Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review
- Posted February 5th, 2012 at 10:29 EDT by Timothy Nunes
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This fantasy needs a bit more effort to be final.
- Improved and hastened combat system
- Stellar graphics/voice acting
- Overall game is more varied than XIII
- Story is short and sporadic, despite multiple endings
- Irregular frame rates
- Some unfavored gameplay directions
Final Fantasy is a name that's lost its former glory. After such shaky outings as Final Fantasy XII and XIII, and that one numbered online game, the series of titles haven't had the fiery following that any prior release of the same name has had. This inconsistent delivery of games almost makes the name change from Squaresoft to Square-Enix seem like a foreshadowing to something even diligent fans would have to justify with extreme exaggeration. SE has declared that it's intent on changing the standard with the newly-released Final Fantasy XIII-2 by appealing to a wider demographic while properly appeasing the die-hard fans.
The story kicks off three years after the events of Final Fantasy XIII, and SE chose to use Serah as the main protagonist. I can't say that the move is unjustifiable, but after having control of characters like Lightning, Fang, and Snow, Serah doesn't seem quite as interesting; or as dynamic. After a plethora of strange events, Serah happens across a man named Noel, who hails from the future with omens of world's end. He convinces her to come with him through time to find her sister, who strangely went missing immediately after the orbiting planet called Cocoon had nearly fallen to Gran Pulse at the end of XIII.
I came across a couple of frustrating elements in this game. The first is that everything is explained simply as a “Paradox” and no other explanation is used for a long while. It's kind of a little particular, but I'm sure that trying to explain the physics of time travel and its potential paradoxes would either contradict the point or convolute the story too much to let players care about the happenings within the game. The other frustration comes near the end of the game, but I want to keep it as vague as possible: the final chapter is filled with subtext and ties to the first game, but the gameplay changes drastically, for the worst. It was a very harsh block and a hefty risk to take. The concept makes sense after looking at it, but it was terrible for overall flow.
While on the subject of the story, a lot of the plot is very slow moving and somewhat irrelevant to the overall task at hand, that being the search for Lightning who's in Valhalla. The frustrations posted above really articulate the issue with the story experience. I easily forgave it when the answers started coming, but that last chapter really felt like a massive hinderance, which was very unfortunate.
The controversial combat system has been both hastened and modified. Monsters encountered and defeated in combat can be tamed for use in combat, which is meant to be similar to Eidolons in XIII and to allot three characters in a party. This Monster Hunter/Pokemon-inspired feature is somewhat limited, since most monsters through the beginning of the game are only Commandos, Medics, or Ravagers; and never more than one Role per monster, unlike Noel or Serah. Point being, benefits (stat boosts from the Synergist) or hinderances (like stat reductions from the Saboteur) can really only be done by Serah or Noel until rarer monsters can be found later in the game. It's a bit inconvenient for die-hard fans, since XIII almost required a third of the available party members to have either a Saboteur or a Synergist Role at the ready. However, these two Roles aren't very crucial for most of the game, which is also a bit unfortunate. Right around my 19 hour, I was flying through fights without much of a challenge that couldn't be fixed by a quick and simple Paradigm Shift that consisted mostly of commandos and ravagers anyway.
In addition to all of that, monsters that are collected can be “infused,” so that passive combat abilities and resistances can be given to monsters you actually like. It feels like an option that replaces gear, which seems very appropriate and effective. Though, it was a bit overpowering to apply about 12 monsters to my Sentinel so it could have beefy stats.
The combat experience can't be done without a leveling system, and the Crystarium influenced by the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X makes a simplistic return. I say simplistic, as in it's essentially a straight line. Indeed, the flow between ... (continued on next page)