The new Final Fantasy game from Square Enix is here in the form of the series’ rare direct sequel. Final Fantasy XIII-2 stars Serah Farron, the younger sister to Lightning, the main heroine of the last game and newcomer Noel Kreiss. Unsurprisingly the game recycles a lot of content from the previous title, however, at the same time it also aims to fix the issues that players had with the first installment of Fabula Nova Crystallis. But the big question remains: Did they pull it off? Is this a good game? Is it better than the first one?
Take a trip with me and let’s find out.
Lightning is missing and you have to find her. Wait… didn’t we already play a missing persons game in the last direct sequel the series had? Yuna was trying to reunite with the man of her dreams while balancing her singing career and playing dress up. Anyway, Lightning is missing, presumed dead to all of her friends, but in reality is off in Valhala fighting this guy named Caius who looks like he stole his sword right out of Soul Calibur. They re-enact their favorite scenes from Final Fantasy VII Advent Children while running the player through some basic battle tutorials. Soon after, you’re introduced to the characters you’ll be playing with for the duration of your journey.
Given the resources that were available for this game, it’s no surprise that time traveling was introduced. It’s the easiest way to re-use areas while at the same time, giving a perfectly logical reason for it. The hard part in using the time travel storyline is to have it work without making the player think too hard. It needs to flow. I found myself going “wait, what?” more times than I would have liked. And if time travel wasn’t confusing enough, there are also some alternate realities thrown into the mix. Though that being said, one of the complaints about the first game was that it was too linear, or one giant hallway. The addition of alternate realities definitely helps the game branch out into different paths and offers players a nice glimpse of “Well what would happen if this happened instead of that?”.
Players can navigate between the various areas, times and realities using the Historia Crux. Simply find the gate you wish to access and you’ll be given a tiny preview and short summary about what’s going on in that area at that game. It’s nice to get a quick run down on what’s going on before you jump into a new area, but the previews shown can ruin some of the surprises in store for you in that time. “Oh hey, is that Snow? Cool… I guess I know who will show up in this area”. Maybe I’m just picky but stuff like that falls a little on the lame side for me. Luckily if they show any cameos in the preview you find them pretty quick upon entering the area anyway. Another feature you can utilize from the Historia Crux is the ability to essentially rewind an area. This makes it easy to go back to try certain events in a different way or select different dialogue options to see what happens.
One character you’ll catch up with everywhere you go is Chocolina. She’s part chocobo, part human, and part annoying. She’s the character that when you first meet her, all you can think is “What in the…?”. She’s a traveling merchant that for some reason is able to appear wherever she wants in time. Just like you. How awfully convenient. Through her you can stock up on your usual items such as potions, accessories, weapons and so on. If you collect enough rare items from the monsters you defeat in battle you can even have her craft up some rare items for you.
While I’m on characters, let’s talk about Mog, the Moogle that accompanies Noel and Serah. He also functions as Serah’s sword and bow. He’s a transformer! Like Optimus Prime but cuter and with a more annoying voice. This is the weirdest Moogle I have ever seen in the entire series and the voice… oh the voice! One minute Mog will be kukupokupo-ing his brains out and the next minute he’s getting all deep about time gates. At least you can take out your anger on Mog if you get annoyed by throwing him around. Literally. You can throw Mog to collect treasure that’s out of reach. Some areas will have treasure that’s actually located off of the map, which means that Mog is the only way to get it. Another thing that Mog can do is to use his time magic to reveal hidden items such as chests that are stuck between various points in time. If you use the magic to uncover an item all of the NPCs in that area will start to freak out and run over to see what’s going on. A nice change from the NPCs that simply sit around while you steal all the stuff in the area. These NPCs seem active and actually react to things in the environment. It’s a small touch, but it’s a cool one. Last but not least is the Mog Clock. This will appear on screen along with enemies that spring up while wandering around the different areas in the game. If you’re able to strike the monster while the clock is in the green, you’ll get a nice bonus in the battle.
Chocolina and Mog are the most stand out characters of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and I’m not sure if it’s for a good reason.
For those that played the first game, Final Fantasy XIII-2’s battle system is pretty much the same as it was before, but with a few additions. With XIII-2, Cinematic Actions have been added to help spice up what can be long and dull boss fights. At certain points during the more important battles you’ll face throughout the game you’ll be given quick direction or button prompts on the screen that will give you a nice break from battle while at the same time throwing some damage down on your enemy. These are essentially a basic QTE, but placing it in the middle of a battle makes the battles feel less dull.
Another addition with XIII-2 is the ability to collect monsters and use them in your party. You can obtain a monster to add into your paradigms by simply defeating it and getting it to turn into a crystal upon its defeat. One of my biggest issues in Final Fantasy XIII was that for a large chunk of the game you were forced into two person parties. But now with the addition of monsters, you can always have a full party. Each monster will have one role (Commando, Ravager etc.) and they’ll be able to level up in the Crystarium by using pet specific items. Each monster has a special Feral Link ability they can execute after filling up their meter. When it’s full, you simply hit a button to activate it, hit the button commands that pop up on your screen as quick as you can and you get a bonus attack courtesy of whatever monster you decide to throw into your party. You can also name your monster (from a list of names) and collect adornments for your monsters. You want your Chocobo to wear a hat? Done. You want a Carbuncle Plushie riding on it? Say no more. I like the touch of customization for the monsters, but unfortunately only one adornment can be used, which is a shame considering they seem to be split up into groups such as head and body. Another feature for the monsters is infusion. Have a lower level monster that has a nice passive ability? You can infuse it to one of the monsters you like to use and acquire some of its abilities.
Once you get access to Serendipity, the game’s amusement park, you can even choose to race the Chocobos you’ve collected for your party.
One of the things that has always stood out about the Final Fantasy games is their amazing soundtrack. There have always been several memorable tracks from each game that players remember. This game has one such track, and it’s not remembered for a good reason.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel of a game that wasn’t at the top of any “Favorite Final Fantasy Games” lists. However, I have to give the developers credit. They heard what issues players had with the first game and did what they could to fix them while still maintaining their schedule for a quick release. The long hallway from the first game is gone and we now have dialogue options, multiple paths and different options to take during the course of the game. We can have a full party for the duration of the game and make a Chocobo attack things.
If you played Final Fantasy XIII and even remotely enjoyed it, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is worth checking out. Square Enix has already announced DLC for Coliseum battles and costumes and they’ve also teased possible character episodes. The game is definitely worth picking up, but I would only suggest buying it if you’re one of the people that’s interested in the DLC. Either way, the game is worth playing!
Square Enix provided us with a copy of this game for review purposes.