Developers: tri-Ace Inc. and Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Fantasy RPG
Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360 (played)
Release Date: January 31, 2012
‘Final Fantasy XIII-2’ is a direct sequel to 2010’s ‘Final Fantasy XIII.’ The game is set three years after the events of its predecessor and follows Serah Farron and Noel Kreiss as they journey across time and space to find Serah’s sister Lightning. Although the game is beautiful and mechanics are fine, this game is really for fans of ‘Final Fantasy XIII.’
The story is the biggest disappointment. You learn about the characters from their dialogue, and there is a lot of dialogue. Serah and Noel stand and talk during numerous cutscenes, which can be skipped by pressing start and hitting the back button, but the load times were so long that it was just simpler to sit through the banal conversations. By hour ten, I lost track of how many times Serah expressed her desire to see her sister again. Serah and Noel could have been interesting, but the repetitive dialogue is cumbersome and makes one lose interest in Noel’s place of origin and how their relationship develops.
The plot is fine, but the time travel story is aimless and confusing, not because it is a time travel story, but because it lacks depth. Basically, Serah and Noel travel somewhere, resolve a paradox, find an Artefact, find a gate, and repeat. The characters they meet along the way are as one-dimensional as they are, and the absence of side quests and interesting moments make the length of the game almost unbearable.
The game’s battle mechanics are easy to understand; the game has plenty of tutorials, making the game very friendly to new players. However, very little strategy is required to complete the battles successfully. Paradigms determine the attack mode. You can have the characters attack separately or together, and you assign roles to the characters for each mode. The early roles available are Sentinel, Commando, and Ravager, so you can have Serah be a Sentinel in one paradigm and a Commando in another or have her be the same in all of them.
As the game progresses and you level up the characters, more roles become available. You can switch paradigms during battle, so both characters can be tanks in case the monster is immune to magic attacks if you have a paradigm with Serah and Noel as Commandos. Strategy is needed to create paradigms and knowing when to switch, but switching paradigms is rarely needed. The game has two difficulty settings, easy and normal, and in normal, all you have to do during battles is hit the A button. The default choice is Auto-Battle, letting the game select the best attacks. I breezed through the majority of the battles by pressing A and holding the controller with one hand, allowing me to check emails and eat a sandwich with the other. If a certain monster is too tough, wander around and fight random battles to accrue enough crystogen points (CP) to enhance the characters’ abilities in the Crystarium. Grinding is a part of RPGs, but I would have liked the grinding better if the game threw in side quests from time to time, even rudimentary fetch quests would have broken up the monotony.
Adding annoyance to the battles is the soundtrack. The orchestral instrumental music is beautiful, but the other styles are not of the same quality. The thrashing heavy metal riff that plays on loop during some of the lengthy battles gave me a headache. I tried to change the audio settings; many games allow you to adjust the volume for music, dialogue, and special effects, but FF13-2 doesn’t give players this option. Thankfully my remote has mute button, and I did end up playing large sections in silence.
The game is gorgeous. The graphics are clean, crisp, and colorful. Movement is smooth and is quick during battles, and I never experienced any lag. Each location has a distinct look. Scenery is detailed, but the screen is not overloaded with minutiae that could overwhelm the senses. I enjoyed gazing at the lush landscapes while riding a Chocobo, but pretty graphics alone does not motivate me to play a game for 50 to 70 hours, which is about the time you need to do everything in this game.
With better developed characters and a more engaging storyline, FF13-2 would have been an entertaining game that I could recommend to general RPG fans, but I can’t. I wanted FF13-2 to be its own game, but it relies on being a sequel. The game is for a specific segment of the gaming community: those who liked FF13. I was hoping this game would have scratched that itch for traditional ‘Final Fantasy,’ but I have to admit that the franchise has changed a lot. I am nostalgic for FF7, and this game has shown me that the series has veered off that course. Since this is a sequel, I can conclude there are enough fans of FF13 to warrant and appreciate this game, but I’m just not one of them.