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Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: April 23rd, 2015, 11:32 pm
by DaHeckIzDat
Back in January, I “finished” my first Final Fantasy game, XIII (13, to those of you who don’t know Roman numerals). Having loved that game’s story, though a bit mixed on the game itself, I immediately decided to pick up its sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2. And before you ask, no it is NOT Final Fantasy 14, FF14 is an MMO that nobody really asked for… ANYWAAAY, I ended up liking 13-2 a lot more than the original. The story was moderately better, but it was the gameplay that made it better than its predecessor. Why is that? Two words: EASY MODE.

Okay, so call me a wimp if you want, but I suck at JRPGs. Sure, I do decent at them during the early levels, but once the enemies and bosses start to get stronger, I’m about as competent as a fish in a tree climbing competition. That’s why I didn’t finish 13-1 and had to watch a playthrough on YouTube. But in 13-2, the developers added a wonderful new feature that scales down the difficulty immensely. It was because of this that I was able to level my characters up early in the game, and then take down tougher enemies later with little difficulty. This allowed me to appreciate the narrative that much more, since I didn’t have to keep rewatching the same cutscene over and over after I died to a boss. But it wasn’t ENTIRELY a cakewalk, since there were a couple of fights that still offered a little challenge, especially the final boss. Then again, maybe that just sorta drives home how incompetent I am at the game…

The story this time around doesn’t star Lightning, surprisingly. Instead, you play as her only briefly in the introduction, where she is fighting a bad guy named Caius in the timeless kingdom of Valhalla. When it’s obvious the city is doomed, Lightning summons a young man named Noel from the future and sends him back in time to her little sister, Serah. Serah is the character you’ll be playing as for the entire rest of the game (unless you change the party leader to Noel), and it’s up to the two of you to travel through time and fix the paradoxes Caius has created. Along the way, you will (very briefly) meet up with other characters from Final Fantasy 13, and uncover Noel’s mysterious past, and how he is connected to Caius.

The first thing that made 13-2 better for me than the first game was Caius. He may look like a wimp with his nerdy haircut, posh British accent, and styling outfit, but that’ll change when he pulls out his gigantic eyeball sword. Caius is a really cool villain, and his motivations are interesting too. I won’t tell you what they are because of spoilers, but suffice to say that he’s a neat case of a good guy doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Most importantly, he’s a FAR better villain than statueman Barthadelus from the first game. Serah and Noel are cool characters too. It was fun to see Serah’s character get fleshed out properly, since she barely had five minutes of screentime in the first game. Noel is your typical good guy in a Final Fantasy game. He’s got his mysterious backstory, a chip on his shoulder, and an insatiable desire to prove himself— but at least what he does, he does well. As for the other characters… well, it’s like Serah swapped places with all of them. While the story of the first game included a lot of them and a little bit of Serah, the sequel has a lot of Serah and hardly anything of the rest of the cast. Snow makes an appearance in one level, but promptly vanishes afterwards. Vanille and Fang are only in it for one scene. Lightning is constantly being talked about, but apart from her voiceovers at the end of every “chapter”, you won’t be seeing much of her. Poor Sazh, one of the my favorites, was obviously shoehorned into the end just so the developers could say they did it. The only character that gets a significant amount of screentime is Hope, who has grown up to head a project called “the Academy,” which is determined to saving the world when Cocoon’s crystal pillar breaks sometime in the future. That was cool, but I definitely would have loved to more of the old cast— WAY more.

It’s worth mentioning that one thing I found insanely cool was how the game would boot up after continuing an old save file. One of the characters will say “Final Fantasy 13-2, the story so far…” followed by some abbreviated cutscenes from key moments you’ve recently been through. It’s just like watching a TV show, and I was blown away the first time I saw it. It will only show you a different intro every time you finish a “chapter” within the game, though, and since those chapters vary in length, get ready to see the same intro several times, depending on how quickly you run through the game. It’s a minor addition, all things considered, but it was a creative one and one that I really liked.

As for the gameplay itself, some things have changed, while others haven’t. Most of the levels are much more open this time around, giving you much more freedom as you run through them. Some are practically free roam, while others have clearly defined paths, but only a couple of them are strictly linear. The ones that are like that, though, are admittedly pretty bad. The Academia 4XX level is a total slog, since enemies are continuously spawned all around you and you can’t escape them. It only makes matters worse when you realize that you don’t get any XP from them after the fights, which effectively makes that entire level a long, boring, frustrating waste of time. The stages that do it right, though, do it great, which makes the bad levels worthwhile in the long run.

The biggest change to the gameplay is the combat. While fighting still plays out the same way as in the last game, you only have two party members this time around: Serah and Noel. Your third party slot is filled by a monster that you’ve caught in the field, which adds a Pokemon “Gotta catch’em all!” vibe to the whole thing. Each monster has a paradigm class, and you form your teams accordingly like in the last game. But while in 13-1 all of your party members eventually got access to all the paradigms, your monsters can only have ONE. This didn’t set me back too much, but the biggest problem comes from the fact that you can only have three active monsters in your “paradigm pack” at the same time. Since your monsters only have one class each, this severely limits the paradigm formations you can set up. I always carried around one Commando, one Ravager, and one Medic, and that worked out pretty well for me. Still, it puts a limit on the strategy, and I can see that getting on more hardcore RPG players’ nerves.

It is also worth mentioning that 13-2 does something that, as far as I’m aware, has never been done before in a Final Fantasy game: it included DLC. This was definitely not a good move, in my opinion. While I can live with special costumes being unlocked with DLC, unfortunately Square Enix didn’t end it there. There are certain levels that are readily accessible from the get-go, but you can do absolutely nothing in them because the game expects you to purchase and download the content for it. It’s nothing that will stop you from completing the game itself, but I can’t help but wonder why Square thought this was a good idea when all of their other games included the entire package already on the disk for retail price. I suppose it might be worth it if you want an extra card game at the casino, or to be able to do ANYTHING at the coliseum level, but I’d advise against it so that we can convince Square Enix to never pull another stunt like this on us again.

Apart from that, the game is largely the same. The graphics are amazing, the soundtrack is worthy of a spot on your MP3 player, and the story is, for the most part, really good. The one thing I didn’t like about the plot was the ending. Without giving anything away, well, IT SUCKED. It completely negated everything you’d been doing throughout the game, and was clearly cliffhanger-ing you into the sequel’s sequel, Lightning Returns. It’s really saying something when some of the “bad” endings have things work out better for your heroes than the “good” one.

All in all, I loved Final Fantasy 13-2. Square Enix listened to their fans complaints about the first game, and made almost all the right changes. A couple of bad levels and a terrible ending weren’t nearly enough to ruin this game for me. And the inclusion of an easy mode was perfect for casual, story focused players like me. I recommend this to anyone who was able to see 13-1 through to the end, because the improvements make it well worth your time.

I give Final Fantasy 13-2 an 7.5/10!

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: April 24th, 2015, 3:25 pm
by ptdebate
Thanks for the review, Adam!

I also found XIII-2 to be quite a bit easier across the board. A lot of people who were turned off by XIII will write this off as well and that's a shame. It's a totally different game with a different rhythm. Caius is also one of the best videogame villains ever.

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: April 24th, 2015, 5:13 pm
by Rev
Once again, nice review. It was nice that you didn't give away any spoilers and I liked your in depth details about the game. I think it's probably too late about not buying the DLC though... I wish this trend would stop but apparently it makes money because everyone seems to be doing it nowadays. At least don't advertise it in the game... I hate that.

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: April 25th, 2015, 8:55 am
by BlasteroidAli
I never got into this game. I have a tip book for it as well. Now I have read your review it is on my list of games to do. Along with Infinite undiscovery.

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: April 26th, 2015, 10:56 am
by DaHeckIzDat
BlasteroidAli wrote:I never got into this game. I have a tip book for it as well. Now I have read your review it is on my list of games to do. Along with Infinite undiscovery.

That's good to hear!

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: April 28th, 2015, 7:17 pm
by ptdebate
I just picked FFXIII-2 back up and started remembering what a great game it really is. There are plenty of challenging and strategic moments, even if you're at a very high level--they're not quite as punishing as some of XIII bigger bosses though. I remember Long Guis being nearly impossible to kill in the first game, but now the stomp attack is nerfed a bit so they don't seem so OP. Still challenging and very fun to fight.

And the music is so good guys! If you have a 360, the special edition that comes with the soundtrack can be purchased for about $30. It's totally worth it.

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: May 1st, 2015, 8:45 am
by DaHeckIzDat
Yeah, even on easy mode those last two fights with Caius and Jet Bahamut took me a couple tries. And also yeah, the soundtrack is amazing. It's got no the epic and whimsical tracks. Caius' theme is my favorite for how dramatic it is... but you know, you just can't beat:

"So you think you can ride this chocobo?
Got Chocobucks? You better put them on this chocobo!
Saddle up, if you think you can ride in this rodeo
Are we in hell? I don’t know… to the dirt, let’s roll!
You’re loco if you think you’re gonna hide this chocobo
Everybody’s gonna wanna ride your chocobo
It’s choco-loco style in a choco-rodeo
Gonna ride him straight through hell in this chocobo rodeo!
Yeah, let’s ride!"

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: May 2nd, 2015, 10:12 am
by ptdebate
It takes a lot for me to really like a battle theme, and all of the ones in 13-2 knock it out of the park. The last time I remember feeling that was was with 7. Those violins are just sublime.

Re: Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and 360

Posted: May 4th, 2015, 5:24 am
by Atarifever
Great review. As for the microtransactions/DLC, Square is probably the worst traditional gaming company in the world for this. They don't really understand how to make something in this space that makes money without it being a huge pain. Look at "Final Fantasy: All the Bravest" to see the absolute worst microtransaction model of all time. And their online game launched to some of the worst feedback they ever got.

It's funny, because on the other hand, they have been hitting other things out of the park again lately. By all accounts, Bravely Default is an incredible old-school Final Fantasy, people do seem to have liked the XIII series enough, Sleeping Dogs did alright, and their Tomb Raider and Deus Ex games have done well.