Final Fantasy XIII-2 (that’s right, it’s “thirteen two”, not 14) is the follow up to Final Fantasy XIII, which sets out to extend the epic story of it’s predecessor as well as to tidy up some of the things that drew some criticisms as well. This game came out about a year ago, but I’ve picked it up and dusted it off to give it a run through and the full review treatment.
For those of you who haven’t played a game in the Final Fantasy series before, here are some things you need to know. First and foremost, almost every game in the franchise is an entirely independent plot – all based in the same universe, but you don’t need to have played any of the games prior to another to get what’s going on – with the exception of these sequels – which follow on from the numbered game they are named after.
The game picks pretty much immediately after the conclusion of FF13, everyone is happy, life is great and everyone is safe … but wait, then something changes and everything goes pear shaped. Lightning is suddenly gone, and the only one that remembers that she survived the final battle is her sister Serah, who has memories of the conversation they had afterwards – to her it seems like she’s either going crazy, or someone has changed time. The later is what forms the premise for this game – timelines have been messed with and Serah ends up setting out to find her sister and save her from where ever or when ever she is.
In typical Final Fantasy style, you’ll find yourself running through worlds, running in to random monsters in some places – kicking their butts – and then continuing on, solving the odd puzzle or two on the way. This game is much more open ended than the original FF13 was and that hinges on this time travel mechanic. There are points in the game where you need to find some random item throughout time and it could be more or less anywhere, leaving you free to open time gates to anywhere you can find and just exploring your way around and solving mini side quests along the way.
The game looks pretty much the same as FF13 – there are some places where it does look a bit better, and some of the effects in regards to the time warps and the levels lost in time are kind of funky to look at as well. The cut scenes are full of pre-rendered sexy – which has been a staple for the franchise to date – and you will enjoy watching them as the pop up throughout the game. There is one exception to this though, and that happens when you load your game up and get a “story so far” video. These clips don’t appear to be very high res at all when you compare them to the main cut scenes, and while this isn’t a big deal – it just seems odd when you compare them to the quality of the rest of the games cinematic works.
There is also a decent number of different environments throughout the game as well, each of which do look quite nice on their own, but you will also be led through some locations twice and get to see some different looks of the same places, which will also help draw your eyes to some of the eye candy in each version of a specific world.
Audio wise the game delivers plenty of goodness for your ears as well – the voice acting is packed in to every corner of the game, and while being a little cheesy at times, it does make it much easier to be immersed in the game and get yourself dragged in to the plot. The sound effects are fairly generic though, you’re typical sounding impacts, magic sounds and explosions are there in spades.
Gameplay wise, this game feels very similar to FF13 – there are a number of things that got changed though. For this game you will only ever play as Serah and her companion Noel – so no more party management and worrying about individual characters. Also the crystalarium where you level up your characters has been dumbed right down as well to make it entirely linear. To make up the third character in your group though you get to substitute in a ‘monster’, which you can capture in the wild and then level them up yourself and then fit them in to your party – each monster has a single class, so when defining paradigms for battle the monster fighting will change to swap paradigms while Noel and Serah just change roles.
Also there has been some thought given to the cinematic feeling of the key battles as well, adding a special ‘cinematic’ mode where you have to press buttons in time as prompted by what comes on to the screen to add additional damage and general coolness to some of the bigger fights in the game.
All in all, this is not a bad game. If you had asked me what I thought of it when I was about half way through (around 13 or so hours in, the whole game took me around 28-30) I would have said that it was a worthy follow up to a great game, that while not living up to the lead set by FF13, is still a fun game to play. The back half of the game is where things went wrong for me. The rate at which monsters spawn on you begins to get a bit insane – there are a couple of key levels where I first started to time the gap between combat encounters, and it ran in at around 12-15 seconds! That’s right, I was running through a level for 12 seconds, and then having to stop and do a good minute or so of fighting, then another 12 seconds and then you guessed it, another encounter. This made the combat become very tiresome very quickly, and when trying to solve a puzzle while putting up with that I got a little mad – and then in one of the final levels where at some points the gap dropped to around 5 seconds, I swear I almost threw my controller across the room, screamed bloody murder at the TV, and then stormed upstairs to read a book as part of the gamer inside me dies a little. Now it didn’t quite come to that, but it was very close and was beyond frustrating to play through.
That drawback included, the game is still not bad, but if it was a little more balanced between the combat and puzzle solving elements of the game, it could have been much, much better.