Final fantasy XIII-2 offers a few new tricks that the developer incorporated into the gameplay to keep the battles flowing. While the new additions are certainly not ground-breaking or extensive, these additions were a welcomed edition to the trademark turn-based fighting system. The series is known for the ‘fantasy’ storylines, and XIII-2 delivers beautifully here. The game is typical to its origin – quirky, elaborate, dramatic and the dialogue doesn’t always make perfect ‘Western’ sense – and I absolutely love it.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
For fans of: Final Fantasy series, turn-based J-RPG’s
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: Playstation 3
If we had to give it a numerical score: 9.0 out of 10
Since the series is largely about driving the rich, fantasy storyline, I will not spoil it for you by giving you every last detail. There are loads of surprises for the series’ followers, and newcomers can catch up on the story by reading up and extensive tutorials (all available in the menus).
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to FFXIII and while Lightning is a big part of the story, her younger sister Serah takes centre stage. New characters will be met and old characters are again welcomed back. Final Fantasy’s most beloved creature –the Mog makes a return to the series by leading the way at times, or helping you find things and generally guiding you. The Chocobo (Ostrich looking bird) returns to help you speed through areas without being attacked by foes.
Gameplay and Features
As briefly touched on – the series is renowned for its turn-based battle system, something fans of the series have always loved. It’s not about button mashing, more about strategically defending and attacking in turn. You will take hits and so you will need to work out your defence, and then you attack in turn, with an abundance of options to evolve on to suit the various enemies. The Japanese game style of RPG is very distinct so it came as a bit of a surprise to see elements typical of a Western game incorporated in the battle system for XIII-2. Cinematic Action attacks have been included, so during the battle you will need to sequentially hit different buttons to engage the action which normally deal more damage than your average attack. The rest is as it was but with tweaks here and there, making the battle-system one my favourite in the series.
You have ‘Paradigm Shifts’ which can be customised as usual to suit your attacking and defending. These shifts are either focused attacks or defences and can be generated automatically or you can customise them yourself. Another new addition to the battle-system is the ability to add monsters as allies to your team, and incorporate them into you Paradigm Shift. Once you capture the monster at a certain level of the game, the monster joins your ranks by being chosen. I personally did not think much of this, as outside the battle, the monsters are not pro-active and pretty much useless. That said, these monsters do come in handy in the bigger battles, particularly in defensive paradigm shifts. You could set your normal character and ally to defend and some monsters can be set to attack while you are defending. Unfortunately they will also need healing and a ‘Phoenix Down’ to revive them, so they do take up precious reserves.
As is common with RPG’s, you will need level up your character in an enormous amount of departments, customising the character to lean towards brut, ravager, magic, or a combination. The RPG element will please the most ardent of RPG fans, and thankfully newcomers can learn the ropes with extensive tutorials.
One of the major improvements over the predecessor was the dropping of the fairly tedious linear missions. Final Fantasy XIII-2 will certainly please long-time followers, as while there is still a path to follow in order to drive the main story; the world is again an open one that rewards those who explore as there are countless fragments scattered around the worlds which open up time-gates for you to travel through. There are platforming bits as well as some puzzle solving making this the most diverse Final Fantasy yet. You need to travel across time through the ‘Historia Crux’, visiting areas hundreds of years apart, either solving side quests or driving the main storyline. Once unlocked, it is possible to jump back and forth in time or areas. The story is beautifully fleshed out across time, wonderfully tangled with Paradox’s which must be overcome to drive the main story.
Sound and Graphics
In the sound and graphics department is where the Japanese-style games are most distinct, and the Final Fantasy series never falters. The series’ design is true to the ‘fantasy’ genre the title suggests. The scoring, the sound and visual effects are well-suited to the game’s world and epic, ‘fantasy’ stories.
The scoring and sound effects are like something straight out of an arcade of old and that’s because the arcades of old were filled with Japanese games. The sound effects are quirky, somewhat humorous, they are distinct and a far cry from the realistic flavour found in typical Western titles. In my opinion this is part of the charm, you will never forget that this is in fact… a game.
The design of the sound of Final Fantasy XIII-2 was excellently put together, a continuous flow of digital sounds and melodramatic sounds effects. The dialogue, again typically Japanese, is like something straight out of a good anime film, again true to the ‘fantasy’ genre and again, melodramatic.
The presentation is typical to the series, and while it works a dream, it has never been to my liking – I find Japanese games in general to have an old-school sort of looking presentation. That said the menus are a breeze to work through as are the deep in-game menus.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is made up of bright, vivid colours filled with flashes of visual effects. The visuals, like most of the design, are rich and vibrant, heavily detailed which makes for an absolute treat in this department. The game’s world is well detailed, despite consisting of various eras and across fairly large areas.
The characters look like typical anime characters, perfect and somewhat outrageous looking. The dress decor is like nothing you would see in a Western counter-part, again perfectly suited to the genre and wonderfully memorable.
Overall the sound and graphics design and quality is of the highest calibre. There absolutely no visual flaws thanks to the highest standards in this department. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is splendid feast to the senses, and so escapism at its very best.
The latest games in the long-standing series might not evoke the interest it once did – some of the chapters in the series might even have lost their way. As far as Final Fantasy XIII-2 goes; it is one of my favourite in the series thanks to the incorporation of many of the aspects that charmed me to the series, as well as some nice new additions.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 corrects the issues most of us had with the previous title while sticking with the elements that make up a great Final Fantasy game. In true Japanese game-crafting style, Final Fantasy XIII-2 delivers a near faultless and rewarding RPG experience that should certainly make feel you that you got your money’s worth.
Read about our ratings here.