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The best place to start is by reexplaining that Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to XIII, that is to say the game picks up 3 years after the events of the last game. Lightning has oddly gone missing just moments after the ending events of Final Fantasy XIII. The game hits the ground running and starts moving as soon as you hit the start button. Yes, it helps to have played and preferable beaten the last game but there is a simple prologue that can be accessed at the title screen anyways. While this is a nice feature, it doesn’t really capture the emotion and despair of the ending to XIII so I really would advise you pick the game up first if you plan on playing XIII-2. Now, as an interesting side note, there is a “The Story So Far” that plays when you resume a game. You are treated to a small movie showing you the recent developments from the game, giving you a quick reminder of what your goal is currently.
I enjoyed XIII as a game and not necessarily as a member of the Final Fantasy family, so going into XIII-2 I have kept an open mind. One of the most noticeable features that has been added into XIII-2 is the Historia Crux, which is the ability to time travel and manipulate time while navigating a map. The Historia Crux is a simplistic menu that allows you to travel to different moments in time, often running into Paradoxes that need to be corrected. The doors in time can be opened and closed, allowing you to relive events and make different decisions, that way you are allowed to make different decisions than you have in the past. Jumping through time in a Square Enix game may remind some players of another game that existed in the companies catalog. Jumping through time isn’t the only parallel that XIII-2 shares with Chrono Trigger, another happens to be the inclusion of multiple endings. This is exciting since XIII was so painfully linear, the ability for in game decisions to shape the outcome is something that many fans have requested for quite some time.
One feature I was relatively surprised to encounter was the ability to recruit monsters to fight alongside you in battle. While this may remind many people of a certain Nintendo blockbuster, the new feature is much more involving. Normally, you are only going to have Noel and Serah in your party, so if you want to make use of a full paradigm you are going to need to add a monster to the group to fill it out. You do this by adding a monster to the Paradigm Pack, a 3 slot “holding area” for monsters you will use in battle. You will need to make use of all 3 since a monster can only use 1 paradigm category. My medic monsters usually got the most face-time but when it came to trying to stagger an enemy, I often found myself switching to the ravager class and then to the commando class for heavy DPS. Because of the way this feature works, battle in XIII-2 is much more cerebral than it was in the past. Monsters also do not level in a traditional sense from the Crystarium, instead of points they use items that you receive in battle and also purchase from shops, once again giving you the ability to level monsters as you see fit. There is a collection of rare monsters as well, each with special abilities and benefits for the party, so hunting them down and “capturing” them is highly advised. Monsters also use a limit break-like system, so if you manage your monsters right, you can drop a massive amount of damage relatively quickly.
When Square Enix set out to create this game, they absolutely had to have used the feedback they were given, like I said before. It is quite amazing to compare XIII and XIII-2 since the latter has many features the former just simply lacked. There are actual towns within the game, with characters that you can interact with and also receive side quests from. For those that played XIII, this blows Gran Pulse right out of the water. Many times, when you engage in conversation, you are also given the ability to alter the course of the conversation or give input on the situation at hand. These choices can yield items, uncover parts of the story and even potentially lead to a paradox ending. So it is wise to choose carefully and save often if you don’t want to play around with the Historia Crux doors in time.
While the game is awesome in it’s own right, there are a few things that really just did not work well for me either. The largest issue I had was with the music, many songs (like in XIII) are very electro-pop or rock sounding but really end up overbearing on the game itself. Personally, if I am playing a game where characters talk, I don’t want music in the background that actually has vocals as well. It just does not mesh well and gets old way too quickly. I was not a big fan of the lack of party members as well, this could have ruined the game if it wasn’t for the fact that the in-party monsters were executed so efficiently. The game’s plot is also quite odd, although everything is relatively explained thoughout the course of the game, many elements are very cliche and the entire story itself feels very retconned.
Ultimately, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is exactly what SquareEnix needed to release to show the world they can still produce a Final Fantasy game. It isn’t exactly the best Final Fantasy game of all time but it is absolutely the best Final Fantasy sequel and one of the better post-Final Fantasy 7 games out there. With the execution of this game, I can once again feel safe in eagerly looking forward to the subsequent releases of future Final Fantasy games. That is a major deal, SquareEnix… Now, about Final Fantasy XIII Versus…
I give Final Fantasy XIII-2 an 8 as my personal score. It’s a much more pleasing experience and non-linear approach to the series I grew up with. It still has a few flaws though that have to be dealt with.
How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!
- Monster collecting
- Random enemy encounters!
- Engaging gameplay
- Time travel allows for replay of events
- Not the strongest story
- Lack of controllable characters
- The Paradigm System is still in place (I’m just not a fan)