Review by WinstonCHill

"Hey man, these pancakes are kind of good."

So I beat FFXIII-2 earlier this afternoon and I thought I should write another review since I wrote a lengthy one about the first game.

All in all, it was a completely better game in every aspect. You know for sure when you actually enjoy the games you play when the time spent on them just flies by. In FFXIII, I had to really force myself to complete the last 20 hours of the game. I wanted to quit a lot of times, but a part of me had a faint glimmer of hope that the game would get better near the end and that the crappy middle would soon vanish. Too bad that glimmer failed to materialize into a bright beam of amazingness in the end.

In XIII-2 however, the 35 hours I spent was time spent well enjoyed and they flew by pretty fast. Though, finishing an RPG in the 30 hour range constitutes a very short game, for me at least, especially since a few of those hours were spent meandering about trying to recruit a pesky Behemoth that refused to come over to the dark side and training up my failure of a Chocobo for the races at the ghetto Golden Saucer.

I described FFXIII in my previous review as a stack on pancakes and the same would still apply to XIII-2. Whereas XIII was a huge stack of pancakes that was hard for you to finish, XIII-2 was like the chef that made the first stack realized what he did wrong and fixed it for the second stack. It was more immensely more enjoyable but he ended up not making that many pancakes and when you were finished with them, you're kinda left disappointed and wanting more.

By "wanting more" I mean XIII-2's story. It's not the good "wanting more" as in the-story-was-so-amazingly-good-that-I-need-more-of-it-to-live, it was the bad did-you-just-seriously-end-the-game-with-a-freaking-to-be-continued-screen? sort of "wanting more." The story just feels completely unfinished. XIII ends with a happy ending. XIII-2 takes that happy ending, makes it not so happy anymore, and doesn't even have the decency to give you closure for what it did at the end. In fact, you're left with more questions than when you started. I can't remember a time when a video game has set up a sequel so blatantly obvious as XIII-2 has, but it happened.

Setting the ending aside, however, the main meat of the story is decent. I like the premise of the game and the execution was handled well, especially a story involving time travel. The dialogue is very Japanese. If you read manga, watch anime, or play JRPGs on a regular basis you've probably already heard 90% of what's being said. The other 10% would belong to Lightning, who is the main narrator that speaks very poetically to the point where it's kinda bad.

The characters of the game, albeit only two of them, really make up for that awful cast in FFXIII. Noel comes off as a very mysterious character with a lot of past (or in this case, it would be future?) problems. He just sort of appears and it makes you really want to know his backstory. Serah came off like that one ._. Okay meme. There are lots of things wrong with her life but she doesn't do anything about them until Noel shows up. Through the journey she becomes a stronger character in determination and will, though still questioning herself at times. The one gripe I have about the characters is the main antagonist, Caius. He's just a really bad villain, plain and simple. I can't say anymore without giving stuff away, but for a villain, well, he's no Kefka, I'll tell you that much.

Getting on to the gameplay, battles seem to have been more streamlined with the simple fact that Paradigm Shifts happen really fast now. Or at least, it feels faster than what I remember. Also, with your third party slot being a monster, you're sort of limited to the roles in which you can set up your Paradigm combos. You essentially only have the third slot open for 3 of the 6 roles so you'll need to choose and plan accordingly. Though the game feels a lot more difficult than FFXIII, it's not by all means a difficult game. I also feel I need to point out that the final battle is an excellent, climatic, multi-staged affair. It's been a while since I've felt like a final boss battle has been done so well. Most of the time it's just a single, maybe double staged fight with the biggest COME AT ME BRO monster the developers can could throw at you, but XIII-2's was really well done.

Exploration and towns are back in XIII-2, which was THE biggest gripe of XIII. The world feels like a world once more. To compare, FFXIII was Cocoon and XIII-2 is Pulse. One is small, confined and only focused on a group of people, one is a large expansive world with lots to see and experience.

Sound wise, the game is iffy, but I liked it...I think? It's sort of weird hopping on a Chocobo and having a double bass pedal wall slammed into your face, and following it up with a hammer of bad lyrics to the eardrums. Not all of it is akin to Devil May Cry's soundtrack though. There are still plenty of toned down jams with female vocals playing. It's not something you hear too often in games and I like the change. Also the voice actors for the two main characters did a good job in expressing their characters emotions, though Noel's VA was far better than Serah's.

Graphically, it's an FF game so what do you expect? It's top-notch down to the teeth. Like I mean, literally, down to the characters teeth.

But yea, I think that's pretty much all there is to talk about. It's a good game and I liked it. Huge points for fixing everything I hated about FFXIII, but minus points for its length and a subpar story and ending. I think I'll give the game a 7.5/10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/06/12

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

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