Final Fantasy XIII-2

Are you ready? Sure?

It’s good.

Phew! I was standing in the bath holding the toaster there for a second but it’s all going to be okay. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a vast improvement on the travesty of the last game. Unlovable characters have been replaced by a more pleasant cast. The cold corridor environments have been unfurled to busy cities, rolling green landscapes and jolly casinos with chocobo racing. XIII-2 is a cap-in-hand apology for XIII. Given Square Enix’s seeming disconnect from their audience and from their own founding game principles this is very surprising. Most fans of the FF series will not go into this game with good will towards it and so being won over is all the more an achievement. That’s not to say XIII-2 is as good as previous titles in the series. It simply scrapes Square Enix back from absolute ruination which between FF XIII and XIV they were definitely on the precipice of.

This time round you won’t be switching between groups of characters trying to get to grips with their various paradigm roles that define their skills in battle. Rather, there are just two human characters, Serah and Noel and a bunch of monsters you can capture, train and deploy in battle alongside you. It’s here that you’ll first see the developers’ efforts to make this game less po-faced than the last, with the ability to dress up your monsters. Even more fun is the fact that some of the creatures you can recruit seem utterly at odds with the battle interface. Fighting alongside your own enraged chocobo is great but just wait till you have a badly drawn gigantuar dancing around the screen, wearing some fairy wings you put on him and with his head not even fitting on the screen while the camera tries uselessly to make sense of what’s going on, swinging around and zooming out. It’s a deliberate attempt to make the game a bit daft and a bit like the good old days and it works for the most part. Where it falls down is in trying a little too hard sometimes. Having your own super cute moogle following you around, flitting about and glowing whenever there is a treasure chest hiding nearby for you to find or even chuck your moogle at if you can’t reach it is great but if that little pink dick doesn’t stop saying Kupo he’s getting used as Bahamut bait. Likewise the chocobo racing feels a little desperate. Okay, we get it, you’re sorry. You don’t have to tap dance with your trousers down for us. Just make it interesting, exploratory and with a few fun diversions here and there.

The battle system is largely the same as last time round but a little faster and smoother. Those who didn’t play XIII could find themselves a little lost as there’s no real effort to teach you how to use the system here. You’ll be introduced to most of the game’s features within the first few hours and then left to it. It’s a far cry from the last game where every new element was drip fed over 25 hours of play but this may have swung to far the other way for newcomers. With the auto battle button still featuring heavily there isn’t much control over what’s happening but it’s definitely more engaging than before.

The more open environments are coupled with a diverging tree of locations to visit in any order you want and a bunch of side quests that will see you zipping back and forward not just between locations but between times as the game’s story and central premise is all about time travel. A bit like the battling you can feel a little lost and unsure where to head next but with RPG’s this is generally considered to be a good thing and gives a sense of freedom and wonder. Although it’s convenient it’s a bit of a shame that the locations are only accessible  through a menu, rather than floating above an over-world on an airship as in FF days of old. There’s a disjointedness to that.  It’s woven into the story but still… airships *sigh*.

While Serah and Noel search for the last game’s heroine, Lightning, across time you’ll have plenty to do and it’s all very pretty and in the proud tradition, for the most part, of a great series but heavy rock music, garbled dialogue about nonsense and a lack of bunny ears and tails for the main characters keep it just out of the reach of greatness. If it’s been too long and you just want to hear some chocobo music and fight a giant flan it’s all here for the taking.  Square Enix now need to go back to the drawing board and take a long look at the joy and simplicity of their early titles and reground their series in the founding principles of the role playing game.







5 responses to “Final Fantasy XIII-2”

  1. dean avatar

    If you want airships and a world map you should play Lost Odyssey – best Final Fantasy game that isn’t a Final Fantasy game (arguably one of the best JRPGs ever made in fact).

    Kupo! (sorry)

  2. Johnny avatar

    I still just can’t get past the largely automated combat system. I got through the first 15 hours of FFXIII just hitting the A button for the most part. Awful.

    I can think of at least four FF games that have had airships in the field. FFI, FFII, FFVII, and FFVIII.

  3. Leon avatar

    Similar to Johnny, the automated combat was the thing I hated most of all, too. Still, I’m glad a fellow XIII hater has found that the sequel has won you over. I’ll be buying it when I have the money to do so.

  4. Kirsten avatar

    Lost Odyssey is definitely a good one for those looking for a trad FF style game although the ring system combat is fairly different, much more like Shadowhearts.

  5. Arkayla avatar

    I found myself enjoying this more when I stopped thinking of it as a Final Fantasy game and just a game in it’s own right. The ‘Push A/X to win’ combat still annoys me but it is vastly superior to the tripe of XIII.

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