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Final fantasy 13-2 easily lives up to the precedent of stunning visuals that each game in the series provides with it's wondefully designed characters and beautiful backdrops. The storyline is interesting and the game play is smooth and enjoyable. It does not contain the same time of linear game play that it's predecessor does and it retains the feel of the older final fantasy games while still adding a modern twist.
The game follows Sarah Farron and a new character Noel Kreiss as they journey through different times to try to save the world from destruction. It also contains cameos from other characters from final fantasy 13 such as lightning, Snow Villiers, Hope Estheim and Vanille.
The combat system is similar to final fantasy 13, where the player has to wait for the action gauge to be filled before making a move, but it is an improved version with a smoother feel, also cinematic actions make the gameplay more enjoyable and exciting, although the choices you make have no effect on the gameplay.
My only real qualm with the game was the lack of choice in your combat party. The player can only use Noel, Sarah and a creature, which I found rather disappointing because I'd always associated final fantasy with a large variety of character and combat styles. But other than that this game was highly enjoyable, although not quite up to the standards of some previous titles in the series, even so it is definitely worth being played by new and old final fantasy fans.
I have always been a big and loyal fan to the final fantasy series. Since I've been able to read and play the games, I begged my parents, and then got it myself when I started working on the first day of release.. Most certainly cannot deny double points on a pre-order at game! But this edition, I'm not so sure it was worth the wait.
Let's start with a bit of a background to these games for those that haven't heard of it (sure that's not many). Final fantasy is a RPG (role playing game) created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and owned by Square Enix. The first installment was released in 1987. Each final fantasy has its own story line, though they seem to have recurring plot themes and reuse a lot of names.
So, now on with final fantasy XIII-2. It's a console game based on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, and of course no different to the others, developed and published by Square Enix. The game is the sequel to final fantasy XIII in which you play the role of Lightning.
XIII-2 is based 3 years after the events of XIII, where everything is left with a happy ending with everyone being re-united. In XIII you play the role of Serah Farron, Lightning's younger sister. Now it seems the plot to the last game has changed as Lightning has now disappeared, with her sister being the only one that seen her and still thinks she's alive. A young man called Noel Kriess 'appears' in the town and claims to be a time traveler from 700 years in to the future, where he is one of few humans left. Paradoxes have erupted through time, so Serah and Noel set out to resolve them all, and hope to along the way find Serahs sister and Noel to change the future he came from. Sound crazy? Yeah...
So, the game play. It's pretty much like final fantasy XIII. You can play as either Serah or Noel, and travel around the area through a third person perspective or by chocobo (a creature that helps you travel faster). However there is no world map on this game, you travel through time choosing which time to travel to. Going through the game you open new time zones. Though once they are open you can revisit anytime. Personally I found this rather dull.
Again the combat system is pretty much the same as XIII, using Active Time Battle (ATB). You control the one character in battle, waiting for the ATB bar to fill up. You choose how you want to fight for example, attack, magic or use an item. The ATB bar increases throughout the game allowing you to attack longer and deal more damage. In the game you have Serah and Noel fighting for the most part, but on your journey you collect monsters to fight with you, however they are set with only one paradigm. As I said you only have control of one character in battle so the other is played by the computer, using the paradigm shift system.
The paradigm roles are Commando, Ravager (black magic), Medic (white magic), Saboteur (weaken enemies), Synergist (strengthen your characters) and Sentinel (defense spells). You go through the game learning things from each one helping you improve your character, however you can only pick three to use in battle. You can play as any role (my favorite was commando) while the computer controls the other character.
Something that did disappoint me was that you cannot play with Eidolons (guardian forces) in this game! Which I use to love doing in the earlier games!
So what do I think to it all? Not a lot really. Maybe I am a little old fashioned but I do prefer turn based battles or being able to control all of the characters in battle at least, and i prefer leveling up, not getting points to help improve. I found the plot to be very dull and boring. In a lot of final fantasy games the main character seems to be very quiet and secretive, I wish this was the same. Throughout the cut scenes the characters can be very annoying to watch and listen to. It seems like they all have constipation with the noises they make, think I just prefer reading what they say.
I know I'm not speaking well of this game, but I was left wanting to know what happens next and wanting the next game. How? Why? I do not know. Maybe it's because I am a loyal fan to the series and I am hoping things will get better. If they don't, they may just lose a fan.
== FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 ==
The Final Fantasy game series have been around for what seems like forever and look set to continue for many years to come. After what most gamers thought as disappointing from Final Fantasy XIII, Square Enix did in fact decide on bringing out a follow up called Final Fantasy XIII-2 but with a few adjustments and a few new things for gamers to explore and all in all its definitely and upgrade from the previous game but someway short of being the masterclass that Final Fantasy VII, VIII and X was in my opinion. Final Fantasy XIII-2 for those that are new to this and that love role playing games will find this is one of the best out there to date. The game is available for the PS3 as well as the Xbox 360. One downfall about the game is that Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360 was 3 discs whereas Final Fantasy XIII-2 is just the 1 disc. A lot of stuff has been cut from Final Fantasy XIII but its not the important stuff.
=== STORY ===
The game is a direct sequel to that of Final Fantasy XIII, taking place 3 years after the events of XIII. Lightning (the main character from Final Fantasy XIII) has vanished into what seems to be into another world. A young man named Noel Kreiss is brought to Lightning who seems to be fighting for something important. Noel helps Lightning by holding back an attack from a mysterious guy named Cauis (who Noel knows) but then Lightning asks Noel to travel through a gate. This gate helps Noel travel back through time to meet with Lightnings sister Serah. Lightning has sent Noel who has come from a future with no hope to save the world. He must bring Serah to a place called Valhalla where Lightning is fighting. After Noel and Serah meet there journey starts and they end up traveling through the Historia Crux to the future and even to the past searching for answers. This leads them on many different routes and uncovers new and interesting storylines. Can you help Noel and Serah reach Lightning and save everything from crumbling.
=== GAMEPLAY ===
I will start by mentioning the fact that you only get two members to play with throughout the whole game. Serah and Noel are the main characters in the game and the only two that really matter. You can change who you would like to control at anytime in the menu. I find Noel to be the better character because hes a warrior from the future therefore has better strength and defense than Serah. It doesn't make too much difference which you use as the main character because all it really alters is the battles because you only control the character you chose to control as the leader. The games camera system is very much the same as Final Fantasy XIII and set in a third person perspective and as for navigating around that;s also pretty similar. When you're in a certain place exploring you can literally see a map of where you can get and where you cant. Each area has a map which makes the game considerably easy. To get around the area you're in you can either walk, run, jump or even ride the good old Chocobo's. The Chocobo's are basically giant birds that you can ride so you don't get attacked and to get you to places much quicker.
One of the biggest parts to this Final Fantasy is the addition of monsters and I don't mean just any old monsters because Final Fantasy XIII would allow you to use three characters to battle for you but seen as there isn't three playable in this game there's an empty space, for what you might ask and yes that's right monsters. You can now use monsters you acquire from certain battles to fight by your side. You can get hundreds of different monsters to join you but only three can be picked to be in your party. For example when you've picked three monsters only one can fight with you at a time until you master the Paradigm Shift system. The Paradigm Shift system is simple and the best way to describe this is formation. Its like choosing a formation in battle then thinking its wrong so you shift formation to change how to win a battle. Paradigm Shift allows you to change yours and your members roles and the way you approach a fight. There are 6 roles altogether which include Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Synegist, Medic and Saboteur and each one does different things. For example Commando is the main all out attacking force that should be used against weaker enemies or enemies which you have staggered in battle. Ravager is the more magic based attacks which Serah is great with, Sentinel is one of my favourites because it makes the game too easy with this role as it draws enemies to attack the Sentinel only and raises the Sentinels defense also and the other roles do different things also.
When in battle you can shift anytime to change all the above roles and you can also set what roles you're able to shift to in the pause menu. Monsters also have roles and after picking three monsters for your party and choosing three different types of monsters such as a Commando, Ravager and Sentinel you must also pick which to start with in battle and by changing Paradigm Shift a different monster will appear straight away. Also in battle the system used to be turn based but now its more of a waiting then full on attack style fighting game. You can attack when the attack bar is full or even before but doing so before will only allow you to strike a couple of times but it can be good to cancel out your opponents attack. Something that I found a little lackluster was the variety in the monsters this time around because there are a lot of monsters the same but just different colors or the same but bigger. Also a lot of destinations you visit are the same but this is understandable because you're traveling through time to alter the past or change the future and so on. Also in battle you can use items, use abilities and your monsters can even use an attack called Feral Link which is basically a special move which each monster can do and all monsters do a different one as well. Feral Link can only be used when your monsters Feral Link bar is full and when you're playing you will notice it just below your monsters health meter. Its always best to keep your eye on all party members health in battle because once Noel and Serah have been defeated its game over. If the one you're controlling dies then you automatically take control of who is left. You cannot use your monsters as the main battle character.
Back from Final Fantasy XIII is the Crystarium in which you use to level up your characters and monsters. With the two characters you basically earn EXP points from battles which can be spent on different roles to increase your stats for that role type or to learn new abilities for that role. Once you've leveled up completely on one floor of the Crystarium you get the choice of increasing something or learning a new role (as you only start with a few roles). Monsters can also be upgraded in the Crystarium but they don't use EXP to do so and in fact use monster materials. Monster materials can be found in battle and other places and each set of materials are listed as level 1 through to 5. Level 1 monsters can only use level 1 materials and when they have gained a level you must then use level 2 materials and so on. Also monsters can now be infused together so that you can make stronger monsters and learn new abilities for them. Also to get into battles now is very easy and its extremely easy to get the initiative because at certain points enemies appear and all you have to do is avoid them and strike them with your sword to enter a battle. Scattered throughout the worlds of Final Fantasy XIII-2 are fragments which are quite important for many reasons and wild artefacts which open new gates to new worlds for the future or the past. Chest containers are the same as the previous game and look metal, round and move up and down. There are tons of items, weapons and much more you can do and go in the game.
=== GRAPHICS ===
Don't get me wrong here because the graphics to every Final Fantasy game has always been to very high standards but to some extent I am actually a little disappointed because Final Fantasy XIII-2 just doesn't look as good as Final Fantasy XIII did and that is also why this one is only on 1 disc. The graphics are still quite good in some respect and the most notable being the very detailed layouts of the places you visit and the lush looking scenery in the game. I was also very pleased with Noel as a character because hes designed really well and looks pretty close to perfect for a Final Fantasy character. I was slightly disappointed with Serah because whilst shes beautiful she just doesn't seem like the fighting type. One of the letdowns to this game is the variety in the monster and bosses because there are way too many monsters that look the same and the bosses you fight just re-appear in the game too often. Putting some of the bad stuff aside Final Fantasy XIII-2 is still one of the better looking role playing games available!
=== SOUND EFFECTS ===
I would have to say the worst part of the game is the sound effects and the main reason for this is because Square Enix tried something new and it doesn't work at all. The music is where they have gone wrong because not only have they literally done away with the FAMOUS end of battle music but they have also done away with the music that used to bring excitement to the game. I do feel there are a couple of tracks in the game that suit it such as a couple of boss battles where the music heats things up and a couple of places you visit has the type of music to put you on edge, but other than that it just doesn't fit. The overall sound effects are actually quite good from strong battle sound effects to top notch cinematic sound effects. Also the characters are voiced perfectly and suit there role well and other characters you meet in the game also sound really good. But by far the biggest downfall is the end of battle music as its finally changed and doesn't at all suit this game.
=== DIFFICULTY ===
Usually a Final Fantasy game near enough always puts gamers into a sticky situation at least once when playing but in Final Fantasy XIII-2 there isn't one single part of the game that's hard. It is by far one of the easiest role playing games and definitely the easiest Final Fantasy games. The battles are far too easy as long as you have a Sentinel monster you can basically go from start to finish in no time. The game does offer a few puzzles a bit like Final Fantasy X did but they are far too easy in this game as well. Battles are too easy, knowing where to go is also far too easy and the game overall is just too simple for the more experienced Final Fantasy fans.
=== LONGEVITY ===
The game is quite good in length but it can also be seen as the shortest yet. If you're not interested in the storyline or watching the movies the game has to offer (which can be skipped) then you're looking at 8 hours tops! However if like me you love the story to a game and like watching videos and doing side quests and exploring then you're guaranteed to get a minimum of 25 hours which could possibly lead up to a maximum of 60 or 70 if you like going for achievements and so on. The length can be seen in so many ways but I would have to say its average at most and mainly because of the short main story quest.
=== PROS ===
*Traveling through time to alter the past or change the future works really well.
*One of the better role playing games on Xbox 360 and the PS3.
*The graphics are really good to some extent and some of the scenery is beautiful and breathtaking!
*You now have the ability to use monsters as your third party member in battle.
*Lots of different side missions are available to take in the game.
*There is now a casino in which you can play games such as Chocobo racing, slot machines and soon to be card games.
=== CONS ===
*Short storyline and the story is a little confusing at times.
*A lot of the enemies and bosses are too similar to each other and there isn't much variety.
*The game is far too easy for the Final Fantasy fanatics.
*Only two playable characters and only a few characters from Final Fantasy XIII make cameos.
*The game features quite a lot of backtracking but this can be seen as a good point depending on how you feel about backtracking.
*Most of the achievements take time and can be tricky.
=== FINAL THOUGHT ===
So my final thoughts on the game are pretty good. I loved playing it and will probably go back to it one day to try and get the remaining achievements or for when some DLC (downloadable content) becomes available for it. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is reported as one of the worst selling Final Fantasy games and mainly because of how poor Final Fantasy XIII was (to most people) but don't let that put you off buying this game as its very different and has lots of new qualities to it and is much better than the previous one.
I would definitely recommend this to many different gamers especially the gamers that enjoy a good role playing game with lots of action. Also if you loved previous Final Fantasy games then this could still be for you. Although its much easier there is still a ton of fun to be had with the game. Something new is the cinematic sequences which usually take place when a guest member has joined your party or when you're on a boss battle and it usually involves you pressing buttons when told to do so or button bashing when told to do so. Also you're now able to choose an answer out of multiple answers when asked a question at certain points in the game and i think this works really well.
=== PRICE ===
With this being a very recent game out as it was released on the 3/2/2012 the prices seem to differ depending on where you get the game from. I got my copy from ASDA for an incredible price of just £32.97 but the game has actually dropped in price from places such as Amazon and eBay and is going for around £27.99.
Overall Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a solid role playing game that offers gamers a new experience. I would give the game a very reasonable 8/10!
Review also on Ciao under the username: MrBrightside1987!
Final Fantasy XIII may have been a success story considering a meteoric selling record (the fastest selling title in the FF series) but in my eyes it was disappointing and not in-keeping with the quality of games now passed - with composer Nobuo Uematsu no longer writing the themes that made games and its contents so memorable, characters becoming increasingly corny in appearance as well as personality and worlds becoming linear with limited freedom. That said, XIII did have its positives in ever improving graphics and still loveable characters and plot-lines. Consequently, I believe that if gamers knew what they were getting into, there would be serious doubt over the number of copies sold - The revelation that this was the first Final Fantasy to appear on a seventh generation console (the past 3 being available on PS2 & PC) and having avid gamers wait for the next installment a lengthy 4 years - Clearly played a part in the surge of sales. Despite mixed reviews and anticipation for the next story, Square-Enix announced a sequel to the vast bemoaning veteren fan-base. I'm glad to say that I waited patiently until the price dropped and I bagged a bargain on an eBay Auction for a lowly £7.13 (P&P £2.50), brand new. After being barely satisfied with FFXIII, my acquirement of its sequel was more due to my fondness for the series, a diligent duty to possess and complete all the franchise has to offer, albeit reluctantly.
It's always difficult to regale others with the entrancing stories of the Final Fantasy universe without spoiling any of the story checkpoints or surprises. However 13-2 offers less surprise and more predictability thanks to obvious character tells and a trippy storyline. It happened.. they finally hit the low note of going so over the top that they mess with time travel. True, FF's have always been OTT (and considering the word 'Fantasy' in the title) but they always had some degree of realism that made characters relatable and the world intriguing. Just when you thought 'They must of had a really good idea for the need to make a sequel' they prove to be either insane or milking yet another title (see FF7 & FF10). It takes place after the events of the first game, with the main character being the sister of the 13's main role. This time you control Serah, the younger, more interesting, realistic of the two sisters, suffering from random visuals and confusion of the events in the past. With 13's emotionless, ice queen, mary sue protagonist Lightning gone (hooray!) Serah goes in search to find her (boo!). 'Lightning' or Claire as I prefer to call her (the reasoning behind her nickname is just silly) is seen in stunning FMV sequences, fighting an unknown, purple clothed, eccentric looking man. In a darkened world of ruins, the two spar in cinematic style - special effects running wild as always, you get to take minimal control during a fight scene (pressing the correct sequence of buttons in time) which is surprisingly enjoyable as you watch the repercussions of attacks both hit and missed, unfold. When the videos come to an end, a young man named Noel is sent on a voyage through time, riding a meteor to the past.. mental. As he acquaints himself with a distressed Serah and her crew of oddballs taking on monsters spread by the meteor, we learn that he is from a future where he is the last born, the last hope to rekindle the civilisation of mankind. Cue all sorts of explaining and devotion to a cause. The two set out to go forward and back in time through a 'Historia Crux' (a portal) which are operated by finding artefacts spread across the regions, closing the 'paradox's' and inevitably finding Claire and preventing the future from which Noel is the end of all life.
As gamers with the experience of the first game will expect, you take control of one of the two characters with a 3rd person view as you stroll around areas with the odd sub-route, shortcut or secret location. As you inspect your glorious high definition surroundings of Gran Pulse, you are interrupted by spawned enemies almost every 30 seconds - which you can manage to escape from before initiating combat (you can run and jump away to avoid them and must reach an safe distance to avoid automatic battles). You can strike out at enemies swiftly to gain a 'preemptive' advantage or lose the option of retrying should you attempt an escape and fail - this makes some of your cowardice punishable - something that I found exciting as the game is still stupidly easy (I played on Normal mode as apposed to Casual or Hard). As battle commences, an ATP gage fills up as you que a number of attacks to execute - the stronger/better the combos, the quicker the 'Stagger' gage rises on the enemy where you can deal far greater damage. Thanks to the Crystarium system of advancing in level and stats, you gain new moves and health points when you spend EXP points in the pre mapped board of crystals. This means you progress essentially how the makers want you to. The real option for the gamer is which trait to improve on such as commander, ravager (mage), medic, sentinel, synergist, or saboteur. You can still create your own 'Paradigms' to alter and succeed in battle, but most of the time you can get the best result as a mage and soldier, spamming the the A button for 'auto attack'. This is what makes 13 and -2, so damn dull. Sure you can choose to select the attacks yourself but when the game rewards such apathy, you're better off doing as you are told. Yes, the visuals are impressive the first couple of times as you watch your two man army launch into the air and chop away at a dancing bird wearing a poncho. There are only so many times you can sit and watch the same thing over and over again just to level up your characters - its a boring grind fest with unrelenting rewards. When scouting out new areas, you are charged with the task of finding the 'paradoxes' which you must close to reveal more of the map and progress (connect the dots, mazes). These include simple mini games which are a relief if you are losing patience with a slow paced jog. Half the time though you spend on watching redundant conversations drag on, either explaining the situation or spouting hormonal trash.
[Differences & Improvements over FFXIII]
1 Disc! - As I carefully peeled the shrink-wrap and opened my sleek and shiny new case I was considerably astonished that the game appeared on just one disc. Its predecessor came on 3 (understandable with so many cutscenes) and this made me think that perhaps it would be a shorter tale - though this was disproved when I found out the the logic behind it was that the cutscenes in 13-2 are all in-game and not separated files. Although I remain sceptical (not because of the quantity but quality of the game). Recaps - Upon loading up the game and continuing on your adventure, during loading times you are greeted with a short segment of the latest events occurred in your last few sessions. This is a stylish and helpful addition as it reminds you of whatever you may have forgotten or sheds insight on to what your current task is. Decisions & Consequences - Taking on board a system made famous by the Mass Effect games, you are now prompted to select 1 of 4 sets of dialogue to either fathom some more information or make correct or off topic assumptions. In conversations it doesn't really make a difference (other than gain small gifts for making the right choice) but you soon obtain the ability to change the future and retry if it doesn't all go your way as your decisions have specific consequences. Capturing Monsters - Since you only have 2 solid people to control on your travels, a new capture system has been engineered. On occasion you can acquire certain monsters by obtaining their crystal after battles (actually its a bit like Poke'mon:) Different monsters have different roles (com,rav,syn,sab,sen,med) and have several stages to advance in (also in the Crystarium) and do this by acquiring related items which can be bought from the lunatic 'Chocolina' - She is the sole opportunity to buy and sell items at several points in the game and is pretty much exactly like the shops in 13 combined into one that advances as you do. Maps - The locations are similar in appearance to 13 because they are set on Gran Pulse, however they do on occasion offer separate avenues to roam which 13 lack - but in honesty, as good as some background drops look, the places you're in contact with are just hollow, unmemorable rooms.
Conversations - The reason why so many choose to avoid RPG's altogether, these gossip sessions are so overdone its just unnecessary. Just like 13, you not only get drawn out explanations of your situation but also endless whinging about the future, present, past, and waaaaah I want my sister back waaaaah!!! This is no exaggeration, after nearly all long-winded chats you get a short speech or the inner thoughts of Serah swearing to find Lightning, wondering whether she can find her, wondering where she is, why she's there, blah blah blah. It could be my undying detest of 13s main maiden Lightning talking, because she is an empty pink vase, but the reasons for her disappearance since the end of the first installment and her unexplainable invincibility, makes her role an annoying one, especially as the only person who likes Lightning is of her own blood - so she has to like her. No eidolons - The summons have always been involved and some times played an integral part (FF8,9 & 10) and although they were just whimsical silliness and scapegoats for characters backlogs in 13, removing them just seems wrong. No Teammates - Again, like the summons, gathering and recruiting people was a strong driving force to keep going as new people add to the story, gameplay and dialogue. This in my opinion is why conversations run dry and the plot seems so shallow, because instead of hearing alternative viewpoints and reasoning, people just bumble over the same crap you just heard 10 minutes ago, this time with added emphasis on finding Lightning oooh. OTT - in the past games, you'd encounter situations relative to life as well as the escapades only found in stories. People and places have eccentric twists on clothing and environments but still bear sense, however in the latest games, the people in particular look dodgey in bright jumpsuits and the fabled 'anime hairstyles' that defy gravity.. Attacks have light-beams flying out of appendages and form symbols in the sky, people with the frame of a malnourished child can smack a dragon into the sky.
[Soundtrack & Voice Acting]
The music is something 13-2 has on its mother because it is actually noticeable thanks to far more inclusion of vocals in songs which smoothly adapt to dithering situations, for example you can be walking along a serene beach then get chased down by wolves as the music picks up tempo and more intensity. The vocals are fairly subdued and don't dominate every song which is a plus because although it was only the ending song of 13 that featured an out of place Leona Lewis bellowing out inappropriateness, it spoiled an already mediocre end to an equally tame game. It in no way compares to Uematsu's inspiring songs, it couldn't, but it does make up for the stomach gurgling noises dubbed a soundtrack from 13. The 3 new characters of Noel, Yuel and Caius are a mixed bag. Noel struck a chord with me instantly as he had decent lines and seemed a genuinely realistic character (even though he's from a distant future) His voice is recognisable in minutes to those familiar with subjects close to heart (the voice actor played Haku in Studio Ghibli's 'Spirited Away' rather poorly but does a stellar job here). Not much light can be shed on Yuel as her role is rather secretive as a seeress who sees a resemblance of herself and Serah. Thanks to the epic battle introduction, you have some idea of who Caius is - a feathered weirdo who can turn into a dragon beast thing and summon elemental madness.
For me, the most annoying thing about this game is that after every significant exchange of words, Serah's thoughts act as a follow up to what has been said and just repeat what is already known, bulking up cutscenes for furiously long time spent listening to an overemotional bint. Now I know that the Final Fantasy's are supposed to be 'out there' as they are a good form of escapism from ordinary boring lifestyles. But the direction in which these newer games are going is depressing. Its all about graphics, intense conversations and ease of play instead of memorable environments, complex characters and a suitable difficulty that actually provides a challenge. In my slightly youthful opinion, the last FF title that lives up to the traditions and brilliance of the series was FF10 - when they introduced voice acting but shamefully took away the travelling through world maps. Perhaps it was the beginning of the end for classic gaming as combat and exploration is no longer controllable but forcibly provided. Characters have become extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to personalities - they are either a wimpy pathetic moaning loser or an angry indestructible mary sue - No one is in the middle anymore. So even though there are elements that have worked well in 13-2, I still question the intentions behind its release.. did they have left over plot lines, locations and ideas? Could they not be bothered to start from scratch with a new story and system? With this games ending and online forums awash with talk of an impending FF13-3... the answer becomes obvious.
If you are a seasoned Final Fantasy fan, Final Fantasy 13 and FF 13-2 might not cut the cake for you.
We've come away from obvious elemental differences, and natural looking enemies, to futuristic machina fights. This might just be the progression of civilisation as time goes by, but still, I feel this might be an issue for hardened fans.
The graphics are pretty nice, lovely definition in HD, and the landscapes and back grounds are surprisingly detailed.
Similar to Final Fantasy 13, the music is kind of rocky, and this is one of the first FF games to actually use vocal tracks in the soundtrack. Each areas music fits it quite nicely, and some boss battles have unique battle music, one which sounds like a cross between Korn and Black Sabbath, which was a bit weird.
The game itself I find is considerably easier than FF13, and I don't think this is a bad thing, since I found FF13 quite laborious at times.
You're in a third person view, usually chasing your companion.
A nice little touch to this game is though you usually only have one other human companion, you can recruit monsters to join your team, and then incorporate them into your battle paradigms, and level them up as if they were a regular member of the team, only using items instead of CP (crystarium points).
The levelling up system for human characters is via the Crystarium. After you have won a battle, you are awarded Crystarium points, which is an 'EXP' equivalent. It's really simple to use, and you can use those to level your characters up in their various roles.
Roles come in handy when you are strategically battling monsters. If you want an all out offensive, you can set up your team to all be in damage dealing roles, or if you are struggling, you can set it up so you have one 'tank', one 'saboteur who will cast debuffs on the enemy, one strategist who will case buffs on your team, and so on.
I found FF13-2 to be confusing at times, as you are going through time gates to get to Lightning, the sister of the main character in the game, with the help of a traveller from the future Noel.
I would think those who like the franchise would probably like to try it, but not until the price has gone down.
It's a real shame, as the feel of the game doesn't fit in with previous releases, because of the music and over-all theme/feel.
I had first look at the Final Fantasy 13-2 while visiting Japan for the Tokyo Game Show last year where it was being showcased. It went onto be the runners-up in the Best Xbox 360 Game category but failed to get even a mention in PS3. BTW, the Japanese name for the game is Fainaru FantajÄ« SÄtÄ«n TsÅ«.
After the teaser at Japan last year I was waiting with unabated anticipation for its UK release. Final Fantasy 13-2 is a direct sequel of the 2010 role playing game Final Fantasy 13. The franchise, though, is a long standing one and goes back in years as far as I can remember. This time around Square Enix, the legendary publisher/developers of the Final Fantasy franchise collaborated with third-party developer tri-Ace. They have delivered fantastically well. The improvements and upgrade in the game is for everybody to see. They have trashed away the chaff from the wheat - the game is now leaner with 3 discs of FF 13 being replaced with 1 disc for FF 13-2. All the distractions of FF 13 are now gone.
Those who love role-playing game genres should certainly love it. It is the best out there at the moment. I believe it does have all the ingredients of being an excellent role playing game but does not fall in the same league of some of the earlier FF series - 5, 7 and 8. Despite failing to reach the heights of the 5, 7 or 8 it does mark a great enhancement from 13 and reaffirms my faith in FF and its future, which had diminished after the bulky drab of a game, Final Fantasy 13.
The central character from the original FF, Lightning disappears into an unknown ecosphere. This game is a quest to find her by the younger sister Serah Farron, a character that was absent in FF 13 but returns for the sequel, and Noel Kreiss, a fine young man. The player can control these two characters only and they remain central to the plot throughout the game.
Final Fantasy 13 was the first game based round the myth of Fabula Nova Crystallis or The Tale of the New Crystals. The crystals are supposed to lead the world into the future. It is a universe that consists of 2 worlds - visible (land of the living) and the invisible (afterlife). The visible world is regulated by Falcie, crystal-like androids created by Pulse and Lindzie - 2 original Falcie created by God Bhunivelze. They have the capacity of marking humans inhabiting the visible world and are worshipped by the humans as Gods. However, humans have been born from Etro, another Falcie created by the same God Bhunivelze who created Pulse and Lindzie who was not given any power. Etro escaped to the invisible world to be called as the Goddess of Death. Within the visible worlds Pulse created the falcie of the world Gran Pulse and Lindzie created falcie of the floating paradise housing humanity called Cocoon.
Final Fantasy 13-2 focusses on Goddess Etro. The Gran Pulse and Cocoon return once gain in FF 13-2 after being missed in FF-Type 0, a game in continuation of the FF series in between 13 and 13-2. The old terrains have been replaced by new ones in the new time period. One can revisit the old and see what it was like at that time period. So the crystallised lake Bresha is now Bresha Ruins. The old city of Bodhum in Gran Pulse has given way to the New Bodhum, inhabited by citizens of the old Bodhum. Yascash Massif is taken over by Cocoon soldiers. The hunters now live in Archlyte Steppe. The nature reserve is no longer lush green while there is a new casino-like city with mini-games to play called Serendipity. Eden is replaced by City of Academia as the new capital. The Ville Peaks are now snow-clad and a new play world also appears in Valhalla, the land of death and chaos on the edge of time and future.
As mentioned earlier, the game has 2 main playable characters - Serah and Noel. Serah is Lightning's younger sister. Serah has a new fighting companion Moogle, Mog. Lightning is the central character from FF 13 who is now protecting Goddess Etro's shrine in Valhalla. Noel is a time travelling human survivor from his time, 700 years in future.
There are some new characters introduced in FF 13-2. Caius is the main purple coloured villain. A former friend of Noel and a guardian of the timeline, he is the main adversary of Lightning. He has 2 companions in Paddra, a shadowy saint and Alyssa, a blonde in red attire. Hope now inhabits the City of Academia and runs a scientific expedition to find new energy no longer dependent on Falcie.
There are other characters from the earlier series who return like Snow, who is now an uncontrollable character in Sunleth Waterscape, Sazh, who tries to improve Gran Pulse an the Oerbas, Dia and Yun.
As said earlier, FF 13-2 is a direct sequel to FF 13. The story of FF 13-2 starts 3 years after FF 13. Lightning has vanished into Valhalla, the realm of death and chaos. This is because Cocoon and Orphan have been vanquished. All now think that Lightning is dead along with Vanille and Fang who had tried to prevent Cocoon's collision with Gran Pulse by fortifying themselves as crystal pillars. However, Serah, his sister refuses to give Lightning as dead. While rebuilding her life along with the fallen soldiers of Cocoon in New Bodhum city of Gran Pulse she yearns for reuniting with Lightning. A year later New Bodhum is overpowered by monsters but Serah escapes unharmed thanks to a fine young mysterious man called Noel who tells that he has met Lightning who is now battling Caius. Lightning has however been sent through time to meet up with Serah and bring her to Valhalla where Lightning is battling Caius, the mysterious villain. Serah accepts Noel's offer and they move through space and time to try and meet up with Lightning taking them on distant courses from the past and future travails. The quest is to help Noel and Serah meet Lightning and overcome Caius to prevent the end of the world.
As mentioned earlier you play as either Serah or Noel. Your mission is to find Lightning who has disappeared.
The playable characters are controllable from the menu. You can make the playable character walk, run and jump while exploring. There is also Chocobo, the giant bird (from the earlier series) which can be used to travel long distances very fast without being attacked. FF 13-2 also gives you the option of including monsters that you capture in a battle to fight alongside you. While it allows you to pick 3 monsters, only 1 is allowed to fight alongside you until you have mastered the Combat Systems. You can change your playable character in the middle of the game. Noel possesses more strength and defence than Serah but since the battles are different for each character you control their relative strengths and defence does not matter at the end.
Navigation and Camera Control
The navigation tool is a map of the area under exploration with clearly marked places that you can explore and those that you can't. The game relies on a third person perspective camera angle throughout the game.
The game uses the Command Synergy Battle system. It is a system that has been used by Square Enix in the past and they want us to believe that it one of the best out there. And it is to an extent. The Paradigm Shift role playing is intact within this system. The roles are very similar to actual military war strategy. You can use Commando for an all-out attack. Ravagers have more magic where Serah excels. Both though push up the Stagger bar while inflicting damage. Medics, as the name suggests are to restore health. Synergists do not take part in actual battle but act only in support of the battlers. Sentinels are defensive formation that lures opponents to attack it and then traps them. I do not have any particular liking for any of them and like to use them in different combinations. I have yet to discover whether a particular role suits me or my party's role though I have tried almost all combinations possible.
However, I did find some difference in the system from the earlier FF series. First, during some battles there are 'cinematic actions' where you can inflict more damage to the opponent and enhance your party. But if not properly done the reverse is also possible. The real big difference arrives with the defeat of Atlas who rises up again in series of ruins to fight again. Here, monsters drops special crystals in random battles that helps you to arm the monster that you have won to fight alongside you. The monster that fights alongside you depends on the Paradigm Shift - Flan monster if Ravager is chosen.
This leads to a new feature called 'Feral Link'. The Feral Link meter that appears just below the monsters health meters, starts filling up as you attack. When it is full you can get the monster to perform a special attack on the opponent using the quick time event.
You need to constantly monitor Noel's and Serah's health since you can interchange the playing character to the one who has better health since losing them is end of game. However, since the monsters are not playing characters it does not matter if you lose them.
The monsters are randomly generated. As soon as you are near the opponent a meter appears at the bottom of the screen called the Mog Clock. You now need to find and attack the opponent before meter is out of green zone. If you are quick to spot the opponent and attack it then you get bonus. If not then there are penalties. The concept is similar to the notion of pre-emptive strike in military warfare.
In order to give the game a non-linear orientation, the game uses a system of Live Trigger. These are dialogue sets that allow conversing with non-playing characters as also between Noel and Sarah. The dialogue sets change from game to game which is nice. The dialogues however provide you with choices to make like going after Atlas or finding an object. The game has multiple endings though it is hard to understand whether choices made during the Live Trigger is responsible for the type of ending.
When you get the choice through the Live Trigger to either, go and attack Atlas or find an object, if you go and find the object it leads you to a series of mini-game. Tile Trial is a puzzle that canbe solved by collecting crystals from vanishing tiles. Interestingly the Mog who accompanies Serah and Noel provides entertainment by giving funny comments while helping discover new treasures. Square Enix have tried their best to give us a non-linear experience.
This is the most that imparts non linearity to the game. This allows you to travel through time and space. Depending on your choice either you go to the past or travel to the future leading to multiple endings. The gameplay and events changes with each location whether in the past or in the future.
It is the most puzzling portion of the game. It is basically the method to develop your character as you play. It involves building up their roles (commando, ravager or medic...), gain stats and learn abilities. Then it has Spheres having a Constellation. As you progress you need to assign roles to the character within that Sphere. If you select Medic within a Sphere, Medic is set for that sphere till you progress to the next. The tricky bit is that there is a limit on the number of large spheres that you can have which provide for bonus stats. So boosting up your stats is limited to the large spheres only. This means that the direction you take early on decides how you develop your character.
I have discovered that Serah is best at Magic and Noel on strength so the role assigned within large sphere must be designed to boost Magic for Serah and Strength for Noel. This means applying Ravager to most of Serah's Large Spheres and Commando to most of Noel's Large Spheres. This is what I try to do. However you can try differently and see what works for you.
The crystarium when filled progresses to the next giving you a bonus. These become permanent and hence needs to be done with utmost caution an planning as it could alter the course of the game.
GRAPHICS and PHYSICS
FF 13 was a disappointment in graphic quality for Xbox 360. However, FF 13-2 manages a vast improvement with the Crystal Tools engine. The frame rate buffer is now 1280x720 resolutions which gives a much better image quality but still it is not up to mark as seen in the pixellation of the hair of the characters. The visuals are stunning no doubt though there appears to be some glitches with reduced quality shadows when running towards the sun in New Bodham. The AI routines look more advanced with characters having preset routines with impromptu actions. This makes the characters behaviour dynamic. The videos inside the game though, are quite atrocious. It looks like the decision to have only one disc for the game has compromised the quality of the videos due to the need for extreme compressions.
I would confess that though Final Fantasy is known for their high standards of graphics and physics, this one though have stuck out like a sore thumb.
MUSIC and SOUND EFFECTS
Final Fantasy has been known for its beautiful orchestral scores but Final Fantasy 13-2 is a disappointment. Firstly they have done away with orchestral music and instead given J-pop. Secondly the music hardly ever fits the game sequence. I know that this sort of music might be fancied by many others but definitely not my cup of cake as it gives me headaches.
The voiceover though is very nicely done. The characters do sound good. The monologues of the cut scenes are delightful. I also have no complaints with the sound effects.
There is a feature in the game to control the difficulty of the battles. It is far easier than the FF 13. The defensive ability of the sentinel shall make your progress extremely easy. None of the exploration, battles or even the puzzle mini-game posed any real trouble for me, not something I had not expected after being troubled to death by FF 13.
I have played the game for approximately 60 hours now. The main though took hardly 40 hours though I decided to skip some contents. The time would however depend on what contents you do. If you skip videos and cut scenes then you might do it rather soon. Also if you do lot of achievements it might take a considerable more time.
It varies from retailer to online. Better order it through Amazon or Ebay - costs around £29 plus delivery charges.
I would give a reasonably high score for its decent story, excellent gameplay and memorable battles. What would pull the scores down is the headache inducing music and poor graphics. It is not a perfect game but thoroughly playable. Despite its flaws it does have that element of excitement and fun that we have come to associate with the Final Fantasy series which was sadly missing from the FF 13.
The Final Fantasy Fun is finally back.
Also in Ciao Uk under same name and title