Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review
Let’s try this again, Kupo.
Few games in recent memory have disappointed quite like Final Fantasy XIII. It was by no means terrible, on the contrary, it was both gorgeous and engaging. The problems lay in the fact that Square Enix seemed to move away from the aspects that made each numbered Final Fantasy a magical experience. The game sported a linearity completely foreign to the series and failed to put together a memorable or even a fully intelligible storyline, prompting people to pose the question: What has happened to the once infallible Square? Final Fantasy purists will point to the merger with Enix as the beginning of the ‘end’ while others may suggest that Square Enix’s attempts to appeal more to western markets has clouded their judgment. Bottom line was that the fans were not happy and something had to be done to appease them…fast. With FFXIV in disarray, Versus XIII moving ahead at Tonberry pace, Square Enix’s best bet was to revisit FFXIII itself. Cue Final Fantasy XIII-2.
Of course, this is not the first time a numbered Final Fantasy has gotten a direct sequel. In 2003, Final Fantasy X-2 was released on the PS2 and was somewhat well received, but those were the days when almost everything Square touched turned to gold. Those days are gone now and Square Enix is undoubtedly desperate to jump-start their mojo once again with Final Fantasy XIII-2. So how does the game fare?
The story starts 3 years after the end of the first game, Lightning, Fang and Vanille are gone but Serah is convinced that her sister Lightning is still alive somewhere. This is confirmed to us in the opening cutscene that shows an armored Lightning engaged in battle in the mythical Valhalla. It is there that she encounters Noel, a boy from another time, whom she sends to fetch her sister, Serah. The two protagonists must travel through time portals, searching for Valhalla and changing the future to save mankind, messing up the space-time continuum in the process.
While the storyline in itself had the potential to be Square Enix’s most intriguing story in years, the storytelling is plagued with trite dialogue, badly paced cutscenes, annoying characters and bad decisions at almost every turn. So, in a manner of speaking, Square Enix has failed in its first order of business – to roll back the years and put out an epic story, capable of capturing the imagination. Judging from their heavy-handed TV-esque “previously on Final Fantasy XIII-2”, the folks at Square Enix probably believed that people could not follow the story and needed constant reminding of the events that transpired, when the reality is that it was just to abstract and completely underwhelming.
While the attempts to improve the story did not quite deliver, FF XIII-2 does get a lot of things right. Despite some questionable design decisions, the gameplay has been significantly improved on almost all fronts. Fans frequently complained the XIII was way too linear an experience, now players can jump from area to area (era to era) at will via the Historia Crux (FFXIII-2’s world map). There are various fragments to collect in each area, so while the main quest needs only around 25 hours to complete, interested parties can spend double or even triple that time collecting the game’s 140 fragments.