Review by Soggy_Burger
"A fantastic game that is crippled by a slow story and a brutal ending, perhaps the worst ever. *SPOILERS*"
In 2009/2010 Square released a game called Final Fantasy XIII. The game was a hit in Japan selling millions of copies by the end of 2009.
For the most part the game received positive reviews but received some criticism for it's linearity, story, and environment and battle design. Owing to this, Square redid a lot of aspects of the sequel. And for the most part they have succeeded.
The graphics are once again excellent. Never really a concern, the graphics were considered incredible back when XIII was released. They are more matched up to nowadays but they are crisp clear and colorful. There is really nothing to complain about. People look as much like people as they can without losing the "magic" of FF characters, the environments have both a beautiful approach for some areas, but add in enough salt and pepper gritty areas to make it varied, and always new and exciting.
The sounds and music were never a big concern either. XIII-2 has a fantastic soundtrack with both repeats and entirely new tracks. "New World" by Charice works great as a main theme for the game and overall the music captures the great environment that the graphics and setting provide. The voice acting is hit or miss. Some characters like Noel may look like a Kingdom Hearts reject, but he has a great voice actor backing up his demeanor which makes him much more likable. On the other hand some of the VA's leave a lot to be desired. Some of the odd dialogue in this game makes Serah, the main hero, sound like a ditz, and as a result, she is sadly passed off as a "fan service" character, despite being much more then that. And then characters like the shop keeper, Chocolina, are just insane and will have you scrambling for the mute button.
Gameplay is vastly improved. The cramped linearity of XIII has been revamped for the sequel and gives much wider open space giving you a chance to breathe as you explore. While it's certainly not a sandbox game, it's a huge improvement and makes a good start to your adventure as you explore the pretty shores of New Bohdum. The big change is in the battle arena and the changes have payed off. Although the idea is the same as XIII, party members are thrown out in exchange for Noel and Serah and one ever changing monster party member. This was ridiculed pre release as being a "Gotta Catch Em All!" collecting exercise. But it works really well. Ever popular monsters like the Cauctuar are fought until they drop a crystal which eventually allows them to become a member of the party which can be leveled up for use with the games class changing system, Paradigms. It's a twist on traditional FF games for sure but it becomes fun as opposed to a chore and you'll often find yourself just collecting and grinding. The action turned base battle command system remains relatively similar but still gives good early direction on how to go with it throughout the 25+ hours of gameplay.
All these things are good but the story once again leaves a lot to be desired. It feels just the same as the previous game except you're the younger sister instead of the older one. It's just too similar and once again can get slow and boring at times which is unfortunate. It would not be so bad however if it was not for the atrocious ending. This may well be THE WORST ending I have ever seen in a story based game. Final Fantasy XIII was criticized for it's "bitter sweet ending" where the world is saved, but many of the heroes you spend the game with are killed or disappear without much of an explanation. It was hoped that this game would not only provide an explanation, but bring back the two characters who sacrificed themselves at the beginning of the first game, Fang, and to a far lesser extent, Vanelle. Instead the developers completely lost their mind, and, I'm not even exaggerating, kill of virtually everyone from the first two games combined. EVERYONE! Only four main characters remain. Noel, Sazh, Hope, and Mog. Everyone else is gone. Lightning the star of the first two games is turned into a rock, Snow another hero from the first game disappears for no reason whatsoever, Fang and Vanelle remain as rocks and perhaps the stupidest move of all, Serah, the star of the game is killed off. You feel like you have wasted your time when the people you spent the game trying to save are all dead and then the main character is dead too. Final Fantasy has always been about sad endings but this is a disaster. It's like the developers took the wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up with an ending worse then the original, as hard as that seemed. It feels like they tried to make the story ark bold with their endings, but the execution is horrifying, and if it wasn't for the game being so fantastic, this could have been the breaking point to make this a plain bad game.
All in all, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an above average game. It has one near fatal flaw but overall it is a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 02/06/12
Game Release: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (US, 01/31/12)
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