Game: Final Fantasy
System: PlayStation 3
Review By: Denoch
Square Enix used to have the reputation of never making direct sequels to the Final Fantasy series, every numbered game had a fresh story with a new world to explore. All that changed when Final Fantasy X-2 was introduced and most fans on the web agree that it’s one of the worst in FF franchise history. However, this didn’t stop Square Enix from dishing out another sequel for Final Fantasy XIII and proving to their fans that the company is able to produce a legitimate sequel that everyone can enjoy. With another part two already out, let’s find out if Square can capitalize on their previous mistake or if it’ll be another failure.
Story: The journey begins with Lightning praying to the goddess Etro in Valhalla before proceeding to fight a mysterious purple-haired man from the future who wants to destroy everything and send it to oblivion. Soon after the battle begins, a young man by the name of Noel appears through the “Gate” and is rescued by Lightning, only to be sent on a mission to find Serah and travel through another gate. Noel arrives at a small village in New Bodhum three years after the defeat of Orphan, where he finds Serah and tries to explain to everyone that Lightning didn’t die in events that led to the salvation of Cocoon, but rather the battle had some unintentional effects on Lightning and she was sent to Valhalla. From here Serah decides to join Noel in search of her sister Lightning, fix certain inconsistencies in the timeline, and stop the purple-haired man called Caius. Traveling through time and arriving in a different year might sound fun, but also rather cliché. This story line is reminiscent of Chrono Trigger, and Square Enix manages to implement a great way for the story to unfold in a similar fashion. Changing the past can change the future, but changing the future can also alter the past in very different ways.
In FFXIII you can go for hours slaying monsters without human interaction or seeing another soul, with the exception of your party, and the story felt boring at times; in FFXIII-2 you won’t have that problem. You can now mingle more frequently with other non-playable characters and have interesting conversations. Reappearances include Sazh, Hope, Vanille, Fang, and Snow. In FFXIII, I didn’t really care for Barthandelus as the antagonist – he was such an uncool character who dressed like a priest and was, quite frankly, boring to watch. Caius, on the other hand, is a guy that seems set on bringing the world into oblivion because of something he lost. Again, it sounds cliché and we’ve seen it before, but at least now there’s a worthy adversary to Lightning, and Caius’ physical appearance makes approaching him difficult, let alone attempting to fight him.
Gameplay: As in Final Fantasy XIII, the game uses a variation of the Active Time Battle (ATB) system known as the Command Synergy Battle system, which makes use of the Paradigm Shift system. There are only two playable characters, with some guest characters helping out in certain situations, but this is great considering that when I play a FF game I never use all six character and usually stick with my favorite three that go along with my playing style. Players can now tame defeated monsters and make them fight for you, however, they’re more passive type fighters and you won’t have complete control over them. They primarily have only one role – you can have up to three monsters in your team and shift them in and out with the paradigm shift function. This also leads to a new “Feral Link” feature; as the player attacks an enemy while a tamed monster is in their party, the Feral Link bar fills up and when it’s full the player can make their current tamed monster do a special attack on the enemy via a quick time event.
A quick recap on paradigm shifts; the first initial shift won’t have the player waiting for 5 seconds to see everyone shift while in battle, which I thought was very annoying. You can switch out the party leader anytime and if the current leader dies then it automatically goes to the second character, no game over when your whole team still has full health. During battle you can now get “wounded,” and in order to recover this lost health you’ll need a wound potion to gain 100% health. Monsters no longer freely roam the map like in Final Fantasy XIII; instead, they are randomly generated like in the previous Final Fantasy games. When a random encounter occurs, an interface called the “Mog Clock” appears in the middle of the bottom half of the screen and a dial appears under the player. There is a Temporal Rift, a void type dimension where you get to solve puzzles, and I had a great time enjoying these games. Earning five stars after every battle wasn’t really something that had any relevant bonus, but now in FFXIII-2, if you get 5 stars you get a 200% increase in the chance of earning more spoils and gils. The weapons and accessories are a little friendlier, and you don’t have to worry about which equipment is the best to upgrade. Every aspect of gameplay has been tweaked and is better that its predecessor.
Graphics: When Square Enix makes a Final Fantasy title you know the graphics are going to be top notch, and it’s still one of the best compared to any other title across genres. During some battles, players are put through quick time events called “Cinematic Action” which allows them to deal higher damage to foes and gain the upper hand in certain battles. This feature won’t catch you off guard when you’re enjoying the beautiful cut scenes, instead, it’ll be displayed on the right hand corner that you’ll be entering a Cinematic Action.
Sound: The music in the game is one of the best I’ve ever heard in any FF title in a long time. These developers have cleverly implemented dozens of different singers into the battle music, or when roaming the lands, while at the same time maintaining the traditional fantasy music that we’re so used to; it’s a fantastic blend of traditional and new.
Replayability: When Square Enix makes a game, be sure to invest a lot of hours because there are a plethora of things to do after defeating the boss. You can go back to any time period and make different dialogue choices or play the whole game again for different endings. The trophies and achievements are easier to obtain this time around, but they’re still time consuming. Even so, this in and of itself increases replayability.
The overall value of the game is what FFXIII should have been the first time around; it was an improvement in every way from the presentation to the music. It was also a great feeling to revisit Grand Pulse and see familiar faces; like Hope all grown up and not a complete whiner, the hot headed Snow and the down to earth Sazh. Even though the formula is all too familiar with story and some characters, it doesn’t take away from this fantastic sequel.
Final Score: 5 out of 5 Stars
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Developers: Square Enix Product Development Division 1 & tri-Ace
Publisher: Square Enix