I’m going to be honest with you guys. . . when I played Final Fantasy XIII a while back, I thought that the game was ass. Actually, I guess that’s not 100% accurate. The game had a lot of potential and very many good things to it, it’s just that, in my opinion, I don’t believe that everything ranging from the story to the side-quests to the battle system to the core mechanics that make JRPGs so wonderful were executed very well. Simply put, while the game was not exactly of abysmal quality, I think that it was a pretty bad game that could have been much much better.
That is all in the past now, and, well, Final Fantasy XIII-2 attempts to cover up for the blunder by introducing time travel, because time traveling makes everything better! Thankfully, Squeenix (Square Enix) managed to step up their game in the creation of Final Fantasy XIII-2; it’s actually a pretty damn good game that I found quite difficult to put down all throughout my first playthrough. XIII-2 is essentially what Final Fantasy XIII should have and could have been. Find out why this game did not incur my godly wrath after the jump!
Don’t you remember the good ole’ RPG days where dungeons were more linear than a geometry test, towns were as non-existent as the amount of money in your bank account the day before payday, and side-quests were really end-of-the-game quests? No? Well neither do I because those elements which were present in Final Fantasty XIII are no longer issues in Final Fantasy XIII-2. While the maps in XIII-2 aren’t exactly huge with branching paths all over the place, you can’t just literally hold forward for about an hour and , voila, you’re done with the dungeon. Remember how XIII boasted about how NPCs were all voiced and would interact with your characters when you simply walked by them? Do you also remember how completely unnecessary that feature was because there were only around three towns that actually had NPCs? Thankfully, that feature actually serves a purpose in XIII-2; towns of various sizes are littered all across the world of Final Fantasy XIII-2 with talkative NPCs that may actually hint at your next objective or any side-quests that may be available to you, so the feature doesn’t just operate as useless fluff. \
While on the subject of side-quests, one of my biggest gripes with XIII was the fact that they didn’t become available until very late into the game, and even then there were not that many available until you actually completed the game. What’s the point in calling it a “side-quest” in that case? Time travel in XIII-2 opens up all sorts of possibilities for side-quests; to complete a quest in one time period you may be required to travel to various other time periods, and you may also take advantage of your time wizarding skills to take on tough enemies that you could not previously handle earlier in the game. Overall, the way that Squeenix handled side-quests in XIII-2 is much better than what they did in XIII.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of Final Fantasy XIII was the Active Time Battle system and the concept of paradigm shifting. The battle system was what really set the game apart from other JRPGs and previous Final Fantasy titles, and it is great to know that the battle system has even been improved in XIII-2. Role bonuses have more notable effects such as the increased damage your party deals when you have a commando out on the field or the increased defense when you have a sentinel out on the field. Though I was at first skeptical about the system of capturing monsters to use in battle (kind of like in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World), it actually ended up impressing me in the end. Your monsters’ stat progression is all up to you depending on what materials you use to level up your tamed beasts; you can focus on attack power, magic, vitality, or build a well-balanced monster to take on your foes. The customization bit is pretty neat as well, fighting alongside a red chocobo with a mask of Lighting’s face or a Giant Cactuar with an academic cap on its head is pretty entertaining, to say the least. So yeah, the ATB battle system remained solid, so no worries there.
Now we get into the story. . . . Let me just get this out of the way. . . the story in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is garbage (though, granted, I just finished Xenogears which had an amazing story so I’m probably being a bit harsh). As soon as the mention of time travel and the fact that Lighting randomly disappeared were announced there was already little hope that things would turn out peachy, and, well, things didn’t turn out peachy. I’ll try to avoid spoiling things for you guys, but long story short, the plot is random, full of holes, and just generally all over the place. The game starts off with Serah dreaming about her sister Lighting, the previous game’s protagonist, fighting a major battle in a place called Valhalla (without any vikings, sadly). Shortly after, a young man from the future, Noel Kreiss, drops in and convinces Serah to come with him to find Lighting in Valhalla. However, in order to get to Valhalla, Noel and Serah must travel through time and solve all sorts of paradoxes in order to fix the timeline and get to Lightning. Do you see where this is going already? As the story progresses, random “plot twists” and bits of information are just tossed into the blender, and the result is a gooey mess that is devoid of all hints of sweetness. It’s pretty tragic, actually; I feel as if so much more could have been done to expand upon XIII’s ending, but instead you get XIII-2’s plot. But honestly, if you’re looking for a JRPG with a good story, the more recent Final Fantasy games are not the way to go. You would be better off checking out Radiant Historia, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, or one of many Shin Megami Tensei games.