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Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review


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#1 panzerfaust

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 04:03 AM

The second attempt to append the ‘-2’ to a Final Fantasy title launches in a fashion even more ridiculous than what fans may remember of Square’s first stab at the idea. Instead of Final Fantasy X-2’s summoner turned pop star, however, Final Fantasy XIII-2 sings to a more serious opening tune. A spectacular sequence of CGI and admirably done interactive action scenes – tightly woven around composer Masashi Hamauszu’s yearning violin and orchestra – reacquaints players with Lightning, the heroine of their previous adventure. But she’s a different Lightning, a woman now adorned with plate armor, a shield, and a cloak of feathers draping at her side – a divine soldier of sorts. It would seem her ending was not the happy one everyone had witnessed before the credits rolled. Instead she faces a new foe, a purple haired man (to rival her pink) who expresses a grim wish for destruction, clashing swords on the outskirts of the universe.

Awakened by visions of this supernatural confrontation, Serah -- Lightning’s younger sister and Snow’s fiancé, should players recall -- finds her quiet coastal village suddenly under siege by monsters from another time period. A new friend appears amongst the confusion, a young man by the name of Noel Kreiss. He carries a warning from an apocalyptic future that he himself is all too familiar with, and a plea for help from Lightning in trying to save it. As they speak, the timeline of the world is turning onto itself, creating paradoxes (contradictions) in various time periods. A series of time gates also appear, devices Serah and Noel must use to steer the world away from destruction.

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Cinematic action sequences offer intense and potentially branching outcomes in a handful of the game's more epic encounters.


The two characters have surprisingly approachable personalities, are well voiced, and keep the player on track with a story full of silly pseudoscience terminology. Sometimes the game feels like it’s dumbing down its own plot a bit too heavily in this regard, spelling out and repeating concepts several times over (an excellent drinking game). Most of the cutscenes then, do end up being elementary back and forth conversations between Serah and Noel, lacking much action until the ending segments. It still proceeds at an interesting pace, taking a well mannered approach by allowing players to select occasional dialogue choices to pursue information that puzzles them.

The sappy nature of Final Fantasy is all still there, of course, the best and the worst of it. Serah is quite sincere in a warm way, and Noel’s cheesy, Tom Cruise like aura can easily bring out the occasional smirk. But unfortunately, eyes will surely roll to the ceiling whenever Lightning speaks, often having to chime in with a solemn monologue at the end of each scene, narrating from the beyond in some awful kind of poetry. It’s an overdone pep talk of not giving up hope, leaving the past behind, and moving forward that the game won’t stop repeating; even in the vocals of some poppy music tracks for certain environments.

Fielding the message much more gracefully is the universe itself, with XIII-2 rserving a respectable piece of its predecessor’s beautiful presentation. The game begins in the beachside town of New Bodhum, a place that warmly conveys the efforts of mankind to recreate the lives and memories they had within Cocoon, all while adapting to hardships of the real world. The image of Cocoon held up by Vanille and Fang’s crystal pillar in the night sky makes an excellent visual backdrop here, a reminder of the past, and a valuable lesson to the future. What follows is one of Square’s most open-ended entries to the Final Fantasy franchise, a game lovingly built to give players unprecedented access to a world they had only scraped the surface of before.


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Few areas live up to the visual bar raised by XIII, but the astonishing city of Academia stands above all the rest.


Serah and Noel will quickly leave the New Bodhum of the year 3 AF, and revisit locales of the game’s predecessor, many of them fully re-imagined and changed by the flow of time. The experiences therein are both nostalgic and wholesome, a memoir and playground for those returning. Players will swing vine to vine through the Sunleth Waterscape, return to the Archelyte Steppe when it was first inhabited by nomadic hunters, and revisit areas that still carry the emotional weight from the events of XIII – with frequent nods to its original soundtrack. And there are new areas to see as well, some dark and apocalyptic, others teeming with life and civilization. In one such optimistic timeline is the existence Academia, a sprawling futuristic city that has to be Final Fantasy XIII-2’s crowning artistic achievement for its expansiveness and absurd attention to detail.

Clumsily exiting each time gate, Serah and Noel casually wipe the dirt off their knees before setting out to solve the paradox of each area – finding what doesn’t belong. But sometimes there are missing items that should belong, and thus the premise for XIII-2’s grand easter egg hunt is set. Serah’s magical sidekick, Mog, is the key to finding these items of interest; devices or treasure phased out of the current timeline. They are recognizable by their skirting level of transparent camouflage, lining the nooks and crannies of all environments. It’s a shameless addiction, where coming across hidden treasure often by accident is always a welcome surprise, and motivation to keep the eyes squinted. Mog will light up with a pinkish glow if he senses anything nearby, and he’ll also leap into Serah’s arms as a nifty bow-sword when enemies suddenly appear. Random encounters are back.

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Noel gives Mog a good toss to some hard to reach treasure. Hearing the little guy cry never gets old.


Yes, back and exceptionally executed, offering a simple solution to the frustrating instant battle screens that have sometimes haunted RPGs of the past. Enemies are instead seen before being engaged, surrounding Serah and Noel but giving them ample time to weigh options. A timer appears, and this prompts an opportunity to enter the battle screen with a pre-emptive strike, and also one to simply keep running until the aggressors are left behind. The first strike opportunity proves invaluable, as achieving the 5 star battle performance rating actually has meaning in XIII-2, yielding higher drop rates for both normal and rare loot to players who perform well in combat. And now that players can both see and run away from most enemies, it makes seeking and capturing ones not already owned a painless affair.

Monster hunting is one of the biggest new pulls to the XIII universe, and XIII-2’s most rewarding aspect. Practically anything encountered in the game -- from tiny gooey flan creatures, to a menacing behemoth, to a giant cactuar creature – is useable as a 3rd wheel to Serah and Noel’s battle party. Obtaining one is as simple as defeating it and hoping it goes into inventory, but finding personal favorites and rarities is where the fun lies; each monster specializing under a certain role players of XIII will be most familiar with. A creature’s primary use may also be as fodder for infusion, essentially letting one monster consume another for its abilities – a powerful tool for those who delve more deeply. Lastly, each creature also has its own unique feral link ability, a powerful skill that can turn the tide of tight battles, reminiscent the character overdrives of Final Fantasy X.

And so the combat is of the same handsome design of its predecessor’s, and with monsters simply being a stand-in for a 3rd human member, it's easy to get right back on track. The combat is again structured around building the gauge bars above enemies until they Stagger, creating an exciting opportunity to deal maximum damage. With reactionary precision, players are to change their party between offensive paradigms to build the gauges, while mitigating damage from real-time attacks by switching to a more defensive approach. Keeping the offense alive and the party healthy is a potentially intense affair players of Final Fantasy XIII need not be reminded of, nor of its visual splendor. XIII-2 also manages to fix the slumping endurance encounters of the past with quicker battles and a faster introduction to the fully working system. But it also introduces new problems, carrying itself through a painfully easy plot line.

This arises from the fact that Final Fantasy XIII-2 is extremely fragile with its open approach to progression. The Crystarium does indeed return as a model to pour experience points into, and perhaps its new interpretation will initially feel more rewarding than XIII’s. But It is all too abusable this time around, and while farming a powerful party panders to the enjoyment of certain RPG gamers, it shouldn’t be so simple to achieve by complete accident.

Exorbitant amounts of experience points simply roll in, especially if a player -- even for a moment -- gives into the temptation of additional monster hunting and sidequests. The Crsyatirum then offers paths for characters to take at each level – a choice to open up a tree for another role (i.e. Sentinel), to add another attack to the time gauge, or to expand accessory capacity – but experienced RPG players will logically step back and see right through the charade. Expanding to more roles early on is flatly unintelligent given that monsters collected can fill the gaps for a missing Saboteur, Synergist, etc… Focusing on 1-2 roles before harnessing all 5 will instead lead to a powerful group early on, and why pursue the increased accessory capacity when the crucial ones don’t appear until the game’s final portions?

Still, taking an alternate time gate at several points of the game can – unbeknownst to the player – lead to a path where enemies suddenly begin scrubbing health bars clean. But the challenge spikes are much less apparent compared to the sudden prolonged lulls in difficulty for much of the game’s core 25 hours. If approached with the logical mentality as described above – especially if having found a monster who’s Crystarium peaks early to powerful levels – the game presents an inclination to sit on offensive paradigms with Ravagers and Commandos for much of its entirety. This is where XIII had an emotionally charged narrative to accompany its drier battle segments, a distraction XIII-2 pursues with unimpressive results.

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The saving grace of many of the game's easier battles is their brevity, as compared to the more drawn out
affairs of Final Fantasy XIII.


Bosses in between the confrontations with the game’s purple haired antagonist, Caius, pose no relevance to the characters by comparison. A giant paradoxical colossus lashes out of thin air; half of its body trapped in another dimension. The paradox of another time period somehow lies in the jaws of a dragon. These enemies are often of impressive scale, but they have no words to say, no questions to raise, and the music accompanying them is equally less than sincere. Whether met with a powerful Crystarium and steamrolled over, or met with a weaker party and challenged considerably – players will find these central encounters quite forgettable.

Caius alone leads XIII-2 to an ending with a string of impressive scenes, demanding fights, and powerful lines of dialogue – but somewhere along the way the game completely forgot to develop his character, or did it so dimly it was difficult to appreciate. His motivations seem tied to Yuehl, a soft spoken doll-like girl that no really ever gets to know. And while most will point to XIII-2’s cliffhanger ending as reason for this ultimately disappointing campaign -- raising more questions than it answers -- it’s the fact the game ends based upon such a ridiculous guise of motives that no one can possibly relate to it. There is no message this time around, nothing to walk away with.

The ending to Final Fantasy XIII contained a contradiction; it broke the rules. But it rang true to the game’s overarching theme of the infinite strength of the human spirit, with characters that declared they would contradict all the rules -- a touching note to end on. Final Fantasy XIII-2 then desperately jumps through fanatical loops in trying to dismantle the respectable conclusion of another game, and to a point of near hilarity. Savvy followers may even have questions of smaller magnitude, such as why everyone is suddenly capable of using magic. Well they just can, says the game’s datalog. Why didn’t Square just make Lightning a pop singer and call it a day?

But it’s naïve to say it all end’s there, and unfair to claim that Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn’t for the fans. It’s not even half complete when the credits roll, and a plethora of content still waits untapped. It’s a monster collector’s favorite hunting spot, a trailblazer’s backpack of spoils, and a completionist’s paradise. Cameos and salutes to older games abound, challenges to truly test those thirsty for battle await, and powerful skills and items lie in hiding – this is a gamer’s game, and it’s damn well appreciated.


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Love it or Hate it: Safe Bet
8.0/10

Edited by panzerfaust, 10 March 2013 - 11:51 PM.


#2 coolz481

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 09:04 AM

Very well-written review. I'm greatly enjoying my experience about 10 hours in, but I also was in the minority that really liked FF13 too and finished all but a few of the monster hunts. Is it fair to assume that all of the really hard worlds/times are ones accessed by wild gate keys? I found the first worlds fairly easy, but then I found the 300AF Bresha Ruins and am getting slaughtered.
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#3 PredatorB0ss

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 01:47 PM

i want to play this game, but really i don't know if i enjoying in ;(

#4 bigpimpin24

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 06:18 PM

Great review as usual, panzerfaust. I still haven't purchased the game as I decided to wait it out a bit when I found out it was a lot shorter than the first one. Also the fact that they are going to be doing DLC this time around makes me want to wait even more.

I really enjoyed the demo and there seems to be a lot of improvement in this game. I am certain I will love it since I really liked the first one. I'm a little torn that they are doing DLC though. Had it been an extra dungeon or something for fun like some other RPGs have done, then that's fine. I have been reading that they plan to wrap the story up with DLC though. That makes me want to wait until everything is released.

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#5 Crystal Shards

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 08:10 PM

I've heard nothing but good things about everything but the end of the game, which is pretty typical anymore. The guy I know that reviewed it felt really ripped off about that particular aspect, but seemed to really enjoy the rest of it.

#6 elaine_of_shalott

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 10:51 AM

Exorbitant amounts of experience points simply roll in, especially if a player -- even for a moment -- gives into the temptation of additional monster hunting and sidequests. The Crsyatirum then offers paths for characters to take at each level – a choice to open up a tree for another role (i.e. Sentinel), to add another attack to the time gauge, or to expand accessory capacity – but experienced RPG players will logically step back and see right through the charade. Expanding to more roles early on is flatly unintelligent given that monsters collected can fill the gaps for a missing Saboteur, Synergist, etc… Focusing on 1-2 roles before harnessing all 5 will instead lead to a powerful group early on, and why pursue the increased accessory capacity when the crucial ones don’t appear until the game’s final portions?


Overall a very good review but I have to disagree with this part. The leveling option you describe will make you overpowered early in the game but at a cost of significant strength late in the game. For optimal power late game you actually have to spread your leveling out across the roles leveling your primary role only on the large nodes. This keeps you an appropriate level on your main path through the story but makes you really powerful when it comes time for the late game monster hunts. It is an example of the depth of options they put into the game. The choice you made is a legitimate one but far from the only logical or intelligent one that an experienced RPG player would choose.

#7 panzerfaust

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 03:20 PM

Overall a very good review but I have to disagree with this part. The leveling option you describe will make you overpowered early in the game but at a cost of significant strength late in the game. For optimal power late game you actually have to spread your leveling out across the roles leveling your primary role only on the large nodes. This keeps you an appropriate level on your main path through the story but makes you really powerful when it comes time for the late game monster hunts. It is an example of the depth of options they put into the game. The choice you made is a legitimate one but far from the only logical or intelligent one that an experienced RPG player would choose.


This is something I'm aware of and I apologize if it seemed like I skipped over it. Jumping between roles at the right moments does make you even more efficient, but the point then still stands. You can blow up your crystarium using fairly common sense as opposed to taking a route of seemingly important choices. If my Noel was ~150 strength short of what he could of been, it doesn't exactly do the game's campaign anymore justice.

And I also didn't mention that leading Serah down the Commando path is a viable and fun alternative. Perhaps a quick edit is in order, but I hope the message in those paragraphs came across cleanly.

Really appreciate the catch, btw.

#8 elaine_of_shalott

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:58 AM

This is something I'm aware of and I apologize if it seemed like I skipped over it. Jumping between roles at the right moments does make you even more efficient, but the point then still stands. You can blow up your crystarium using fairly common sense as opposed to taking a route of seemingly important choices. If my Noel was ~150 strength short of what he could of been, it doesn't exactly do the game's campaign anymore justice.

And I also didn't mention that leading Serah down the Commando path is a viable and fun alternative. Perhaps a quick edit is in order, but I hope the message in those paragraphs came across cleanly.

Really appreciate the catch, btw.


I can see your point and I think it is worth a warning but I don't feel it is poor design. This is especially the case since leveling is really optional. Unlike classic final fantasy you can fight all the battles you want and never have your stats increase a single point if you don't choose to apply the points you earned. You say you broke the system by accident but surely at some point you noticed encounters were becoming too easy. If you were finding the combat boring why didn't you just stop applying the CP points into the Crystarium for a little while? That is an idea for a second playthrough, see if I can defeat Atlas the first time without ever leveling up and continue with minimal leveling throughout the game. I could also do a playthrough using the large nodes to make each character as balanced as possible. I could do a playthrough without leveling up any of the monsters or even a playthrough without using the tamed monsters at all. The leveling system allows for a great many options. It is true that one option allows you to make the game too easy but it is only one of many choices. Almost all RPGs have some way for you to become excessively powerful if you grind enough or try to do all the sidequests as soon as they become available. Think how powerful you would end up if you were to grind for the money to buy the Shinra beach house the first time you end up in Costa Del Sol. The benefit of this design is that you don't have to level up if you don't want to even if you take the time to explore.

#9 panzerfaust

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:35 PM

If you were finding the combat boring why didn't you just stop applying the CP points into the Crystarium for a little while?


I guess I'll just agree to disagree there, because I find that ludicrous. This could apply to nearly every RPG ever made, among many other genres as well. It's like saying it's the player's fault he had a bad time because he used the tools the developers built the game around. Like if someone said Dead Space was boring, and the developer's rebuttal was, "are you kidding? why didn't you just use the plasma cutter the whole time?" Final Fantasy X is an easy game, why not just do the Rikku only challenge and beat the game with just her? Why not wear a blindfold? That sounds interesting.

I'm aware grinding can break many games and that it is indeed optional. But if the fault is the game's pacing and not the player, then it isn't the player's job to invent a new design for the developer to make the game passable. Because even if you did stock all your CP and never use it, you're taking a lot of fun out of the experience because it'll lack the reward of getting new skills, and battles will only satisfy you with challenge and nothing else.

#10 MSUHitman

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 07:47 AM

This game pissed me off b/c I fought almost all of the enemies in front of me, used the Crystalarium points, and when I got to the boss at the beginning of 3-1, before you meet the head of the Academy, I kept dying and was told I wasn't high enough level.

Like you said, horrible pacing. This game is still leagues better than 13 IMO though.

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#11 panzerfaust

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 05:44 PM

Like you said, horrible pacing. This game is still leagues better than 13 IMO though.


Ehh I think this game was a significant step down, XIII was way more polished in every aspect.

#12 MSUHitman

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 12:13 AM

We will agree to disagree then. FF 13 and MW 2 were traded straight up in May 2010 to GS for Alan Wake CE and I'm perfectly happy with that.

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#13 anotherpoorgamer

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 02:53 PM

Hmm...looks good for a $20-30 game.

#14 Hestar

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:29 AM

I loved ff13 and thought ff13-2 was alot better (and easier aswell)..Caius was one of the Best FF villains in years IMO.
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