Final Fantasy XIII-2 is so freeform in structure compared to the prequel that it’s sometimes hard to keep up with what you’re supposed to be doing. Obviously tailored around a survey of unhappy fans, it’s a better game for the most part.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Developer: Square Enix, Tri-Ace
Publisher: Square Enix
Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Set a few years after Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning is now vanished into the realm of Valhalla. We will need to rely on her sister Serah and a displaced Valhalla native called Noel Kreiss.
The first thing we realize after just a few minutes of gameplay is that those shameful corridors are gone. This sequel is open by nature but it has its own problems: a confusing time travel concept structure.
Opening a time gate in the first region of the game opens up the Historia Crux. This is the crossroads of the timeline that allows players to travel between locations and visit them in different time periods. We get to travel from a menu screen which lets you select the environment you’d like to go next and tells you what year it’ll be when you get there. This is a fancy way to let you know that you will replay similar places over and over again, but with some differences –usually based on how many years since you first visited it-. Though the future of the world can be visited via the Historia Crux, the events before or during Final Fantasy XIII cannot be revisited, as these events took place before the paradoxes.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 feels like a classic and true game to the series: A convoluted story where jump through new time periods fighting giant bosses and exploring big environments. Unfortunately, the silly puzzles seem like a filler but the still-breath-taking QTEs are there to remind us of the quality work poured into this title.
It doesn’t matter if you loved or hated the prequel. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a better game in every single aspect. Some hated the interminable cutscenes: I loved them. The same happens with the story, where you never know exactly what’s happening or where you are going, but this leads you to explore a truly brilliant world. Perhaps the weakest part of the game are the protagonists, two children that you never feel are leading anything. And that’s true: For the most part, you don’t have Lightning the moody hero, like you did in XIII. You don’t have a Cloud or a Squall strongly determined with one specific goal, but you don’t need them either. Final Fantasy XIII is bigger than us, we just happen to be witnessing the story, and trying the hardest to leave a mark on it is a remarkable approach to the series.
Unlike XIII, which holds your hand through the first ten hours as it explains how the battle system and progression work, XIII-2 gives you the ability to start levelling up each of your character’s job roles right away. The combat is similar to the prequel and it automates your party’s attacks as you tactically change their job roles in battle on the fly. But instead of a third party member to battle with, we get to deploy monsters with their own classes and attacks. We can even deploy our own Chocobo.
While several had issues, I cannot complain about the performance. With a modest mid-ranged PC, it is easy to achieve the 60fps that many were after. We can change a few resolution settings, anti-aliasing and shadow resolutions if you want, but you don’t really need to. The almost 3 year dated game still looks amazing.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a better game for the most part. It continues the impressive cutscenes and detailed world, while opening it with towns, explorable environments and interactive NPCs. The time travel concept fixes a lot of its predecessor’s structural problems.