so easy they didn't require strategy. It's sad that the full potential of this amazing battle system was only used in the final stages of the game.

Outside the battles, however, the game feels much different than Final Fantasy XIII. You won't get the claustrophobic feel of being enclosed in a tunnel-like environment while fighting seemingly ending waves of enemies. Instead, the areas here are fairly large, and are not very linear. Many of them require true exploration; however, it's sad that each of the areas feels too limited for its own sake. There are places you'd like to go, but the game won't let you, because the areas are too small. Also annoying are the invisible walls, with helps to build that restrictive feeling much like Final Fantasy XIII did. It's just that there are too many of them, and it's a tad disappointing when you are some foots away from an object because there is an invisible wall keeping you from reaching it. I have much more positive comments for the interactions however. In this game, you can actually talk to NPCs who are present in the area, and you can even hear their conversations. Some dialog lines keep in line with RPG clichés of “Why are you telling this to me?” that seriously doesn't hold well in this year. However, when you actually talk to them, they deliver seemingly fitting comments, and may even throw very useful information. Some of those people also carry sidequests. However, said sidequests are too shallow to be enjoyable. They are usually “Go find this item”, or “Go defeat this monster”. They are just too simple and carry uninteresting, seemingly useless backstories. The game doesn't feature shops, instead there is a mysterious merchant by the name of “Chocolina”, who appears virtually everywhere, and is excited to sell the players many of the objects of the game.

However, certain features do seem very out of place. The most noticeable of all are the Paradox Puzzles. When Serah and Noel have to solve a Paradox, in some cases, they are transported to an area where they have to solve a puzzle. I do not criticize the puzzles by any means, because in most cases they are well designed; however I do criticize that they feel unnecessary and way out of place. Why does a puzzle have to be solved to fix a paradox? It contributes to that “This doesn't make sense” feeling of the storyline too.

The Historia Crux system lets Serah and Noel access all the different areas, from different times, every time they please. Even if you are in the middle of a level, you can always go back to the Historia Crux. Even after you beat the game, the game lets you close several time gates that let access to the different areas, and let you replay the whole level again, with story and everything. It's a good system, and breaks much of the linearity that Final Fantasy XIII was infamous for. The game is still linear, but you can always go to do other things if you want. There's always place for something instead of being enclosed in a 25 hour tunnel. The change is much appreciated.

Presentation

I have to praise Square Enix with this. They actually managed to deliver a game which is very improved from Final Fantasy XIII. No longer like a dungeon crawler, with more areas to explore, and a hub that lets you go anywhere when you want it, the game is much more accessible to RPG fans than ever. The progression is quite good, because although it's linear, it actually fits the story a lot, and, while I'd liked to visit more areas early in the game, all is done for the sake of delivering the storyline, which trust me, I wouldn't want it to be more complicated and disjointed that it already is. The Historia Crux hub lets you see a preview of things to come in the next area you are going to visit. While the little video preview is good and a feels like a good presentation spot, it shows many events related to the area, meaning if you have not visited the area before, it's going to show you huge spoilers. It would have been appreciated if it didn't show you the preview when you've not visited the area.

Also, a major letdown of the Historia Crux is that while going to the Historia Crux is relatively quickly, warping to another area results in long loading times. And while there are not loading times in the area itself (except when there are cutscenes), it's a tad annoying that such loading times are very long. Maybe installation would have solved the issue, however, the game features no installation process; much like the previous game.

Saving Points have also been thankfully removed, meaning the player won't have to be searching or playing until e finds a Save pint if he wants to stop playing. You can now save virtually anywhere, and stop playing whenever you want. The menus are pretty much the same they were in the previous entry, with the change that now Serah, Noel and the monster's models are now displayed when you want to see their statuses and equipment. Also a letdown is the number of FMVs included in the game, and I'm not joking when I say there are 4 or 5 of them, including the opening and the ending. One of them is even a flashback. It's sad considering there were plenty of them in Final Fantasy XIII. This was actually done to keep space in the Xbox 360 version to keep it in one disk. The game, like its predecessor, includes several themes for your PS3 console, which are acquired after certain challenges are completed.

The graphics are as beautiful as they were in XIII; however they actually take a step back from the previous game. Even though they don't feature any improvement whatsoever, the game also likes to run into framerate problems. For example, Academia 4XX AF is one of the most impressive sights I've seen in my life, and I'm not only talking about video games; however, I can't enjoy it when it's running with 15 FPS. It's a drawback considering Final Fantasy XIII kept slowdowns at a minimum, practically only showing in cutscenes. In this game, most of the cutscenes are done in real time and many of them have framerate drops in many places. It's also worth noticing that many of them have stiff and awkward animations, especially during dialogs. Still, the rest continues to look stunning. While some textures look very dated when they looked closely, the environments and models are still top notch, and the detail and artistic direction are beautiful. Just look at Oerba or Academia. I truly have to praise the designers for creating such beautiful areas.

While overall the sound is good, if not great, and I've already putt praise in the voice action, the music is a much different story. While Masashi Hamazu still composed the score, he goes in a much different direction than the previous game. This game features prominently songs with lyrics, in almost every area, and this may turn of many people. I think that they are fitting at their best, but they become increasingly repetitive as the time passes. And while these songs sound more like Japanese Pop, there are others which are almost completely dislikeable. For example the music for the battles is a mixture of Pop Rock with Video game Music, while the Boss Battle music is something like a Death Metal. Meanwhile, if you mount Red Chocobos, you'll hear one of the worst Final Fantasy songs ever[/url], and will probably make you mute completely the TV. There are some instances; however, that the music keeps as good as it was in XIII. The instrumentals, much like they were in past Final Fantasy games, are great this time, and offer a nice change of pace of the game's predominant pop. Of course, it doesn't help when you are listening to a nice piano and seconds later you are listening to some Metal. The theme song in this game is “New World” by singer Charice, which is pretty much in line with the theme song of the previous game “My Hands” by Leona Lewis. Both pieces are generic and unfitting as they are put in the game's ending. I have to praise a theme in particular: “CaiusTheme” and its remixes used in some areas are spectacular and memorable. A fully orchestrated piece with a dark vocal chorus composes this absolutely gorgeous track. More in line with Nobuo Uematsu's “Dancing Mad” and “One Winged Angel”, this theme is incredibly fitting for the villain Caius Ballad, and I cannot land more praise in it. However, it's disappointing that the music is such a mixed back, considering how strong Final Fantasy soundtracks have always been. It will be alright for some, but fans of the franchise will be underwhelmed.

While the game is on the short side, clocking at 25 hours for the story, there's actually a lot to do even after the game is finished. Sidequests, more monsters and more powerful enemies, and the Paradox Endings make this game easily clock the 40 hour mark, which are still a little short for most RPGs. Even though the game is short, I have to agree that it feels right. Plus there's also an area called ‘Serendipity' full of minigames to enjoy, much like Final Fantasy VII's Golden Saucer.

Conclusion

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a good game, better than XIII, and I wish I'd say that minor factors keep it from being outstanding. The problem is that said factors are not minor, and end up being severe drawbacks to the game. For every problem that was fixed from Final Fantasy XIII, there's a new one standing in its place, and it's sad considering the effort the developers put in making this a better game. It's enjoyable at its best, but leaves a bitter flavor in your mouth after it ends.

Story: 1 out of 4: When the only explanation you find for story events is “A paradox”, or a character that conveniently travels through time, you know it's up to no good. Worse is when every story event makes no sense. But what takes the crown here is the fact that the ending, apart from the fact that it's bad, offers no closure.

Presentation: 7 out of 10: Square delivered when it fixed XIII's linearity. However, it's disappointing the fact that it remains so enclosed to areas full of invisible walls. And the Historia Crux is a good, not great system especially when combined with long loading times.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10: The problem with the gameplay is that the combat system is that, while being great (even if it presents very superficial changes); it never gets a time to shine because of the relatively low difficulty. It's like a wasted opportunity.

Graphics: 8 out of 10: While looking remarkably beautiful, much like Final Fantasy XIII, it actually takes a step back, seeing as no improvements were made and it often runs into frame several rate problems. Animations are stiff during some cutscenes.

Sound: 6 out of 10: While the voice acting is generally outstanding, many will not be happy with the soundtrack. While it's fitting, and some songs are great (Caius Theme comes to mind), many of the other songs are not good, and become tiresome after a while. Final Fantasy purists will be extremely disappointed.

Longevity: 8 out of 10: While it's shorter than most RPGs, the story taking 25 hours, the time feels right, and there is actually a lot to do after the game is finished, especially with the Paradox Endings.

Good:

-Gets rid of the restrictive nature of Final Fantasy XIII.
-Caius is an excellent character.
-Monsters are a surprisingly good addition.
-The final chapter handles the story and characters exceptionally well.
-Great voice acting.

Bad:

-Messy, nonsensical storyline with poor script.
-One of the worst endings of this generation, without closure and with several loose ends.
-Paradoxes and conveniently placed characters are poor explanations.
-Uneven music and visual quality.
-The battle system only uses its full potential in the final scenario.

Overall: 6 out of 10: It's not easy to recommend Final Fantasy XIII-2. Considering the fact that the gameplay and progression is quite good and enjoyable, gamers who favor said things can try the game without hesitation. But for those more concerned of the presentation of the game, such a satisfying story, might want to stay away from this title. It's not a bad game; it's just a good one that took many wrong steps.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/08/12

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (US, 01/31/12)


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