Genre: Role Playing Developer: Square Enix Co., Ltd. Publisher: Square Enix Classification: M Release Date: To be advised (future release) Platforms:
Average of 4 Ratings
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A lot of people didn't like Final Fantasy XIII. It had major flaws, that's certain - it was exceedingly linear, it had several characters who actively defied you to care about them (or even like them) and it had some terrible music. What most people didn't realise - never found out, really - is that FFXIII was about the endgame - doing missions on the plains of Gran Pulse and fighting monsters 100 times your size.
Nevertheless, Square-Enix listened when people complained and so Final Fantasy XIII-2 was born. Things kick off in XIII-2 with Lightning getting into a city shattering battle with the purple haired and unnaturally deep voiced Caius. It's one of the most impressive cut scenes I've seen in ages and while it runs on a little long, it has the newly introduced Live Triggers throughout. Quick time events aren't popular for a reason, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 does a good job of telegraphing when one is coming up - and gives you enough time to pull it off without seeming patronising.
Once the opening scene reaches its climactic conclusion - with the new character Noel jumping through time - you awaken as Serah in a hut on a beach. Running outside, you see a meteorite crash to the ground, meet up with Noel and fight monsters attacking the village - and then attempt to figure out how to travel through time with Noel so Serah can meet back up with her big sister Lightning. Serah's home town New Bodhum is meant to be a stress free way of getting you acquainted with the new dynamics at play - it features large open areas, NPCs with their own lives and problems and side quests involving solving problems people have. It also introduces several issues you will have to deal with the entire way through the game - beginning with the writing.
Serah doesn't know whether to believe Noel or not. She first saw Noel in her dream, watching him travel back in time before he appeared out of thin air when the meteorite hit. Noel claims to know Lightning - who Serah saw him speaking to in her dream and he proves to know a lot about time travel, the meteorite and what needs to be done. Perhaps Serah is just a sceptic at heart, like New Bodhum’s unreasonably angry Wakka look-alike who flips out every time Noel opens his mouth. It feels like unnecessary tension however and the way Serah mentions how she isn't sure whether to believe him or not every couple of minutes is annoying.
It's capped off by Serah's letters to Lightning which wrap up most events - in which she tells you, the player, exactly what you just played. It's possible the writers are actually trapped in the Twilight Zone. People complained that the story from FFXIII was vague in cut scenes and detailed in the datalog, so Bam! There's nothing vague about the cut scenes now is there? Cosmic Justice!
New Bodhum also acts as an introduction to what you'll have to put up with from anyone not a member of the main cast - a mixture of idiotic writing and awful voice acting. Wakka's psychopath lookalike is joined by three other 'characters' who range from bland to insipid - all of whom have made some dumb parting gift for Serah to take on her journey through time with Noel - something they did when they weren't busy calling Noel a conman, attempting to beat him to death and insisting Serah not listen to a word he says.
None of them hold a candle to the utterly irritating Chocolina however, or the uncomfortably creepy cat people found at the Casino. Chocolina is a special case, given that she travels through time wherever you go to sell you generally worthless garbage and make some idiotic quip about the current events in her horrible, horrible voice. You'll no doubt recognise Chocolina's voice the moment you hear it - I don't know who the voice actor is, but that awful accent is everywhere. I don't know why Chocolina's voice actor continues to torment us with that delivery - how many anime, video games and cartoons have to be ruined before her terrible thirst is quenched?
Not everything about Final Fantasy XIII-2 is bad - not even all of the voice acting. Noel is an excellent character with great voice acting and while the voice of War seems odd coming from Caius' frame at first, it grows on you quickly. Serah's voice can be grating at times, but that is more an issue of the writing than the voice acting - Serah is obviously designed to be a j-pop-idol-who-is-approachable dream girl, so her voice fits perfectly. She just needs to stop saying the same damn thing over and over.
Speaking of J-pop and going back to the bad for a second, holy sweet mother is the music in Final Fantasy XIII-2 awful. It is bad on a level unmatched in video games to this date. I've tried thinking of a game with worse music, but every time I dwell on the music in Final Fantasy XIII-2 I have to spend the next two hours sat down in the shower crying and scrubbing myself and I just don't have that kind of time. Every single location has some saccharine sweet pop trash playing in the background, with every place you visit trying to outdo the last for 'most idiotic and awful music in history.' Luckily you can mute your television and you can erase memories of the music you've heard by running repeatedly into a wall. I advise both.
Back to the good, familiar characters from FFXIII appear throughout, with some early examples being the grown up and infinitely more likeable Hope - now a scientist - and Snow on his own quest which intertwines with yours. You visit familiar places too, like Oerba and Sunleth Waterscape, improving on their FFXIII counterparts in everything but the music. FFXIII-2 even manages to improve on one of the best things from the first game - battles.
If you played the demo, you'll know that various recruited monsters make up the third role in your party. After battles, monsters have a chance to turn into a crystal - at which point you'll be able to put them into one of your paradigms. Each monster race has its own role - Flanitors are Medics, Behemoths are Commandos and so forth - and they all have their own paths to level up. You can also gain abilities by infusing other monsters you've collected - if you've just recruited a Green Chocobo with much better magic stats than your Cait Sith, but don't have enough items to level it up to get Cura yet, infuse the Cait Sith into your Chocobo and take Cura and Raise from the get go. Infusing also gives monsters passive abilities they wouldn't ordinarily get at all like resistances and boosts, adding a lot of depth for those who want to form the ultimate fighting force.
You can only pick 3 monsters at any one time, meaning you'll generally work Serah and Noel around whichever monsters you decide to go with. When I picked up a Bugaboo Ace, its stats eclipsed those of any other monster in my party at the time, so I altered my Paradigms to keep him doing his Ravager thing. Whereas previously I'd had a monster in my Saboteur role and Serah as a Ravager, I instead made Serah a Saboteur. It is a good way to keep you from sticking Serah and Noel in the same roles all the time.
One of the major things Square-Enix talked up for FFXIII-2 is the non-linearity and FFXIII-2 definitely gives you more choice in how you get things done. You also have side quests available in most of the places/times you go to, rewarding you for defeating a powerful monster or finding specific items. Going to each different place/time is done via the Historia Crux - a branching series of nodes representing each place/time. You travel back to certain places at a later or earlier point in history - like the Augusta Tower, which you go to at both 200AF (0AF being the end of FFXIII) and 300AF. You also travel to some places after you have changed the history of that place - Yaschas Massif 01XAF takes place in an alternate timeline to Yaschas Massif 010AF, a timeline where you have fixed the paradox which was mucking things up. Don't think too much about it, because it doesn't make any sense.
Time travel mechanics are difficult to work out certainly, but it isn't like Square-Enix hasn't done it before. Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross both managed working (if a little convoluted in the case of Chrono Cross) time travel scenarios, but whoever thought things out for FFXIII-2 only seemed to give it a once over. If you want to create a universe where time travel works in crazy ways that's fine, but at least make it internally consistent.
Final Fantasy XIII was nothing like any other Final Fantasy and it knew it. Every Final Fantasy has done things different and so comparing one to another was merely comparing personal preference. Undeniably, Final Fantasy XIII is not at the top of my 'favourite Final Fantasy games' list, but what it set out to do it did well. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was something of an apology from Square-Enix and an attempt to bring the characters of FFXIII to a game more in common with what people were expecting. And so it does many things better than Final Fantasy XIII - you have more choice, you have more side quests and completely optional content - and you don't spend your first three days playing what is essentially a tutorial. Square-Enix apparently wanted everyone to know that they were still capable of bringing out a game like the ones you used to play.
Final Fantasy XIII wanted you to love it for who it was, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 wants you to love it for who it's like. And compared to Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XII and Chrono Trigger it falters significantly, with a ridiculous and convoluted story, some awful voice acting and the worst music I've heard in a video game. If you're a fan of JRPGs you'll probably enjoy it, but it's in no way the best game on the market - not by a long shot.