Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review (PS3)

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is Square-Enix second attempt to create a direct sequel to its flagship numbered series. The last offering was way back during the PS2 era for Final Fantasy X. While X-2 seems to be cashing in from an extremely successful, even iconic game, XIII-2 was a sequel to a game that was harshly criticised by loyal Final Fantasy fans. XIII’s linear play-style, non-rewarding challenges, flat characters and lacking-of-depth (or to some, over-complicated but badly told) story were anything but what loyal Final Fantasy fans had anticipated. Also on the back of Final Fantasy XIV’s failure, XIII-2 has big expectations to fill or it could be an exodus of support for this franchise for good. So how did the game shape up?

Here we go again!

XIII-2 continued the story three years after the end of XIII. Lightning, the original protagonist is now nowhere to be found. She disappeared in an alternate ending that was not seen in the original game due to a paradox of time that twisted time and merged events from different timelines that eventually changed the history. The interesting thing was that only Serah, Lightning’s sister whom Lightning saved, was able to remember that this is not the true history. Then came Noel, a messenger from Lightning (who is now in Valhalla), with a mission of bringing Serah to Lightning to fix the paradox of time for good. But the catch is they will need to find the right portal to Valhalla again despite Noel had been there before.

Sister Act

This basically started the journey and the game. Square-Enix mentioned in different occasions that XIII-2 is to amend with its loyal fans. Well, this can certainly be seen as a number of fixes were introduced to make loyal fans happy.

First of all, although there is still no free roaming you can now jump through different timelines and explore the time paradox in any way you want. And within each time period you are no longer just running down corridors but have decent areas to explore. Also even for the same areas, at different time periods, things will change and you will have a different experience going through those areas. If you stumble upon overly strong random enemies, do not panic because your persistence will still be rewarded for good crystogen points and loots.

Why look so sad?

The battle system from XIII, which was praised by most, was brought over more or less completely. The twist is that now the third party is a monster that you captured through obtaining their crystal after battles. Each monster has its own role and that’s how they affect your paradigms in battles. Paradigm Shifts still provides a fun and strategic aspect to the whole battle system, but since even for the same role, different monsters have different abilities (and limit breaks known as Feral Links for those roles), you will need to think carefully about which monster to apply to your Paradigm Packs. Also XIII-2 has now introduced a new cinematic action system a la ‘God of War’ style during battles. You will be rewarded if you achieve perfection in these actions. However for me, the major improvement is that now if your leader dies, the game doesn’t end andwill automatically switch leaders instead (logical and a huge step forward!).

If it is not flashy, it is not Final Fantasy

Serah, Noel and monsters all develop through their Crystariums. You receive points for development in battles for Serah and Noel, but for monsters, you will need specific materials that you can buy or obtain from battles to develop them. One of the major issues with the original Crystarium was the boring and pre-determined linearity in character development. Well Square-Enix kind of fixed it by now allowing you to choose which roles you want to develop on the same Crystal Node. As you develop your characters, the Crystarium will expand and you can unlock new roles, or improve other aspects of the characters, such as the ATB Gauge or accessory carrying capacities. Since new roles open up much later, they generally require more points to unlock abilities. So for some of the roles such as Serah’s Synergist, after you have unlocked it, you will notice how lame it is and mourn over the fact that you wasted a chance to improve her in other ways. I highly recommend you to save the game before doing so. Monsters can be further improved through infusing other monsters into them, but the active abilities in the infused monster will not be carried over. Only passive abilities can be brought over. Also you will need to think twice before casually infusing a monster as each monster can only carry ten passive abilities.

Moogle is back in XIII-2 and it is a welcomed addition. Mog provides good information about events and the time paradox. He is also pivotal for grabbing elusive treasure chests either locked in time or too far to fetch. I feel sorry throwing that cute little thing around to grab treasures for me, but then you’ve got to grab all the chests you can to survive in an RPG. Shopping is done through Chocolina. Chocolina basically does what those Save Kiosks in XIII did, but her voice is pretty annoying. Also, she doesn’t have a huge variety of goods most of the time, as compared to the Save Kiosks. Prices are not as steep as XIII though, so thank God for that.

Kupo!

Story wise, even with the whole time hopping and time paradox, XIII-2 is still kind of bland and characters are fairly two-dimensional. You do meet up with different versions of the original XIII cast, but the story is lead by Serah and Noel, which I couldn’t feel any chemistry between them even as adventuring partners. Mog is the most entertaining character in the entire game to be honest. Most of the time you just want to unlock new areas and check new things out and if they are too hard, just bail. Nonetheless there are a lot more things to do. Within the main timeline, you can carry out missions for citizens of Cocoon and Grand Pulse to receive rewards. There are some other areas such as the Coliseum and Casino where you can spend time in if you are up for a challenge or interested in some other mini games. Square-Enix also introduced time anomaly puzzles between gates called Temporal Rifts for players to solve in between areas, which I personally quite like. However for players who don’t like solving puzzles, they could be nuisances.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a decent game. Gameplay wise it is pretty good and keeps you interested, although as an RPG it does lack a strong and interesting story. However, it has so much to offer that it even makes the original game look more inferior now. Square-Enix certainly seemed to have learnt from their mistakes from XIII and XIV. So hopefully this is the start of an upturn for the Final Fantasy franchise now and in the coming years.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

About the Author

Level up freak. Level 99 is a norm not a goal. Love my JRPGs and RPGs in general. Also love my platformers and puzzle games. Was addicted to Zoo Keeper, Magnetica, Animal Crossing, Disgaea DS, Dragon Quest IX and White Knight Chronicles. Prefer to spend my time away from gaming as an actor although do have a full time job that keeps my mortgage going. But generally love anything creative. And if anyone tells you gaming is a waste of time, tell them you have great eye, hand and brain coordinations that they will never have!