Product Type: Square Enix Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... 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 foll... more
Return of the Final Fantasy Fun
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Member Name: aethys
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Advantages: excellent gameplay, decent story, memorable battles
Disadvantages: troublesome music, poor graphics
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
Summary: The Final Fantasy Fun is finally back.
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