Well it’s been a week since Final Fantasy XIII-2 has been released, and it’s time to write my full review on it and hopefully never speak of it again.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, in the same way Final Fantasy X-2 was to X and The After Years was to IV. Despite there being fourteen entries in the popular franchise, it is not common to have a direct sequel to one of the games; although, it is becoming increasingly popular. Final Fantasy XIII is widely held to have been a disappointment, which is something that immediately puts XIII-2 at a disadvantage in the eyes of fans. In order to review it, I’m going to be looking at the story, music, graphics, gameplay, and then give everyone an overall impression at the end.
|The logo is pretty good, but could use more pink.|
The story follows Serah and Noel as they search through time for Lightning, Serah’s sister and the protagonist of XIII. Time travel is a tricky device at the best of times, and XIII-2 works best when you simply don’t question the sense of it. The story is not very cohesive and can be separated into three parts: the overarching plot to find Lightning, the story surrounding Caius and the seeress, and individual stories associated with each area and time period. These individual stories is where XIII-2 shines the best in terms of story. These often are more laid back and fun, and they work really well with the dynamic that Noel and Serah have with each other. The story surrounding Caius and the seeress is the more serious story line and the mystery of the two characters is legitimately interesting. Unfortunately, the plot to find Lightning is often forgotten and when it is mentioned, it is truly the low point of the entire game. The conclusion of the game leaves much to be desired, but the story up to that point is legitimately fun and engaging.
The music in this game is excellent in a very unexpected way. It is the furthest thing from traditional Final Fantasy music, but that is to expected with the absence of famed composer Nobuo Uematsu. The soundtrack does not follow the path of XIII where most of the music is based around a central theme. Instead, there are a panoply of styles throughout the entire game. The battle music is quite good, and boss music is on par with one would expect from the series recently (Not wonderful). The real highlight of the soundtrack are the vocal tracks from Origa and Joelle. These dance music inspired environmental tracks are exceptional and are definitely worthy of acclaim. The voice acting is overall good, as one would expect from voice over experts such as Liam O’Brien and Laura Bailey. At times the delivery will seem stilted, but these are rare moments in the game. There is the traditional problem with the localization, but this problem comes with the genre.
The graphics are exactly what you would expect from a game built entirely on the engine of another game. In other words, XIII-2 looks exactly like XIII. The game is still as beautiful as it was when XIII was released, but there really isn’t anything new to talk about. Most monsters have been taken directly from XIII. Those that weren’t are well designed. The locations you visit in the game are interesting and well designed, even if many of them are repeated through different time periods.
The gameplay is overall excellent. There are many ways you can level your paradigms so one can expect two games to play very differently based on your choices. In the end, everything will even out, but early game choices can seriously impact your style of play. Aside from that, the battle system remains the same as it was in XIII, but you now only have 2 characters plus a monster instead of a party of 6 characters. The monster companions are the biggest and best addition to the game. Collecting, and training these monsters is a full minigame in itself and it is very rewarding. A well made monster will far surpass both Noel and Serah from a very early time, and farming for monster materials is something that powergamers can do to bring their party to a whole new power level. There are a variety of minigames throughout the game. The minigame most worth mentioning is the chocobo racing. It isn’t as deep as VII’s chocobo racing, but it is still addictive and fun to raise a champion by adding the correct passive skills and getting your stats high.
|Final Fantasy XIII-2, feeding into my gambling addiction|
Overall, Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes the Final Fantasy series in a very different direction, but this should be celebrated. The game is fun, the story is fun, the music is great. If this is the direction that Final Fantasy decides to go, I think I’d be alright with that. Make no mistake, XIII-2 is a flawed game, but it’s also extremely fun and engaging.