The lights are on
Is it a bad game? No. Is it a bad Final Fantasy game? Still no. Time and
time again I've heard people call this game trash just because it is "inferior"
to past titles. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this game continues to be different to previous titles as Square Enix have openly stated several times
that they are looking to reach a larger audience with faster paced titles. I
feel that this applies to both how the story is told and the game play.
The story of 13 -2 builds
upon the previous story created from 13. Only this time Lightning's sister Serah,
previously a back seat character from the first game takes centre stage with new
entries in the game Noel, and one of the ugliest moogles to ever grace the
franchise Mog. The three are tasked with finding Serah's sister Lightning after
she mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of the game.
The story itself is pretty typical for a Final Fantasy game. Heroes
trying to stop the bad guy before he causes the end of the world due to some
wild oxymoron he has concocted. Characters from 13 make small appearances here
and there to move the plot along and appease fans of the previous game. It is
worth noting that there is a fairly extensive primer that has been built into
the game in order to make it more accessible to people who never played the
first game. This was a nice touch.
The major difference being this time is that time travel has been introduced.
It has been used in the past but the player has never had quite this much
control of it. With time travel you can imagine things probably would get a
little convoluted and that is very true. For the first 20 or so hours of the
game I wasn't always sure what was happening or why certain character did what
they did. What problems time travel creates though, it can also fix.
Through a hub that the player can access almost whenever they like, the player
can travel to many different time periods to uncover new areas that will let
them further the plot or complete side quests that will give them back story to explain certain events in the game. In this hub secret zones exist that given
the correct criteria is met; will allow the player to see a paradox ending,
which more often than not will end the game before the final battle and offer another
outcome for the endgame. These endings however can only be accessed once the
player has finished the game at least once and unlocked a key item called "paradox
scope" So there is no worries about finishing the game prematurely.
The paradox endings themselves usually play as what if scenarios and as touched
upon earlier can often add an explanation for why something happened throughout
the story. The "super secret ending" that can be viewed after collecting every
crystal fragment (the collectibles in the game, more on that later) is the only
paradox ending that I thought had any real weight and serves to add intrigue to
the canon ending of them game. It made me
very hopeful for a third installment.
Graphics & Environments
The graphics are pretty similar to 13, although they do look cleaner
than 13. The environments the player can experience all look great and in an
effort to change up the environment and yet remain familiar at the same time, environments
in certain areas will change during different time periods. Occasionally adding
weather affects and clearing new paths for the player to explore. One thing I
felt had improved greatly was the ability to convey emotions and display certain facial features through CG, nothing quite on the level of L.A Noire,
but still a significant improvement on most games.
Enemies & The Battle System
This was part of the game that let me down. The majority of the monsters aren't
very diverse and have been seen before in the previous installment and little
effort is made to change how they act or even how they look for the most part.
The "fan favourite" monster are the exception to this rule however. Tonberries
and Cactuars, amongst a few other monsters have different variations of how
they look and the increased stats these special monsters have can make for a bigger challenge that the player must overcome.
Of course the
biggest difference now that makes all that almost forgivable is that the player
is now able to catch monsters and use them in battle as a third companion along
with Noel and Serah. There are a lot of enemies in the game and if the player
is willing to invest the time in it then they will probably have fun mixing up battles
with certain monsters that allow them to change up their strategy. Personally I
must have used 4 ( at most ) out of easily around 50 - 100 monster. I stuck with
upgrading one monster for a while until I maxed it out, upon which I would
switch it out for something more recently captured which would eventually grow
to be stronger. I would have much rather preferred another party member than
this feature, but that's me, credit to them for trying something new and making
Captured monsters, Serah,
and Noel can all upgrade their stats / powers to a certain degree through an
altered crystarium. With 6 main battle roles for the player to choose from they can
change the course of the battles they participate in by investing experience points
into these roles. The roles will be familiar to anyone who has played an RPG
before and the crystarium itself is very easy to understand.
time around the soundtrack makes an effort to be pretty different to past Final
Fantasy games. Adding more "pop" type songs into the mix and remixing tracks
from other FF games. Sometimes this made the game feel a little cheesy and
towards the end in an emotional scene the game continued to play a happy song
in a part that should have been depressing to the player, which was rather
jarring. Other times the soundtrack is just bizarre: See Crazy Chocobo. Caius's theme is a personal favourite, it
reminded me of the FMA: Brotherhood soundtrack.
The Voice acting is pretty
solid. With laughable dialogue sprinkled here and there. It tends to get better
as the game goes on. One thing I did notice though is that a lot of recognizable
voice actors with a lot more experience were just left on the sidelines with
one liners for random AI, whilst other less talented VAs got larger roles. Just
a personal grievance that confused me.
I feel I should mention this part of the game as well. The achievements compared
to 13 are not a hard or as tedious. The main trouble maker would be the "Defragmented"
achievement which task the player with gathering every collectible or "fragment"
in the game through various mini games, paradox zones and enemy encounters /
boss battles. This can easily add an extra 10 - 15 hours to game time depending
on how much you explored before you finished the main game. Other achievements
require that the player continuously play certain mini-games that will get
annoying very quickly. They're not really worth it unless you're a completionist.
All in all
I thought it was great. The game fixed a lot of problems that FF 13 had, but with it brought a few of its
own to the table. If you're a fan of the series and more specifically 13 then
give it a shot, there is a demo available. It's a short game by Final Fantasy
standards. Around 50 hours to finish everything and get every achievement, but a great ride if you can get
immersed by it.
It has quick time events as well, but they're not that bad.
The only issue I take with Final Fantasy 13 (and subsequently with FF 13-2) is that it simply isn't what it used to be. I don't mean that it's better or worse, but rather that it doesn't contain do for me what FF6 - 12 did. The story doesn't suck me in. The battle system is so drastically different...
FF-13 just doesn't offer what I look for in a FF game.
Again, very good review.