SteadiestShark Gaming

Reviewing videogames and posting gaming articles since 2012.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

with 3 comments

Platform: Playstation 3 (also available on Xbox 360)
Time Spent: Around 60 hours.
Completion: The main story & all side/extra content
Review Spoilers: Nothing worth noting.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Logo

Game Background:

Back in March 2010, the original Final Fantasy XIII was released – boasting a long development cycle and plenty of funding, which allowed for some of the most beautiful presentation that had been seen in a videogame this generation. However, whilst the game sold extremely well, many people (mostly fans of previous Final Fantasy games) believed that the game was rather poor and forgettable. Four of the main complaints consisted of the following:
– The game was too linear.
– The characterisation was poor and had so much more potential.
– The story was confusing and poorly told.
– There was a lack of towns, side-quests and general interaction with NPCs (Non- player Characters).

So now we’re in 2012 and Square-Enix has released Final Fantasy XIII-2. Does the game rectify the problems of the prequel – or do the same problems appear? Continue reading and find out!

Introduction of Final Fantasy XIII-2’s story:

Final Fantasy XIII-2 continues from where the original Final Fantasy XIII left off, although three years have passed. (The story of the previous game is available to read via the main menu, although I strongly believe that the game should be experienced first-hand)

The timeline of the world has been changed by an unknown foe, and due to this, there have been multiple cases of space-time distortions and paradoxes being reported, many of them bringing dire consequences. This issue causes two heroes – Noel and Serah – to embark on a quest that involves travelling through multiple time periods in order to correct and restore the original timeline, which will supposedly save the future from an impending doom that the changed timeline is heading towards. Confusing, right?

Naturally there is a lot more to the story than the travels of our two heroes, such as pretty much everything involving Lightning (who is Serah’s sister from the original game) and the main villainous party.

I would further elaborate on this, but I wish to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

So, how enjoyable is the story?

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster that uses a lot of anime-style elements in both the drama and dialogue, bringing the player many intense scenes. Furthermore, as the story progresses, you are kept on your toes through the use of various twists and therefore constantly desire to find out what is going to happen next. This is further amplified by the fact that the game revolves around time travel, where you’ll frequently come across things that you don’t yet understand the meaning of, which leads to further desire to continue – increasing immersion in the story. Another good aspect is that the game provides a decent villainous party – one of which not only sports a rather unique sense of style, but also frequently challenges the player’s perception of the story, all whilst giving you a solid reason to want to defeat them. Their voice is also enjoyably sinister – think along the lines of Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films), but with more of an American accent.

Above all else, the story much better told than its prequel was, and arguably more intriguing too. Alongside this, the game reaches deeply into the then-poorly-explained mythology that was created in the prequel, which adds another interesting element to the story.

Both of the main characters get fleshed out rather nicely in a story and background perspective. Not only this, but their voice acting is top-notch and always seemed to match the facial animations during the most intense scenes. Whilst it wasn’t as outstanding as its prequel in this department, the match of facial emotion to vocal emotion was generally a treat to experience. Design-wise, I have to say that Noel got the short-end of the stick, he looks so generic it’s painful, despite how likeable he ended up being. Serah on the other hand looks somewhat unique, although not as iconic as her older sister – Lightning.

Gamers may also rejoice at the fact that the game is far less linear than the prequel as you are able to choose whichever destination that you would like to travel to from a very early point in the game. This aspect carries throughout a large portion of the entire game and doesn’t begin to “herd” you into a single path until rather late in the story.

Finally, I need to point out something rather negative – this game doesn’t have an ending. However, it is said that Square-Enix are either planning a DLC (Downloadable-Content) or a sequel to remedy this, somewhat making it seem like the second part of a trilogy.

All in all, this game provides a solid story that managed to keep me gripped throughout.

My story rating: 8.5/10

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Story

Gameplay:

Final Fantasy XIII-2 like its prequel, is a JRPG where the combat has an emphasis on fast-paced strategic decisions. Only this time, it also comes with an “easy mode” option – helping new or casual players alike by generally making their characters stronger, and the enemies weaker. Naturally, the game also includes tutorials to bring those that did not play the prequel up to speed.

The battle gameplay is pretty much identical to that of its prequel, in that it still utilises a “3-man” party, involving a refilling “Active Time Battle” gauge that is spent when using various offensive or defensive actions. The “paradigm” system also sees a return – a system that sees each character take on a certain role in the battle, each role having different actions and passive bonuses. Interestingly enough, the “stagger” system (a bar-based system that is filled by damaging a specific enemy and can eventually lead to causing massive damage) is still intact from the previous game, although it is not as prevalent here. Whilst these systems seem complicated at first, most will soon find themselves mastering them before very long.

These similarities aside, a couple of new aspects have been added this time around. One of which is the “wound” system, where certain attacks knock down your maximum health during a battle and requires item-use to restore this. So it’s a given that if you enjoyed XIII’s gameplay, you’re going to like this. That said, the opposite stands true as well.

Another new aspect is that instead of a “true” third member for your party, you are now given the option of using one monster that has been captured – done through defeating them in a previous engagement. These monsters can be “leveled up” in a similar way to the human party members and adds a similar concept to Pokémon, whereby you may try to capture as many of these monsters as possible in order to create the strongest potential party possible.

The combat-side of the game has another system that has been implemented – “Cinematic Actions” (or Quick-Time-Events). These are interactive cut-scenes that usually appear during important story battles and require the player to input a certain order of button combinations in order to succeed in whatever dangerous scenario that they are found in.

Outside of combat, the game also has a slight difference to its prequel as you’re now given the ability to jump (and later, glide). Although, this isn’t very important for the most-part. Aside from this slight change, navigating areas works just like pretty much any other JRPG/RPG. Furthermore, there are now puzzle-sections. These sections vary between three types, with the most noteworthy one being clock-based, which have been said to confuse even some of those working on the game!

Whilst the menus are clean and nicely presented, I believe that it is outdone by its prequel’s. However, with a much smaller budget and development time, it is understandable. One addition to the menu-side of the game is that items for the character inventory now contains a weight value. I believe this is a poor idea for one clear reason, items weigh far too much compared to how much weight can be carried by a character. You’ll soon find out that you can barely equip anything that you find, which is simply disappointing. Maybe they realised that the game would be too easy if the system didn’t exist in this form? Who knows.

Overall, I believe this to be one of the most interesting and rewarding battle systems in a JRPG to date. This is due to the fact that it is not only fast-paced, but it is also extremely deep. You need to be constantly on your toes if you want to be in the right Paradigm/mode at the right time in order to survive a situation, and you need to pick your attack openings well so that you can capitalise on the stagger gauge as quick as possible whilst not allowing it to drop.

My gameplay score: 8.75

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Gameplay

Graphics and Audio:

The game takes you through a wide variety of locations, from a quiet beach-side village to a giant city filled with people and flying cars. This frequent change in aesthetics is very welcome as you do not find yourself becoming bored of a certain location and its appearance. Although it may be perceived by some as lazy, the time travel aspect means that you’ll journey to the same locations multiple times – however they are given interesting visual makeovers to show the impact of the years gone by. These “makeovers” are usually accompanied by a different soundtrack too, generally fitted to the story relating to the location.

Speaking of the soundtrack, I have to say that I really enjoyed it. The music was instrumentally adventurous, very atmospheric, generally matches the locations as well as their associated story arcs, and is overall a pleasure to listen to. Sure, there are a couple of mundane tracks (or in one particular track’s case – annoying), but the vast majority is some of the best music I’ve heard in a game – especially for a JRPG. Final Fantasy XIII-2 also uses some of the tracks from the previous game, which personally was a delight to hear.

Whilst the visuals are not quite as fantastic as the original Final Fantasy XIII’s, they are still some of the best visuals that you will find in this console generation for a game of its type. This is somewhat evidenced by the fact that the frame rate drastically drops in the busier areas, a tell-tale sign that the hardware is being pushed to its limit. A visual technique that has been added this time around is the use of colour filters and weather effects. Whilst this is generally a welcomed addition, it has a couple of instances where it ends up taking away from the graphical beauty. Finally, due to some of the biggest areas in this game causing such a burden on the hardware, Square-Enix opted to use a distance-blur effect. Whilst I don’t like this technique at all, I’d hate to think of how bad the framerate would become in certain areas without it.

My graphics and audio score: 8.75/10

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Graphics

Amount of content:

Final Fantasy XIII-2 definitely has a respectable amount of content. The main story is around 25-35 hours with around 15 hours of extra content – made longer if you attempt to unlock all achievements or trophies. The extra content comes mostly in the form of side-quests and optional bosses, although there are a couple of minigames in the casino –  slot machines and the ability to participate in a racing minigame. Square-Enix are also steadily releasing extra DLC for the game – which ties up some loose ends in the story as well as offering some interesting extra boss battles, although these all cost money.

In short, the value for money is rather good and is very likely to keep you busy for a long time, as is usually the case for this genre of game.

My content score: 8.5/10

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Content

Overall summary:

Things I liked:

– Fast, fluid and complex battle system, still one of the best I’ve ever experienced in a JRPG.

– Interesting time-travel-based story.

– Likeable, fleshed out characters.

– Generally very nice graphics.

– Brilliant, atmospheric soundtrack filled with interesting blends of instruments.

– A fair amount of side-content that is accessible from the start.

– “Cinematic Actions” made certain moments feels so much more immersive.

Things I disliked:

– There is (currently) no ending.

– There is only one interactive shop throughout the entire game.

– An area filled with random NPCs doesn’t exactly feel like a town (towns in games usually have multiple shops, an inn, etc.) and can at times feel rather empty or souless.

– Frame-rate dives in busier areas are an eye-sore.

– The newly introduced “item weight” system is an annoying and generally detrimental addition.

– Overall it’s kind of easy, however JRPGs in general can be made easier/harder by choice.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, whilst I don’t believe that Final Fantasy XIII-2 rectifies all of the problems of its prequel, I believe that this was a brilliant step in the right direction and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I just hope that the DLC or next sequel can bring a satisfying resolution to this series.

However, it is worth noting that those that do not care for Anime/Japanese-style values may dislike or even despise many aspects of this game.

My overall score:

8.5/10 – Definitely worth playing through.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Final

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© Copyright SteadiestShark
and SteadiestShark Gaming, 2012
All images and trademarks are property of their respective developers.


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3 Responses

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  1. While watching a co-worker of mine from DISH play I found that players who have completed FF XIII will be in for a treat as the first few hours explain what happened after the ending of XIII, and where the characters are at right now. I haven’t seen enough of the game to fully understand the main conflict because I don’t currently own it, but I am sure in time I will get to know what’s really going on once I actually start playing it myself. I can’t wait to play this game so I added it to my Blockbuster@Home queue. I can’t really afford to buy all the great games when they first come out but I can afford to rent them for a flat $10 monthly fee. In my opinion Square/Enix was doing what they’ve always done, which is to change the formula of their own standard they set on the previous title.

    1robertpaulsen

    March 31, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    • Apparently wordpress thought this was spam, my apologies.

      I’ve opened up commenting now, I didn’t realise how strict the defaults were. We could have had a whole bunch of discussions going on by now. 😦

      SteadiestShark

      April 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm


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